‘Leadership’ is never an excuse

Leadership has to be an expression of the Fruit of the Spirit, not a cover for egos, bullying and power.


If you read the leadership literature, secular or Christian, you’ll know there’s an industry in defining it.  Is a gift, or a task? Is it innate, or is it teachable? Is it a biblical category, a manifestation of God’s common grace, or a worldly temptation? Is it even a thing?

We can have useful thoughts on all those. (My answers, by the way, are: yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and probably)

But I know one thing for sure: ‘Leadership’ is not an excuse.

(Somewhere recently in an article about abusive leadership, I came across that phrase or something like it. If you can point me to it, I’d love to attribute it.)

So when we see churches where individuals are collateral damage for pastoral egos, where vision trumps compassion, where the pastor/teacher is unchallengeable, and where bullying is an acceptable price to be paid, we have to blow the whistle.

Because in gospel thinking, the ends never justify the means.  They never have to.  Gospel ends are only achieved by gospel means.  

So all those areas where we could have a useful discussion, are ruled by principles which are beyond debate.

The Fruit of the Spirit, in Leadership

In this case, I want to suggest, the fruit of the Spirit.  That nine-fold fruit, which stands in stark contrast to the works of the flesh in Galatians 5.  In case you need reminding, those works include discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy (Gal. 5:20-21). 

It should be a red flag for any pastor, group of elders, presbytery, or bishop (depending on your ecclesiology) when we hear stories about a church which are marked by those kinds of behaviours. Those will be the dark side of any Christian, and are to be put to death.  Every personality type can have an expression of all of those, and we are wise if we know that about ourselves. Talk about them, be aware of them, challenge and be challenged.

But here’s the positive checklist: is my leadership an expression of (not just flavoured with, an expression of) the fruit of the Spirit?  Here’s a suggestion of some questions; you can add to them or adapt them for yourself.

Is my leadership an expression of love?  Do the people in church know that I love them, serve them, want them to grow in their Christlikeness, value them, and respect them?

And where is it an expression of my love of myself, position, prestige, the spotlight, the platform, the accolade, the respect of my peers, my betters?

Is my leadership an expression of joy?  Like, am I genuinely delighted to meet up with people, to lead them in praise or prayer, to open God’s Word for myself and for them?  Actually, am I genuinely delighted to be a believer? Do I still experience the good news as good?

And where has it become a performance, a manufacturing of an experience for other which I am too busy, too occupied, too important to partake in myself?

Is my leadership an expression of peace?    Am I a peace-maker, a peace-bearer, a peace-carrier?  Am I leading from a place of quiet trust and certainty in God’s goodness?

And where have I developed sharp elbows, to implement a plan where other people’s questions are irritating roadblocks, and short tempers are the price to be paid for shiny goals?

Is my leadership an expression of forbearance?  Do I lose well?  Do I lose well on issues which are important to me? Am I comfortable saying that I don’t know, that I was wrong, that others know better than I?

And where have I noticed that I bear grudges, talk about people behind their back, keep a mental score card, find someone irritating before they open their mouths?

Is my leadership an expression of kindness?  Do I spent time with people, for their sake rather than mine?  Am I visiting widows and orphans in their distress?  Am I increasingly tender-hearted?

And where I have I started to see people as useful, or not?  People with potential, or not? Key, core, keen, or not?

Is my leadership an expression of goodness?  That is, is our leadership consistently marked by the goodness of Jesus and his blessings? Is he not just the one we talk about, but the one we model ourselves on, whose priorities we absorb and display?

And where is my leadership marked, not so much by ‘badness’ as lack of the right kind of savour.  I’m busy, preoccupied, worrying –  in other words, I’m a Martha rather than a Mary?

Is my leadership an expression of faithfulness?  For us, I think has to mean ‘full-of-the-faith’?  Is it richly biblical, locked into God’s Word as our self-correcting foundation? Is it as varied as biblical ministry should be, and as consistent?

And where have I started to listen to siren voices that tell me that other forms of ministry are available, other tools might be better? That God’s plan can achieved more efficiently and effectively?

Is my leadership an expression of gentleness?  Do I know where people hurt, and need the right kind of promise, and encouragement?  Can I deliver warning and admonishment without taking pleasure in being right?

And where have I started to push, or even bully?  Where do I use my quick way with words, my bigger knowledge of the bible, my access to the levers and switches, to get my way, faster?

Is my leadership an expression of self-control?  Am I moderate in my language, my expression, my self-references and my needs?  What about accessing rights and privileges which are not available to others?

And where have I begun to demand, to argue, to dominate?  Do I expect people to cover for my language, my temper, my jokes, my known rudeness?

In short, where has my Leadership become an excuse for my sinful behaviour?

6 comments on “‘Leadership’ is never an excuse”

  1. Brilliant Chris. Such a helpful list of questions to reflect on. That’s my next quiet day sorted!

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