If you are in a church, no matter whether a pastor, an elder or deacon, a member, and/or a regular attender or friend of the church – other people are making an example of you. Yes, people are watching; they see what you do, what you say, how you act, and your attitude toward most things. Church leaders, especially, are to be good examples to the Body of Christ (1 Peter 5:3). Maybe you don’t think of yourself as an example to others, or think that more ordinary parishioners have that kind of influence. But leadership isn’t really about having a position or possessing power; it is about the actions and/or inactions you take.
No matter your position in the church, you have to take responsibility for the quality of your Christian life. If you are in any kind of leadership role, you have to decide how good a leader you want to be. Before you get too uppity about this and get your clerical robes (or skinny jeans and v-neck t-shirt) in a bunch, know that I am in this with you. I am not speaking as an expert, but as one who is in continuous education every day through actual practice and constant learning. If you desire the proficient expert, I’m not your guy. But if you want a perspective from a common pastor in a non-descript congregation, then keep reading.
I used to get discouraged about the reality that I wasn’t a born leader. But then I came to my senses and remembered that I was born. I’m here, so my mother must have given birth to me. Everyone is born. Rather, it’s a matter of what we do with what we have before we die that makes all the difference. There is no evidence that people are predisposed with a leadership gene imprinted on their DNA. Yes, in the church there are gifts of leadership given by the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t get any of us off the hook of leadership any more than not having a gift of teaching means we don’t have to instruct our kids.
What I’m getting at is this: leadership can be learned. It is a skill and ability like most anything else in life. Therefore, it must be developed and honed, even if one seems prone to be a leader. If I’m right, or at least you think I’m on to something here, then good leadership means being a good learner. The thing that really exemplifies good leaders is lots and lots of practice. It’s been estimated that about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over a period of 10 years is what it takes to achieve the highest level of proficiency. Okay, now maybe I’ve lost you. But this is the price of leadership. It doesn’t just happen. Men and women of God don’t just get zapped by the Spirit like some divine magic trick and become automatically great leaders. God calls, molds, develops, mentors, and shapes individuals of all kinds for his purposes for leadership. That’s why there are so many exhortations in Scripture to be examples, follow godly examples, and mimic sound doctrine. Making disciples isn’t like making microwave popcorn. It’s much more like the outdoor smoker; go low and slow and let the meat cook just right.
Since leadership is a learned art, then failure is inevitable. We practice anything to get better at it. We do it, blow it, learn from our mistakes then try it again – over and over and over again. Grace comes into the equation because we must allow people the freedom to try and fail without beating them up over their mistakes. No one wants to even try if they know they’ll get slapped if they fail. Of all the places on planet earth, the church really ought to be a place where folks can experiment, try, implement ideas, and learn from their failures. The fact that we don’t typically think of the church this way says a lot.
Intelligence is helpful; talking a good line never hurts; confidence is beneficial; but taking the time to practice the skills of leadership with dedicated work and focused motivation is the one thing that anyone can do. Be encouraged to know that Christian sanctification is a process; church leadership can be developed and learned. If you desire to be a better example, work at it with all your heart.