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The Leadership Myth | Leadership & Ministry | Mature Christian Leadership

Leadership and Ministry

Probably the best place we can start is by looking at a couple of definitions that differentiate between leadership and ministry.1

Ministry: Any activity that meets the needs of others.

Leadership: Any activity that facilitates, influences, or directs the ministry of others.

These definitions are meant to be tools to help us to understand better the primary foci of leaders. Obviously, the differences can't be stretched too far since leadership is clearly a kind of ministry.

However, it's very helpful for us to differentiate between leadership and ministry. Using this definition as a springboard, you might be surprised to discover the kinds of activities that are ministry activities as opposed to leadership activities.

If ministry is any activity that meets the needs of others, then the kinds of things many leaders do that are ministry activities are: Preaching and teaching, prayer, leading worship, and counselling.

Other ministry activities include soul-winning, musician, singer, cleaning, administration, usher, and so on.

One of the reasons why many leaders don't really function as leaders is the failure to understand what sorts of activities are specifically related to leadership.

This is compounded by misunderstandings of the nature of leadership.

Common Ideas Of Leadership

One widespread mistake is to think of a leader as a person who tells others what to do. This may be a part of what a leader does, but it's a long way from being the full story. A real leader doesn't just boss people around.

Just think about this for a moment.

How old does a person need to be before they can boss others around? Anyone with children knows that you don't have to be very old at all. In fact, a 5-year-old can boss her 3-year-old brother around without any leadership ability at all.

All it takes is a desire to get your own way.

But leadership, especially Christian leadership, is very different.

Another prevalent misunderstanding relating to leadership is that a leader is a person who is in charge of something. For instance, this would include worship leaders, bookshop managers, and home group leaders. These could well be leadership positions, but not necessarily.

Let's take another look at our definition of leadership: Any activity that facilitates, influences, or directs the ministry of others. Now let's consider the three positions mentioned above in the light of that definition.

Despite the fact that worship leader contains the word "leader", very often they are not fulfilling a leadership role, but a ministry role. The worship leader stands up in front of people, exhorts the people to worship, tries to facilitate a flow from one song into the next as seamlessly as possible, and attempts to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. They also select the songs they intend to use.

As none of this facilitates, influences, or directs the ministry of others, it is not a true leadership position.

Home group leader also contains the word "leader", but is another position where the person may not be actually functioning as a leader. If all they do is open their home, facilitate a discussion on the Bible, teach, and pray, then they are probably not leading, they are ministering.

And if all the bookshop manager does is order books, price them, and sell them, the fact that they are "in charge of" the bookshop does not automatically make them a leader. So what makes a leader a leader? Let's take a look at an important Scripture.

Eph 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

Listed here are four (or five, if you take the view that pastors and teachers are separate persons) leadership callings. Take a look at their first responsibility, "equipping ... the saints for the work of ministry", and see how well that fits in with our definition of leadership.

Of course, leaders are meant also to be involved in activities that minister to the needs of others. This is made clear when Paul says that another of their responsibilities is "edifying of the body of Christ". But let's take a brief look at activities that are specifically leadership oriented due to the fact that they facilitate, direct, or influence the ministries of others.

Team Development

One of the first things a leader needs to do is to form a team around himself2. If you really want to have an impact on the ministries of others, then the most effective way to do this is by gathering together a team consisting of the people whose ministries you most want to develop. Hopefully, you will also be able to develop other leaders from this group.

There will be more on this in a later module.


What exactly do you believe God wants your area of ministry to look like? A good place to start is with a specific question like: What does God want our church to look like in two years? Or five years? Whatever the time-frame you choose, the question is worded very specifically.

It has nothing to do with what we want our church to look like. The real issue is what does God want it to look like? You may need to do some serious thinking and praying before you can answer this question, but there's no point in moving on to any other steps till you can.

Note also that if you are not the overall leader of the church, you simply insert your area of ministry into this question to make it applicable. For instance, what does God want our home group / worship / ladies' group to look like in two years?

If this is the case, you must ensure that your vision fits with the overall vision of the church.


Goal-setting is both easy and hard. Grasping the concept is easy. You figure out what goals you want to aim for in the fulfilment of your God-given vision. What's hard for many is being realistic and exercising faith at the same time. There's no point in setting goals that nobody can ever achieve. There is also little purpose in setting goals that encourage your team to underperform. Goals need to be set, keeping in mind the fact that we serve an all-powerful God who delights in working with us.

Here's another thing about goal-setting. We are talking about this in the context of leadership. This means that the purpose of this goal-setting is not for your personal development. That's another issue. The purpose of a leader's goal-setting is to influence, direct or facilitate the ministries of others. This is the kind of goal-setting we are talking about here.


Having set your goals, you now need to plan exactly how you are going to fulfil them. They won't just come about by themselves. Just because you wish it to be so, does not mean that it will be so. God wants to work through us in the fulfilment of His purposes. That makes us His co-workers, which is a very great privilege.

Make the planning as practical and detailed as possible. If you believe God wants your worship to be more Christ-centred, how will you achieve that goal? Clearly, a goal like that would affect your decisions in song selection, to name just one thing. What criteria will you then have in selecting future songs? How will you decide which songs in your current list you will keep? Will you continue to use any songs that are related to who we are in Christ or prayer-oriented songs? These are just some of the issues you will need to consider in the planning process.


