Christian Leadership

January 2nd, 2019

The disciples once asked Jesus, “What must we do in order to accomplish what God requires?” Jesus replied, “This is what God requires, that you believe in him whom God sent” (John 6:28-29 CEB). Our calling, the work that defines everything else about our vocation as leaders is to believe in the one God has sent. Our relationship to God is the deepest thing about us. That being right, other things will be right; that being wrong, nothing else can be as right as it might be.

Our bedrock grounding as leaders is in God. This grounding comes through deliberate and explicit attention to God through prayer and self-reflection. Leadership as vocation, Christian leadership, begins with self-leadership, clarifying our own heart, soul, and mind in order to find and show that our most basic identity, and our deepest and most concrete security lie in God—not in success, or in pleasing someone else, not in being seen as a good person, or being loved by a congregation or the faith community we lead, but in God.

Many leaders, especially those in the Wesleyan tradition, recall the bold assertion of John Wesley: “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth” (letter to Alexander Mather in Bristol, Aug. 6, 1771, The Letters of the Rev. John Wesley, MA. vol. 6 [London: Epworth Press], p. 272).

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Wesley recognized that God chooses to use preachers, lay or clergy, to effect God’s kingdom work in the world. The persons God uses, the ones who make the difference, are those completely yielded to God. All the capacities they possess are open to use for God’s purposes. They are, by their relationship to God, exercising a divine call to leadership as a way of love and a way of living.

I often punctuate my life with this prayer, “O Lord, give me the grace to be completely yours.” Psalm 42:1-2 (CEB) expresses this same yearning:

Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
     my whole being craves you, God.
My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.

Passion and yearning are essential dynamics for keeping our calling and sense of vocation alive. I practice a regular self- checkup on my yearning and passion, asking,

  • How does my present level of passion for the Lord compare to those early years when I first sought and knew him; those months when I struggled with God’s call upon my life?
  • Do the people I serve recognize in me a pervasive desire to see God more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly?

The Puritan writers and preachers talked about developing our passion for the Lord as “heart work.” John Flavil, a seventeenth-century English Puritan, said, “The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God.” Heart work is hard work, yet where we focus our passion determines the direction of our lives.

Excerpted from Christian Leadership by Maxie Dunnam. Copyright © 2019 Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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