Leadership Principles for Everyone – Part 5

Continuing from Part 4.

Leadership Principle #16: A Leader Doesn’t Abdicate His Role in the Face of Opposition

If you want to see proof of how important leadership is, don’t miss the fact that Satan often aims his most ferocious attacks at key leaders. Among all the wicked devices the evil one employs, some of his very favorite weapons are half-truths and deliberate lies that breed rebellion and attempt to undermine the trust people have placed in godly leaders. Against the very best of leaders, Satan will invariably try to stir up a Korah (the rebel who organized a revolt against Moses [read Numbers 16])… To defy a leader who is called by God and faithful to the truth is a peculiarly satanic sin. It is therefore appropriate that Paul said the false teachers who had confused the church in Corinth were satanic emissaries – “ministers” of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). That is exactly what they were: tools of the devil, evil agents in his campaign against the cause of truth. They had deliberately focused their main offensive against Paul and his leadership. It was a strategic and well-placed assault, because if the powers of darkness could nullify Paul’s influence in Corinth, that already-troubled church would be completely at the mercy of the false apostles. Paul was not eager to defend himself personally, but neither was he willing to abandon the Corinthian church to wolves. So he spent a considerable amount of time in 2 Corinthians doing something he found distasteful: defending his own character and credentials (pp. 87-88).

Paul’s competency as a leader and an apostle was under direct attack. We’ve already seen how his sincerity was being questioned. The false teachers were also trying to provoke doubts about his adequacy to lead. They attacked his character, his influence, his calling, and his humility. They claimed Paul was not qualified to lead. He was inadequate, they said (p. 88).

Paul was being attacked on several fronts: his character, his influence, his calling, and his humility. The false apostles who had successfully infiltrated the Corinthian church had relentlessly assaulted him by striking repeatedly at each of those targets. Paul was somewhat on the horns of a dilemma as he defended himself. He knew that no matter what he said in his self-defense, the false apostles would try to use it as proof that he was proud, egotistical, or boastful. They would try to twist whatever he said into another accusation against him. Yet he had to defend himself, because he was the founder and leader God had chosen, equipped, and appointed for the Corinthian church. If they wouldn’t listen to him, they would not hear the truth at all. He was not about to abandon these people whom he loved to evil, false, spiritually incompetent leaders (pp. 89-90).

One truth every leader will eventually discover is that people are shockingly fickle. It’s amazing how easily they can be swayed by lies about a leader whom they knew and love. We see this all the time in contemporary life. Sometimes it seems, the more a government leader tries to be a principled person of integrity, the more vilified he or she will be in the media. Gossip tabloids exist to publish deliberate lies about well-known people. Even the mainstream press seems bent on discrediting leaders who seem especially worthy of respect. The victims of such lies all know how fragile true loyalty can be. That’s because the fallen human heart is bent toward rebellion (cf. Deuteronomy 31:27; Acts 7:51) (pp. 90-1).

The false teachers had evidently insinuated that there was a hidden agenda in Paul’s leadership – a dark side, a sinful motive, or a secret life others did not know about. They had attacked his character and were trying to destroy his credibility. So he replied, in effect: “You mean you don’t know me well enough to know that is a lie?” The frustration of Paul’s heart comes through in the question he asks. All his labors, his teaching, his preaching, his prayers, his fellowship with the Corinthians and his ministry in their midst, his love for them, the tears he had shed for them – did all of that mean nothing? Did he need to go all the way back to the beginning and establish crebility with them all over? (p. 92).

When I read these words of Dr. MacArthur, I can’t help but to think that there are countless pastors all around the world who can identify with him: “Been there, done that,” or “Going through that now,” or “Will go through that.”

Leadership Principle #17: A Leader is Sure of His Calling

Those who are unsure of their own vocation cannot possibly be effective leaders. Nothing is more debelitating to leadership than self-doubt. People who have qualms about their own giftedness or calling never make good leaders, because at the most basic level they are uncertain about whether what they are doing is right. They will naturally be racked with indecision, hesitant, timid, and fainthearted in every choice they must make. As we have seen, those things are antithetical to the essential qualities of good leadership (p. 97).

Such confidence is a great and necessary strength in leadership – to be so secure in your giftedness, so emphatic about your calling that no trial, however severe, could ever make you question your life’s work. Effective leadership depends on that kind of resoluteness, courage, boldness, and determination (p. 98).

People in leadership who indulge in self-doubt will always struggle, because every time things get difficult, they question the validity of what they do. Should I be here? Should I go elsewhere? Should I get out completely? Unless you have absolute confidence that you’re called and gifted for what you are doing, every trial, every hardship will threaten to deter you from your objective… Real leaders desperately want to win. Or, rather, they expect to win – to achieve the objective (p. 99).

Leadership Principle #18: A Leader Knows His Own Limitations

In no way did Paul imagine himself intrinsically adequate for the task to which God had called him. And that realization kept him dependent on divine grace in every aspect of his leadership. Thus he exemplifies another basic principle of all wise leadership. Those whom the world holds up as leaders often exude arrogance, cockiness, egotism, and conceit. Those things are not qualities of true leadership; they are actually hindrances to it (p. 101).

Here’s a principle to bear in mind: No competent leader is going to be anxious to impress people with his credentials. Leaders who are truly able are qualified because of their character. They are easily identified, not by letters of commendation, but because of the influence they have on others. They are people who are confident of their calling, and yet at the same time, they know they are utterly dependent on God as the source of their true power (p. 103).

Leadership Principle #19: A Leader is Resilient

This is a marvelous partner to the virtue of humility. The leader, while knowing his own weakness, must be strong and stalwart. Leaders are perpetually beset with trials. After all, leadership is about people, and people cause problems. Some people are problems. The leaders, while being fully cognizant of his own frailty, must nonetheless find strength to endure every kind of trial – including pressure, perplexity, persecution, and pain (p. 116).

Leadership Principle #20: A Leader is Passionate

The person who is detached and indifferent is no true leader. All leaders must have passion, and spiritual leaders especially must be driven by an intense passion for the truth, as well as a deep, fervent, and abiding love for Christ. It is impossible to maintain such affections and be passive or unemotional (p. 124).

Leadership Principle #21: A Leader is Courageous

No one who lacks the courage of basic convictions can possibly be an effective leader. People don’t follow cowards. At times, the leader’s courage is expressed in confrontation (p. 134).

We are fighting for the preservation and proclamation of the truth. We are fighting for the honor of Jesus Christ. We are fighting for the salvation of sinners, and we are fighting for the virtue of saints. In fact, for every good and noble effort of Christian leaders in business, politics, education, the military, or any other legitimate pursuit, there is inevitable engagement with the kingdom of darkness. Since all Christians, in whatever they do, are supposed to be engaged in the advance of Christ’s kingdom, they face opposition from the powers of evil (p. 137).

Obviously, if we are in a battle for truth, the fortresses we need to demolish are the bastions of lies – wrong thoughts, wicked ideas, untrue opinions, immoral theories, and false religions. These are ideological forts – philosophical forts, religious forts – spiritual strongholds made of thoughts, ideas, concepts, opinions. In such ideological citadels, sinful people try to hide and fortify themselves against God and against the gospel of Christ (p. 140).

That is why I often say that the battle for Christian sanctification is often cognitive or mental; it rages in one’s mind. Isn’t it any wonder that Paul exhorts us to “renew our mind” so that we may prove (in Greek it means to test or discern) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2)? It would do your soul good if you simply go through all the verses in the Bible where the word “mind” appears (it helps to have a Bible concordance).

Leadership Principle #22: A Leader is Discerning

Spiritual warfare is all about demolishing evil lies with the truth. Use the authority of God’s Word and the power of the gospel to give people the truth. That is what will pull down the fortresses of falsehood. That is the real nature of spiritual warfare… What does all this have to do with leadership? One of the fundamental qualifications for spiritual leadership is a knowledge of the truth, an ability to recognize lies, and skill in using the truth to refute the lies (p. 141).

One of the key requirements Paul listed for elders in the church was that they have to be skilled enough with the Word of God to “be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). One who is not able to engage in the spiritual warfare on this level is simply not equipped to lead well. Furthermore, you cannot be a good leader and avoid the warfare. As Paul’s life demonstrated, the more effective you are as a leader, the more the enemy will bring the battle to you. That is the nature of leadership. We therefore cannot lead well or fight the battle well unless we learn the Scriptures and acquire skill in using God’s truth to answer lies (p. 142).

Stay tune for Part 6.

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