What Is Leadership?

What is leadership? I think about that question a lot and still I keep asking. Some things are clear to me and some things are not. As I’m prepping for tomorrow, I ran across these words – from one leader, whose ministry is ending, to another whose ministry is still young:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26, ESV)

My observation about leadership:

(1) Leadership is servanthood – “And the Lord’s servant“. I’m not sure I can think of a passage that says “And the Lord’s leader”. At the heart of it, leaders are servants and those that don’t want to serve should never lead.

(2) Leadership is about character – Paul lists a few of them here:

  • “Not be quarrelsome…”, meaning stop arguing. I don’t think it means stop standing for truth, but standing for truth is clearly different in heart and tone than quarreling. One seeks to be right, the other seeks to love out of truth.
  • “kind…”, meaning attitude matters. It’s not just about truth. Attitude matters. Facial expressions, tone of voice, choice of words, follow up, 2nd and 3rd and 100th tries to say “I disagree with you but love you”.
  • “kind to everyone …”, meaning we may not naturally like everyone we are serving, but the mandate is to be kind to everyone. The verse says “The Lord’s servant’s MUST”. This is not an option. While no one does it perfect, leaders have to grow in their kindness, and especially their kindness to everyone. Leaders are not allowed to have exemptions.
  • “able to teach …”, meaning knowing truth matters, meaning conveying truth matters, meaning clarity of the conveying of the truth matters. People have to understand their leaders and be able to learn from them.
  • “patiently …”, meaning ministry does not go fast, meaning change takes time, meaning God is not panicked at the sanctification process of His people and therefore, neither should leaders. Meaning leaders are ok that ministry is sometimes like watching the grass grow.
  • “enduring …”, meaning ministry calls for a sense of grit and thick skin
  • “enduring evil…”, meaning what is endured is injustice, unrighteousness, things that hurt and sting and are simply not right. Leaders get the privilege not just to lead in vision and direction and privileges, but they get to lead in the high calling to suffer as Christ suffered. Leaders should lead in suffering and enduring evil. Leaders should lead in giving good for bad, blessing for cursing, love for hatred.
  • “correcting …”, meaning leaders know what is correct, meaning leaders are willing to address issues, meaning leaders are relational to those they lead so they can correct.
  • “correcting his opponents …”, meaning leaders will have opponents, meaning not everyone will be on your side.
  • “correcting his opponents with gentleness…”, meaning be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove (not wise as a dove and innocent as a serpent). Paul does not say “correcting opponents” with passion, or determination, or undeterred resolve (those are assumed as correcting means bring them into the correct place), but correct with gentleness. Gentleness. Leaders should correct opponents with gentleness. Apparently correcting opponents gently is possible with no caveats attached.

(3) Leadership is about perspective  – The greatest asset for a leader is not vision, purpose statements, clear strategy and implementation, but perspective. Here’s Paul’s perspective. It has to do with God and it has to do with Satan.

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”

Perspective #1 – God is sovereign. He must grant repentance. Nothing can be demanded out of opponents. God must work. Therefore it makes sense to be kind, endure, teach, correct with gentleness. God must move of the person being ministered to will never move. Leaders lead in a way that exemplify this truth.

Perspective #2  – Satan snares people. Opponents often fall prey to the snare of the devil. When they do, is it any surprise they become an opponent? They are captured “to do his will” (the unregenerate). 

Perspective matters.

At the end of the day, people are not the enemy, Satan is; leaders are not the end, they are only the means. God is the end. The hope. The goal. The one to grant repentance.

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