By Michael Kelley
Vision. Direction. Goals. Strategy.
These are the buzzwords of leadership, whether Christian or otherwise. And these are good, right, and important things. A leader must work to master these disciplines, and a Christian leader should be proficient in these areas as a matter of stewardship. God has, after all, entrusted us with this role of leadership, whether seemingly big or small, and as stewards we should work to make the most of the opportunity.
In a way, all these things are gifts a leader gives to those he or she leads as a matter of stewardship, especially if all the vision, direction, goals and strategy is centered on the gospel. But there is one gift that many leaders fail to give their people; one that Paul articulated in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica:
“We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).
Do you see it? There are two things that Paul reminded this church that he, and others, gave freely to them.
First of all, there is the gospel of God. This is the center point of leadership, in as much as it is the center point of life. This is the great grid through which all our vision, strategy, and everything else as leaders must be filtered through. And it’s not only that the specific vision we articulate must be centered in the gospel; the way we communicate, measure, and implement that vision must also be centered in the gospel. Paul gave this gift to the church. But then comes the second gift – the gift of his own life.
This is the gift we, as leaders, often fail to give. We can articulate many other things, set many other directions, measure many other metrics – but we often fail to give our own lives. In other words, those we lead might have a great sense of direction, a compelling gospel-centered vision, and a crystal clear set of metrics in order to gauge progress toward goals… and yet might not know us as leaders.
Once upon a time, I had a seminary class about church leadership. The professor was a well known and well respected retired pastor. And in one of his opening lectures, he cautioned all these young and impressionable young leaders: “Church leadership is the loneliest profession you could have chosen.” Whether that is how it should be or not, he was stating a fact. Leaders – and sadly, perhaps most especially Christian leaders – are lonely. They are not known. They might be faithful in sharing the gospel of God and yet very unfaithful in sharing their own lives.
I’m sure there are valid reasons for this. But I’m also sure that our failure as leaders to share our lives has some invalid reasons too. Reasons like our pride – that a leader should be “above” the doubts and struggles of those they lead. Reasons like our insecurity – that even though we put a confident show of bravado we are actually deeply insecure souls who need to be reminded that Jesus loves them like anyone else. I’m sure there are others.
What we fail to realize, though, is that sharing our lives with those we lead is actually not a burden to them. It is a gift.
It is a gift to know that the person who teaches me God’s Word is also a real person. It’s a gift to know the deep places of the heart where this conviction of the gospel is born. It’s a gift to know how specifically I can pray for and encourage these leaders.
Our lives are a gift. And the gospel frees us to share, with boldness, not only the great truths of that gospel, but also our very lives.
Michael Kelley is the Director of Groups Ministry at LifeWay and author of Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life