Theology of Leadership and Character Profile
Nowadays, a lot of churches are struggling on growing and some of them are even struggling on maintain the congregation. Often time, the reason behind this obstacle is lack of leader in the church. Therefore, developing Christian leadership is a weakness to many churches. In order to understand how to develop leadership effectively, we need to understand the biblical principle of Christian leadership. In this research paper, several questions will be addressed. Questions such as what is Christian leadership, what are the qualifications of leaders, what are the ways to train new leaders, what are the leadership principle in Joshua’s life and what are the leadership failures in Joshua’s life and how the biblical principles of leadership relate to the young adult ministry in my church.
What is Christian leadership?
Christian leadership is actively influencing people to grow up in holiness and passionately promoting the expansion of God’s kingdom in the world. In order to fully understand Christian leadership, there is no better model than Jesus’ model of leadership. From the lecture, Dr. Thomas mentioned “Jesus’ pattern of leadership was devoted wholly to having his disciples with him so that they might be prepared to accomplish the task set before them.” In the Bible, it mentioned that Jesus selected twelve disciples and all of them are inexperience and have flaw in their characters. But Jesus chose them and focused on discipleship during the journey before His crucifixion.
In Jesus’ model of leadership, Jesus describes Himself as the shepherd and us as sheep. In John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In this verse, we see a perfect description of the Christian leader. He is the kind of person who acts as a shepherd in the sheep he cares for.
When Jesus called us the sheep, he did not speak in an affectionate term. In fact, sheep is one of the most stupid animals in creation. Jesus describes those who do not know Him as stray sheep. A stray sheep is usually lost, confused, scared, and unable to find a way back to the flock. They are very weak to the point that they are unable to resist hunger predators. When Jesus called us his sheep, he said that without the shepherd, we would be powerless.
The shepherd is a man who has several roles for his sheep. He leads, feeds, trains, comforts, corrects and protects. The shepherd of the Lord’s flock reflects Christ’s godliness and justice in his own life and encourages others to follow his example. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul said to the Corinthians to follow his example as he is following Christ’s example. Of course, Jesus is our ultimate example.
The leader of the Christian is also the breeder and caregiver of the sheep. The ultimate “meat” is the Word of God. The shepherd leads his flock to the widest pastures, so they grow and thrive. The same thing happens in Christian leadership. Christian leaders nourish their flock with the only food that can produce strong, energetic Christians, which is the Word of God. Christian should constantly be fed with the Bible, not psychology or the wisdom of the world. Only the Word of God can produce healthy Christians who follow Christ.
Qualification of Christian leadership
Christian leaders should take a proactive approach to influence our neighbors. Before Jesus’ ascension, He commanded us “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Surely Jesus’s command for Great Commission is not a passive act and leaders are not told to wait and make disciple, instead Jesus said to us to “go” and make disciples. Therefore, godly leaders seek, pursue, and follow up opportunities, actively turning others into the holiness of character and obeying God’s commandment.
Christian leaders should be humble and be the servant for their people. In Mark 10:44-46, it said “whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Besides, Jesus does not only teach about being servant to others, He also showed His teaching in action. In John 13, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and He said “now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” Therefore, Jesus has set the perfect example of being a servant for His people and Christian leaders ought to follow the same way and willing to sacrifice their comfort zone. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Christian leaders are called to sacrifice, leave their comfort zone and follow Christ.
Christian leaders should depend on God at all time. In John 15:5, Jesus said “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Christian leaders should constantly abide in God and put God as the first priority, so that they are not serving people with their own power but Christ work through them.
Ways of training new leaders
The leadership model used by Jesus is best embodied in the Gospel of Mark, called the selection and commission of the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19). It is in this passage that Jesus showed a counter-intuitive approach, focusing on the few people rather than the masses. Mark’s Gospel revealed that many follow Jesus, but further adds that these “followers” will be narrowed through Jesus’ own personal selection process (Mark 3:13). In history, the disciples decided which master they would follow, but in the case of Jesus, Jesus chose his disciples. Therefore, we can follow Jesus’ model and choose few people and invest our time in their lives. Instead of discipling a big group of people, this model allows the discipler to develop a closer relationship with his/her disciple.
Besides the group setting, individual discipleship is also another way to train up new leaders. Even though this method may not be as efficient as the group discipleship since the leader is just making one disciple at a time, the growth of disciple could be intensive.
