“Every few hundred years in Western society there occurs a sharp transformation… within a few short decades, society rearranges itself — its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions…fifty years later, there is a new world and the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born.  We are currently living through such a transformation.”  Peter Drucker

There is so much material available to you on leadership and leading through times of change that it is easy to be overwhelmed by both the scope of the change and the “advice” on leading through it.  So what I would like to do in four simple posts is offer some bearings around which you can re-orient your leadership, particularly leadership in the Church, and build a culture that is advancing God’s Kingdom in the chaos that is our world at this moment, and actually always will be.

Victor Hugo in Les Miserables (Chapter III) writes: “The ocean seeks to lead it astray in the alarming sameness of its billows, but the vessel has its soul, its compass, which counsels it and always shows it the north.”

Your leadership is intensely personal.  Leadership develops naturally once an internal foundation has been laid.  If you don’t lay this foundation, then mere knowledge and technique can never compensate for this deficit.

The internal compass that will always point you to true north is laid out by Jesus in two verses: Matthew 16:18 and John 15:5.  Your ability to lead and create a missional culture in your Church, or in your ministry team, is totally dependent and built upon your heart connection to Jesus.  There are no shortcuts around this essential building block.  You cannot lead others where you haven’t been and you are not willing to go, and this is most especially true when it comes to leadership in God’s Kingdom.  You must be genuine to the core when it comes to your relationship to Christ.  God’s character and heart being formed within you is the non-negotiable starting point for your leadership.

Your character matters, if you want people to be generous, you must be generous.  If you want others to have good marriages, you must be willing to work on your marriage.  If you want people to pray and seek God’s heart, you must set the pace for others when it comes to prayer and seeking God’s heart.  When it comes to creating Kingdom culture in your Church, you can teach what you know but you are only going to reproduce who you are.  This is exactly what Paul tells Timothy as he mentors and encourages him in his leadership (1 Timothy 4:11-16).

There is a pattern that I see as I read Scripture when it comes to the Holy Spirit forming us into the kind of leaders that God desires for the Church.  The pattern is simple and predictable.  He plants a vision in your heart.  You have to wrestle with it and own it at this core level.  Then you have to work in out in your home.  In those relationships that are essential to your life – friends, family, spouse, accountability and prayer partners.  Your understanding of God’s call on your leadership will obviously be refined as it is expressed and worked through with those with whom you share your life.  Finally, God’s vision gets expressed through you in your community – that forum where you have been positioned by the Holy Spirit to lead.  Heart, Home, and Community – you can’t reverse the order.                                             

So here is my first non-negotiable starting point for leading at any time, especially in times of great change: As a leader you must be genuine to the core.  Godly Character Matters!  A personal pursuit of holiness and a heart connection to Christ is where character is formed and your leadership is defined.  Your leadership will not be defined by the size of the opportunity before you, but by the quality and character of your response.

To develop your internal leadership compass is a never-ending work in progress that draws continually on a maturing self-understanding, with that understanding being continuously integrated into the daily rhythms of your life. 

These resources will help you reflect on, and re-orient, your internal leadership compass:

  • Leadership and Self-Deception, The Arbinger Institute
  • Heroic Leadership, Chris Lowney ( pages 1 – 61 at this point in our conversation)
  • In the Name of Jesus: Reflections On Christian Leadership, Henri J. Nouwen 

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