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The Leadership Myth | Leadership & Ministry | Mature Christian Leadership

The Leadership Myth

Not so long ago, I met with the Leadership Team of a church to discuss leadership training, and I asked them this question: If you were looking for a new leader, what sorts of things would you be looking for in a leader? This is the list they came up with.

Experience

Honesty

Wisdom

Knowledge

Listens to God

Own house in order

Caring

Compassionate

Trustworthy

Willing to work with others

Admits faults

Servant heart

Humble

Good listener

Obedient to God

Integrity

Although they were a good bunch of qualities, and these were the kinds of things I was expecting, I had a problem with the list they had come up with. Right now, you're probably thinking, "You've got a problem with honesty? Wisdom? Integr....? What is wrong with you? These are all fine Christian qualities."

Of course they are. But try not to brand me as a heretic just yet. Let's move on to the next question I asked. Just imagine your 15-year-old son came to you one day and said, "I'd like to learn the piano. I believe God wants me to play in church." I'm sure you'd be thrilled, but here's the question:

What sorts of things would you like him to learn?

When I asked this question, the response was interesting. They started off with concentration, discipline...

But that's as far as they got before I interrupted them and said, "Now hang on. Wait a minute here. Let's think this through. If you send young Johnny for piano lessons, do you think you might like him to learn how to play the piano?"

They agreed that might be a good idea.

So I said, "Then let's ask that question again. What sorts of things would you like him to learn?"

This time I got a much better list.

The notes on the piano

How to read music

Timing

Rhythm

Coordination

Chords

Arpeggios

Scales

How to use the sustain pedal

That was more like it. I described another scenario. Imagine your Sunday School explodes to the point where you need to buy a bus. You don't have a bus driver in the church, but one of the men volunteers to get a bus licence. What sorts of things would you like him to learn?

They were starting to catch on. This is the list I got:

How to start the bus

How to change the gears

How to steer

The road rules

Parking

Using the mirrors

Reversing

Minor maintenance

This was another great list. But what they didn't know was that I had set them up perfectly for my own sneaky purposes. I moved in for the kill with yet another scenario that went something like this:

So just imagine this. Young Johnny's been learning the piano for a while, and one day he says, "Okay, I'm ready to play in church."

You say, "Are you sure?"

"Yup," he says. "I'm ready."

This is great. Your usual pianist is sick and can't play on Sunday so you put Johnny into the vacant spot.

Sunday comes, and it's time for the worship to begin. The drummer counts in and everyone begins. With one problem. Johnny is just bashing the piano keys with his fists and elbows.

You are stunned. It couldn't have been much worse if he'd been using a jackhammer.

Quickly you grab him by the arm, whisk him out behind the stage, and say, "What in the world are you doing? I thought you said you were ready. I thought you were taking piano lessons."

"I was," Johnny protests.

"Then what have you been learning all this time?"

"I've been learning honesty, wisdom, knowledge, how to listen to God, how to be caring and compassionate, what it means to be trustworthy..."

You are just about to ask what happened to learning the scales, how to read music, chords, etc., when there's a crash out in the car park. You race outside to find your bus driver smashing into cars left, right, and centre.

You pull him up, drag him out of the bus and demand, "What is going on here?"

"I'm just trying to drive this bus," he replies defensively.

"You're not driving the bus," you say. "You're destroying half the vehicles in the car park. I thought you were taking driving lessons."

"I was."

"Then what have you been learning? You clearly can't drive."

"I've been learning honesty, wisdom, knowledge, how to listen to God, how to be caring and compassionate, what it means to be trustworthy..."

You understand where I'm going with this?

There's nothing wrong with the list we started with. It's a great list of fantastic Christian qualities. And of course we want leaders to be wise, and honest, and trustworthy. The problem is that there is nothing on that list that specifically applies to leadership. Let's face it. We'd like everyone in our churches to have those qualities, no matter what their ministry might be, and whether or not they are in a position of leadership.

So far as the Bible is concerned, those kinds of qualities are assumed for Christian leaders. And it's not just that leaders should have a higher standard than everyone else. Leaders should be examples of what God wants all His people to be.

Although we want our leaders to exemplify all those great character qualities, we need to understand that character is not enough. Character is a necessary foundation. It underpins leadership, just as it does every other ministry in the church. It pleases God. It enhances fruitfulness. It is a large part of the equation when discussing sustainability of ministry.

But we need leaders who also have leadership skills, just as we want pianists and bus drivers who have the practical skills to be able to fulfil their ministry.

To think that all a leader needs is a good character and good intentions is a myth. Leaders also need training. They need skills, knowledge, and understanding. That's what this section of HotSermons is all about.