Christian leadership is a privilege as well as a responsibility. Itís a privilege because not everyone is called to leadership. Itís a responsibility because Godís expectation from those in leadership is much greater than what He expects from average Christians. The Lord in His sovereign grace chose me to be a leader even before I entered fulltime Christian service in 1975 at the age of 28. I had the privilege of leading the prayer group in the College campus during my student days. Why the Lord chose me to found and lead a mission from 1971 is beyond my understanding. I can only say that it is all because of His grace.
The four decades in Christian leadership has been a time of learning for me. Though I had been quite successful in the ministry, I have learnt more from my failures than from victories. I share here with my fellow-leaders and the future leaders some of the precious lessons I have learnt over the years, at times the hard way. I write with a burden that they might not repeat my mistakes, but go for beyond what I could accomplish. The insights from the Scriptures and the input from Servants of God have kept me strong and steady in demanding and challenging situations.
Under Part One I write 10 things a leader must do, and under Part Two 10 things a leader must not do. I present these counsel with all humility and concern.
1. Maintain a spirit of prayer.
There are three secrets for a successful ministry ó First prayer, second prayer, third prayer! Because, it is neither by might nor by power but by Godís Spirit that all true work of God is accomplished. It is possible to begin in the Spirit and end in flesh. God anoints His men rather than their methods and machinery. Jesus accomplished so much in three years and six months but He never allowed any work to crowd out prayer from His life. None of us need be busier than He. There is a freshness about a leader who keeps inhaling the fragrance of prayer. If we do not learn to carry our ministerial burdens to the Lord in prayer, we will be crushed by them and finally collapse. Prayer means exchanging our heavy burdens for the light yoke of Jesus (Mt 11:28-30). The work is always great and the harvest always plenty. But the command of Jesus is, "Pray therefore" before "Go therefore!" (Mt 9:38; 28:19). Leonard Ravenhill writes, A minister who is not praying is straying. Travelling is important but travai1ing even more. Preachers are in danger of asking the people to pray for them but neglecting personal prayer. Paul said, "I bow my knees" and then he urged the people, "You strive together with me in your prayers" (Eph 3:14; Rom 15:30).
2. Have a disciplined study life.
Apostle Paul admonished Timothy the young minister to "give attention to reading" (l Tim 4:13). "For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the Law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts" (Mal 2:7). The early hours of the day are best for meditation and unhurried study. It is possible to preach sermons with a superficial knowledge of the Scriptures. We should get deep into the Word using the study aids available. "I donít refer to any study help or commentary but learn directly from God!"ó So have I heard from more than one person. Though this sounds spiritual, it is not Scriptural. Paul instructed Timothy to teach faithful men what all he had learnt from him and let the process continue (2 Tim 2:2). God has placed "teachers" in the Church for its growth and edification (Eph 4:11). Teachers can either be heard or read. The only way to be benefitted from the teachers of the past or a distant country is to read their writings. Therefore use Commentaries and Study Bibles freely. No one prevents you from going beyond them. Read as much as possible. People should learn atleast a few new things everytime they hear you. Travelling time can be profitably used for reading. (Click: Be a Bible Student!)
3. Spend sufficient time with your family.
Every leader should maintain this order of priorityóGod first, family second and ministry third. Reversal of this order means serious consequences. Let no preacher say, "I am sacrificing my family for the ministry." See what Godís word says: "If a man does not know how to rule (manage) his own house, how will he take care of the Church of God?" (1 Tim 3:5). The wife does not want a preacher at home but a husband, and the children not a leader but a father. Spend quality time with the family and be involved in domestic affairs like marketing, gardening, cleaning, etc. Peter cared for his mother-in-law. Jesus knew how much tax was to be paid. The disciples knew the cost of a perfume. Play indoor or outdoor games with the family members. Have regular vacationing. Donít always talk religion but enjoy the jokes of the children. Eat together and have relaxed chats while dining. If possible, take your wife with you for ministry. In any case donít be separated for long. Donít share the defects of your wife with the women you meet in your ministry. You are in for trouble. When writing letters, address the husband or both the husband and wife. Let your wife reply personal letters to women. If your wife is not capable of handling such correspondence, direct the candidates to women ministers. "Discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you" (Prov 2:11).
