Success often results from being able to get along with others. Real leadership success can only be achieved by working with others. And this type of spiritual leadership is prescribed in the Bible as “partnering” with others. This is why we regard Partnering as the ‘art of leadership’.
We work together as partners who belong to God. You are God’s field, God’s building—not ours.
First Corinthians 3:9
Churches need leaders. Jesus called His original disciples to “shepherd” (not “sheep-herd”) His sheep. In John 10 Christ labors this point that his servants will lead His people as ‘shepherds’. This is not the type of leadership that domineers and exploits for personal gain. This is called despotic leadership. Rather, the type of leadership that Jesus calls for is ‘God-Partnering’ leadership: the kind of leadership heart that God has toward His people. This is why First Corinthians 3:9 says that church leaders work together with God (“labourers together with God” KJV). As leaders with God we are to treat people as if they were God’s (“God’s field/building”). If you are called to lead people within a church, whether as a senior pastor or someone helping their pastor to lead, it is important to realise that we lead with God as well as for God, and that it is His Church.
Leaders help to organise, prioritize, initiate and reinvigorate. Without layers of leaders within a church, there is a high risk of the loss of vision and purpose, and the potential that even small gains are lost causing the church to go into decline. I was watching a TV program which told the story of a man and his family who were building their dream home. Part way through its construction while about to drive in to their house lot, a speeding car came around the blind bend and veered across the road colliding with the Dad. This was a fatal crash for the Dad. A year later, the family had lost their husband/Dad and had an unlivable partly constructed home. The TV program was going to do “an extreme make-over” on the house for this grieving family and complete it constructions in just one weekend. The producers summoned volunteers from the community to help. Around 500 people responded. As I watched this, I immediately thought that the only way possible for 500 volunteers to complete a house construction in one weekend would be if they were coordinated by a leader. And indeed they were. The house was completed in one weekend. The Bible describes a church as being like a house. Just like a natural house, in order for the spiritual house to be built and maintained it requires coordinating leadership.
Of all the examples that the Bible give of great leadership, there are few greater than King David. He knew how to partner together with other leaders in order to get things done and achieve his mission.
¶ “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. Revelation 3:7
Jesus Christ has some things to say to various churches in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation. But to the church located in Philadelphia (“Brotherly Love”) He identifies Himself as the Holder of the Key of David. David’s key was his ability to get along with others and knit them into a team. This would have been reassuring for the Philadelphian Christians who were the only church not to receive a divine rebuke. Consider with me what David did that constituted Christ honouring him with this legacy.
David was welcoming of all who would come to him. So is Christ. To be a successful leader within the church you must learn how to embrace people- their faults, failings, and fears. David did. But he also set standards for those who would be on his team.
David went out to meet them and said to them, “If you have come to me in friendship to help me, my heart will be joined to you; but if to betray me to my adversaries, although there is no wrong in my hands, then may the God of our fathers see and rebuke you.”
First Chronicles 12:17
If you were going to be on David’s team, you had to be a team player. It’s the same with following Christ. For David, he wasn’t just after followers – he was after helpers. This must be how we lead as well. A follower may be devoted but a helper is more likely to be committed. David knew how to draw commitment out of his team initially because he knew his team. He was able to gain the trust of his men and win their hearts (souls) because of his integrity and skill as a shepherd of people.
So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.
The “key” that David employed was at least his ability to inspire his team with both his acquired skill (he displayed personal diligence) and his integrity (his word was his bond and he clearly ‘walked the talk’). Jesus could rightly claim this same key for He has demonstrated His skill as a saviour and king in a far greater way than David.
But those who gathered to David initially were not the elite, highly-skilled, or usefully trained. They were instead, those who were in: ‘distress’, ‘debt’, and ‘despondency’. David employed his leadership gifts to hone these unlikely candidates for greatness into men who would alter history. Jesus Christ did the same thing. He took several Galilean fisherman and shaped them into world-changers. Our leadership, especially of the young positions us to play part in changing both history and the world.
Eventually David would go on to have 30 of these 400 men in his elite guard and then 3 of them would be honoured by David with the distinction “mighty man”. This is an important point. David did not relate to all of his men equally. There were several (30) that he was particularly close to and there were a few (3) that he completely entrusted himself to. While Jesus had 70 preachers that He could send out, He only had 3 that He invited to join Him on special occasions. Not even Jesus sought to maintain a deep friendship with many people. It seems that we are all created to enjoy 1 closest friend, and only 2-3 really good friends. Leaders need to draw the lessons from Kings David and Jesus that by far most of our relationships with others will be at the acquaintance level. Most of a leader’s networking opportunities will come through acquaintances. The more time we spend with an acquaintance sharing our heart and being appropriately transparent, the deeper our relationship with them will become.
