bits from bob....

Biblical Leadership--Five Essential Levels of Leadership

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

It may not overstate the case to say that the need for biblical leadership in our churches has never been greater than today. When I think about church leaders, I think about both elders and ministers, but this article is directed primarily to those leaders the Bible designates as elders, pastors, and bishops. The church and its progress depend on its leaders. The church cannot rise above its leaders. The church will not do more than its leaders.

If the church depends on capable leaders, effective leadership training is essential for the future of the church. In my observation, this is a general need that exists everywhere. This is not a provincial matter; it is not a local need that can be solved at the congregational level. The development of effective leadership is a general challenge that demands that the churches cooperate together to meet the challenge. We must share resources; we must not grow weary in doing what is good.

The importance of this work may be seen in four great challenges. We must not only train leaders-we must train the right kind of leaders. We must recognize that the future of the church depends on training effective Christian leaders who can help the church move forward. Churches must see this as a shared challenge. We must develop a global view of the work of the church. I am thankful for those who have a global view of missions and not a local view. We struggle with this at Baxter as we recruit students. Churches often want their "young men" to come back home and help in the local work. We must see the great need, the great cities of the world, the multitudes that need the gospel, and we must facilitate mission efforts everywhere.

The importance of this matter is accentuated because (1) often the church today does not understand spiritual, Christian leadership. (2) Churches have too often chosen leaders based on secular abilities and leaders with secular worldviews. (3) Many churches and current leaders do not operate on the basis of a biblical definition of leadership. (4) When members of the church describe leaders, they do not use biblical concepts and words. (5) When churches choose leaders, they do not choose spiritual leaders based on spiritual qualities, but rather choose leaders based on their level of involvement in church activities.(6) The church has adopted leadership concepts from the secular realm and as a result has a distorted view of Christian leadership. (7) We have sacrificed spiritual leadership for leadership that we think will move the church forward more quickly. (8) This has resulted in a tendency of elders to become managers rather than spiritual leaders. (9) We have developed unbiblical concepts of leadership tenure and have thus retained leaders who do not do or cannot do what biblical leaders do.

The antidote is that the church must develop biblical leaders. The church must become self-governing. The church must develop biblical leadership--a group of leaders who function as spiritual leaders. A biblical definition of leadership should include a study of the words that describe leaders: elders, bishops-overseers, pastors. These words refer to one group of leaders. What do these leaders do? They teach, they provide counsel, they equip, they mentor, they shepherd. These are biblical leadership responsibilities. These are the things that leaders do.
With these biblical tasks in mind, biblical leaders must avoid the temptation to become managers. Managers are responsible for making sure everything works. A good manager is one who keeps things working. Leaders have a different function. Leaders do not make sure everything works. That is a deacon role in the Bible. Leaders have dreams, they envision the future, they share the vision, they motivate; they bring others along with them. Spiritual leaders are risk takers; they have a vision of how things could be and they take the initiative to bring it about. Managers simply take care of things, maintaining the status quo. They make sure systems work well. Leaders develop a vision of how things should be and can be, and cast that vision broadly. Leaders step up, articulate the vision and take the first bold step as a risk-taker. Leaders see things that are not and ask why they cannot be.

These challenges cause us to seek fresh understandings of biblical, Christian leadership. I believe Christian leadership occurs at five levels. Thus I suggest a paradigm of Christian leadership that addresses five levels of leadership. I believe that biblical leaders are active at all of these levels.

First, biblical leaders lead spiritually.
A first question in leadership selection is, "Is this a spiritual person?" Does this person set an example in conduct, attitude, demeanor, speech, relationships, habits (including spiritual habits like Bible study, evangelism, teaching, prayer), and faith? Only spiritual leaders know how to help others develop spiritually. Biblical leaders are spiritual individuals who are actively involved. They know how to care for others. They are spiritually active in prayer and provide examples of continuing personal spiritual growth. Those who excel in spiritual growth and involvement are developing their abilities to serve as spiritual leaders. They are examples, as the Bible says.

Second, biblical leaders lead in knowledge.
Effective Christian leaders know the Bible, are people of wisdom and knowledge, are able to provide wise counsel, and are teachers. They lead by what they know and understand, and by what they teach and impart to build faith in others. It is important to select leaders who know the Bible. One who wishes to be a leader must know the Bible and lead in knowledge and teaching.

Third, biblical leaders lead by mentoring and facilitating the work of others.
Effective Christian leaders are able to lead, encouraging others to action. They are capable of providing wise counsel; they are able to mentor and guide as overseers. They are able to equip as described in Ephesians 4. They are the shepherds of the flock, and do not become distracted as managers since their biblical responsibility is to lead and guide.

Fourth, biblical leaders lead others to be leaders.
Effective Christian leaders know how to train other leaders. The product of a leader is another leader, not a large group of followers. If leaders do not train leaders, the church cannot grow. This is Paul training Timothy, or Titus. This is Jesus training the Twelve. This is the apostles delegating responsibility to the Seven. This is Peter helping Mark, or Barnabas having influence on Mark.

Fifth, biblical leaders lead by training leaders who can develop other leaders.
Effective Christian leaders know how to develop leaders who can develop other leaders. Biblical leadership is a multi-generational sequence, 2 Tim. 2:2.

Our goal is to develop biblical leaders who can function at all five levels.

  • Leaders who lead spiritually-spiritually strong, actively involved, good examples
  • Leaders who lead in knowledge and by teaching, with wisdom and knowledge, able to teach and to provide good advice and counsel
  • Leaders who influence others, helping toward ministry, equipping, mentoring
  • Leaders who develop more leaders
  • Leaders who develop more leaders who can develop more leaders

    May God help us in this task so that the church understands the nature of spiritual leadership and describes Christian leaders with biblical words. May we develop the kind of leaders that can insure the future of the church, spiritual leaders that really lead, that develop more leaders who develop more leaders.

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    Last updated August 25, 2011