4. Keep your body fit.
The body is the temple of God and it must be properly maintained (1 Cor 3:16). Eat balanced food and avoid overeating. Timely meal and good rest will give you extra years of service. Go to bed early and get up early. Do some daily exercise. Do lot of walking and bicycling. Donít get addicted to motorised vehicles. Preachers should not think that bicycling is below their dignity. It is a false Indian prestige. Upto His thirtieth year Jesus was a busy carpenter, and during the next three and a half years he did so much of walking and mountain-climbing. He carried His own cross. He kept His body trim and fit. Praise God for comforts but donít be addicted to them. Simple living and high thinkingóthis should be our watchword. Flee sexual immorality. It is against your own body (1 Cor 6:1.8). You will lose your anointing and strength. Have a periodical medical check-up and attend to any problem immediately (1 Tim 5:23). Claim divine health (3 Jn 2).
5. Listen patiently to counsellors and critics.
"Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety" (Prov 11:14). "Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more" (Eccl 4:13). When we reach certain level of popularity, more and more worldly people will surround us. The simple but godly friends wi1l go unnoticed. The Book of Psalms begins with a warning: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly." Criticisms will not appear pleasant to us, but if we prayerfully and patiently consider them we will be greatly benefitted. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy (the ungodly) are deceitful" (Prov 27:6). Herbert Vander Lugt says, "When someone criticizes you, resist the impulse to find an excuse for your actions. Donít look for ways to defend yourself. Donít become angry. Listen gratefully, and do what is right. Thatís how to benefit from criticism!"
6. Build nextline leadership.
In the Old Testament the leadership was mostly singular. But there is a definite shift to the plurality of leadership in the New Testament. The words bishop or pastor or elder refer to one and the same office and these ministers are always mentioned in the plural throughout the New Testament (Acts 14:23; 20:17; Phil 1:1; 1 Thess 5:12; Tit 1:5; Heb 13:7,17,24; Js 5:14). This is Godís definite plan for leadership for any New Testament ministry. A leader should be delivered from the lust of keeping the sole authority and absolute control of the ministry with himself. We have only one head and that is Christ. All others including the leaders are only organs of the Body. We must share responsibilities and delegate authority to men on whom we find the necessary grace bestowed. Leaders must voluntarily retire to give opportunity to the nextliners and stand behind the young leaders to support and counsel. People generally will not be mature enough to accept this arrangement but leaders should boldly take such steps counting on Godís enabling grace. The death of a founder-leader should in no way slow down the onward march of a ministry.
7. Maintain balance in ministry.
We must avoid extremes in preaching and practice lest we become spiritual eccentrics. Preach both about Heaven and Hell, love of God and His righteousness, sanctification and service, First Advent and Second Coming, Calvary and Pentecost, salvation and hea1ing, prosperity and adversity, position in Christ and condition, gifts and fruits of the Spirit, personal soulwinning and corporate ministry, revival and evangelism, and so on. Only this way we can join Paul and testify, "I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:26,27). If we donít serve wholesome meal to the people who hear us regularly, we will send them around with tinted glasses and this will cause great harm to the overall growth of the Body of Christ. Also evangelistic and revival ministries must consider themselves as a supplement and not a substitute to the local church. The church is the building and the para-church organisations, so called, are a scaffolding. (Click: A Call to Balance!)
8. Let your love for people be genuine.
God so loved the world that He gave His Son (Jn 3:16). Christ so loved the Church that He gave Himself (Eph 5:25). Several healing ministries which begin with a compassion for people become commercialised in course of time. It is possible to continue to manifest the miraculous gifts of the Spirit without a genuine love. This awful possibility is explained in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." If we love and respect rich people more than the poor, it is actually love of money. Read James 3:1-4 and understand this truth. Some preachers are really blessed with tears in prayer (Acts 20:31), and if you donít have that grace, please donít go about telling your hearers and readers that you would pray for their problems "with tears." We can cheat people today but a day of reckoning is near. Meditating on Godís love towards people makes it easy for us to love them. We should constantly meditate on Calvary to keep our hearts broken and filled with divine love.
9. Examine your life and ministry periodically.
Setting aside one day every month and a couple of days twice or thrice a year for self-examination and introspection. This is a very healthy and helpful practice. The hymn-writer sang, "Take time to be holy." Jesus said, "Come apart." David prayed, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa 139:23,24). Investigation, interrogation and inspection! Success and blessing can easily blind our eyes to the plan and purpose of God. A sudden disaster will awaken us to realize the neglect of periodic overhauling. Open and transparent fellowship with reliable and mature leaders is a must for any preacher. Donít be a loner. When God convicts us of a particular action or a course we followed, we should have the courage to tell the people we were wrong. That is manliness. God will back us. John the Apostle lived closest to Jesus and he received greatest revelations. But he worshipped the angel twice. On both occasions he was corrected. He did not cover this fundamental mistake but faithfully recorded it (Rev 19:10; 22:8,9). (Click: Periodic check-up for Pastors)
10. Do everything with eternity in view.
Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame "for the joy that was set before Him" (Heb 12:2). Paul said, "But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil 3:13,14). He warned the ministers, "Let each one take heed how he builds... Each oneís work will become manifest; FOR THE DAY will DECLARE IT, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each oneís work, of what sort it is" (1 Cor 3:10,13). Success will be applauded here, but faithfulness rewarded THERE!
