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The Leadership Myth | Leadership & Ministry | Mature Christian Leadership

Mature Christian Leadership

Before we go any further in this series on leadership, we need to consider the whole issue of maturity. A leader should be a mature person. Probably most Christians understand this, but it's important for us to clarify exactly what we mean by maturity.

I was present at the births of both of my children. Childbirth is a miraculous event. A new person comes into the world and begins its journey of life.

But babies are interesting creatures. They can't talk, they can't walk, they can't clean up after themselves. In fact, except for the cute-factor, babies are pretty much useless. But we love them anyway. We don't even mind that they are so dependent on us for everything.

But let's say that your beautiful baby is now 40-years-old. And he still can't feed himself, dress himself, talk, or do any of the other things you would expect an adult to be able to do. The very things that once were cute are now a source of immense heartache.

Let's face it. You don't want your baby to remain a baby forever. You want your baby to grow up and mature into an adult. God has the same expectations of His people. He expects us to mature into adults who act like adults and not like babies.

That's the purpose of the discipleship process. In fact, that's one of the reasons God put leaders in the body of Christ.

Eph 4:11-15 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, (13) till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (14) that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, (15) but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ.

Notice all the references in this passage to growing up, no longer being children, being a perfect man (not a child), the fullness of Christ? God wants His people to grow up. It must cause Him a great deal of heartache when His children who show such great promise and potential simply fail to mature.

The job of leaders is to help bring about that process. But that's not really possible if the leaders themselves are immature. So in this module we are going to look at three incredibly important characteristics that leaders need to display in their lives.

1. Self-Feeding

Babies can't cook. In fact, if you put food in front of a newborn baby, they can't even spoon it into their own mouth. While the cooking of many adults may not be up to the standard of a celebrity chef, most can prepare a basic meal, even if it's just toast. They are capable of self-feeding.

A mature Christian should also be self-feeding, but what does that mean? To answer that, we must first understand what spiritual food is.

Heb 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (13) For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (14) But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

According to these verses, God's Word - the word of righteousness - is spiritual food. You can probably tell where I'm heading here. If God's Word is spiritual food, and a mature person is self-feeding, then a mature Christian should be able to feed themselves with God's Word.

How often should we be feeding on God's Word? This is a question that Jesus answered when He taught us how to pray.

Jesus said, "Give us this day our daily bread." (Mat 6:11)

No doubt some will think that Jesus could well have been speaking about physical food. For many people round the world, praying for food may well be a major issue. However, there are millions of Christians who never need to pray that prayer because they live in a land of abundance. With obesity as an increasing problem, they are more likely to need to pray for self-control.

So this prayer would be irrelevant for many Christians if it only relates to physical food. That's why I think that its primary meaning is spiritual food. If that's the case, how often do we need to be feeding on God's Word?

Jesus said, "Daily."

Surprisingly, not only do most Christians not get into the Scriptures daily, neither do most Christian leaders! Is it any wonder that the dropout rate for Christian leadership is around 90%?

How can a person remain physically strong if they don't eat? Most people understand how this principle relates to the natural body. But when it comes to keeping their spirit strong, it's a different story. Often, preachers only open their Bibles when they are preparing their sermons.

Leaders often seem to think that they can run on "the anointing". Well, apparently that's not enough. God didn't provide the Scriptures just for sermon preparation. And Jesus clearly expects that His church - including His leaders - will feed daily on His Word.

Presumably, if you're reading this, then you are probably in some sort of leadership position. So hopefully I don't need to teach you about how to feed on God's Word. It involves reading it, studying it, memorising it, and meditating on it.

Read God's advice to Joshua, one of the great leaders of the Old Testament.

Josh 1:8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

A mature Christian is self-feeding. A Christian who does not feed himself regularly (daily) is still exhibiting characteristics of babyhood. Quit making excuses that you're too tired, don't have enough time, going through a rough patch, etc. And get serious with God.

2. Self-Replicating

Mature adults reproduce. Physically speaking, the desire to reproduce is one of the strongest drives in humans.

In males, it manifests itself as the sex drive, and in females as the maternal instinct. God put that desire there because He wanted the human race to survive. He wanted humans to reproduce and multiply. In fact, He wants all of His creatures to reproduce themselves. Here's what God said about reproduction:

Gen 1:11 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so.

Gen 1:12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Gen 1:21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Gen 1:24 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind"; and it was so.

Gen 1:25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

The pattern that God has set down in creation is for every creature - animal, plant, or human - to reproduce after its own kind.

And the same is true of Christians. The spiritual counterpart of reproduction is discipleship. Disciples are meant to produce more disciples.

Mat 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Jesus expects us to produce more disciples. This is not only true of the rank and file of Christendom, it is also true of its leaders. With this in mind, I want to challenge you in two specific areas.

