By Tom Julien
Where will your church be ten years from now? Will it still be committed to biblical values in a pluralistic society? Will its people be characterized by spiritual vitality and ministry? Will it be turned outward in missionary vision both at home and around the world?
The answers are directly related to your church’s ability to identify and develop the leaders the Lord has given it. The leaders are the joints and ligaments that hold the body together and make it function. Their role is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
In developing these leaders, however, the church faces some obstacles. First, the great divide: the distinction between professional and non-professional ministries. This leads to the great gap: the failure of many churches to give identity to their “mid-level” leadership. All this is the result of the great gulf: the absence in most churches of an equipping culture that leads to effective leadership training.
What is an effective leader? The obvious answer is that a leader is someone who leads. It is not determined by position or title, but by the leader’s ability to motivate others to join him in the fulfillment of his vision.
Though leadership training can become complex, those who develop effective leaders have the ability to constantly come back to the basics.
In effective leadership, purpose must always supersede process. Vision can only be implemented through processes and procedures, but when how we do something becomes more important than why, focus is lost.
Someone has said that if we forget where we are going, what we are doing becomes very important. Too often our fascination with methods can easily overshadow our reason for implementing them.
Effective leaders constantly seek to infuse vision into their teams. To do this, biblical leaders put their confidence in prayer, remembering that the Lord is the one who opens the eyes of our heart (Ephesians 1:18-19).
In effective leadership, the authority of the person must always supersede the authority of the position.
Leadership is a blend of credibility, competence, and commitment. Flaws in any of these areas will result in weaknesses in leadership.
Personality has two aspects: the person and the persona. The person is related to character; the persona is related to image. Too many leaders rely on their position rather than the authenticity of their person. Unless the leader manifests character traits such as transparency, consistency, and dependability, credibility will be lost.
Biblical leaders are always reminding themselves that leadership is not what is done for God but what God does through us (Colossians 1:29).
In effective leadership, people take precedence over programs. The leader is an equipper; he must be relational.
The goal of the leader is not to use people to achieve his own purposes, but to develop the potential of each teammate as a collaborator. The leader is willing to give each teammate a sense of significance by delegating not just tasks, but responsibilities that develop creativity.
Effective leaders are sensitive to the needs of teammates. Biblical leaders never forget that when the Lord comes back, only people will be caught up-not projects or organizations. The leader’s goal is that every teammate rise to his full potential for Christ, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness in Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV).”
Editor’s Note: Tom Julien is executive director emeritus of Grace Brethren International Missions. This article was adapted from a Fireside Dialogue presented at CE National’s Russell Center in Winona Lake, Ind., on May 4, 2010. To obtain a CD of the lecture, see cenational.org/fireside.