In a culture full of celebrity preachers, comparisons, and competition, what should biblical leadership look like in the local church? Having charisma and competency now trump character in far too many ministries. In following Jesus, it is first “who” you know not “what” you know. Being driven by “success” more than being faithful has caused untold casualties. There is no perfect pastor nor does anyone have the ability to leap over small buildings in a single bound.
In God’s vision to Ezekiel, God commands the prophet what to tell the people then reminds him of this truth in Ezekiel 3:7: “But the house of Israel will not want to listen to you because they do not want to listen to me.” Truth will not always be well received, but do not succumb to thinking that you are the only one teaching and speaking truth. Also, if you are not careful, the message can be the correct one but delivered in the wrong way. Yes, we should speak the truth but only in love. The Colson Center states it well: “Outrage is not a strategy!”
In How to Lead and Still Have a Life, H. Dale Burke says, “Therefore, any wise approach to leadership must begin with the heart of the leader. Life is always lived from the inside out. Solomon put it this way: “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Paul challenges us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to take “every thought captive to obey Christ.” Leadership is first a matter of the heart. If we begin thinking wrong, we will soon begin believing wrong. If we begin believing wrong it will not be long before we are acting wrong.
Character and spirituality are far more important than charisma and competency.
The inner life of the leader is summarized by H. Dale Burke with four Vs: Voice, Vision, Values, and Vital. He states that, “these three elements need to be lived out in the context of the vital relationships in your life.” You are called to protect and promote the vital relationships around you by loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind. How is your relationship with Him? Then we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. How are your relationships with those God has called you to lead? What needs to be done to improve and restore those relationships?”
Begin with making sure you are hearing God’s voice and direction in your leadership. You must decide who will be the loudest voice in your life. How will you make sure you are hearing His voice and being directed by His instructions? Every time you read God’s Word, He is speaking to you, so start there.
Make sure you practice silence, solitude, and slowing down in His presence. Silence is not passive but practice in listening. God often speaks His loudest when we are quietest. H. Dale Burke suggests, “Don’t expect Him to shout above the noise of your busy world. Learn to be quiet with Him.”
Then focus on core values, not what you are going to do but how you will do it. These are deep convictions from God’s Word and the non-negotiable direction in your life. These core values caused three Hebrew children to refuse to bow down to a golden image even if God did not deliver them. Core values are consistent, they rarely change; passionate, they generate emotion and energy; biblical, they are rooted in Scripture; distinctive, they reflect God’s unique assignment for you. They direct you in what should never change and what should.
H. Dale Burke says this about core values, “These are your guidelines on how you do business. You base them on your convictions (which, in turn, are based on the truth of God’s Word) and adhere to them regardless of whether they help or hurt you.” In What Are Ministry Values? Steve Ogne wrote, “Firmly rooted values protect the church from every strong opinion or dominant personality that tries to shape the church. Strong values keep the church from being taken off course by every fad or new program that comes along.”
Now you need a clear and compelling vision for where you are headed and what God’s preferred future for is for you and your ministry. Vision is not where you want to be in three to five years but where God wants you to be. H. Dale Burke says, “And (the vision) is anchored in eternal principles that are just as true and relevant today as they were 100 years ago or 1,000. ” The most important part of a God vision is becoming more and more like Jesus every day. Inside out leadership demands that we are conformed and transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Leading inside out demands that we are hearing God’s voice, establishing unchanging core values, being led by a clear vision of where God desires us to be, and functioning in healthy, vital relationships. H. Dale Burke defines a compelling vision for this: “The divine portrait of me, the servant-leader, transformed into the person the Master wants me to be.”
What does God want you and your ministry to look like when you cross the finish line? To be able to say as the apostle Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Leading inside out!