Where a person chooses to invest time, energy and resources will be a reflection of what is thought to be most important. Many Christians have distilled biblical teaching about what is important to the three arenas that are eternal in nature: God, His Word, and people. Where a leader chooses to focus effort will be a reflection of what one thinks is most important about leadership. The distillation process for leading is not so precise; in fact, the variety of definitions and core components about leadership are too many to count. However, if I had to choose the most essential elements of leadership they would be in two arenas: relationship and influence. Leadership is impossible without both.
Viewing leadership through widening circles of relationship with corresponding degrees of influence is consistent with any study of the life of Christ. For Jesus, and I suspect all leaders, when the number of relationships increase, the depth of influence decreases. Robert Coleman in his classic work, The Master Plan of Evangelism, succinctly notes: “Jesus ministered to the multitudes but gave Himself to the few.” The Psalmist states this comparison slightly different for Moses in Psalms 103:7: “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.” One of Howard Hendricks’ pithy statements addressing this issue is: “You can influence at a distance but you can only impact up close.”
Deep influence and powerful impact requires the choice how and where. So how and where should you focus your leadership to maximize you influence and impact? Two principles come to my mind.
First how: spiritual leaders are those led by the Holy Spirit. In order to be led by the Holy Spirit one must have developed a sensitivity to how the Holy Spirit communicates. Of all the skills a leader needs, none—not one—is more important than sensitivity to the Spirit. How is this skill taught? Where is this skill learned? For too many spiritual leaders it is just assumed that somehow you will learn this most important competency. Again, we should turn to Jesus as the master teacher. Jesus was intentional in nurturing this ability in His Disciples by modeling His sensitivity to God (frequent time alone with the Father and how He chose to go where He went), by teaching about the person and work of the Holy Spirit (especially John 14-16), and by dialogue with the Disciples on biblical truth as they journeyed together.
Second where: on a much more human and practical side, you should exert leadership to issues that are foundational for the ongoing development of people and advance of the Gospel. Every leader is regularly confronted with urgent matters that cannot be avoided. Far too many leaders live from one crisis to another; one urgent/important matter to the next. This kind of leading cannot build a strong foundation. Tough choices are needed to focus effort for the long term good over the short term crisis. Such a leader will have to absorb some criticism. But, when led by the Holy Spirit to choose the important over the urgent you have made the right choice.
How would you rate your sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit? What can you learn from times when you were rightly sensitive to Him as well as times you were mistaken? A daily prayer you can be assured God will answer is for increased sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
What are the foundational issues under your scope of leadership? Who can you invite to help you make these tough calls? What can you set in place today?
Next Blog: Who will you intentionally influence?