Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm about to be replaced!

I'm about to be replaced!

The nominators have done their work, the induction service is all planned and ready to go and the rectory is looking spick and span.

Which has got me thinking - what should we be looking for in our leaders. I guess this is specifically aimed at church leaders, but US readers might like to keep it in mind as the presidential elections come up soon.

As I thought about being replaced, and thought about Mark (who is replacing me), my mind turned to 1 Timothy 3, and the qualifications for overseers that Paul lists there.

"The saying trustworthy. If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."  (1 Tim 3:1-7, ESV)

'Leadership' is one of the big buzzwords amongst Christian training institutions - especially in the developing world. Everyone thinks leadership is a good thing. Everyone thinks leadership is something worthy of spending time training for. Everyone has got their own theory and set of key elements of leadership.

Its interesting as you read the briefs of leadership schools or courses, its often about equipping a person with a set of skills. Skills like problem solving, strategic thinking, targeting and marketing, getting people to do what you want them to do, mediation and motivation.

And yet when Paul lists the characteristics he wants in a leader, its character, not competency that comes to the fore. Before they can set the vision and run the committee and raise the funds, Paul wants the leader to have a character that is shaped by the gospel. He wants people whose hearts have been transformed by the gospel - because the position of gospel leadership requires a gospel shaped life. 

Did you notice that in that passage, only one of the categories that Paul lists is a competency? 'Able to teach'. The other dozen or so are all character issues.

We all know of leaders who have failed. Often when we think of them and the ministries they were involved in - its a point of great sadness that they are no longer leading that ministry. But nine times out of ten, their failure in leadership has not been a competency issue, but one of character. They have failed to be hospitable, self controlled, not a lover of money or the husband of one wife. Over and over again we see that if you want to be a gospel leaders, you must first and foremost have a gospel heart and a gospel shaped character - because if you don't, it will quickly be exposed.

As we head off to the mission field in Latin America, and into a position of leadership with MOCLAM, its really important that we reflect on these character requirements. We can spend so much time on language study and developing skills in promotions and leadership and resource management - its easy to get caught up in all of that. But if we get all those skills, but don't have a gospel shaped character, then its all going to come crashing down pretty quickly.

I guess in the end it comes down to the fact that as Christian leaders, we need to make sure we're not 'in it' for our own glory, but for God's glory. We need to make sure that people don't notice what a great leader we are, but notice what a great God we serve.

If you're in Christian leadership - keep working on your character. If you're under a Christian leader (and we all are at some stage), lets keep doing what we can to encourage our leaders - to be the leaders God wants them to be, not the leaders the world says they should be.

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