11 Things That Make Christian Leadership Unique

Christian leadership is about commitment to God and to the people God has given us to lead. That alone results in the church or organisation moving in the direction that God wants it to move. We should not ever forget that our engagement in Christian ministry must spring from deep spiritual awareness of God’s purpose for the church or organisation. Besides, if the people are deeply committed to God, to the gospel and to the church or organisation they belong to, they will be willing to die for the “cause”, and not merely tick off their job description.

Today, a key feature in determining the nature of involvement of staff in churches and organisations is the signing of contracts and job descriptions. The activity is governed by certain rules that characterise the organisation. Indeed, contracts and rules are important, but those who are not self-motivated can exploit systems that work primarily on trust and spiritual motivation. I am a victim of such exploitation. Yet I believe that these external motivators are of secondary importance. We must always focus our attention on the internal factors. I have seen people who are not internally motivated—but who have entered into an environment where people are internally motivated—change into motivated people. When they see others working hard and when they become spiritually accountable to these hard-working people, they too are motivated to work hard.

I believe that our culture is primarily a relational culture and not a project-oriented culture. The weakness of such a culture is that we can become less pragmatic and thus unproductive. This is where we need the pragmatism of the West. Contracts and rules are part of this. But if the primary place is not given to the relational, then we will find people who work only for the sake of rules, and who will find ways of escaping accountability by citing the rulebook. We will hear statements such as: “this is not my responsibility”, “this is what I was asked to do; not this”.

At the heart of our present-day preference for rules and contracts, almost to the exclusion of spiritual accountability, is that we are trying to avoid the cost of spiritual caring. We are an activist generation. We prefer to work than to pray; to run around being busy than to talk about spiritual, family and personal problems. This is a serious spiritual malady—the preference for working out solutions to our problems through our work rather than through trust in God and spiritual means. Our generation is too impatient to stick to the long drawn-out process of working through problems and situations spiritually.

Indeed, contracts and rules are important, but those who are not self-motivated and can exploit systems that work primarily on trust and spiritual motivation.

What does spiritual caring involve? Here are some basics, and, I think, all of them will take time to strike root. I am not giving Scripture texts to back these points. That I will do in abundance in my book.

  1. Most importantly, pray daily for the people you lead. There is an amazing tie that develops when we pray daily for people. Paul was a master at this.
  2. Then there are extended times of conversation, discussion and friendship activities like eating together—just like Jesus did with his disciples. It contributes greatly to developing team spirit. Though it is often difficult to organise people, the leader has to ensure that such activities happen.
  3. Indeed, contracts and rules are important, but those who are not self-motivated and can exploit systems that work primarily on trust and spiritual motivation.
  4. The leaders should take personal responsibility for the members so that they are aware of the problems the members face. For example, when a loan request is made, the member should know that it is being made to a person who has already been earnestly praying about his or her finances.
  5. Essentially the leader is like a good shepherd who dies for his sheep. When the leaders die for their people, the people will, in turn, die for the church or the organisation. ‘Dying’ in this context may mean a busy leader sacrificing his time for the sake of helping a struggling member.
  6. If the leader finds out a member is upset, hurt, angry, ill, or questioning the direction the group is taking, he or she should meet that member and talk until the problems are solved. Resolution may take days, but the leader must consider this a priority.
  7. The leaders should endeavour to be present in time of need in a member’s life—such as sickness, birthday of a family member, baptism of child, etc. The most important place in the life of a member is his or her home. Therefore the leader must visit the home of the member at least once or sometimes several times.
  8. The members should participate in decision making so that they have a sense of ownership. For example, if the members are upset about a decision taken by the board or a committee, it may need to be taken back to the board and fresh thinking done taking into account the objections by the members. Once consensus is reached, everyone works hard to achieve the goal and the long-term effect is much more powerful.
  9. There should be participation in crisis resolution so that the members know of the crises that the church or the organisation is facing. The only crises that should not be shared are personal issues of members that require confidentiality so that the affected person is not betrayed by the sharing of things said in confidence.
  10. In the West, there is a dichotomy between administrative and pastoral roles. So, it is said that it’s best for the supervisor not to be involved in the personal struggles of the individuals. Indeed, it is difficult to put these two things together. But where in the Bible do we see them separated? This is an aspect of the linear thinking of the West that is also influencing our cultures. We must show that leaders are parents or shepherds who take both spiritual and administrative responsibility for those they lead.
  11. At the heart of our belief in commitment to people is that when a person advances, the organisation advances too. If leaders make it their goal to work towards the advancement of the members, then the group will automatically advance. That is an implication of our theology of the body.
  12. Because of the desire to work for the advancement of the members, the church or the organisation may change its programme to accommodate the unique gifts of some members. This can be done if the use of these gifts can be facilitated within the primary aims of the organisation. If that is not possible, the leader and the member may together explore another group to which this member could transfer. I think, it is scandalous that often people tell the leader of their intention to change jobs long after the interview process is complete and the job is confirmed. This is the way of the world, but it is not the way of the kingdom where people are expected to have one heart and one mind.

If contracts and rules are introduced within the context of spiritual accountability that is forged through the steps outlined above, then there can be harmony between the biblical principles of community life and modern management studies.

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