The Ten Commandments contain only two Doís but eight Doníts! The teaching of Christ and the apostles also had lots of Doníts. This was not because man fell into sin. Even before sin entered the world, God gave a Donít commandment to man. Therefore, eventhough the Doníts may appear negative we must take them as warnings and precautions against dangers for our own safety and wellbeing. Here are some Doníts for you in leadership. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
1. Donít copy other ministries.
We are all called to work in the same vineyard but Godís assignments to ministers differ. Some are called to be eyesósay, prophets. "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?" (1 Cor 12:17). Some are to be handsósay, helpers. Legs or feet may speak of pioneer missionaries, and so on. "Let every one remain with God in that calling in which he was called" (1 Cor 7:24). Donít change track in the race. Just because a particular type of ministry is more popular, successful or appealing to people, donít jump into it like the businessmen of this world. You have a race that is set before you. Run it with "endurance"ó patience, determination, steadiness, perseverance, resolution, courage (Heb 12:1). We can learn so many helpful things from other ministries but we should not lose the originality God has given us. When we start doing what God has not called us to do, we still will be finding some blessing but would have missed Godís best for us. God delights in variety. Look at the creation to appreciate His taste. "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?" (1 Cor 12:29). The answer is simply "no." We should be a voice, not an echo.
2. Donít exceed your limits.
Paul wrote, "I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith" (Rom 12:3). In the parable of talents, we find all were not given equal number of talents. One was given five, the other two and the next just one. Godís demand is only according to what is given to us. It is good to plan big projects but the Bible admonishes us to "sit down first and count the cost" whether we have enough to finish it. I have painfully watched many faith evangelists in the TV literally begging people to help pay the large pending bills or the huge bank loans. This does not bring glory to God. One of the broadcasting agencies in India tells of some evangelists who donít even reply its repeated reminders to pay their long dues of airtime cost. One should not try to do everything and get into trouble. Expansion is a blessing from God, but we can always run ahead of Him. Sometimes we fix and announce big targets which are not clearly guided by the Lord, and then to save our face before the people we turn heaven and earth and end up in fleshly methods. Also avoid sympathy appeals which actually let God down.
3. Donít compete with other ministries.
We need to draw inspiration from the progress of other ministries, but the realisation that we are all serving the same Lord and working towards the same goal will keep us from unhealthy competition. Look at the example of Jesus in John 4:1-3. "When the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John... He left Judea and departed again to Galilee." What a lesson! Years ago while attending an international conference a Western mission leader asked me how many fulltime workers we had. At that time we had just thirty and I gave that number. The leader of another mission in India was standing by my side. Without anyone asking him he said, "We have fifty!" This rat race should stop. We should die to our boasting of figures and achievements. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches;... He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (Jer 9:23; 1 Cor 1:31). We should learn to rejoice over the victories of another ministry. "Rejoice with those who rejoice" (Rom 12:15). God may bypass an older mission and bless a newly started one, as in the case of Saul and David. But we should never give place to envy. Envy is bone cancer! (Prov 14:30).
4. Donít violate rules.
The Christian life and ministry are compared to athletics, an army, a building, and so on. These are all governed by definite rules and regulations. Apostle Paul firmly said, "If anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Tim 2:5). The philosophy of the Christian ministerial world today is that the end justifies the means. Do anything, anyway, as long as it blesses the people and benefits the preacher. This is totally alien to the teaching of the Lord and His apostles. The Biblical principles should not be violated under any circumstance. God cannot honour such a work. The quality of the materials we use in our building will be tested on the final day by fireóeven the Word of God (1 Cor 3:12,13; Jer 23:29). A new brand of preachers has come up baptizing all their methods and practices with the formula, "God told me!" People are afraid to think or discern. It must be clearly established that God never contradicts His written Word. Letís beware of forgetting the Scriptural principles while evolving fund-raising techniques and promotional methods. Another sad thing is that defection of workers in ministries has become common. But the other ministries should not directly or indirectly encourage the defectors. Leaders should maintain high ethical standards. The 10th Commandment says, "You shall not covet your neighbourís manservant, nor his maidservant... nor anything that is your neighbourís" (Ex 20:17). What you would not want others do to you, donít do it to them!
