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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

08 May '13

Effective churches have pastors and boards with a bias toward strategic action

Posted by T.J. Addington
Effective leaders are proactive rather than passive, and leadership is an active rather than passive role. I believe that many church boards need to confront the reality that they have been acting as passive trustees rather than proactive leaders. When this happens, they miss the role they have been called to play and the mission Christ left for the church.

Consider Christ's instructions to His followers: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19,20). The first two words of Christ - therefore go - imply something deeply proactive and leadership-oriented.

There is nothing passive in this mission! We are to aggressively 'take territory for Jesus' in our communities, our nation and our world. This is a picture of Christ-followers on the move, bringing real change to communities, institutions, marketplaces and families.

Many have attended the leadership conferences of successful ministries. One mark of a successful ministry is the presence of leaders with an extraordinary bias toward action. By definition, leaders are people who think action, not status quo, and who are always looking to the future (where do we need to go?) rather than the past (how did we do things then?) or the present (how do we keep the status quo?).

The books of First and Second Timothy intrigue me because they are the counsel to Timothy from a strong, action-biased mentor. It seems that Timothy was a rather shy, conflict-avoiding, reluctant leader. Paul, on the other hand, was a natural born leader. I am intrigued by Paul's advice to Timothy, because most of us don't fit the natural-born leader profile either. Natural-born leaders were born wired for high-energy leadership. Leadership comes to them innately.

What about those of us who are not naturally strong leaders? Can we grow in our leadership? The answer from First and Second Timothy is that we can, if we are willing. As you read the letters from Paul to Timothy, you hear Paul giving instructions on basic leadership principles: resolving conflict, training leaders, teaching boldly, correcting error, leading by example, living authentically, refusing to be intimidated by bullies and any number of practical principles. Because Paul believed that Christ had called Timothy and that he was willing to learn and grow, he encouraged Timothy in his leadership role.

To lead well, those who have been called to pastoral or board roles must by necessity become students of leadership. Let's face it, a passive person is not a leader! If we believe that leadership in the church is a sacred task given to a few by Christ to ensure the health of His people and the expansion of His kingdom, we must be willing to grow in our understanding of what effective leadership looks like and learn to become better leaders.

Effective leadership is all the more critical given the statistics that an overwhelming majority of churches in America are either at a plateau or losing ground. This reality calls into question the ability of many leadership boards and individuals to actively and biblically lead. If we are not moving forward, we are inevitably slipping backward! Church leaders need to be actively leading or willing to learn to lead, or they should step aside and allow someone else to lead.