Some years ago I was asked to teach a six-part leadership seminar in local churches around the country. I did this while I was still an active local church pastor. I taught, on average, about two seminars a month. I usually began on Friday night with two-45 minute sessions and then did four more on Saturday, returning home in time to preach in my own church on Sunday morning. This experience actually prepared me to teach more widely. After a few years at this work I was offered a position where I would teach this material on a full-time basis. I chose, however, not to leave the pastorate for another four years. Then in 1991-92 I became convinced of a new vision, one centered upon church renewal. My heart was being drawn outward toward the whole church. Thus on May 1, 1992, I became the full-time president of what is now called ACT 3. I had begun ACT 3 in 1991 to launch a quarterly journal "for leaders" called the Reformation & Revival Journal. This quarterly was published for the next fifteen years. It was a labor of love that never made any money and almost sank us trying to keep it going several years after we should have ended it. We were living through the rising Internet revolution and learning the hard way that such print publications would pass away. 

Since those days in the early 1980s I have continued to think a great deal about leadership. I have read some marvelous books on the subject and was even tempted (once) to write my own. Recently I was looking over some notes from various places I've been in the last year or two and discovered something I wrote (listening to someone else speak) that I find worth sharing.

False leadership is about the leader as a person, or as an individual. True leadership is about the virtue of the cause, or the subject. It is about fulfilling a call. True leadership, biblically, is about the telos. This Greek word refers to end for which something exists. People invest in ideas and share those ideas in order to either build themselves up or to change the lives of others for altruistic reasons. People invest in ideas whether they realize it or not. (The one exception is the poor, who cannot invest in anything, including ideas, unless they have food and shelter!) But the rest of us share in ideas and we use them to change ourselves. If we are leaders we use these ideas to also change others, or at least we seek to change others through ideas. We do this either for ourselves or for others. It seems to me that what makes Christian leadership unique is that real Christians invest in others for the end, for the kingdom of God. 

Next time you think about your own spiritual leaders think about this idea of their purpose in leading. Are they exercising true leadership or are they building up their own empire or reputation? Jesus was a true leader and thus the author and perfecter of our faith. He surrendered both his reputation and his life in order to truly lead. This is the standard by which we ought to measure any leadership that professes to be Christlike. 

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  1. Darren Gruett February 17, 2012 at 9:28 am

    “False leadership is about the leader as a person, or as an individual. True leadership is about the virtue of the cause, or the subject.”
    I love that!

  2. Chris Criminger February 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks John,
    As you spoke about leadership, I have been reading Leonard Sweet’s book “I am a Follower.” Sweet suggests we take the focus off of leadership and put it on followership. Interesting thesis nevertheless :–)
    Shalom and thanks always for giving engaging topics . . .

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