Recently I had a great conversation with Allen Hodges, who is a dear friend of mine and the pastor of the Billings Montana Vineyard Church. We talked about leadership styles and it’s effect on making disciples. Out of that conversation and my subsequent mulling over what was said has caused me to write this article.
There are probably just as many leadership styles as there are personalities. There are also church traditions and expectations that influence or even dictate certain leadership styles. If you understand this, then you will also understand that there is not one “right” leadership style. Just as the God of the universe has created each of us unique as individuals and has gifted each and every one of us differently, so too He has called us to lead in different ways. However, at the same time, we really need to take a look at certain things within our churches and learn how to lead in ways that produce what we want to produce which is disciple making disciples.
The great commission given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-29 was not a commission to just make converts. Nor is it a commission to make followers. It is a commission to make disciples that in turn make disciples.
19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The final command that they were to teach these new disciples was this command. “Go and make disciples.” So the question we have to ask is whether or not our leadership style that we are using is actually producing this result? Allen and I talked about two basic leadership styles and how they differ in both actions and results.
The Autocatic Leader Vs. The Team Leader Model
For years, sci-fi fans have debated on who was the best Captain of the Enterprise. Was it James T. Kirk or Jean Luc Picard? These two captains are memorable examples of these two types of leadership models. Captain Kirk was the benevolent yet autocratic leader who made all the decisions, came up with all the plans, and who gave others their orders to implement his plans. Jean Luc Picard on the other hand was the one who invited dialogue, looked for strengths in others, and empowered those under His leadership to excel in their giftings.
From a purely entertainment standpoint where you engage in hero worship, Captain Kirk was the better captain, but from a biblical perspective, Jean Luc Picard used a much more biblical model of servant leadership. Read Ephesians 4:11-12 and you will see what I mean.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
The Captain Kirk or as I like to call it, “God’s man of power for the hour” style of leadership would read vs. 12 this way. “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people “to help me” to do his work and build up “my” church, the body of Christ.” The Jean Luc Picard or team leader model would read vs. 12 this way. “Their responsibility is to equip, “encourage and guide” God’s people to do “God’s” work and build up “and empower and release them” , His church which is the body of Christ. Do you see the difference?
The “God’s man of power for the hour” focuses the attention on getting people to follow an individual. The team leader model focuses people on following God’s plan for their life. The autocratic leadership model produces followers. The servant leader model produces disciples. It produces people who can take their giftings and talents that God has given them to invest into others, producing the fruit of new converts, learners, and eventually becoming disciples as well.
The Influence Of Church Traditions And Expectations On Leadership
There is a very prevalent expectation and tradition in the church today that skews many leadership styles towards the autocratic model of leadership. It is the expectation of a “professional” clergy. This can be expressed in many ways like “He is the man of God” or “That is the Pastors job”. There are many pastors that fear that if they give up their traditional job description that then they will no longer be needed. Because of this fear they do not release people to do things like visiting the sick, choosing the songs that are sung, scheduling who is going to clean or decorate the church. The end result of that fear is that people are not empowered or released to excel at what God has called them to do. They become pew sitters and spectators of the “man of God” doing the ministry.
I personally believe that the amount of people you have that are “pew sitting” is directly proportional to the degree you have an autocratic form of leadership operating within your church. I recently told a group of people that the litmus test for success in my life is not the amount of people attending the church but the percentage of people that are activated and involved in some sort of ministry. If they are activated and involved in God’s plan for their life and are serving their communities, families, and church then the issue of numbers attending a worship service will take care of itself in the long run.
I would be remiss to give the impression that this is an easy road to follow. We have trained generations of Christians to follow rather than be disciples. Some people just can’t handle the fact that the pastor is not going to be the visitation team. They can’t handle that they are expected to get involved. We have generated both in our culture and in our churches a mindset of consumerism and entertainment quotient. However biblical Christianity is not about what you consume. It is not about how well you were entertained. It is about becoming more like Jesus and He neither was a consumer or an entertainment buff. He was not the original Siskel and Ebert.
The Power Of Empowering Others
Many people tell me that they hear what I am saying but are concerned that they will lose their authority if they do nothing but empower others. If they are basing their authority on positional authority then they are right. They will lose their authority. However if they are basing their authority on relational authority then just the opposite will happen. If you invest in other people they will love and respect you for doing so. So few today will actually take the time to help someone else accomplish their dreams and goals. They are used to people holding them back, telling them they can’t, or just not believing in them.
One of the first things I do when I am investing in a person’s life is wait for the first mistake. Now what did you think when I made that statement? I would bet you thought that would be totally contrary to empowering someone right? That is because you assumed that mistake would be used somehow in a negative way. On the contrary, I celebrate with the person that first failure. Why? Because that failure meant that they tried. They have progressed further than all of the people just sitting in the pew. Second, when you celebrate a failure you remove the fear of failure. When a person understands that they will be loved, accepted and forgiven when they fail, they will risk trying to succeed. If they don’t then they won’t risk. They will stay in their comfort zone. When you celebrate their failures, they become empowered.
This is also true of how we present our vision and message of the church. If when you get up in the pulpit on Sunday all you do is tell them how they need to get their act together and do better for Jesus, the end result will be pew sitters. You are using a stick on the sheep to lead them. If instead you celebrate what people are doing right and celebrate the good things happening then more people will be encouraged to get involved. I tell my sheep on a monthly basis that they are the most wonderful people to shepherd that I have ever known and do you know what? They are! I make sure I tell one person each Sunday that they are doing a wonderful job. I lavishly give out compliments to those that are serving Jesus alongside me. The end result? People get off the pew! It is amazing what happens when you lead with a bowl of food rather than a stick. A stick wounds and saps the strength from people; food energizes and empowers them.
So I hope that you have heard the voice of the Shepherd of our souls in this article. Think about it. What type of leader was Jesus? How does He lead you? Model that example.
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