“The team plays how the team is coached,” mused my mentor and farmer-friend over coffee, reflecting on some struggles he’d endured in a local church. “When the team is coached poorly, it plays poorly. But when the team is coached well, wow, can it play!” I think he’s right.
And what this insightful farmer observed aligns perfectly with what leadership guru John Maxwell has been saying for years:
“Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
My 20 years of ministry leadership bears this out. Through the month of May, I’m marking this anniversary by reflecting on some lessons I’ve learned. Today is Lesson #12: Everything rises and falls on leadership.
Here’s my observation: when churches face recurring internal struggles it can almost always be traced to leadership failure. Does that seem overstated? I’m sure there are exceptions. But on the whole, what I’ve observed time and time again is that when a church seems stuck, when trust has eroded, when momentum is lacking, when people are hurt, when clarity is elusive, when no one’s coming to faith in Jesus, when there is no growth in depth and in reach, leadership lies at the root of the problem.
That’s why leaders must grow and lead as God has gifted them to do. I’ve been so challenged through the example and teaching of good leaders around me, and particularly through the mission of Bill Hybels to see good leaders grow. Over 15 years ago, God spoke to me through Bill at a Global Leadership Summit. Waxing on Romans 12:8, Bill laid it out straight: if your spiritual gift “is to lead, do it diligently.” Don’t treat it lightly. Don’t ignore its importance. Grow in your leadership gifting. It was in that moment I embraced my gift of leadership and asked God to grow me up into it, knowing that it was my responsibility to lead with diligence, learning and growing in my effectiveness as a leader every day, for the sake of the church.
Leadership matters. Does it matter more than other gifts within the body of Christ? In one sense, no–each gift given is given by God for the church’s edification. 1 Cor 12 and all the stuff about no one part being greater than the others. But in another very real sense, yes: because it is the leadership gift that allows all the other gifts to pull in the same direction, to work together, to function as a body, following Jesus who is our head.
If leadership is failing, then the body of Christ will be disjointed, confused and sick. But if good and godly leadership is flourishing, then all of the gifts can grow and the people of God can become all that God has called us to be. And when everyone is using their gifts as God intended us to, including the gift of leadership, then the church really works!
Everything rises and falls on leadership, so may our leaders grow more and more into the likeness of our ultimate leader, Jesus Christ. And may the church of Jesus flourish as we all serve according to our gifts.
In what ways have you seen communities rise or fall because of leadership?
If you have the gift of leadership, what are you doing to grow in it?
Want to catch up? Here’s the 11 previous ministry lessons I’ve posted: