What if leadership wasn't really a gift?

Church planters and pastors do three kinds of things.

They preach and teach God's Word, the fundamental task; they shepherd God's people, encouraging, exhorting, rebuking, correcting, what we often call pastoral ministry; and they lead, by designing and implementing structures and strategies for the life and mission of the church. It's a complex and varied set of responsibilities!

Of course, underlying this multi-dimensional task is the call on ministers to be exemplary in their discipleship to Jesus Christ, first and foremost meaning that the gospel of grace is a dynamic for life in their hearts, through deep repentance from idol structures and faith in Jesus - in other words, Christian maturity.

For years, I have thought that each of these three responsibilities was a mater of giftedness, so that the key was to make sure that ministers were gifted and then trained in these things.

But a secular book on leadership has changed my mind on that.

Leadership Agility, by Joiner and Josephs, sets out a powerfully insightful framework for understanding leadership. I would say that it is by far the best book on leadership I have read.

One of the things that stands out is his emphasis on character and personal maturity. His research shows that increasing levels of what he calls leadership agility - that capacity to engage in pivotal conversations, group leadership and whole organisational change in such a way that it results in growth and fruitfulness - is more to do with character than giftedness. In other words, the capacities that enable great leadership are the same things as personal - Christian - maturity.

This is good news and bad news at the same time.

The good news is that leadership is actually available to anyone, since personal maturity is available to anyone, through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

The bad news is that leadership is not just a skill to be learnt - a reasonably easy task - but takes the same self-honesty, the same humility and the same devotion that personal growth takes.

I had the opportunity to meet with Bill Joiner recently, and I'm hoping that we can partner to make available to church leaders in Australia the tools associated with the model. I'm looking forward to letting you know about opportunities to dig deeper.

Andrew Katay