To be an effective leader one must possess and nurture godly character.  I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 give us a glimpse into the heart of a godly leader.  If you venture out beyond those texts you see a fuller view of the character God desires for leaders in His church.  This blog post will shine the light on one very important character trait and will give a word of caution to all in leadership.

Have you noticed how self-focused our culture has become?  In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned him about this trend in the culture (3:1-5).  We all see this.   It’s obvious even to the casual observer.  What may not be so obvious is how the self-focus of our culture is starting to creep into our churches.  In our western culture we have always been enamored by larger than life personalities, whether in sports or movies or even in politics.  But when we become enamored with larger than life personalities in the church we run the risk of leading the church away from Jesus.

Social media and communication technology at our fingertips is fueling the flame of self-focus.  Instead of using social media and technology to advance the cause of Christ, far too many leaders are drawing attention to themselves.  Here’s my word of caution to church leaders:  If you continue to increase, Jesus will most certainly decrease in your church.  Let us all take to heart the words of John the Baptist:  “He must increase, but I must decrease”  (John 3:30, ESV).

In this text, John the Baptist is teaching by example how to lead with humility.  His friends and followers were becoming irritated that John’s ministry appeared to be waning while the ministry of Jesus was growing in popularity.  This growing focus on Jesus did not trouble John, for he knew that his calling and responsibility was to point people to the Messiah and not to himself.  Do you understand your calling and responsibility?   Some say that the most basic responsibility of a medical doctor is to do no harm to the patient.  It should be said of church leaders that the most basic responsibility is to decrease so that Jesus will increase.

In their book, Building Leaders, Aubrey Malphurs and Will Mancini state, “Every Christian leader struggles to some degree with the dark side of the soul that gravitates toward position and power” (p.52).    We’re all vulnerable to pride and self-focus, to be the center of attention and the recipient of human praise.  In light of that tendency, Malphurs and Mancini say, “leaders are called to descend into greatness” (p. 52).  It is the paradox found in so many of Jesus’ teachings, including his interaction with the mother of James and John (Matthew20):  Great leaders are servant leaders.  When we decrease we get a ringside seat to see Jesus increase in our churches.   What a sight to behold!

I challenge all of us as church leaders to get out of the way so that God can be front and center in our churches.   It’s not about me, it’s all about Him!   Here’s some introspective questions for all leaders, especially for those serving as Lead Pastors:

  • When people leave church on Sunday morning, do they talk about me or do they talk about Jesus?
  • Do I elicit the compliments and praise of others?
  • Do my humble words ever get overshadowed by my proud behaviors?
  • Do I crave the spotlight?
  • Do I measure my value by how many Facebook “friends” I have or how many “likes” I receive for my “selfie” post?
  • Am I investing in future leaders thus divesting the attention that comes to me?
  • Do I assume the posture of student, asking questions of others?  Or, am I the one with all the answers?
  • Am I the first to acknowledge, “I don’t know”?
  • Do I like talking about me more than I like talking about you?
  • Is my priority to make friends or to lead God’s people?

John the Baptist was a leader who understood what God had called him to do,  It was not about self-focus but was all about pointing others to Jesus.  John said, “I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him” (John 3:28, NIV).  As church leaders, we are sent ahead of Him, called to prepare the way.  If we are to succeed in this calling, we must step aside.

INCREASE / DECREASE.   On which side of this equation do you find yourself?  If Jesus is going to be glorified and increase in our church, we must decrease.