When it comes to leadership within the church we invariably look to our Pastor. He is the one who is charged by God to lead congregants into all truth by exhorting from the Scriptures. In Romans 12:8 Paul says, “He who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” The Greek word used for “lead” is proïstēmi and is translated as “rule or set over” but it literally means “to stand before, to lead, or attend to.” This word proïstēmi is also found in 1 Timothy 5:17, in reference to elders, “let the elders that rule…” It is also used with reference to family, where a man “rules” over his household (1Timothy 3:4, 12; 1Timothy 3:5), with the understanding of what the word means - “to stand before, lead, or attend to.” In other words, ruling is not dictatorial.
Romans 12:8 says those who lead are to “lead with diligence” which when translated from the Greek means “haste, earnest care or zeal.” Putting this all together then, a leader is someone who stands before people and leads or attends to them with earnest care or zeal. So is leadership a spiritual gift or a position? I will admit to struggling with this question, because it would seem we often hear phrases like, “he or she is such a gifted speaker” or “he or she was born to lead.” But, does leadership just come naturally to some people as a gift given by God, built into a person’s character? Or does it come with the role one plays in the church, like pastor, teacher or elder? Or is it more a learned behaviour than a gift? These are the questions that have plagued me all week in regards to the gift of leadership. Here is what I found.
A prophet, teacher, or apostle are all positions, each with specific spiritual gifts given to them by God to carry out their roles within the church. First Corinthians 12:28 says, “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.” Those first three groups – apostles, prophets and teachers are all positions that require leadership. Why? Because each position carries with it the responsibility of leading and guiding others through the correct interpretation of the Word of God. Making each of those positions accountable to God for what they say and do (James 3:1). Ephesians 4:11 adds pastors and evangelists to the above list, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” The gift of leadership, it would seem, requires the ability to be able to teach from the Scriptures.
Jesus admonished those in leadership positions to be humble. “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves’” (Luke 22:24-27).
Did you notice that? A leader is one who serves. So leadership isn’t just relegated to those in positions of power or authority within the church (like an elder or pastor). Even the young can have positions of leadership. For example, Timothy was young, but was a leader for the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3). The Apostle Paul admonished Timothy to lead by example, despite his youth. “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). So it would seem one’s conduct, how they live before God and others, is also a requirement of leadership.
We tend to think of a good leader as someone who has good speaking skills or is well educated. But the apostles were uneducated fisherman, tax-collectors and tent makers. Tradesmen all, but eager to serve and share with anyone willing to listen. They had a message to tell the world – that Jesus saves - and they were earnest in telling it. So it would seem that passion for what you believe in, is a necessary part of leading. They were not necessarily great at speaking either. Paul said this of himself, “For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” Implying that Paul was no looker and probably had a speech impediment, but he lead by example and his letters formed the church as we know it today. His conduct, his behaviour and yes, his knowledge and passion for Jesus drove him to be a good leader.
Some leadership positions in the church had rules. Elders, and deacons were all given specific guidelines on qualities they had to possess in order to become an elder or deacon (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Even their wives were subject to their leadership roles on how they should behave. Why? Because those in leadership positions are to be examples to the church. This was an important factor in being a leader in the early church because so many of the new converts were coming out of pagan lifestyles. They needed leaders whose examples of good behaviour they could follow.
There are many qualities that make a good leader in the corporate world that are just as necessary in the church body – honesty, humility, the ability to make hard decisions, authenticity, patience and persistence to name a few. These are all admirable qualities to have, but the most important quality from a biblical standpoint for a leader would be servanthood. A good leader is always thinking of others before themselves.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”
As I already stated, prophets, apostles, teachers, etc., are positions in the church, not spiritual gifts. But it was the combined gifts of prophecy, exhortation, wisdom, etc. that helped them carry out their roles. So is the “gift” of leadership one of those gifts? In a sense, yes it is, and I believe every Christian must have this gift. Why? Because we are all called to go and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15) leading by example to those we share with, on how to live for God. Just by opening our mouths and telling others about Jesus we commit ourselves to a certain standard and conduct of living, because we would rather die than bring shame to the cross of Christ. If we follow Jesus' example of leadership, we will, like Him, become a servant to all (1 Corinthians 9:19). So I’m of the opinion that wherever you are in ministry or in your life you have the potential to lead someone to Jesus making use of the "gift of leadership" and that is a gift beyond measure.