Strategising is really an extension of planning, but I want to apply it in two specific areas. The first is in the implementation of change. As you begin to work towards the fulfilment of your vision, there will be many changes. Change can be very difficult for some people. It unsettles them, so you need to strategise when you are transitioning from one phase to another so you don't lose a whole bunch of people in the process. How can you perform the changes as smoothly as possible? How can you make them as unthreatening as possible?

The second area where strategising is important is in dealing with major ongoing issues. For instance, most churches right round the world have a gender gap of around 20%3. Translation? Sixty percent of the people who attend our churches are female, while only 40% are male. The question is: What are we going to do about it?

You may be tempted to lapse into the old excuse: Well, women are more spiritually sensitive than men are, so that's just the way it is. Personally, I doubt that very much. Men and women both have their strengths and weaknesses. But I know of nothing in the Bible to suggest that spiritual sensitivity is the particular domain of either males or females.

Since this problem apparently does not exist in Islam or Buddhism, it would appear that we have a Christian problem that we need to deal with. A common perception among men is that church is a place for women and children, and not for red-blooded males.

What are we going to do about this perception? How are we going to deal with it? If we just ignore it, we are consigning vast numbers of men to a Christless eternity. We are also forcing 20% of our church population to make a very difficult decision. Do they remain single, or do they marry a non-Christian?

It would be easy for us married males to wave this problem away as a non-issue. But let's remember that it's not a non-issue for multitudes of women. It is a very real pressure. And we leaders are responsible to figure out strategies that will effectively address the problem.


Someone has to make the final decision. Sometimes your decisions may even prove to be unpopular, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make them. Making decisions is a very important part of being a leader. You can't afford to take forever in deciding, nor can you rush headlong into situations without thinking things through. You have to make decisions prayerfully and wisely.

However, let me point out again, that our discussion is in the context of leadership. This means that you are making decisions that influence, direct, or facilitate the ministries of others.

Releasing Others

Call this what you want - releasing, empowering, enabling. Whatever term you choose, the bottom line is that you are releasing people into effective, fruitful ministry. This involves equipping them, either by training them yourself, or by finding out where else they can get the necessary training.

You may have someone in your church who can train others, or you may need to send them elsewhere. If the church is in a position to finance this, that's great. If not, then the person needs to be prepared to invest in their own ministry.

Teaching, as mentioned above, is a ministry function rather than a leadership function. Unless, of course, it's the kind of teaching that equips others for ministry. Most of a pastor's Sunday teaching is aimed at edification rather than training.

Raising Up Other Leaders

One of the great goals of any leader is not only to release others into ministry, but to raise up other leaders so that the cycle can be perpetuated. You won't live forever. You may not even be in the same church in years to come. So you need to have an eye for the future.

Raising up other leaders under your leadership means creating a new level of leadership. No longer is it just you and the group of people you are ministering to. Now it's you as a leader of leaders, who in turn lead and minister to others. In a later module, we'll see that Jesus did exactly that.


Now why would thinking be on the list of activities that leaders should be engaged in? Isn't thinking an activity common to all humans? Yes, and no. Leaders need to be capable of complex thought. By that, I don't mean to imply that you are some superior being who can look down your nose at others. But a leader needs to be able to understand complex issues. Leaders need to be able to juggle multiple challenges without falling to bits.

Many people don't realise that thinking is work. Maybe you don't. But when you're lying in bed at night thinking through some problem at church, you're working. When you're driving in your car and your mind starts to dwell on how you can implement your vision for the future, you're working.

Thinking is part of your job description. For instance, you can't just turn up at leadership meetings without a clue. You have to think issues through. In fact, everything we've mentioned above, from team development to raising up other leaders, all depends on your ability to think.

Ministry vs. Leadership

Now that you have a fair idea of the tasks that are important to leadership, let's take a brief look at one of the examples we gave earlier, and see how we can turn a ministry into a leadership role. Let's use the worship leader as our working example.

A worship leader is an upfront person whose role is to lead, not people, so much as an activity. Worship is an activity (yeah, I know, it's also a lifestyle), but how can a worship leader expand their role into genuine leadership? Let's build a scenario that might give us some ideas.

Natasha is the only worship leader in the church. One day, she decides that it would be a good idea if there were other worship leaders in the church. So she approaches a few people who she notices are fairly confident, upfront kind of people who can also sing in tune. She asks if they would like to be trained as worship leaders, and to her delight, Tom, Dick and Martha (you thought I was going to say Harry, didn't you?) say they would.

Natasha starts to plan training sessions. She starts to think in terms of rosters and how she can gradually introduce Tom, Dick and Martha to the responsibilities of leading worship. But her goal is not just to have them as supporting acts while she remains the star. Her aim is to release them into a ministry where they'll be every bit as good as she is.

So she puts a lot of thought into it. How she help them improve? What resources will they need? How can she support them in their pursuit of excellence? Is it possible for Tom, Dick and Martha to each develop their own teams so that they will develop into the leaders of the future?

Can you see that Natasha is no longer just involved in ministry, meeting the needs of others? Now has a very different focus. She may well continue in her ministry as a worship leader. But now has taken up a leadership role where she is facilitating, directing and influencing the ministries of Tom, Dick and Martha.

1 Jagelman, Ian The Empowered Church p9
2 Read "himself" as "himself/herself" throughout, and similarly with other pronouns
3 See Murrow, David Why Men Hate Going To Church

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