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Avoid the Trap of Seeing Every Member as a Potential Leader, by Jeff Jernigan

Jeff_JerniganIn last month’s column I addressed a common pattern observed among senior pastors and para-church ministry CEO’s. Church or ministry leaders were encouraged to avoid falling into the trap of seeing every church/ministry member as a potential lay leader and possibly contributing to an attitude that “if you are not aspiring to greater leadership you are not growing as a Christian.”

In this follow-up column, how to identify members who are truly gifted to consider assuming a leadership role is addressed.

First, start with your own attitude and lifestyle. It’s critical to adopt a mindset and associated behaviors that are in keeping with God’s direction for your life. In the New Testament Beatitudes, Jesus describes this lifestyle as consisting of:
• Recognition of our helplessness,
• Sorrowfulness for our sinfulness,
• A commitment to gentleness and keeping our strengths under control,
• A natural hunger for forgiveness and right living,
• Living with mercy toward others (knowing mercy relieves the consequences of sin in the lives of others as well as our own),
• A commitment to purity in our hearts and thoughts,
• A willingness to resolve conflicts in our relationships with others and God, and
• A loyalty to our faith that is willing to be persecuted, if it comes to that extreme.

A lofty set of goals, to be sure!

For those that God does call and gift for greater service, what characteristics should we look for in their lives for those who have true leadership potential? Start with identifying someone who demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Consider someone who already demonstrates leadership (1 Timothy 5:22) within your organization or within his or her personal or occupational life.

That potential lay-leader should also possess equipping gifts (Ephesians 4:11-12), and be someone already working daily at what God requires (Deuteronomy 10:12, Mark 12:30, Luke 17:10).

Perhaps if we stop trying to make everyone a leader, those naturally gifted leaders who possess the above characteristics will step forward for such roles. Likewise, other members will no longer fear being pursued and “volunteered” for an ill-fitted leadership role.

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