Although it’s only one year since I was ordained to the priesthood, it’s been over twenty years I’ve served as a minister in some capacity. My call to be an agent of Christ’s forgiveness and reconciliation has led me into some very diverse areas of ministry. Yet all of them have taught me something. I’ve worked as a pastoral associate, an ecumenical officer, an official theologian, a pastoral counselor, and now I serve the church as an ordained minister of the Gospel. I find myself preaching, teaching, and ministering in ways I could never imagine possible knowing fully it is not me doing the work but Christ through me. Recently I was asked to share my thoughts on what it meant to lead Christianly for a small group of men and women soon slated to serve the church. In reflecting on what I would say it struck me those who minister really try and do one particular thing. We try to make Christ present in the midsts of the circumstances we are placed. If that’s what ministry is mainly about, then Christian leadership is about leading in such a way others see Christ in how one lives their life. Because of that, I shared with this wonderful group eight principles I believe everyone leading Christianly must reflect so others will find the person of Christ in their leadership style. Let me share these with you in case they can be edifying in any way:
- Love unconditionally. Even when it’s difficult, find a way to love even those hard to love. Leadership is never about what others can do for you, it’s always about how you can serve the people in your life helping them fulfill the Gospel as it uniquely relates to them. The Gospel must be preached in love otherwise it falls on rocky ground never taking root transforming their lives.
- Teach by example and the use of metaphor, story, analogy, and creativity. People don’t need to be told what to do they need inspired. Christ inspired others to lay down their lives for God’s kingdom by doing so himself and inspiring the hearts of his disciples. Simply telling people what to do is not leadership it’s dictatorship and that has never changed the world for the better.
- Sacrifice yourself for what is good, holy, and true. When you pour yourself out for what is Godly you can never exhaust yourself. God always pours more of himself into you to accomplish what he asks. It’s only when our agenda takes precedence that we get exhausted.
- Live relationally. I have a colleague who often reminds me of this important principle. We were created to draw strength and inspiration from one another, not live as isolated superhumans. Our greatest resource is the body of Christ; our fellow believers who encourage and lift us up when things are tough. They’re also the people who applaud our successes and celebrate with us when the job is done well. Man was not created to live alone therefore we should not attempt to lead as one above human company.
- Love to learn. Even Christ spent time in his human condition pursuing the wisdom of the Father. Growing in wisdom and knowledge is important for leaders and must be intentional. If Christ did this certainly we can.
- Take care of your physical body. By living as an incarnational human being and taking his resurrected body into heaven Christ reminds us our physical well-being is essential to doing God’s work. We are intended to have bodies and it’s through these bodies we will engage the world now and live in paradise later. We must care for our physical well-being to be good leaders.
- Allow yourself to experience human emotions, don’t be a stoic. Christ expressed the full range of human emotions so it’s quite appropriate for us to do the same. Denying emotions and not allowing ourselves to learn how to express them is denying part of what makes us human. No one wants to be led by a robot.
- Pray. Pray always and walk in communion with God. It’s one of the very first acts Adam did while living in Eden, and it is what Christ did while he lived on earth. Walk with God in prayer, hear his small still voice whisper to you, and always recognize his presence.
I know I fail living up to these principles most days. Yet having the opportunity to share these principles with others reaffirmed my commitment to them in my role as pastor, professor, and counselor. I pray all Christian leaders find time to search the scriptures to know Christ and learn how he led his group of disciples. It’s only in him we can know what it means to be perfectly human because it’s only in him we have an incarnational encounter with our glorious God.