Sometimes I think we make life more difficult than it has to be. I also think we do this in ministry too! These days we hear a boatload of talk about leaders, leadership and even leadership development. There are books too many to number about this subject today, and a conference that promises to make you a better leader every time you turn around. But, where are the leaders?
Every time I sit down with a church staff, whether we are dealing with conflict resolution, strategic planning or something else, the subject of leadership often rears its head. It's in times like these that I wish I could conjure up a few leaders for the situation at hand, but I can't. So I wonder, where are the leaders?
The apostle Paul wrote some enlightening words regarding this subject to the church in Rome many years ago that can be of help to us today when we talk about leadership. In a passage where he is speaking about the church body (in this case, the local church of believers in Rome) and how it is made up of many members he writes the following words:
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them; in prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:6-8).
It's clear from Paul's words that not everyone has been given the gift of leadership. Leadership development is first and foremost the development of those who have this gift. They are encouraged to use this gift with zeal. They are to eagerly use this gift for the advancement of God's kingdom. What this means is that we do not have a shortage of leaders or potential leaders. God has in fact supplied the church with leaders that are to be encouraged to serve with zeal.
We have the responsibility of identifying those who are leaders and encourage them to serve the Lord with zeal. We must give them opportunities to develop those God-given skills. If, however, they are not gifted in this way, we also need to tell them so. There's not much worse in the church or in any organization, than those who are in positions to lead, but cannot because they are in fact not leaders.
In my denomination, we are providing opportunities for potential leaders to emerge. Whether they are part of a Lead Team where other pastors, pastor's wives or women in ministry can affirm these gifts in them or serving as interns in an AIMS site where a mature mentor can help them grow in their giftedness and become more effective as leaders, leadership development is happening.
Books, conferences, and other resources for being equipped as a leader are readily available but nothing can replace the understanding that you have the gift and the zeal to serve. Leaders first and foremost get their direction from the Lord. They stand out even as they blend in with those they lead.
I would agree that we are in need of those who will take up the role of being leaders. The church needs them! Families need them! Denominations need them! Our country needs them! Leaders are needed everywhere. Perhaps we shouldn't be asking the question "Where have all the leaders gone?" Instead, we should be proclaiming loud and clear that leaders everywhere should stand up and serve with zeal! God has gifted you to lead and there are plenty of resources available along the way to help you be a better leaders. The bottom line is this: if God has gifted you to lead and you know it, lead!