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Defining Christ-Centered Leadership

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

If you have studied leadership for any amount of time, one thing becomes clear...

If you're looking for a single, universally accepted definition of leadership, you will never find it. You will literally find Bigfoot riding on a unicorn before you discover a concrete definition. Okay, maybe not "literally," but pretty close.

The good news? If you're looking for a definition leadership, there are a ton to choose from. There are about as many definitions of leadership as there are stars in the sky. They are seemingly endless. Not only are there many definitions from leadership experts, the experts often disagree with one another.

For some, leadership is what you do, while others say leadership is who you are. Can leadership be taught? Depending on your source, the answer can be "yes," "no," or "it depends." Some go to great lengths to differentiate leadership from management, while others consider the differences minimal.

Of course, there are some definitions that are more popular than others. You may be familiar with John Maxwell's assertion that "Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less." Certainly, leadership does involve influencing others, but is that all? Is there really nothing more to leadership than that?

Influence is important, but influence doesn't necessarily lead to the growth and betterment of the individual being influenced. And without a doubt, the growth and betterment of those we lead is a telltale sign of effective leadership. Renown author and researcher, George Barna, said "To be effective, a leader must have influence. But influence is a product of great leadership; it is not synonymous with it. To equate leadership with influence is to set the bar too low and to set people up for failure."(A Fish out of Water, 5-6). Leading people into the fulfilling of their God-given calling and potential honors God and advances the Kingdom.

Bottom line? Leadership is an ever-changing, ever-growing landscape that requires adaptability. To try and define it is a worthy endeavor. To be forever beholden to that definition could, however, become debilitating. Further, because the landscape is still open, you can develop your own definition of leadership.

With that said, I'd like to share with you my personal definition of Christ-centered leadership. That is, leadership that is Holy Spirit-led and views Jesus as the ultimate leadership expert.

Here it is...

A process in which an individual influences another individual or group, to operate according to the will of God and further the purposes of the Kingdom of God. Leaders are servants first, and desire to build and equip others.

Now let's break that down.

A process in which an individual influences another individual or group...

Again, there is no doubt that influence is a significant element of leadership. Leadership involves influencing individuals and even entire organizations for the better. The definition of "for the better" is covered in the next portion. operate according to the will of God and further the purposes of the Kingdom of God.

The God-centered leader is motivated to move people and organizations further in Kingdom purposes. This isn't limited to only churches and ministries. God-centered leaders can impact secular organizations in a God-honoring way (that doesn't entail risking their employment). Teaching a Bible study in the breakroom at lunch is a wonderful thing. But sometimes simply being a faithful employee, caring co-worker, or merciful manager speaks volumes about who - and more importantly, whose - you are.

Leaders are servants first...

Christ-centered leaders are servants of God first. What should follow is a deep desire to serve others.

Jesus left the greatest examples of Servant Leadership. In Mark 10 two of his disciples, James and John, who were brothers, approached Jesus to request high level positions within His kingdom. When the other 10 disciples heard what the conversation was about they became angry with James and John. Jesus' response would have been nothing short of revolutionary:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (vs. 41-45).

Later, Jesus would put these words into action. Just prior to His arrest by Jewish authorities and eventual execution at the hands of Rome, he took on the task of a common servant and washed His disciples feet:

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:12-15).

The message to His disciples is clear; if the Master will humble Himself before us, we have no excuse not to humble ourselves before others. This is a message that we should apply to our own lives and leadership as well.

...and desire to build and equip others.

In his book Realign: God-called Leaders and Their Purpose, author and leadership expert Eugene Wilson suggests that Ephesians 4:11-12 - "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the (pastors) and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ..." - "conveys the idea that church leadership is to help each saint become what he or she is intended to be. The purpose of the fivefold ministry is to help develop all members of the body so they may be able to perform their God-ordained purpose." While the focus is on church leaders, every God-centered leader can be a builder and equipper of others.

Once again, I define leadership as: A process in which an individual influences another individual or group, to operate according to the will of God and further the purposes of the Kingdom of God. Leaders are servants first, and desire to build and equip others.

That's my definition of leadership.

What's yours'?


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