The Essential Element of Christian Leadership

by Jimmy Draper April 8, 2015

Christian leadership is not about authority; it is about influence. Not about dominance, but service. Not about personal success, but about making those around you successful. It is not about using those who work with you to achieve your goals, but about using your gifts to develop the skills and maturity of those who work with you. It’s not about getting your way, but developing a sense of stewardship among those who work with you. Nobody works for you, you work together in serving the Lord. Leadership is not about you as the leader, but about God who has placed you together to bring glory to Himself.

The most significant thing about Christian leadership is the call of God upon your life. God has a plan for your life and his call to you is critical for successful leadership. God’s call is always to Himself and not to a specific task. In your ministry and leadership you may have many different roles, but each is placed in the context of your personal relationship to the Lord.

I thought for years that God had called me to preach, to be a pastor in a local church. Then God called me to be president of LifeWay Christian Resources and I realized that His call was to Himself and not to a particular role. I did not leave God’s call when I went to LifeWay, but experienced the hand of God upon me in a new role in a continued vital relationship with Him.

The lack of certainty of a divine call to the ministry is one of the main reasons why approximately one-half of seminary students leave the ministry within 5 years after leaving the seminary. Without the assurance of God’s call on your life you will not make it in ministry! The ministry is a terrible vocation, but it is a wonderful calling!

The ministry is a divine calling, a divine appointment. Without such a call, no man should consider entering the ministry. Dr. Jeff D. Ray, longtime professor at Southwestern Seminary said, “If a man goes into the ministry because he wants to, while in it he will conduct himself as he wants to and go out of it when he wants to, but if he realizes that he is put there by the sovereign call of God he will try to please God while in it, and he will stay in it till he receives a divine summons to give it up.”

The clearest biblical illustration of the necessity of God’s call is found in the life of Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah 1:4-9 describes that call:

The word of the Lord came to me: "I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations." But I protested, "Oh no, Lord God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth." Then the Lord said to me: "Do not say; I am only a youth, for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you." Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: "Look, I have filled your mouth with My words."

Jeremiah’s call transformed his life. He realized God had chosen him for a great task before he was born. He could never get away from the reality of that call. He was a man set apart by God and nothing he faced could separate him from the destiny that the call of God on his life dictated.

Although he was weak and untrained, he was prepared to hear the voice of God. He was listening when God spoke to him. The most gifted man in the world will not hear the call of God if he is not listening. By the same token, the weakest and least gifted man will hear it if he is listening.

In fact, that is just the kind of man God does call! Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29:

Brothers, consider your calling: not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen the world’s foolish things to shame the wise, and God has chosen the world’s weak things to shame the strong. God has chosen the world’s insignificant and despised things – the things viewed as nothing – so He might bring to nothing the things that are viewed as something; so that no one can boast in His presence.

We are saved by grace, and we serve by grace. Milo Arnold writes in The Adventure of the Christian Ministry:

What an adventure it is to find a flame burning in your heart and discover that God has kindled it! What a thrill to feel a pressure behind you, impelling you out, and discover that it is the thumb of God in your back! God has no fixed form in calling men into the ministry. He walks among the milling multitudes and puts His hand upon the shoulder of one here and another there, setting them apart to the ministry of the gospel. (pp.11-12)

The call to minister is a call to a distinct kind of life. Milo Arnold went on to say, “He must be as good as his preaching and as holy as his Gospel” (p. 14). The minister is called to be before he is called to do. God never calls us to preach something we don’t practice.

 If you would be a leader in God’s kingdom, you must stand firm upon a recognition of a Divine call to ministry, and upon your unwavering commitment to be with Him in whatever role He has for you in His Kingdom.