SETTING THE STAGE

As I flew aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Zimbabwe, it finally came together. I have always been fascinated with the topic of leadership. For the past 35 years, I have had the privilege of leading in various contexts-- in the church, academia, an international organization, and a not-for-profit foundation. These experiences, combined with readings on the topic, have shaped my thinking about what effective leadership is all about.   So as I streaked across the African sky, I put pen on paper (or fingers on tablet) and began another journey…

 

There is a crisis of leadership in the evangelical circles today.

 

A sad reality in Christianity today is the fall from grace of tele-evangelists, best-selling authors, and mega-church pastors. Hardly a month passes by without another sensational collapse of a once-eminent “man of God”. When such moral failure happens in non-evangelical churches, we could say that it is because the gospel is not their real foundation. But when it happens to fellow evangelicals, we are at a loss for words. Not a few feel disappointed, even disillusioned, at the betrayal of trust by these leaders.

 

For every famous leader who fails, there are undoubtedly many more who become unfaithful to their calling. Their downfall mostly goes unnoticed, except in their church or organization. Just recently, one of the pastors we used to fellowship within our city, enticed a member of his church to unlawful sexual relations. Upon discovery, the church was plunged into a crisis, even as the pastor desperately clung to his position. Eventually, a group decided to leave and form their separate church. Countless variations of such stories are sadly too common in our midst.

 

I wrote this book with the Christian leader in mind. By this, I mean, a Christian who occupies a position of leadership, whether in the church or ministry context or a secular context. He can be a pastor, a Bible study leader, or a parent who leads his family. At the same time, she can be a manager in the office or a principal in a school. Moreover, this book is for those who see themselves as future leaders in some capacity. Admittedly, the bias of the book is on leaders serving in the church or ministry context. However, the principles enunciated here will apply more broadly to other settings where a Christian serves as a leader.

 

Let me be clear at the outset. This is not a book about being a super charismatic leader. My intention is not to write for those who see themselves as uniquely gifted or destined for great things. Instead, this book is designed for someone who wants to serve the Lord faithfully in a leadership capacity, no matter how small or large the sphere. You could be someone who wants to be an effective leader in your Bible study group or your office. Or you may be a young Christian who is dreaming of having some leadership role in your church. At the other end of the spectrum, you may have been serving as a leader for some time, but you feel that something is missing. You are holding this book in the hope that you may find some guidelines on how to improve your leadership skills. If you belong to any or a combination of the above, then this book was written for you.

 

I believe that in a vast majority of cases, it is the “ordinary” Christian leader who makes a difference in a church or the office. Super leaders do exist, but they are by far the exception rather than the rule. I am not saying you cannot be that person. I am convinced that the same principles that can be found in this book also apply to “super leaders”. If you become one, then glory to God indeed. But again, I challenge you to apply the principles of effective leadership faithfully and leave the results to God. I am convinced that the strength of the Lord’s work in every locality and context depends in no small degree on ordinary Christians who do their share in leading God’s people.

 

I must confess that I do not consider myself a born leader. Nor do I think I have attained some elevated status as a leader. Even now, I struggle to perform the myriad of duties I am called to do. However, I can testify that God can use us despite our weaknesses and failures to accomplish His purpose. I am no leader of a mega-church or a large organization. My leadership skills have been honed in the Trinity Bible Church, where I have been pastoring for more than 35 years, and in various positions I occupy in university and research organizations. Raising three children to adulthood with my wife has also deepened my understanding of what it takes to be a leader in a family context.

 

As I reflect, I realize that I can summarize all that I have learned about leadership using three Greek words-- logos, pathos, and ethos. According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, these are the three ingredients of persuasive rhetoric. Logos is the content of the message, pathos is all about the passion of the speaker, and ethos is the perceived character of the speaker[1].

 

In 1 Thessalonians 1:5, Paul captured the three-fold essence of his proclamation:

“because our gospel came to you not only in word [logos], but also in power and in the Holy Spirit [pathos] and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be [ethos] among you for your sake.”[2]

 

This book extends this concept to Christian leadership in general. My central thesis is that logos, pathos, and ethos are the three essentials of effective leadership. This is because leadership is also primarily an art of persuasion. I define a leader in this book as someone who has a compelling message (logos), which he/she conveys with passion (pathos) to his/her organization/people and which shapes his/her life (ethos). This book is divided into three main parts corresponding to these three key pillars of effective leadership.

 

Quite apparent from its length, this book is not exhaustive in that it doesn’t cover all that can be learned about the topic of leadership. Instead, it introduces a new perspective on looking at leadership. The book distills in an easy to remember way the critical pillars of being a leader. There are numerous books out there that cover every imaginable area of being a leader. At the end of this book, I listed some titles that I found helpful to deepen your understanding and your skills as a leader.

 

So enough of the appetizer, let us start our journey together by reflecting first on what a Christian leader is.

 

Notes:

[1] Chapell, loc 468-478,

[2] Ibid., 495.

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