Christian Leadership - a new series
As we release the first book in our new series on Christian Leadership next month, I wanted to reflect here on the whole idea of leadership. Or rather, begin to reflect, as one of the reason for this series is the recognition that there is much to be said and learnt in this important area, and that, to quote from the foreword to the first booklet:
"We offer these words as reflective contributions to the current debate on what Christian leadership should looks like, particularly in churches. We are seeking to open the subject up for thorough discussion, not ‘solve’ leadership in a short booklet."
So, in the spirit of opening the subject up, I have been thinking of the answer I would give to two questions.
First: What does ‘Christian Leadership’ involve?
Of course it involves questions about how to lead a church, or how to lead in a church. This takes us into the scriptures as we seek to understand what it means to lead, whether that is following up images such as the Shepherd, looking at examples of leadership from Nehemiah to Paul, reflecting on biblical ideas of the image of God and the family, and so on. It takes us into question of polity, which is very much where Martin will take us in our first booklet 'Bishops. A concise study'. It drive us into ideas that are current in our culture.
However, I also think leadership takes us to some other discussions as well. When we think about leadership and authority, we do need der how authority is rightly expressed through the preaching of God’s Word. And as a church leader, leadership entails self-leadership, or self-management: from the mundane things like good time management, to the maintenance of a healthy spiritual life in the midst of the pressures of life and ministry.
I suspect we all have a slightly different sense of what leadership entails. I’d be intrigued to hear what has shaped your thinking on this.
And that brings me to my second question: What has influenced my understanding of Christian Leadership?
I think this is an important question, because it is always easier to deal with the impact of an acknowledged influence than an unacknowledged one, and influences can be positive or negative. So here is my answer I have been influenced by things I have read. There are lots of them, but some stand out for me. I don’t think this is always because they are the ‘best’ books on leadership, but because of when I read them, and what I needed at the time. To name a few: Bill Hybels, Volunteer Revolution; Rick Warren, Purpsoe Driven Church; Matt Perman, What’s Best Next, and Timothy Laniak, Shepherd’s after my own heart. I would recommend all these books because they are clear and stimulating, not necessarily because I agree with everything the author says.
Then there are the people who have ministered to me, or I have ministered with. We are imitators. In various churches and at various times, I have been a congregation member or a leader in some capacity, or both. I have picked up plenty of ways of doing things from others, and I have picked up ways I never want to do things. (I’m sure I have gifted the same to others!) In recent years, I have found myself trying to reflect more purposefully on 30+ years of influences to try to dig out some stuff that might be cultural rather than biblical, ingrained rather than useful.That’s definitely a work in progress.
I have also benefited from various conferences. I’ve been going to the FWS conference for over 20 years, and that has always proved stimulating and challenging in these areas. Between 2003 and 2005 I went over to Willow Creek three times, and learnt a lot from a completely different context and setting, but one where people were reflecting on these areas.
Finally, I have definitely been influenced by my mistakes, and there have been plenty of those to learn from over the years.
Again, how would you answer this question?
James Hughes is vice-chairman of the Latimer Trust and vicar of the United Benefice of Duffield and Little Eaton
Martin Davie's new book -the first one on our Christian Leadership series 'Bishops. A concise study' will be released in October.