Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

April 2004
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Building the Right Ones #2

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

How should we choose emerging leaders? How can we discern the call of God upon a person’s life? These are common questions in leaders’ minds. In our last Letter, we proposed the first three guidelines concerning how to choose the right emerging leaders to work with. We shall now continue:

4. Consider the fruit of their existing leadership.The past can be a good predictor of the future.

The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him (i.e. Timothy). Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:2-3)

In Acts 16:2-3, Paul recognized that Timothy, who had likely been saved during Paul’s first visit to this area about 4 years earlier (Acts 14), had a fruitful and extensive ministry that involved at least two cities, Lystra and Iconium. Moreover, it appears there was unity among the brothers in these cities. The ability to bring unity between groups of believers is an apostolic characteristic. Paul observed all this and chose Timothy to travel with him.

5. Examine the recommendation of those around them.

The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey… (Acts 16:2-3; cf. 6:3; 1 Tim. 3:7)

Since it is unlikely that you can have extensive personal knowledge of all the emerging leaders you will work with, you must listen carefully to those who actually do know them. Peer respect will often reveal true character, while his existing leaders will be able to evaluate his potential ministry performance.

Too often, however, assessments of this nature are based on hearsay, casual observation and insufficient information. To assess an emerging leader properly, decisions should be based on an integrated view of him drawn from the various perspectives held by the people who have directly led, worked with, and lived with him throughout his life.

6. Look for security in Christ.The emerging leader must have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship will be the source of his character as well as his endurance during hard times. In addition, he will not compromise his integrity for the sake of being accepted by man, when he has first found deep acceptance in Christ.
7. Look for the willingness to serve and to make personal sacrifices for the Divine cause.Timothy, by submitting to circumcision, demonstrated his willingness to suffer for the ministry:

Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:3)

Jesus emphasized the need for total commitment:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matt. 13:44-45)

Consider the immediate response of those who Jesus chose to follow Him:

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. (Mark 1:17-20)

People who are not willing to make the necessary sacrifice and who have their own list of terms and requirements are probably not the best choices.

Many ambitious people conceive of leadership as being the path to fame and fortune. In reality, Christian leadership is not about position, titles, power, authority, respect or privilege; it is an obligation to service and to self-sacrifice.

When Jesus’ disciples sought the highest places in His kingdom, He taught them a profound lesson:

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”… Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:37, 42-45)

The Christian leader’s attitude must be that he is an “unworthy servant” who has only done his duty:

Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? Would he not rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:7-10)

This is the spirit to look for in an emerging leader. Furthermore, if he is married, his spouse must also embrace this call to servanthood. She may not personally possess the same call to a specific leadership role, but if he is to succeed, she must stand united with him in her heart commitment to service and sacrifice. Leadership is hard. It comes with suffering, rejection and pain. There is often a high price to be paid to lead. The emerging leader and his spouse must embrace the cross that accompanies Christian leadership.

Our next Leadership Letter will offer more practical advice concerning recognizing emerging leaders.

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