Some thoughts on the nature of Christian leadership ….
First, I want to recognise the place of a theology of identification. Paul says: “I have become all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:22). Paul identified with the contexts with which he engaged, allowing needs and cultures of both Jews and Gentiles to inform his behaviour. Jesus equally met people where they were – the Samaritan woman at the well, Zacchaeus, blind Bartimaeus etc. This good missional practice is also good leadership. I believe in getting alongside those I am leading.
Secondly, I value a theology of encouragement. We are good at criticising, but good leadership focuses on positive aspects. Paul knew the value of being encouraged. He comments: “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain” (2 Tim. 1:16). We achieve much more by encouraging folk rather than telling them what they have got wrong.
Thirdly, I believe that good leadership tackles what needs to be tackled. Paul is more than willing to bring to the fore those problematic issues. He tells the Corinthians: “I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1). Jesus’ practice was similarly blunt when necessary – “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42).
Fourthly, I consider that good leadership should strive to hold things together and aim for reconciliation. We are told “if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24) Good leadership should seek reconciliation. However, the instruction to go to the estranged is a crucial part of the principle, and I recognise that in our imperfect world, reconciliation will sometimes be only partial, and may even prove unachievable. Reconciliation without justice, or even without resolution, is not reconciliation.
Fifthly, I am convinced that good leadership should not be afraid of vulnerability and risk-taking. Paul catalogues some of what happened to him claiming “far great labours, far more imprisonments with countless floggings …” (2 Corinthians 11:23). I am grateful how unlikely it is that I will face anything approaching that, but I believe that sometimes a good leader needs to move significantly out of their comfort zone.
Sixthly, good leadership must be founded on prayer. Luke 11:1 – “he was praying in a certain place.” We need to ensure sufficient priority for our spiritual resourcing of ourselves. I believe that then plays a large role in getting everything else right.