The primary characteristic of a disciple is change demonstrated by a growth in character that requires increasing knowledge, appropriate attitudes, right thoughts, improving relationship, and obedient action. Christ does not change. He is perfect. The disciple’s responsibility is to become like Christ. Change happens as a disciple strives to be like his Master. Therefore, no matter what kind of discipleship we are using, we would like to see our disciples to become more like Christ at the end.
Leadership principles evidenced in Joshua’s life
Forty years from the Sinai to Canaan entrance, Joshua was fortunate to have the privilege of being a Moses assistant. He personally observed Moses’ unique pursuit of God’s existence, the anger of idolatry, and the powerful intercession. These experiences never left Joshua. God will not clone leaders, but he will develop them. When the time of inheritance came, Joshua set out as his own person, received the support of the Lord’s promise, and was called to be strong and courageous. From here, we can see that Joshua’s humility to follow God, therefore, God courage him to lead the Israelites.
When Joshua was about to lead more than two million Israelis into the Promised Land, he ordered everyone to stop in excitement so that he could make this very important exhortation: “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.” The next morning, Joshua approached the priest and said, “Hold up the ark and guide people across the river.”
These two statements show that in order to successfully execute God’s plan, Joshua knows that he and his entire team must accept two key concepts. First, they need to purify themselves in front of the Almighty God. Joshua learned the wisdom of relying on God for success. It is because sin can prevent us from hearing the voice of God, Joshua made a continuous choice for repentance and advised his team to do the same.
Second, Joshua and the Israelites must determine their hopes and focus on the Lord as their ultimate leader. Joshua humbly understood the importance of letting the Ark to lead the people of Israelites. This is a visual reminder that God led His people to pass through the Red Sea and now that the same God will lead his people across the Jordan River. Joshua chose God as his leader, so people followed his example.
After the Israelites successfully crossed the Jordan River and entered Canaan, they met their first stronghold, which is the city of Jericho. Joshua is a talented military strategist who knows that the only way God promises to occupy this land is if they trust God. He knows that divine promises require divine intervention.
When Joshua sought him, God was very loyal to give Joshua the military success. Seven days later, the Israelites marched around the castle, blowing the horn and praising God. On the seventh day, the wall collapsed and the Israelites conquered the land. No one can deny that God is with the Israelites. God gave Joshua and the Israelites success because they faithfully sought His instructions and then obeyed them.
As a military commander, Joshua combines strategic thinking with devout reliance on God’s guidance. The fortified city of Jericho was scouted, but it was later defeated by the silly method chosen by God. The entire conquest movement has been carefully organized. Joshua from Gilgar built a supply line from Transjordan and attacked the central highlands.
By entering the heartland, Joshua’s army divided the enemy’s place into two parts, halving the enemy’s power. However, before continuing, he turned his attention to covenant renewal at Shechem. “The southern thrust broke the southern Amorite coalition with surprising rapidly. But the decisive battle of Gibeon turned on a long day in which Joshua prayed, “the sun stood still”, and the Lord fought for Israel. The northern thrust targeted the mighty fortification of Hazor whose army of chariots and horses fell because the Lord handed them over to Joshua.” Even though Joshua is gifted with the strategic planning skill, he is humble and depends on God in prayer. God answered Joshua’s prayer because of his faith and the Israelite gained victory in the battle.
Here are five strong leadership qualities that we learned in Joshua’s life:
- Joshua led his team by example. He did not ask the Israelites to do anything that he had not done before.
- Joshua persuaded them to cleanse themselves before the Lord and to make his team accountable for his choice. He knows the value of repentance.
- Joshua took the time to seek God’s will before making any plans. He trusts in God and not himself.
- Joshua obeys God. Joshua humbly accepted God’s instructions as truth and followed it.
- Joshua knew and studied the Word of God. He is afraid of God and values the truth rather than the opinions of the people.
Leadership failure in Joshua’s life
On the other hand, the Israelites attempt to conquer Ai is catastrophic. After Joshua asked his army to evaluate Ai and determine the military strategy, they replied to Joshua that they could handle the enemy and only 3,000 soldiers should be needed. Joshua trusted their decision and sent His warriors, however, they suffered a humiliating defeat. It is because Joshua did not include God this time. Instead, he chose to believe in his own ideas, thus, the Israelites suffered. Joshua assumed that God would provide success to the Israelites as before, whether or not he sought the Lord.