5. Donít exaggerate.
"Let your ĎYesí be ĎYesí and your ĎNoí be ĎNo.í For whatever is more than these is from the evil one" (Mt 5:37). Almost every ministry has its magazine to report its news. We should be honest in reporting. God will judge us for what impression we leave on the readers rather than what information we serve. If 600 people attended our meeting, we do not bring glory to God by saying, "About 1000 people attended!" Because it is a lie, we actually honour the devil, who is a liar and the father of lies. The first petition in the Lordís prayer is, "Hallowed be Your name!" How often we have dishallowed His name by exaggerated and twisted reporting! For our people, anything above a few thousands is one lakh! Preachers should not exploit this. If a modern magazine reports the five-loaves-two-fish miracle, it will simply add two more digits to the 5000 and the photographic manipulation will make it appear true! The photographs sent by certain Indian agencies sometimes make the Western friends think that most of the Indians live on the streets, carry bowls begging from house to house, and are primitive tribes. They need pictures and we need dollars and thus we "help" each other! Letís repent of this sin of giving wrong impressions.
6. Donít aim to please men.
The testimony of Paul is a great challenge. "Do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Gal 1:10). We are called to bless people, not please them. Jesus is called "a stumbling stone and rock of offense" (Rom 9:33). And Paul speaks of the "offense of the Cross" (Gal 5:11). Several times we read in the gospels that the people were "offended at Him" (Mt 13:57; Mk 6:3). Once the disciples of Jesus came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" But He answered and said, "Every plant which My Heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind" (Mt 15:12-14). Donít hide the truth just to keep some rich and influential men with you. Donít soft-pedal while preaching that you may gain wide acceptance. John the Baptist did not garland the Pharisees and Sadducees saying, "What a privilege to have you in our campaign!" He simply called them, "Brood of vipers!" and urged them to repent. Apostle Paul asked the Galatian Christians, "Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" (Gal 4:16).
7. Donít project yourself.
John the Baptist said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). And Jesus told of John, "Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist" (Mt 11:11). It is sickening to see Christian magazines projecting individuals from cover to cover. The evangelist is photographed in all posesólike cine stars. After reading a magazine or listening to a message we should be able to exclaim, "What a wonderful Saviour we have!" and not "What a powerful preacher he is!" Donít go after titles. One of the greatest Indian apostles of the last century was just called Brother Bakht Singh. Jesus said, "You are all brothers" (Mt 23:8). There are institutions which offer a "Doctorate" for just Rs. 50/- or 100/-. Titles have become so cheap.
8. Donít be questionable in money matters.
Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by usóproviding honourable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (2 Cor 8:20,21). In some churches, the huge sums received by pastors as "tithes" from people are not accounted. Unaccounted money is black money. India Missions Association admits missions as members only if they have their accounts audited and duly submitted to the Government. We need financial accountability because we are handling public money. A minister should not keep his wife or any relative as the Treasurer. We should live above reproach. The Apostles left the business affairs which involved finance into the hands of "seven men of good reputation" chosen by the people (Acts 6:3). Billy Graham testifies, "All financial affairs of our Association are in the hands of the Board of Directors; I have no control over this aspect of the work. Along with the other evangelists on our staff, I am paid a salary by the Board. Our finances are audited... and the report is made available to our supporters." Thank God for the many leaders in India who can so testify. Examine whether your hands are clean.
9. Donít be selfish.
"There should be no division in the body, but that the organs should have the same care for one another" (1 Cor 12:25). "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). Look for opportunities to help other ministries. Share your resources and know1edge with them. It matters not who pounds the paddy provided it becomes rice! Also in your own ministry, donít always try to bring yourself and your family to the forefront. Give ample opportunities to others and endeavour to bring them up. As we get older, "Let the young men now arise, and play before us" (2 Sam 2:14). They should not wait for our death! Let them take up the leadership and we can always advise them from behind.
10. Donít spread evil reports.
"He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbour, but a man of understanding holds his peace. A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter" (Prov 11:12,13). When you hear something bad about a leader, the only thing you are permitted to do is to plead for him before the Throne for his restoration, and to exhort him privately. Doctrinal errors, heresies and unscriptural practices of course must be exposed and people warned. But the pulpit or the press should not be used for character assassination. When the backslidden Saul died, David said, "Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelonólest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph" (2 Sam 1:20). Two Scripture verses are conclusive: "We ALL stumble in Many things," "LOVE will COVER a multitude of sins" (Js 3:2; 1 Pet 4:8).
Let ministries grow! And ministers glow! And the Lord be glorified!