The Limitations Of A Leader

By F. Joe Ellis

Everybody knows that leaders have all the answers right? After all, that is why leaders are leaders. Isn’t it?

For those leaders who are striving to be delivered of their own ego, it really is a great relief to realize that we do have limitations. Striving to be all things to all men does not mean we have to have all the answers for all men.

Leaders who understand their limitations have two distinct advantages over those who do not. First, they realize just how dependent they are on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Second, they are more likely to delegate responsibilities to others, which is one of the primary principles of leadership taught by Jesus.

The Importance of Delegation

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus, who could do all things, realized the limitations in His humanity? His leadership and ministry on this earth began with the choosing and equipping of twelve men, who in just three and one-half years would assume the primary leadership of the church.

The conductor of an orchestra does not need to know how to play every instrument. He only needs to know how to blend them together to create a beautiful, harmonic balance. Harmony is only possible with two or more instruments playing different parts. Our call to be a leader, does not mean we are required to know and do everything that God desires to be done.

Many pastors would live much happier lives if they would learn the art of delegation. It really is not a sin if a member of the congregation knows more about building maintenance than the pastor. God really does not look down upon the leader if someone teaching staff on the fundamentals of teaching and lesson preparations. Our body’s capabilities are at its highest level when each part of the body is functioning at peak performance, doing at the best of its ability what God designed it to do.

When I was in high school, two boys in my gym class would race around the gym on their hands. It was a lot of fun to watch, but no one was impressed by their speed. Obviously, they were very coordinated. However, their hands were not designed for running or walking; that is the responsibility of the feet and legs.

The analogy is very simple, but very true. Much of leading is knowing how to blend individual talents and abilities together to fulfill a common purpose or ministry. Rarely, if ever, is a leader called or required to be a one-man operation. A leader is only fooling himself if he thinks he can accomplish alone as much as he can accomplish through others.

The lack of delegation is the reason for much inner strife in a church, as well as stunted growth. Please let me explain. The new-birth experience is just what Jesus called it, a new birth. While it is essential, it is not our last, experience in God. The new birth allows us the potential to mature and to develop the individual purpose of our life. Too many precious people come to an experience of the new birth only to die on the church pew. They are rarely, if ever, given an opportunity to develop their individual, God-given talents.

They live frustrated, unfulfilled lives in Christ because they are spiritually disabled. Too often, disability is only a result of an inability to develop properly. Sitting on our church pews every week is an untold reservoir of energy and ministerial ability.

The ministry of the leader is to channel these resources of humanity who have a spiritual anointing and to eternal purpose of the church. The real question is not, What can they do? Rather, are we as leaders willing to assist them and equip them to fulfill the purpose of God in their lives? The ministry of the saints will never be a reality in the church until the ministry of the leader follows the example of its Leader, Jesus Christ.

It is estimated that a person who has gone to church faithfully, from ages eighteen to forty, has been exposed to approximately 4,000 hours of preaching and teaching. The same person could have received a bachelor’s degree in college with approximately 1,800 hours in the classroom. For a master’s degree it would be 3,150 hours. But for 4,000 hours of training, he could receive a doctorate.

It is a shame that so many of our churches have no time set aside in their weekly schedule for the training and equipping people for ministry. If the secular world can produce a doctor in 4,000 hours, what could the church do with the Holy Spirit’s anointing on a life?

How much of our weekly schedule is set aside for the purpose of training those we are leading? What are we doing to equip them for ministry? Do we honestly believe that God’s only purpose for people’s lives is for them to go to church three times a week, worship, and pay tithes?

There is no substitute for training! Our limitations require us to equip and delegate if we are ever going to fulfill our potential and our call as a Christian leader.

Identifying Our Limitations

Every leader is limited in three primary areas of his or her life. Let us consider them.

1. The knowledge of his mind. What we become in life is in a large measure determined by what we know. God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Daniel prophesied, “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32). Blessed is the leader who knows he does not know everything, for he will draw wisdom and
knowledge from God and others.

We can minimize our limits in this area if we will never cease to be a student. We can learn what we do not know , and teach what we do know. It is no sin, however, to admit that we do not know everything! The mark of maturity in a Christian leader is when he realizes how little he really knows. Of course, we should seek to know Jesus, for He knows everything!

2. The strength of his character. Pastor Duane Kramer once said, “Reputation is the way man sees you, but character is the way God sees you.” We are living in a day of moral decay and erosion. The true character of a leader is best revealed in the dark. Character is that part of us that only we and God really know! A leader who does not put a high value on his own character will be greatly limited in how much God can use him.

Character and moral purity are inseparable twins. Their constant enemy is the desire for power and the ever-present battle of the ego. My limitations in these areas continually remind me of the value of my character, or “how God sees me.” I gladly forfeit my desire to do some things, lest, while I preach to others, I myself would become a castaway.

Since our character is so valuable to our ability to minister, we must not hesitate to limit ourselves for the sake of our reputation. Many leaders have destroyed their reputation and ministry because they tried to be all things to all men, only to fall into the deadly trap of Satan.

What is our character worth to us? If we put a high value on how Jesus sees us, we will never have to worry about our reputation or be ashamed of limitations that will protect our character.

3. The principles upon which the leader builds his life. There is an ever-present attempt to undermine biblical principles. The Bible is the foundation upon which we must build our life.

Principles never change. Methods change. Customs change. Cultures change. But principles never change! The measuring stick for truth is the Word of God! We never have to be intimidated by others who choose to violate the biblical principles of God to appease a crowd. Holy living is a privilege and a protection from the enemy. It does not “isolate” us from the world; rather, a holy principled, lifestyle “insulates” us from the poison and deadly infections that Satan has put in the world. A leader who limits what he or she does because of a principled lifestyle will never have to feel the guilt of hypocrisy. A principled life is a life that others can follow. The leader must first practice what he wants his followers to do. Too often leaders strive to practice what they preach instead of preaching what they practice.

Without a doubt, the most difficult part of Christian leadership is following our own instructions. We must do those things we expect others to do. And God will give us grace to do so.

Every leader should strive to excel in these three areas of life. Because Jesus is our God, excellence should be our goal.

Limitations are only what we perceive them to be. Some are good, some are bad, but both are a reality! The good ones we learn to enjoy, the bad ones we learn to overcome. In every case we must remember, without Jesus we can do nothing.

(The above material appeared in the April/June 1992 issue of FORWARD.)

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