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Indispensable Leadership Skills #1: Let’s get serious

Stop and list the names of all the leaders whose lives have publicly imploded during the past twelve months due to exposed sin. Add to that list the names of leaders you know that have just quit ministry for good. If researchers are right, 10% of all ministers leave vocational ministry each year, most never to return, so you probably have names of a few whom you personally know. Then include the names of believers in your congregation that have dropped off the vine into living as if Jesus no longer mattered to them.

How long is your list? If you are like me, even one name is too many and I have many more than one name on my personal list.

Quite a few of these people had impressive leadership skills. They outwardly displayed a love for the gospel, a passion for God’s Word and a desire to see people put their faith in Jesus. Most were not newbies in their own faith. Most probably possessed the ‘21 indispensable qualities of a leader.’ But they crashed and burned out all the same.

The reason I asked you to do this was not to depress you but to help you see the gravity of playing the game. Which game? The one where leaders think they have time to wait before pursuing transformation through intimacy with God. How many people have to run amuck in sin before it becomes important enough to you? How about your closest co-workers in the kingdom? Are their lives critical enough for you to hit the start button? Or you yourself? Do you want to be a castaway and need someone to restore you?

Not only do you need to consider this a rush order, you will need to accept that you need to master essential leadership skills to be able to do it. These are not skills you will find in most books on leadership, like holy life, vision casting, development of other leaders, taking initiative, team building, fundraising, public speaking, creating a strategy, and communication.  These are essential skills you probably did not hear much about in college or in leadership training. But there are four practices that Jesus taught his band of brothers to prepare them to turn the world upside down. If you do not master these skills, you cannot lead in Jesus’ church.

Note that I said ‘cannot,’ not will not. I know lots of church leaders who are poor hands at these and take leadership positions anyway with bad results in the end. When I say ‘cannot,’ I mean you will lack the ability to do what a leader must know how to do not only to establish but also to maintain a transformational church culture. These leadership practices are:

  1. repentance
  2. confession
  3. restoration
  4. reconciliation

In a transformational church, you will need to use these weekly, if not daily. That’s how essential they are.

Because these practices are familiar, it is possible to read this list and think that you already know how to do all of them well enough. Personally, this may be true. But I am not merely talking about you. I am also talking about your influence on others who are part your fellowship. Are you helping people you lead to learn how to do these four practices?

I found that I was better at being on my own personal journey than I was at discipling people well. I entered a transformational journey with God when I was 30 years old and already in vocational ministry. No one had personally taught me these practices in spite of being in the church all my life. They were talked about—yes. But I had no mentor who walked me through their application to my broken life experience or my broken relationships. So I also failed to help others.

I was ten years into my own transformational journey with God before someone challenged me to teach a small group of men what I had been learning. I confess that it had never crossed my mind to do it. My encouragement to you is to approach these practices as mastery points for everyone who confesses Jesus, including yourself if you know you have not lived them out well before.

Next week I will begin to unpack these practices.

-Steve Smith