Countless trees have been consumed in the name of advancing leadership. Every month, scores of leadership books are published by so-called leadership experts. This tells me two things. First, leadership is a hot topic. Warren Bennis said, “Leadership is always in the air; it’s a topic that has no shelf life.” Second, the deluge of leadership books beg the question Which leadership model or style Christians should embrace in the sea of leadership principles, theories, and model that compete with each other. For many, the bombardment of leadership books is honestly confusing.
Well, in that case, my suggestion is to always go back to your foundation. For Christians, that’s the Holy Bible. The Word of God is “sharper than a double-edged sword.” There is enormous power in the Scripture – it’s not merely the world’s best-selling book. We are talking about spiritual forces here.
What does a godly leader look like? In 2 Timothy, apostle Paul identifies six portraits of a godly leader. Here, Paul is writing to his protégé, his young son in faith, Timothy who is in his thirties at this time. Timothy is given the responsibility to carry on the work in the churches Paul began himself and in this particular book, Timothy is struggling. First, apostle Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into the flame the gift of God which was in him.”
“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
The operative word is “teach”. The first and foremost priority of godly leadership is the imparting of truth, divine truth, transmitting the truth to others. In fact, in Hebrews chapter 13 verse 7 says, “Remember those who led you,” and then immediately it defines what that meant, “who spoke the Word of God to you.” By dispensing the Word of God, we are called to be teachers and preachers of God’s truth and to produce teachers and preachers for the next generation. It’s important for godly leaders to “desire the word as a baby desires milk that you may grow by it.” (1 Peter 2:2) When Jesus was restoring Peter in John 21, He asked him three times if he loved Him, three times Peter responded and three times Jesus said, “Feed My sheep.” Man does not live by bread alone but the very Word of God.
“Suffer hardship with me as a good solder of Christ Jesus, no soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of every day life so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
Godly leaders are know how to win the warfare. Paul uses this metaphor view leaders as soldiers who are engaged in war. God’s leaders fight this warfare, not with fleshly weapons but with divinely powerful weapons, and with those weapons we are literally demolishing fortresses. (2 Corinthians 10). It’s interesting to note how we wear the full armor of God where the sword of the spirit is the Word of God. In verse 3, Paul says we are to suffer bad treatment, mistreatment, maltreatment.” Paul warms Timothy to be ready to suffer.
So many leaders wash out of leadership here. Many see it as a path to glory and aren’t willing to see it as warfare and take their share of pain.
God is not interested in prima donnas but true soldiers who are willing to suffer.
When you ask Paul his credentials for leadership, he doesn’t given a list of his academic accomplishments, but rather his list of credentials is interesting. He says that I’ve been in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes, three times I was beaten with rods. I have been in labor and hardship through many sleepless nights in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Those are my credentials.
In verse 4, Paul says godly leaders are full-time soldiers who does whatever he can do please the One who enlisted him as a soldier. You can’t be a man pleaser. That will paralyze you. Paul was a man pleaser for a long time. In Galatians 1:10 he says, “Am I now seeking the favor of men or of God? Am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” We have to answer to the Commander and to Him alone.
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)
The next picture of a godly leader is one of an athlete. Games were an important part of the Greco-Roman life as they are of our life in this time. The key verb is “compete” which means to strive and agonize. It is a word of devotion, discipline, and passion. Paul is saying that you have to look at your ministry like an athlete who looks at an Olympic event. An athlete needs to abide by the rules and give his all in win the competition. You must compete lawfully.
The second part of the verse is “not crowned.” An athlete always competes with a prize in mind that he wants to win. What separates great athletes from good athletes is desire and self-control. The talent level is much the same when you get at the pinnacle of the athletics. It’s the passion and drive that makes all the difference.
John MacArthur once heard from a professor long time ago who said to him, “I never met a powerful preacher, a successful preacher in my life who wasn’t competitive.” The professor said, “I don’t’ mean competitive against other preachers. I mean competitive against his own weakness, his own ignorance, his own sinfulness, his own lack of priorities, his own laziness. If you can’t win the battle there, you can’t win the race.”
Summing up, the godly leader must be one who is willing to complete all his strength, must be one who really wants to win motivated by future reward not present pleasure, must be one with strong self-discipline, willing to conform to God’s standards without letting up.
In Part 2 of the post, I’ll be sharing the next three portraits of a godly leader. Stay tuned!
MacAthur, John, Portrait of a Leader. http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-156/portrait-of-a-leader
6 Portraits of a Godly Leader is by Paul Sohn, first published here on the author’s personal blog.