Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Leadership (part 2)

This is the second in my series of articles on leadership. In some ways the nature and characteristics of a leader never change. All of us recognize leadership traits in the lives of people we encounter in our daily lives. Most of us could develop a pretty good list of characteristics for successful leadership. Joel Barker (in Leadershift) said the characteristics of a leader never change. He identified qualities like loyalty, compassion, communication, courage, commitment, integrity, trust, and inspiration.

Barker said, “More than anything else, leaders build bridges that help us move from where we are to where we want to be.” Remember his definition of a leader—A leader is someone you choose to follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself. The Christian life is all about change. Paul indicates in the eighth chapter of Acts that God has planned for us “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Everyday and in everyway God is in the business of shaping our lives. Pastoral leadership is allowing God to use your life in the “shaping process” in the lives of others, both individually and corporately. We do not manipulate, control or coerce people into change, but we build bridges to the future that enable people to move from where they are to where God wants them to be.

You probably remember the guy with the hat that said, I’m their leader...which way did they go! Someone has rightly said, “If no one is following, you are not leading.” People have to choose to follow leaders. They choose to follow people they trust, people with integrity, and people who inspire them. Leadership development is far more than developing a set of management skills. It is developing character. It is the process of becoming the person God created you to be.

One of the reasons leaders must “build bridges” is because life is a journey. For Christians it is a journey of faith. We travel a life road designed to help us not only accomplish God’s will in our lives, but, maybe more importantly, a road designed to help us become the people God’s wants us to be. The transformation of a life is a lifelong process.

I have told a number of staff members through the years, “We need to take the long look!” Everything does not have to happen right now. We just have to keep moving in the direction God has planned for us. Every time we make leadership decisions in our ministries we need to be thinking about the future. Is this the right decision for the long-term? Too often we are looking for simple solutions and quick fixes, and many times they turn out to be the source of new troubles or reoccurring problems.

Joel Barker’s first lesson for 21st century leaders is “leaders must focus the majority of their efforts on the future.” No one else is charting the course for the congregation’s journey. No one is “building the bridges” that will be necessary to help the congregation successfully move into the future. Both the “tyranny of the urgent” and the “overload of the present” keep many pastors and church leaders from investing the time, energy and spiritual discipline necessary to explore God’s future for their congregation’s ministry.

I have a personal passion for helping churches think strategically about the future. What is our “current reality” both internally and externally? What does God want us “to be” and “to do” as we confront these realities and move into the future he has planned for us. I believe the failure of church leaders and congregations to think and act strategically regarding their church’s ministry causes them to miss incredible opportunities as they drift through years of “business as usual” ministry that keeps them locked in the past. Sometimes they are like the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. Leaders help them see the future. They build bridges from where we are to where we want to be. They are bridges of hope and vision. Is there risk in the journey? Sure, but there is even greater risk when we fail to make the journey.

Ernest Mosley’s brief book, Called to Joy: A Design for Pastoral Ministries, defined one of the major responsibilities of pastoral ministry as the task of leading the church in the accomplishment of its mission. We do not accomplish this visionary leadership in isolation from our preaching and pastoral care ministries. All the pastoral roles are intertwined. My conviction is we often spend too little time, energy and spiritual discipline in leading. I would encourage you to explore the future God has planned for you and your congregation. Then get busy building bridges to that future as you lead your church to accomplish God’s mission in our world.

1 comment:

Gary Snowden said...

Jim,

Some good words for thought here. I appreciate very much the leadership that you're bringing to the BGCM in helping us think along these lines.