One of the more interesting subjects is the study of what makes a person a natural leader. Some say that it requires an outgoing personality, except that there are people who are not the least bit outgoing who are incredible leaders, and there are outgoing individuals - some of whom aspire to leadership - who are really poor leaders (many of these live in Hollywood or Washington DC).
Some say that the defining hallmark of a natural leader is the willingness to give useful directions to others. Well, in some people, that is a sign of a leader, but in others, it’s a sign of an insecure control freak whom nobody willingly follows. They have no followers.
Followers: that’s the only real sign of a leader that scholars have settled on: a leader is someone whom people follow. They may be charismatic or withdrawn, they may be good communicators or not, they may be organized or overwhelmed by the details of their life. They may or may not have education or position of power, but they have influence. There are some people whom folks follow naturally, and there are others that have to work to be effective at leading, but true leaders have people following them.
In the book of Romans,
Paul describes a gift of leadership. I have noticed that some senior pastors have that gift of leadership and others do not. Some pastors have people crowding around them, trying to find helpful ways to follow them, while others find recruiting volunteers is like pulling teeth: people are not following them, no matter whether they hold a leadership position or not.
A brief digression in the interest of a balanced story: if God has withheld the leadership gift, then He has given others: teaching or pastoring are often given in its place. And it seems apparent that there are some senior pastors who are not actually called by God to that position, and therefore may not be gifted to do the work that He has not assigned.
I’ve known men and women who seem to be called to leadership in the church, but who struggle in that responsibility. Have you ever gone for a walk with a cat: they’re like that cat: always watching you to see which way you’re going to go, and then scurrying to get in front of you, no matter which way you go. These “leaders” always watching the church to see where they’re going, then they declare, “We’re going to go this way,” as they see the church already going this way. They don’t have a real voice, only an echo.
The challenge comes in that some of these folks have a large gathering of followers. The sad part is not that they have followers, but that they don't know where to lead those followers.
By contrast, others seem to have no difficulty staying out in front. They seem to know what’s coming around the corner before others, and are preparing those who follow them for God’s next move.
I’ve been reflecting on that question: what makes leadership work in the Church for these people. Is there something about those who seem to know the path instinctively that’s markedly different than those who struggle to find their direction?
I think there is: those who lead naturally and comfortably usually have developed the lifestyle of feeding themselves spiritually, and those who seem to be called to leadership but have difficulty leading pretty consistently depend on others to feed their spirits.
Since this vocabulary is not real common to the church today, let me illustrate it. In 1 Corinthians 3:2,
Paul says, “I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it.” Paul had to feed the believers in Corinth; more than that, he had to feed them baby food. They needed Paul to feed them because they could not feed themselves.
What did he feed them? I’m glad you asked that.
A few chapters later,
Paul declares: “I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” Paul was able to draw nourishment directly from God – whether from the Word or from his prayer, or from experiences like the one where he “was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” In one way or another, Paul was able to draw revelation from the heart of God, to digest it, and to nourish not only his own spirit, but to nourish the many churches that he fathered. Heck, half of the books in the New Testament came from Paul drawing nourishment from the presence of God!
From the nourishment we draw from Father, we can feed those whom we lead. We will have the wisdom and strength to shepherd the flock of God; we’ll know the direction that God is heading so we will have both opportunity and resources to equip the flock to go there with Him; we’ll have confidence we’re living and moving in His will because we’ll know it from Him. We’ll be strong and fresh and confident in proportion to our ability to nourish ourselves directly from Him. This is the nourishment we draw from Him.
There is certainly nothing wrong with benefiting from the revelation of others. We are even instructed to “encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We must both encourage and be encouraged by, instruct and be instructed by others in the Body.
But if we aspire to be effective leaders in among the Body of Christ, then we must draw near the Head of the Body. Unless we are able to feed ourselves, we will never be able to feed those whom we are leading, pastoring and teaching. Unless we are well connected to the Head, we will not be able to lead the Body.