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Leadership Development Principles Part 1
In this session, we’re going to be surveying seven leadership development principles. One is the concept of the sovereignty of God in leadership development. The next one is the primacy of holistic development. Then we’ll take a look at the importance of Christian community, I’m referring here to the Church. And then the value of extracurricular learning, that’s learning outside of a classroom or outside of a seminar, a teaching context. The next one, the need for individualized learning, the concept here is one size does not fit all. The need for relationship learning, this is the critical importance of what’s sometimes called apprenticeship or having a mentor or having a coach. Then the need for intentionality, the need for intentional learning, having clearly defined, measurable outcomes and means and processes, moving you toward those outcomes that are critical for being an effective leader.
Let’s begin with a look at the concept of the sovereignty of God. There’s just not a checklist or a magic template for developing leaders. I wish there were, and I’m sure you do too, but everyone just does not become a mature, well-equipped pastor or church leader, church planter, a mature minister of the Gospel in the same way. God in his sovereignty sometimes moves in some truly mysterious ways, in the way he raises up emerging leaders and equips them to be godly and prepared for very effective ministry in his Church, sometimes with no formal education at all, it’s just amazing. And sometimes with great degrees of formal education and training, it’s across the spectrum.
Nevertheless, there are some valuable generalizations and principles, that’s what we’re looking at here, which can and which should be made and understood and grasped by leaders to understand their own development as a leader, as well as to be effective in raising up other leaders, learning what the best means are for equipping leaders in the church. Here, the big idea is that there really is no checklist, there is no set of steps that you follow, it’s in the sovereignty of God, but there are still principles and generalizations that will greatly benefit leaders if they understand them.
Let’s look at that, the first one being the primacy of holistic development. Now the three training competency categories represented here of knowledge and affections and behavior, are three inseparably interwoven capacities or faculties of the human soul. John Owen called these components or different parts of the human soul a trinity of faculties. Knowledge, that would be synonymous with understanding. The concept of affections, that would be the heart of motivation. Behaviors would be the will, volition, acting and reacting.
Now, all three of these human capacities need to be vitally and very intentionally engaged in the development of mature, effective church leaders. The term heart in Scripture, and character, often used in discourse, should be understood as being primarily synonymous, as overarching terms that encompass all three of these faculties, all three of these emphases. Now the affirmation of this doing and knowing and being paradigm is not intended to imply that all three of these faculties of the human soul receive equal emphasis in the biblical portrayal of leaders in the church.
In fact, the biblical texts stress most often the primacy of personal character. We see this especially prominent in the apostle Paul’s description of an overseer or an elder in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, and several other passages in the New Testament, the concept here being that a character is primary in leadership development, not merely as is often thought just someone’s behavior or just someone’s knowledge or just someone’s heart passion or something like that.
But the affirmation of the primacy of character in leadership development also does not mean that Christian character can or should somehow be developed apart from growth in theology, which would be knowing in ministry practice which is doing. For Christian leaders to be true theologians, they must be godly people. We should not understand theology as just one of the things that leaders must know, but what they must learn to do in the context of their ongoing personal and ministry development. John Frame wrote, “Theology is application. If it does not edify, it is worthless.”
The next principle is the importance of Christian community. Now the Lord normally develops leaders in the community, more particularly in the community of the church. This is why the development of ministry leaders must include a very vital substantive ongoing experience of Christian community in the church with a high priority on the leader’s development with the leaders in that church, and the members in that church, a real sharing of lives. Leaders can only learn how to lead by being in a learning community, a local church, where they can actually experience biblical standards that cover all their relationships. That’s because learning like most of life is essentially a social process where individuals challenge and affirm each other, and often have conflict and need to experience resolution all in an ongoing relational context. And so this is a component that must be central.