The assumption is dangerous, especially when we try to make things that we think God will say or do without actually seeking him. When we are overconfident about our abilities, experience and talents, we are easily deceived and believe that God will occupy the passenger seat as we charge forward.
The pitfall of leadership failure from Joshua’s story:
1) We like to control, we take responsibility and follow our agenda with pride and arrogance.
2) We think we know what God will do. He has done some things in the past, so he will of course provide it in the same way.
How the biblical principles of leadership relate to the young adult ministry in my church
According to the model of Jesus, Christian leaders should establish other Christian leaders. Jesus cultivates leaders by consciously focusing on individuals and building the character necessary for them to accomplish the missions they set for them. Therefore, a successful Christian leadership requires building our brothers and sisters intentionally and with expectation. When I serve the young adult ministry, I will should choose one to three people and focus on them for discipleship and I should expect to see their growth and share Jesus with others when I disciple them.
The leadership in the Bible is people-centered rather than program-driven because it focuses on the spiritual maturity of individuals and building up their faith in Christ. Besides, when we disciple the people, it is easy to have a wrong mindset and focusing on the church doctrines or traditions a lot. I think leaders should focus on making disciple of Christ, not the followers of my church or followers of a particular pastor.
In the doctrine-centered discipleship, everything must be taught to ensure that one has knowledge of obedience. The obedience-centered discipleship focuses on how we obey Christ in all aspects of life and in all settings. When a new disciple asks a question, my answer is always the same: What do you have to do to obey Christ? I may have to help that person find the appropriate paragraph in the Bible to answer this question. In this form of teaching, faith is defined as obeying Christ’s commands in any situation or environment.
With Joshua’s example, it is important to abide in Christ and pray before we take any action. It is important to know that God has a plan and we are just participating His ministry. When Joshua prayed, God was with him and the Israelite and they won the battle. While Joshua was having the pride issue and took action without asking God, God did not go with him for the battle and they was defeated. As the leader in my church, we are called to constantly abide in Jesus’ love and seek Him first. He should come before any ministry work.
Joshua led his team by example. As a leader in my church, I think the leaders’ character will have a big impact to the church. People from inside church and outside the church are looking at the church leader and observe their behavior. When our actions and words reflect the love of God, people can see Christ in me. When we constantly seek for transformation in our lives, people will fill with wonder and they will know Christ’s goodness.
In order for Christian leaders to influence other leaders, there must be established relationships that compel the mentees to respond positively to the mentor’s guidance and commissioning. In Jesus’ example, He developed a very deep relationship with His twelve disciples. Jesus expressed His love through His sacrificial death and redeemed people from sin. Even though Peter denied Jesus for three times, Jesus still did not give up on him and He trust in Peter. Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me” for three times in order to counteract his three denial to Jesus. Here, we can see Jesus’ love for Peter. When the leaders in my church serve the people, I sometimes can see their hidden agenda when they are doing discipleship. Some leaders are scared of church death and that’s why they are trying so hard to disciple people so that they can start serving and sharing their burden. I think it is important to watch our intention when we are trying to disciple people. We should want people to become more like Christ and live in freedom instead of hoping them to come to our church because we want to reach a certain number of attendants.
Christian leaders are called to love and serve the people. It is a servant hood life style. Christian leadership is influencing people to grow up in holiness and passionately promoting the expansion of God’s kingdom in the world. With Joshua’s example, Christian leader should lead his team by example. It is also important for the leaders to have a humble heart and constantly seek God with all their hearts, all their souls and all their minds. Christian leadership is not an easy job and it requires sacrifice of our comfort zone and be obedience to God’s calling.
- Howell, Don N. Jr. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene, Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003.
- Watson, David L., and Paul D. Watson. Contagious Disciple-making: Leading Others On a Journey of Discovery. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2014.
 Jn. 10:11
 1 Cor. 11:1
 Mat. 28:19-20
 Mk. 10:44-46
 Jn. 13:14-15
 Howell, Don N. Jr. Servants of the Servant: A Biblical Theology of Leadership. Eugene, Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003. 47.
 Josh. 3:5
 Josh 3:3