First, aim to share your faith regularly. Maybe you're thinking, "But I already do. I'm a preacher. I share my faith every Sunday."

Come on, you can do better than that. Don't you know why God gave you the house you have in the street where you live? He didn't put you there so that you could hide, and keep your outreaching for within the safe, four walls of your church building! He's got you there so that you can be a witness for Him to your neighbours.

I remember asking an elder in one church, "What are your neighbours like?"

"I don't know," he replied. "And I don't want to know."

That's a disgrace. It's called Sunday Christianity, and it's especially shameful in a so-called leader. How can a church leader expect the people in their congregation to reach out to their neighbours and share their faith, when they are too scared to do it themselves?

"Scared?" you ask. "I'm not scared. I'm just busy."

But if you're too busy to do the will of God, then you're too busy period. If you don't have time to do what God wants, then you are filling your time with something that God doesn't want you to do. God's plan and purpose is for every Christian to disciple others, and it's surprising how many Christian leaders have never led a person to Christ.

Paul took this seriously. His goal was to reproduce in the lives of other believers - many of whom he personally led to Christ - whatever godly characteristics already existed in his life.

1 Cor 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

This takes courage, wisdom and boldness. And by wisdom, I don't mean the kind that is so sensitive to others that it never gets around to winning the lost. That's not real wisdom. That's fear masquerading as wisdom. True wisdom is a soul winner.

Prov 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.

Let me tell you the story of Ray.

Ray was a member of my church. He had a great servant heart, came faithfully to church every week, and could always be relied upon to fulfil his duties. But I regularly preach about the necessity of preaching the gospel to others, and Ray was the kind of guy who, no matter how many times he heard that message, never got around to sharing his faith with anyone. The challenge just seemed to bounce off him.

Then Ray got lung cancer. I remember being at his bedside in hospital one day. He said to me, "I have a confession to make." I said, "What's that?"

He told me that he believed he had failed God very badly because he had never shared his faith. He said that he was praying for God to heal him and that if He did, he would never stop sharing his faith. One week later, Ray was dead. I believe that God was pleased with the intention of Ray's heart, but He never gave him the opportunity to put his desire into action.

Don't leave it too late. Now is the time to be sharing your faith. Mature Christians are self-replicating.

3. Self-Leading

Let's face it. How can you lead others if you can't even lead yourself?

Self-leadership is one of the main hallmarks of a mature Christian leader. But what does self-leadership mean? Basically, it means taking responsibility for yourself, your choices, and your ongoing spiritual growth and development.

One of the basic problems that Christians have to contend with on their path to maturity is what I call Leaky Balloon Syndrome. To understand what I mean by this, imagine you throw a party and invite all your friends. To set the mood, you organise the music, provide plenty of finger foods, and you decorate with a lot of balloons. But only a couple of days after the party is over, your balloons are looking very unhappy indeed.

What happened? Leaky Balloon Syndrome happened. The air that originally inflated the balloon slowly leaks out till the balloon is a sad reflection of its former self.

You're probably wondering: What has this got to do with maturity and self-leadership?

Some time back, one of the men in my church - who is a great missions supporter - asked, "Why do missions organisations keep sending me constant requests for support when I'm already giving regularly? They bombard me with stories of people's needs."

I had to explain that, unlike him, a lot of people give for a while but then their giving drops off. They have to keep being pumped up.

Most pastors know this. They preach a series of messages on giving and generosity and the tithes and offerings go up. Then gradually, over a period of time, the giving drops off again. Why? Because of Leaky Balloon Syndrome.

They preach about prayer and people commit themselves to praying regularly, but gradually they go back to their old habits. Why? Because of Leaky Balloon Syndrome. The pastor preaches on evangelism and people resolve to share their faith regularly. But what happens? It's not long before many have given up and no longer share their faith. Why? Because of Leaky Balloon Syndrome.

The pastor preaches on the importance of reading the Bible, and many decide that from now on they are going to read the Bible every day. It lasts for a little while, then gradually, the readings get further and further apart. Eventually, the Bible is just gathering dust on a shelf. What happened? Again, Leaky Balloon Syndrome.

It's a very common problem. People have to be constantly pumped up so that they'll continue to do the things that they are supposed to be doing anyway. Sadly, it's not only ordinary Christians who are affected by Leaky Balloon Syndrome. Often, even their leaders suffer from it.

But Leaky Balloon Syndrome is the exact opposite of self-leadership. The person who leads himself doesn't have to be constantly pumped up. They do what they are supposed to be doing because they know that they are supposed to be doing it. And if they don't feel like doing it, they do it anyway. That's self leadership. And it's absolutely essential for a leader.

This is a quality that kids don't generally have. You have to tell your children to make their bed, or take a bath, or clean their room. That's one of the characteristics of childhood. But if you're forty years old and you still have to be told those things, you have a problem.

God is looking for leaders who will step up and lead themselves.