One of the most disheartening trends in Christian leadership today is leadership dysfunction. The number of people who are burning out, selling out and tapping out should cause any would be leader to take a long hard look at the trajectory of his own life.
A Devastating Trend
You don’t have to look very far to see how this trend is devastating person after person and organization after organization. Take three church leaders from a city that neighbors mine for example.
In one church, the pastor has denounced historic, orthodox Christianity. He is now preaching against the atonement and is well on his way toward heresy on nearly every major doctrine. Many of his former sheep have since scattered to other churches.
Another church, just a few short miles from the first, recently imploded because the lead pastor committed adultery and went apostate. One of the other leaders in that church stepped down from his role because he wasn’t prepared for the crushing weight of leadership that was defaulting to him.
Sadly, these stories are all too common. Just look at the countless controversies, criticisms and concerns related to the onslaught of Christian leaders who have and are faltering in a wide range of organizations and roles. That should be sobering to any leader.
But here’s the thing. No one begins pursuing leadership with the goal of heresy, apostasy or burn out. Those tragedies happen slowly over time as a person loses sight of the Gospel and the practices that reinforce Christ’s work in life and leadership. We just don’t have what it takes to persevere in Christian leadership without life enhancing practices that keep us sourced in Jesus Christ.
The Leadership Essentials
What are some of those practices?
I’m sure the list varies depending on who you talk to, but here are six that I have found to be essential to my own health and longevity as a leader.
1)Personal Relationship with Jesus.
This one is so obvious that it’s easy to miss, but many leaders start their fade with a subtle shift in their own devotional life. Somehow time with the Lord becomes about what God would do in others, rather than what he would do in us. It’s critical that we understand, however, that we cannot effectively minister to others until we have been authentically ministered to by Jesus.
In leadership, it’s easy to get caught up with the details of other people’s lives, while unintentionally missing what’s going on in our own. We get so caught up in navigating everyone else’s inner life that we fail to navigate our own. This is a common and costly mistake. A person that neglects to lead herself will not be able to lead others for very long, so keep a close watch on yourself.
You know what’s often missing in the life of a fallen leader? A commitment to do the right things at the right time in the right way and for the right reasons.
At some point, the pressures of leadership convince us that it’s acceptable to cut corners in areas we don’t think anyone will notice. Don’t take that bait. If you want to lead well for the long haul, it is absolutely essential to pursue integrity in every area of life. (Proverbs 11:3; Proverbs 4:25-27; 1 Timothy 4:15; Titus 2:7)
It’s often said that leadership is lonely. That can be true, but it doesn’t have to be.
Don’t overlook the value of having people in your life who know you, love you and walk with you. Schedule time to spend with people without having a ministry agenda so that you can be mutually refreshed and enriched. Give these people permission to speak into your life, to hold you accountable and to encourage you in the Gospel through the trials of leadership. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Leadership is demanding. It requires us to work long hours, to accomplish difficult tasks and to pick up the slack when others punt their responsibilities. With all of the demands, it can be tempting to believe the lie that it’s on us to accomplish God’s work for him. Before long, our identity is tied to our leadership and we can’t hold up under the pressure to perform.
Do yourself a favor by committing to work from rest in Christ, not to rest in ministry. Schedule time each day, week, month, quarter and year to stop what you’re doing to enjoy what Jesus has done.
As kids, we spend most of our waking hours at play. As adults, we spend most of our hours at work. Somewhere along the way toward leadership, we forget what it’s like to cut loose and have a good time.
This seems arbitrary, but it’s not. There’s something about having a good time that has a way of rejuvenating us for the work ahead. So, go ahead, tell some jokes, laugh with friends and be silly with your kids because all work and no play will leave a leader worn out, grumpy and on the edge of disaster.
Finish the Race
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. It will beat you up, tear you down and leave you for dead if you’re not careful. I’ve seen leadership take its toll on the best of people and I’ve often felt the weight of it myself. If you lead for an extended period of time, you will too.
Don’t let yourself believe for a second that leadership something to take lightly because it’s not. There’s a lot stake, so make sure you implement Gospel practices, like the ones mentioned here, that will help you fight the good fight and finish the leadership race that the Lord Jesus has given you. (Acts 20:24; 2 Timothy 4:7)
You may also: