Tomorrow at New Life Church, we’ll resume our study of spiritual gifts, beginning with the gift of leadership. As scientific knowledge has increased and moral wisdom has decreased, the cry for leadership in the church has grown louder and more desperate. A leadership movement has swelled in the last generation, spurred on by such giants as Howard Hendricks and John Maxwell. In our generation, Andy Stanley is breaking new ground as a leadership innovator preparing for the next generation.
All gifted leaders face the challenge of dissidents numbered among the people they lead. But they aren’t looking for any sympathy, please. Good leaders intuitively know their influence comes at a price—intense, unfair opposition. The four greatest leaders in the Bible—Moses, David, Jesus and Paul—all faced constant, fierce antagonism to their authority. That’s merely par for great leaders.
Nay-sayers are everywhere (hey, Jesus predicted it!), so it’s no surprise that great leaders of the church are under attack today. Pastors whose names you know—and a host of others whose names you’ve never heard—are under constant verbal assault from divisive people with false and misleading accusations. This is not just in America. It’s all over the world. The rise of the social media has exponentially increased malice and misinformation. Usually the leaders don’t even know these self-appointed critics.
The need for leadership in the church is more evident than ever before. If God has given you the spiritual gift of leadership, be forewarned: your job won’t be easy. Don’t bother yearning for the good old days when leadership was easy. That’s a fantasy. Leadership has always been hard.
If you don’t have the gift of leadership, (and even if you do have it), pray for your leaders. Great leaders seek great prayer support. The Apostle Paul requested prayer (Eph. 6:19-20). Even Jesus wanted prayer support from his disciples (Matt. 26:40). Please pray for your leaders, including me! Here are three prayer requests: boldness in proclaiming the gospel, wisdom in leading the church, and strength to invest in the continual creation of new relationships.
A quarter century ago, David McKenna wrote a book with a strange title: Power to Follow, Grace to Lead. It struck me as backward. My natural inclination was that it takes power to lead and grace to follow. But McKenna was right. First, leadership is a gift of grace. Yes, it’s a skill which can be developed. But leadership is primarily a gift and a calling. Second, leadership requires followers. There is a little recognized, but empirically proven, dynamic which endows strong followers. The most empowered people I know are followers. Ironically, this flips followers into leaders. Good leaders produce followers. But great leaders produce other leaders. That’s the mark of a true leader.