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May 1, 2018

The Leadership Solution

By Micah Fries

The Leadership Solution

Everyone, and every church, needs leaders. The size of your church is inconsequential to that fact. Some leaders are financially compensated, and some are not. Some work 10 hours per week, and some work 60. But all churches need leaders, and determining who those leaders ought to be can be challenging. In fact, I have learned that no leader is better than the wrong leader, every single time. Leaders have the potential to drive the vision of the church, or shipwreck the vision of the church, faster and more thoroughly than anyone else in the church. Far too often, we feel a pressing need to simply fill an open position, regardless of whether the right person is available or not. In filling the position with the wrong person, we can do almost irreparable harm to the institution or organization that we lead. 

So how do we find the right person? Over the years I have been in ministry, I have found that the following rubric is incredibly helpful for me to identify the right kind of leader. You will notice that at least part of this rubric is not original to me. In fact, I would argue that none of this rubric is original to me. I have taken various parts of it from leaders that I have learned from, but I hope that passing it along to you can benefit you as much as it has benefited me. 

The rubric that I use to identify and select leaders is: Character – Competency – Calling – Camaraderie. 

Character

Who you are matters more than what you do. This is an absolute truism. That’s not to say that what we do does not matter, because it does. But if who we are (our character) is not consistent, than what we do can be completely destroyed by our lack of character. 

When looking to the qualifications of an “overseer” or church leader from 1 Timothy 3:2, we find that the leader must first be “above reproach.” In other words, their character should be sound. This is among the reason why, at the church I lead, we prioritize selecting leaders (whether volunteer or paid) from among our current church members. This allows us to see, examine and know the character of those we are bringing into leadership positions. 

Competency

This one would seemingly be a priority for any position, but it is surprising to me how consistently we ignore this expectation. There seems to often be an opinion that floats around in church circles that being a decent person who knows the Bible a bit and has a desire to serve is sufficient to lead. This is tragic and often leads to poorly led ministries and churches which fail to reach people and which can often even harm people, contributing to what I refer to as pastoral malpractice (or pastoral treatment that proves to ultimately be negligent, causing harm).

This should be simple enough, but, because we often neglect it, it bears clearly stating. Find leaders who know what they are doing and who are good at doing it. 

Calling

This one can be difficult to identify but is, I believe, a biblical expectation. Consider, again, the words of Paul to Timothy when he is describing the qualifications of a leader in 1 Timothy 3:1. If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work. Notice the language of desire, or aspiration. The clear picture is that there is within the right leader a sense that God is leading them to the task and, I believe, the clear New Testament picture is of the church affirming that desire in the potential leader. 

So I would argue that there ought to be a sense of desire, or God-given calling in the potential leader that is affirmed by the local church.

Camaraderie

Finally, and this one cannot be overstated, there must be a genuine sense of camaraderie among the other leaders that the potential leader will work with. Do we get along? Do we like each other? Do we share a common vision? It is intriguing to me how often church problems are accused of being related to theology or strategy but, when evaluated closely, are actually just personality conflicts operating under the guise of theological or methodological conflict. 

Maybe the most important characteristic that is rarely talked about in a church leader and, as far as my experience justifies, is almost never taught in a seminary setting, is people skills. The ability to work together and get along is a necessary requirement for healthy teams to function well. 

The truth is that there is no fool-proof way to select leaders. Even the best at leader acquisition will have failures. People are not robots and will never be perfect, both on the side of the one selecting leaders and the side of the leaders who are being selected. So, find a rubric that works for you (whether it be the one I suggested, or another) pray hard, work the rubric and trust God’s leadership as you move forward in his mission. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Micah Fries

Micah Fries (@micahfries) is the Senior Pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN and is a frequent speaker in churches and conferences. He served as a pastor in Missouri and an international church planter in West Africa. He holds a Master of Divinity and a Bachelor of Arts in Theology. While in college, Micah met Tracy, and they married in May of 2000. Micah is currently a student in the Ph.D. program at Southeastern Seminary, where he is studying North American Missiology.

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