My Theology of Leadership

A great friend of mine is getting ordained this weekend. He is a lot like me in that God gave him a story before He called him into ministry. He has spent his life in "the real world" with his own uniques challenges, struggles, and life story. Some would wonder why he has gone through his life experiences and trials and is just now feeling led to ministry.

I know, and he does too, that God was using those "wilderness" years to prepare him to be an effective minister. He received far more practical experience by walking though the wilderness years that will benefit him greatly now in ministering to others.

I wrote him a letter recently where I listed the Top 15 things I wish someone had told me when I first became a pastor myself. I'm calling it my own personal theology of leadership. And I think it applies to leaders of any organization, business, church  or ministry.

Here are my Top 15 things new leaders should know:

1)    I heard Mark Driscoll say once that those God will use greatly he must first wound deeply. Lead out of your weaknesses. Lead out of your own experiences, hurt, and trials. Don’t be afraid of your past mistakes or weaknesses. God brought you through those experiences for a purpose and a plan. Use them in your ministry. Let your own weaknesses be your strengths.

2)    Don’t focus on your strengths and try to minimize your weaknesses. Acknowledge them and be transparent about them. People will respect and value transparency and authenticity. Don’t be afraid to open up your own heart, doubts, and struggles. People want and need to see that you are just like them sometimes. Be real. Pastors always think they have to know the right answer to every question. The people you pastor are more concerned that you understand and get where they are coming from in asking the question. They need to know you struggle as well, but here is how you are handling it.

3)    I had a wise trainer in the business world tell me once, “It’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems. Tomorrow will be a new day.” What he was trying to teach me is that you will have emotional highs and lows. Good days and bad days. Try to stay on an even keel emotionally. This will be a marathon, not a sprint. 

4)    Don’t embarrass God by dreaming small dreams. If your vision is something you can obtain on your own without miraculous intervention, then it’s not a God-sized dream. Don’t ever make God sit back, shake his head, and say, “That’s it?” Hank Aaron hit more home runs than anyone, but he also had more strike-outs too. Aim for the fences!

5)    You will lose people along the way. They will lose confidence in your vision, your style, or you personally. But you are not doing this for them. You serve an audience of One. Don’t let your passion, confidence, or calling be affected by people. People will let you down, disappoint you, and discourage you. It’s not personal. They are broken, wounded, imperfect people- just like you and me.

6)    In everything you do, at the end of the day, say to yourself, ”Was God glorified?” Because that’s the only thing that matters. Everything you do is to bring God glory and honor. It’s why you exist. It’s why you were created.  It’s not about outreach, it’s not about a crowd, and it’s not even about building a church. It’s about bringing glory and honor to God every day of your life. 

7)    God gave you a family before he called you into this new season. Your most important ministry is to them. Do not sacrifice them for the sake of ministry. Find your balance, guard your time, and make sure they are not neglected.

8)    Provision will follow vision. Always have a vision beyond your resources. God will honor that. He did not call you to do something with the plan to abandon you along the way. He may not show up when you want him to, or expect him to- but he will show.

9)    Have fun along the way! Every day. If you are not having fun anymore get out. Fill each day with passion for what you do. And fuel that passion by having fun working for the Lord. Don’t let it become drudgery or become tedious.

10)  Celebrate the “wins.” Honor the “wins.” Honor your team. Give them credit for everything that goes right, and you accept the blame for everything that does not. Be their biggest encouragers and supporters. Praise in public, teach or correct in private. If you have their back, they will have your back. Be fiercely loyal to your team and they will become fiercely loyal to you. 

11)  Create a culture that demands excellence in everything. If you can’t do it with excellence, don’t do it. John Wooden once said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” Have incredibly high standards and accept nothing less than everyone’s absolute best. 

12)  Surround yourself with people who are better than you, more gifted than you, and smarter than you. Good leaders recruit people who are as equally good. But great leaders hire people who are greater than the leader themselves.

13) Realize you may not be the best at what you do. But you are the one He called and chose. You may not be the most gifted, most talented, or even the best person for the job. But you are the one He called and chose. Calling always trumps abilities.

14)   Read everything. Soak everything up. But at the end of the day, be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else. Find your own style, rhythm, and way. Don’t try to be the next Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Rick Warren or Pete Wilson. Just be you. God made and wired every person differently. Be who he called you to be. He is the God of originality, not the God of imitation.

15) Finally, there will be times you will want to give up on people. You will grow weary and discouraged because there just doesn’t seem to be life change or heart change. You will want to give up on them and move on. When that happens think about your own life, and ask yourself, “at what point would God have given up trying to reach me?” And remind yourself that you didn’t find Jesus. He found you. He wasn’t lost. You were. And He left heaven, transcended time and space, and came looking for you. No you didn’t find Jesus, he found you. You are now in “search and rescue” Strap in, buckle up, and enjoy the wild ride!