By: T.F. Tenny/Rev. John Lancaster

“When the ministerial Selection Board met at Tiberias, only one item was asked for on the candidates resume. He was not questioned about his previous experience, or even his theological knowledge, important though these things were. He was asked a question which probed deeper than any he had ever faced in his life: “Do you truly love me more than these?”

The real qualification for spiritual leadership of any kind goes beyond questions of academic ability or personal aptitude. In the service of Christ, love is the key factor.

When you come to think about it, asking a fisherman to become a shepherd is asking for a drastic change of roles. It is asking the hunter to become a career–and nothing but love, love for Christ Himself and love for His sheep-like people, can effect such a change.

The nature of Christian leadership is such that only a loving man or woman can sustain it. It is not a commercial enterprise, nor can it be compared with industrial management; it may have certain similarities to an army on the march, but the terms of its service and the nature of its warfare are vastly different. Such leadership is more than giving orders, managing people or directing
operations. That is why the New Testament frequently uses the shepherd motif in setting out its ideal for Christian leaders.


Too often, our concept of leadership is that of the square-jawed, thrusting ‘dynamic’ man or woman who has a kind of charismatic influence over other people and is able to command an almost unquestioning response from their followers. True, some people are cast into the mold, but it is quite wrong to think this is the only kind of leadership there is. What is more, it is disastrous for those who do not possess these qualities to try to emulate them. We may put on Esau’s ‘uniform’ but our falsetto voices will give the game away!

When we talk of love, however, we need to make sure we are speaking Biblically. To some people, love is little more than the indulgent kindliness which gives people what they want so as to avoid the possibility of upsetting them. Some leaders think they are being gentle, when in fact they are being irresponsible. Like parents who give in to the demands of their children for the sake of peace and quiet, such leaders are not only evading their true responsibility before God, but are also sowing the seeds of indiscipline which will produce a harvest of trouble in the future of their churches. Love may be kind, but it also has not hesitation in speaking the truth.

To revert to Peter’s ‘interview’, he was not asked, ‘Do you love people'” or ‘Do you love preaching?’ or ‘Do you love the souls of men?’ The question Jesus asked was, ‘Do you love me?’

True spiritual leadership has to begin there. We may well love the ministry to which we are called and find great personal satisfaction in doing it, but if our commitment to the ministry rests on the sense of fulfillment we get out of it, even though that fulfillment comes from seeing others blessed, our motivation is wrong. We only truly minister when we do it for Christ’s sake.

Paul could write, ‘The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ’ (II Corinthians 5:14, J.B. Phillips). That overwhelming love of Christ draws from us a response which says ‘We must now live for Him who died and rose again for us.’ Such service is not a job, a profession, or even a ‘ministry’; it is like Mary’s anointing of His feet — an act of adoration which fills the place where we
minister with the sweet fragrance of love.

Loving leadership regards those who are the subjects of its ministry from a new perspective: ‘From now on we regard no one from an earthly point of view’ (II Corinthians 5:16). Because they are Christ’s sheep, bought with His own blood, they have an infinite value. We treat them with loving care because they are His people (Acts 20:28). They may be exasperatingly slow to understand and frustratingly sluggish in their response to our leadership, but they are still His people. We dare not write them off.

One of the besetting sins of leadership is impatience. Far too many churches have suffered from pastors in a hurry. The desire to achieve goals is understandable, as is the fear that we may be guilty of the sin of procrastination if we do not reach them as quickly as possible. but while ‘the King’s business requires haste,’ it does not require the impatience that drive people before they are able to move.

There is a beautiful example of loving leadership in the words of Jacob found in Genesis 33:13, ‘My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die– I will move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children–‘ There speaks a true Pastor’s heart. It is echoed in the words of Jesus in John 16:12, ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.’ The good Shepherd never force-feeds his sheep, but matches both his teaching and his leading to the capacity of his flock, even if that sometimes means postponing some things until later.

By the same token, however, such leadership does not merely accept the limitations of its people as the final standard for its goals. It may not impose unnecessary strains, but neither does it pander to the innate complacency that seems to be part of our natural make-up. It has higher ambitions for its spiritual children than sometimes they have for themselves.

Paul’s analogies of leadership in I Thessalonians 2:6-12 set the example. On the one hand, he says that he and his fellow ministers were ‘gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children’ (verse 7); on the other hand, they ministered ‘as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God’ (verse 11).

(The above material appeared in the April 1992 issue of The Pentecostal Messenger.)

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