Many of our evangelical seminaries do an outstanding job in equipping our future pastors to become theologians, astute in the exegesis of the Scripture and versed in the biblical languages.  This is what I would call the science of pastoral leadership.  This aspect of leadership development is critical.  In writing his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul challenged the young pastor to “guard the good deposit” (1:14a).  The only way we can guard truth is to know truth, and so this science of leadership is foundational.  We must lead our people in the truth of God’s Word.

Having said that, I have become increasingly convinced that effective leadership requires more than science.  To really thrive in ministry a church leader must develop an artistic flair.  Call it finesse, if you will.  I call it the art of leadership.  By this I mean the ability to understand people and work with them in such a skillful way that God uses you in transforming them.

If, as stated in my last blog, leadership is about leveraging influence for the purpose of developing fully devoted followers of Christ, then I believe it will take more than the skill of exegesis.  It will require the skillful handling of people!  In my view our seminaries have not done as good a job in this arena.  Some pastors and lay leaders find themselves in a situation where they have mastered the text but have fallen short on the relational side of ministry.

When Paul wrote that second letter to Timothy, it wasn’t just to strengthen the science of his leadership, but to model the art of working with others.  Notice his opening words:  “To Timothy, my dear son . . . Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy” (1:2a, 4).  Paul and Timothy had developed an intimate spiritual relationship.  It was in the context of this relationship that Paul leveraged his influence for the sake of the kingdom.  Paul was a master theologian, but he also mastered the art of leadership.

The art of leadership has to do with understanding people, developing authentic relationship with them, and showing them you care.  It has to do with knowing when to speak and when to listen, for we all have a story in need of an audience.  It has to do with skillfully handling the difficult situations in which people find themselves, helping them to navigate conflict with others.  It has to do with motivating people toward God sized objectives, when the realities of everyday life stand right in the way.

The difference between the science of leadership and the art of leadership is like the difference between “What?” and “How?”.  The first speaks to content while the second speaks to methodology.  The art of leadership is the manner and method of our working with people, and it is this aspect of leadership that could benefit from added attention.

Moses is an example of a leader who had mastered the science of leadership but was lacking in art form.  In Exodus 18 we have the account of Moses operating in his role as judge, hearing and arbitrating the disputes of the Israelites.  By every indication he was a good arbitrator and was fulfilling his God-given responsibilities with technical skill.  The problem was in how he was leading.  It took an intervention by his father-in-law to get him to see the problem.  Jethro confronted him with the fact that if he continued to operate in the manner in which he was, he would burn out and the people would become dissatisfied.  I’m sure Moses loved the people, but they may not have experienced that love because of his way of leading.  He listened to Jethro and began the process of becoming a more artful leader.

Why does any of this matter?  From my vantage point the American Church is dividing not multiplying.  The remedy is found partly with the application of theological skill; but beyond that, it will require the art of leadership.  God has entrusted his people to be under our care (I Peter 5:2) and since people, unlike widgets, are dynamic and have a sinful nature, it will require us to use finesse.

I pray that God will bless you as you develop both the science and the art of your leadership.