David’s attractiveness to his men was not merely his penchant for popularity or his natural charisma. In our democratic systems of politics these two qualities are virtually demanded. But Christian leadership – Christ-honouring leadership – needs to be much much more than this. All too often those ‘Christian’ leaders who are endowed with natural charisma are the ones who have a greater propensity for very public failure. Their natural leadership charisma is for them a two-edged sword. Sadly, even King David seemed vulnerable to this. We remember Uriah. But David was not merely popular and charismatic. He was man on a mission who took initiatives to fulfil his mission. People who are passionate about their cause live with great purpose and muster men and women to their aid.
Consider a passionate person. Their passion is contagious. I know very little about American Baseball but when I spend time with Pastor Shawn Holcomb of Crossroads Christian Church (St Leonard, Maryland) I am almost convinced that I must follow the Boston Red Sox. He wears a Red Sox cap everywhere. He is shod with Red Sox sneakers. He has Red Sox memorabilia in his office and home. He breaks out into Red Sox history with the slightest prompting from me about baseball. He knows the players, the current season’s fixture and most of the statistics relating to his team. Wow! I love this kind of healthy passion. I have another friend in Los Angeles who thinks the world revolves around the Lakers’ Basketball games. Anytime I channel-surf through American television and come across a basketball game I now take an extra moment to see if it’s the Lakers playing- Ken’s passion has infected me. But in fairness to both Shawn and Ken, their sporting passion is not their number one passion. Both leaders are more passionate about the cause of Christ and their role in his Kingdom. For Shawn it’s obviously about the growth and welfare of the church he leads and for Ken it’s about helping other Christians to be able to thoughtfully defend their faith in the God of the Bible.
I love passionate people. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Remember Steve Erwin? Ever seen Bear Grylls? Whatever you do for the Lord in the service of His House, do it passionately! This means-
Turn up early
Don’t rush off when you’re done
Come prepared (do your homework – what you practice when no-one’s watching may one day be the basis for your public performance. When a boxer enters the ring of a Title-Fight he cannot fake his training preparation.)
Love what you do
Teach about what you do to others
Let others have a go at what you do and encourage them to keep trying.
Spend (read: “invest”) money and time in what you do- keep learning your craft.
If you’re ministry is to coordinate the ushers in the church service or perhaps to lead the music-team, build a great team of people who are servant-spirited. Initiate times of training with them. Celebrate together after major events. Get to know each member of the team and discover how they learn and are motivated.
Perhaps the most outstanding aspect to David’s leadership key was his care for those he led. He rewarded those who cared for him. He honoured those who showed diligence. On the one occasion when he didn’t do this, he would regret it for the rest of his life and suffer greatly because of it. You see, David foolishly offered the position of Military Commander as a prize and the winner was Joab who appears to have been more interested in the King’s Table than the King.
When David was coming toward the end of his reign, his son Absalom undermined him greatly. He accused David of inactivity and flattered those vulnerable to disillusionment with David. Weak leaders have to resort to such measures of manipulation of people to cover their illegitimacy. But David led differently. When King Saul opposed and persecuted him, he committed his ways to God as His Defender. When his son Absalom acted wickedly, David again saw the heavy hand of God. He wa not like other leaders. Rather, he was a leader who cared intently for those he led. He “shepherded” people. One of the greatest misnomers in churches today is that the man with the title “Pastor” is the only one authorised to shepherd people within the church.But every team leader must be a shepherd (‘pastor’). Every team leader who leads a group of two, three, or four people or more must care for these people and shepherd them.
In these ways david had learned to partner with others in his leading. As a result, he grew stronger leaders and thus became a stronger leader himself. Ultimately though, David’s leadership success was due to his partnering with God. In the midst of his challenges, he worshiped through singing praises to God, contemplating God’s Word, interceding in prayer for others and entrusting his soul to the Great Shepherd with whom he was partnering.
Let’s partner well.
Dr. Andrew Corbett
May 10th 2010, writing from Prince Frederick, Maryland, USA.
© Dr. Andrew Corbett,
10th May 2010, Legana Tasmania
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