Being a mature Christian leader begins with being a mature Christian. As we mentioned in our previous article about Christian maturity the question is not intended to be judgmental or legalistic. Its purpose is, hopefully, to be helpful as you consider where you are in your journey as a Christian leader. I ask myself the same question. Am I a mature Christian leader?
As a quick review, here are three areas we emphasized about Christianity maturity:
- Obedience to God
- Loyalty to God
- Fruitful for God
All three are necessary for Christian leaders. If we are not mature, how can we lead other Christians toward maturity?
[Podcast version available at the end of this post.]
Leading From The Front
Leaders lead and followers follow. Leaders do not lead from behind. They lead from the front.
That, by the way, means far more than just standing in front of people and talking to them. It means being out in front and leading from words and deeds.
One of the great leaders in the history of Christianity is the Apostle Paul. Why was he such a great leader? Because he imitated Christ.
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1
Paul gave the Corinthians some insight into imitating him earlier in his letter to them:
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. 1 Corinthians 4:15-17
Paul was not bragging, though some have wrongfully accused him of being egotistical. Paul was sharing an extremely important insight to Christian leadership. Christian leaders should be able to say with Paul, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
Jesus Christ called Paul personally to take the Gospel of God’s Grace to “Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). The Holy Spirit called Paul out of a local church ministry in Antioch years later to expand the preaching of the Gospel to the nations (Acts 13:1-4). By the time Paul left Antioch for the broader Roman Empire he was a mature Christian and a mature Christian leader.
Paul spent many years in wilderness experiences and received multiple heavenly visions where he learned what it meant to imitate Christ. Paul traveled thousands of miles preaching the Gospel, establishing churches, and training leaders for those churches. That’s why he could say humbly that Christians should imitate him as he imitated Christ. Paul led from the front.
Equipping the Saints
Christian Leaders have one primary job to accomplish in making disciples: equip the saints for their ministry.
That may surprise you since so few Christian leaders do that, but it’s the truth. Most churches are filled with people who are not equipped for a personal ministry. I remember an older pastor telling me that churches have three groups of people:
- Those who serve
- Those who oppose those who serve
- Those who watch the battle between the first two
The percentage breakdown he gave me decades ago turned out to be true in most every church I’ve observed through the years:
- Those who serve — 10%
- Those who oppose those who serve — 10%
- Those who watch the battle between the first two — 80%
Does that sound anything like what Jesus had in mind when He told His disciples to make disciples and teach them “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20)? No, it doesn’t.
Jesus wants obedience, loyalty and fruitfulness in churches and among Christians. How did Jesus plan to accomplish that task? Look at how the Holy Spirit told Paul to explain the answer:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16
Apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers exist for one primary reason: to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and for the edifying (building up) of the Body of Christ. That edification process leads to the following:
- unity of the faith
- knowledge of the Son of God
- to a perfect (mature) man
- to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
- Christians who are strong in their walk with God
- Christians who aren’t deceived by the enemy
- Christians who know how to speak the truth in love
- Christians who are growing in Christ
- Christians who know how to work with other Christians to cause growth in the Body for the edifying of itself in love
If you are a Christian leader, take an honest look at what you do in ministry and ask yourself if you what you are doing looks anything like what we see in Ephesians 4. This is just between you and God, so you can be honest and open with Him. How are you equipping the Christians you lead for their ministry?
Gifted for Ministry
We know from Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 that God has gifted every Christian. Think about that as a Christian leader. You have the responsibility of equipping every Christian in your church, class or small group for their ministry. Do you know what spiritual gifts God has given to the people you are equipping? If not, find out. Why? Because it’s God’s plan for Christian leaders to equip gifted Christians for their ministries.
Notice the part God plays in spiritual giftedness:
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7
God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is intimately involved in every aspect of the spiritual giftedness of His children.
Paul explained it to the Christian leaders in Rome a few years later:
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them. Romans 12:3-6
God decides the spiritual gifts He gives to each Christian. Our job as Christians is to “use them.”
Christian leaders are often drawn toward those Christians who have more “public” gifts and overlook those whose gifts are more “private.” That is unfortunate and unbiblical. That attitude by Christian leaders has led in part to weak Christians, feeble ministries, and even schisms in churches and groups:
But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:24-25
So, how can Christian leaders turn this around? Do your job. Your job is to lead and equip. Are you doing it? If so, you should be seeing fruitfulness in your church or small group. If you aren’t, you aren’t seeing real fruitfulness.
If Christian leaders don’t turn this travesty around, they may have little to present to God in that final Day.
Presenting Fruit to God
We shared about the importance of being fruitful in our previous study about Christian maturity. Christian leaders have the responsibility of equipping Christians to be fruitful and will one day be judged for how well they accomplished that task.
Jesus is our first example of presenting fruit to God:
… that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:27
As we know, Jesus has been extremely fruitful and highly successful in accomplishing His Father’s will.
Paul is another example for Christian leaders to follow:
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. Colossians 1:28-29
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2
Paul was also very fruitful and successful in accomplishing the Lord Jesus Christ’s purpose for his life and ministry as a Christian leader.
Christian leaders should imitate that kind of passion. It will take passion, courage and strength. It will also take self-sacrifice.
Many Christian leaders want to be heralded as great and inspiring leaders without paying a cost. They want to appear important in the eyes of others, but are actually diminished in the eyes of God. That is both unfortunate and damaging to millions of Christians who look to their leaders for guidance in how to serve God.
What we need in the pulpits and other leadership platforms of Christian churches today is passionate humility. Christian leaders need to become imitators of God:
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2
Jesus is the Name above every name. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He is the Alpha and Omega. Yet, Jesus came humbly and sacrificially to make a way for us to have peace with God. We need Christian leaders with that same attitude of humility and self-sacrifice.
Christian leaders have a high calling from God. They first need to be mature Christians, then they can become mature leaders of God’s wonderful family.
May all Christian leaders be able to say with the Apostle Paul:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8
Apologetics for Christian Leaders
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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