Leading a business is demanding, but guiding a church or ministry demands a higher and more complex form of leadership than business does.
I've been on both sides. Running a business isn’t easy, but the leader of a company has a clearly defined playing field and enormous leverage with his or her employees. The business leader delivers a product or service through paid staff who either get it done or get replaced.
Church or ministry leadership is far more complex than that. The redeeming and rebuilding of human lives is exceedingly more difficult than building widgets or delivering predictable services.
In the list of spiritual gifts found in Romans 12:8, the apostle Paul essentially says, "If you have the spiritual gift of leadership, lead with it, and lead with all diligence." I've come up with a partial list of what spiritually gifted leaders do if they develop and use their leadership gifts.
Leaders cast a God-honoring vision.
Spiritually gifted leaders live in such a way that God invariably ignites within their hearts a compelling idea, a heartfelt yearning for advancing some part of God's kingdom. They start thinking about it, dreaming about it, and praying about it. Pretty soon, they start talking about it. They have lunch with someone and say, "Could you imagine what this part of the kingdom would be like if …?
When God ignites a vision in your heart, you can’t not talk about it. There is so much power released when leaders start casting a godly vision. It draws people out of the woodwork. It gets bored spectators out onto the playing field.
Leaders gather and align people.
Spiritually gifted leaders have that God-given capacity to attract, challenge, and persuade people. Then they assist them in finding their niche in the achievement of the vision.
Spiritually gifted leaders are almost shameless in the boldness with which they approach people. They can't understand why everyone isn't already on board with them. People catch their enthusiasm.
Next, the leader says, "I'm going to find a role that fits who you are. You're going to grow and develop as an individual while all of us grow together in the achievement of the vision. This is a win-win deal."
Leaders don’t use people; instead, they cast a vision until they find those who are aligned with that vision. Leaders then develop those individuals, and together they achieve their dream. That kind of synergy and unity and teamwork is powerful.
Leaders motivate their co-workers.
Motivation makes work fun. It can make thankless tasks exciting. It can make beaten-down people feel renewed and rejuvenated. People with the spiritual gift of leadership have a God-given ability to know what to say and how to inspire different people.
Leaders bring about positive change.
I do a lot of my summer studying in a restaurant in Michigan. Right behind where I sit is a side entrance door—a heavy steel door with a broken hamper mechanism. When each customer comes in, the door loudly bangs shut. It is metal on metal. The staff working the counter say to each other after every customer leaves, "Gee, that's an aggravating sound. Why do people keep doing that?"
Then there is the temperature in the restaurant, which stays around 62 degrees. It's way too cold for the average human. Customers walk up to the counter and say, "Do you know it's freezing in here?" After they leave, the people behind the counter say, "If they knew how hot it was back here working over the stove, they wouldn't complain so much."
Being there always reminds me that there is no leader in sight. A leader would say, "Fix the door!" A leader would say, "Set the air conditioner for the customer. If we need some fans for the employees back here, if we have to rearrange some duct work or something, we'll do it. But don't freeze the customers out. They pay our salaries!" Leaders have a nose for how to constructively bring about change.
Leaders create a culture of leadership.
This sounds counterintuitive. One would think that strong, gifted leaders would make sure that no emerging leader would mature to the point where his or her own leadership might be threatened. Actually, the exact opposite is true: The greatest thrill a mature, gifted leader can experience is the gradual achievement of the God-given vision through the combined efforts of younger leaders who some day will carry the kingdom baton. That's at the heart of leading an organization. A leader creates a culture where more and more people can rise up to lead.
The church has the life-transforming message of the love of Christ. The church has the instruction manual, the Bible, the guidebook for relationships and ethics and morality. The church has the gift of community to offer wayward and wandering and lonely people. The church can give people purpose by inviting them to become part of the transcendently powerful mission of word redemption.
But for the church ever to reach its redemptive, life-giving potential, it must be well led. It must be powerfully envisioned, strategically focused, and internally aligned. Members must be motivated; the message must be preached. Problems have to be addressed; values must be established and enforced. Resources need to be leveraged.
These things are the business of leaders. This is why Paul cried out in Romans 12:8, "Men and women, if you've been given the gift of leadership, for God's sake, lead." For the world's sake, lead. For the sake of lost people, lead!