What is leadership?

What is leadership?

In a recent book George Barna challenges the assumptions the church holds about leadership. He suggests that people flounder in positions of leadership because they are not true leaders. I think he’s right. Most pastors that I know learn how to manage things well but rarely exercise any visionary leadership. Visionary leaders would rather lead a parachurch ministry or become self employed than lead a church. Churches are very difficult things to lead through change. Small businesses or parachurch ministries give the visionary less distractions and more flexibility to in carrying out a vision.

The mission of the college I work at is to nurture disciples and train leaders”. Dwayne Barkman (senior pastor of a church in Saskatoon) had some excellent teaching on visionary leadership in the Healthy Church course. Unfortunately the rest of my experience at this college has branded management as leadership. It’s fair to say that management is a type of leadership, but it’s certainly not the only type. It’s also the most abundant type.

The biggest and most obvious distinction between management and visionary leadership is the desire for change and willingness to risk. Managers like to keep things going and make sure things run well. Visionaries value long term gain over short term discomfort.

In trying to figure out Christian visionary leadership is I’m taking some tips from the life of Paul. I believe Paul is one of the greatest visionary leaders of the Christian faith.

Paul’s calling was divine.

1 Paul an apostle not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the father.” (Gal 1:1)

He sought to please only God.

2 Am I now seeking the favour of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10)

He received his vision from God.

3 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:11-12)

It is likely he shared his vision with notable leaders.

4 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas…”(Gal 1:18)

Other leaders evaluated Paul based on the grace that was given to him.

5 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised;” (Gal 2:9)

Paul’s example forces me to ask a few questions.

What is my calling?

Am I serving myself, my agenda, my reputation, my career or God?

How polluted is my vision? How much of it is God? How much is idealism? How do I receive vision from God?

Who are the people I share my vision with?

Do I evaluate others based on ability, reputation, academic accomplishments, or by how much I see God working in them?

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