The Under-Developed Leader

It’s not a sin to be an under-developed leader, we all started that way—but it is a sin to remain that way! The under-developed leader can wreck the potential of churches. Under-developed leaders are dangerous. They rarely cast vision. They don’t build teams, resolve problems, or let things die that ought to die. They don’t pay attention to the warning signs of oncoming diseases. They don’t confront issues that would infect the whole body or call the best out of their people. They maintain rather than muster, and they defend rather than advance.

There is a direct correlation between developed leaders and highly developed churches. We find great evidence of this in the book of Judges. Whenever Israel had a good leader, the nation increased. When a poor leader took office, Israel decreased.

Part of what I do includes consulting with various denominations and churches. Often when I find a church that is diseased and slowly dying, I don’t have to spend three weeks trying to discover the main sinkhole. I can usually assess that from a distance. It is usually traced to an under-developed leader who is positionally in office but functionally absent in the most crucial areas that are required for health.

Many may place the blame of the decline on a denomination, the community, the population, the culture, staff, economics, or even on other churches that are taking its congregants. But over the years, the determining factor is correlated to how leaders are leading more than any other factor.

Defining Leadership

A leader’s skills may include the fact that he or she is a great communicator. However, the church can still be hollow because there is not a leader to build teams and structure growth. The perspective that a communicator alone makes for a great leader only causes the church to become a “listening center.” Great sermons are extremely important on the front end, but that alone will not build prevailing churches.

Raising your leadership level, and that of your church, is the best guarantee that there will be more better days ahead than behind. Here are a few ways to end the famine of leadership in today’s church.

Consistently increase your base of knowledge

Isaiah 5:13 tells us, “My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6 says it more bluntly, “My people perish for the lack of knowledge.” Each budding leader must build their base of knowledge. This is done primarily through reading. Learning from a book written by a proven leader is the most inexpensive way to increase your knowledge base.

On a scale of one to ten, how much of a reader are you? I’m not talking about what Solomon warns against in Ecclesiastes 12:12 as an “excessive devotion to books,” but rather a consistent devotion to learning.

Build an inspiration package

You alone are responsible to present an inspired, knowledgeable, energetic, and healthy “you” in every situation. Monitor your rest, diet, and exercise.

One way I do this is to plan times where I will be around people who inspire me. They bring out the best in me by asking the right questions, by challenging my thinking, and by helping me gain a new perspective on leadership. Identify who these people are, take the time, invest the money, and increase the priority of spending time with them. It will do you better than a semester in a seminary. In fact, this is what I term the “new seminary.”

The word seminary is derived from the Latin,: seminarium, which means “seed plot.” It was designed during the Reformation to nurture young men and women, seedling leaders. Today, it is mentors who inspire you that will deposit seminal thoughts and perspectives that will renew and inspire.

Building an inspiration package is not the same as an “entertainment” package. Some leaders entertain themselves in order to forget the pains of the ministry. Entertainment will not inspire you. There are benefits, but NOT as a substitute for inspiration.

Develop a habit of daily devotions and journaling.

It will be through these daily times that you will receive inspiration from divine mentors. Develop a habit of meeting each morning with these men and women that the Holy Spirit has designed to be your leadership tutors. Like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, you may not understand everything you are reading, but the first year’s goal of daily devotions is to build a habit, not a theologian.

There was a time a few years ago when my soul cratered. I am still digging out of it slowly. But even though I experienced numbness toward ministry, my habit of daily devotions kept operating. Each morning, my pattern of reading the Word of God, journaling in my Life Journal, and hearing from Divine Mentors continued like clockwork. I was considering another course in life, maybe leaving the ministry. I toyed with this thought more because of the pain that ravaged my soul than anything else.

Several months went by and one morning, I was in conversation with Jeremiah. He knew I was adrift in the sea of confusion, and he knew that I needed assistance. He threw me a plank. I say a plank because although I wasn’t completely rescued, he saved me from going under.

It was there in Jeremiah 17:16 that he challenged me. It was almost as a friend-to-friend conversation. He challenged me. “But as for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after You.”

I heard his words, and my heart changed. In the midst of a storm tossed ocean when my personal boat had capsized, Jeremiah threw me a plank that I held onto until health arrived.

If I had not built a habit of daily devotions, my life today would have drastically changed.

My best friends are in the Bible. So are yours.

Add time for greater thinking and planning.

You will require greater amounts of solitude the greater the degree of responsibility you carry. In the beginning, your involvement with activities will be great and your solitude needs will be low. You will feed off the excitement and energy of the new build. But as time goes on, especially where success is evident, you will require more time for thinking and planning. At first, you will grab this time on the run, but later, you will not be able to survive with this regimen. As time passes, activity will decrease and leadership oversight will increase. You must do less and coach more. It’s ok. The needs of the church will still be met. Mark 6:41-42 assures us of this fact:

“He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them … They all ate and were satisfied …”

Jesus did not personally feed the multitudes. His disciples did. And what were the results? “They were all satisfied.”

It is possible because Jesus modeled it to us.

Finally, Peter takes a moment to mentor us from Acts 6. The people encountered a problem, and they asked Peter to jump in to help. “Increase your involvement,” they argued. But Peter’s response reminds us of the need to increase our time in prayer, planning, and solitude.

“…select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

We all begin as under-developed leaders. Some remain that way—don’t you.

What will impede the church more than persecution will be under-developed leaders. It’s difficult to eradicate due to the fact that it seems “normal” because so many are in this condition. When you are raised in an impoverished nation, even poverty, sickness, and a short life span can seem normal.

It’s time for us to end the famine in leadership by starting with ourselves.

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