In seminary, most of my fellow students were only enamored by the intricacies of theology, hermeneutics, and church history, but I was drawn to the theology of biblical leadership. I clearly saw the importance of relationships in church leadership. Unfortunately, apart from one class, the seminary did not offer any further development in this area.
I clearly saw the importance of relationships in church leadership.
The situation did not improve in the first years of ministry. I encountered phenomenal individual leaders that blessed and transformed my perspective on leadership, but the overall culture was dominated by a mixture of fear, control, and power. The ugliest part of the military or the corporate world seemed to drive the philosophy of leadership more than the pages of God’s Word.
In 2015, I planted a church that I continue to lead.
The ugliest part of the military or the corporate world seemed to drive the philosophy of leadership more than the pages of God’s Word.
In my new role, I learned a critical leadership lesson: Leaving an unhealthy leadership context does not mean the culture will automatically change in the new context. I struggled to see the unhealthy patterns in my leadership. In early 2021, a group of gracious friends and leaders patiently spoke truth into my life. I recognized the need to deconstruct my leadership philosophy. In my deconstruction, I identified three biblical principles that are essential for a healthy leadership culture in a church.
Leaving an unhealthy leadership context does not mean the culture will automatically change in the new context.
Principle 1: Maturing in how you love others is your top priority
Evaluate your leadership through the lens of 1 Corinthians 13. Your manner must be informed by God’s definition of love. If you fail to love, then 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 is clear: you are nothing and gain nothing. Nothing. Let the word register in your mind.
Your growth as a leader is directly connected to maturing in your love for others.
Your manner must be informed by God’s definition of love.
Submit to a full and thorough evaluation to gain understanding. Our elders administrated an anonymous evaluation and interviews with key leaders. Face the truth with humility, a passion to learn, and a commitment to Gospel transformation as weaknesses are revealed. Take the initiative to prioritize growth in how you love others.
Principle 2: Adjust your approach to meet the needs of others
Early in ministry, I learned an unhealthy leadership principle. When my style of communication caused hurt or confusion, I would explain my motives to the ministry leader so they could gain understanding to avoid future hurt or confusion. I expected them to make the adjustment.
Enter Philippians 2:3-7. The words brought searing conviction. Philippians 2:4 revealed the ugliness of my previous posture, ”Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Biblical leadership aims to serve the people they are leading and adjusts to meet their needs.
I expected them to make the adjustment.
Through the use of personality profiles and purposeful conversations, everyone is committed to grow in self-awareness and awareness of others. Now, I am equipped to enter into a conversation or a meeting knowing the needs and interests of others.
Set an example of servant leadership.
And my leadership team is following my example by approaching me with the same love and grace. Don’t demand adjustment from others. Set an example of servant leadership.
Principle 3: Slow down
Most church planters have an entrepreneurial spirit, high capacity for work, and a relentless passion for growth. They are powerful strengths for launching a church, but also potential weaknesses for sustained health in leadership if you never slow down.
“But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
In Luke 5, Jesus selects disciples and heals a leper. In Luke 5:15, word is spreading about his ministry. Crowds gather to hear his message and to be healed. Imagine the buzz in the air and the opportunity for more people to hear the Gospel and find healing. What Jesus does next in Luke 5:16 is shocking, “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”
Jesus shows the importance of slowing down to restore your soul. Jesus models healthy ministry rhythms. Serve people with your gifts and then slow down to be restored in the presence of the Lord.
Jesus models healthy ministry rhythms.
Do you take time each day to spend with the Lord or are you making excuses because of ministry opportunities? Do you take a day each week? Do you take all of your vacation each year? Stop the excuses. Follow the example of Christ. Slow down.
Follow these three principles to establish a healthier leadership culture in your church.
Start here, but never stop processing and praying through your theology of leadership. Deconstruct anything necessary to align your leadership with the teaching of God’s Word and the example of Jesus.