Leadership is an intentional effort to connect people to a world bigger than themselves.

This is the work of elders in the local church – and it shows up in businesses and schools and homes, as well as in athletic fields and government institutions. Some of us will lead one or two people at a time, while others of us will lead hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps even millions of people who are part of something greater than themselves.

The field of leadership remains a wild frontier within church world. Unlike the arts yet similar to politics, there is much to be done in reclaiming and reforming the practice of leadership in such a way that it furthers the planting of the gospel throughout our cities, across nations and around the world. Many of us have become weary of merely mimicking the practices of military leaders, political figures and athletic coaches. This fatigue, while understandable given some very real theological and philosophical distinctions between us and the world around us, has also created pockets of backlash which have made us unwilling to listen and learn from men and women who by God’s common grace have much to teach us about leadership.

As part of a widespread and ongoing effort to reclaim and reform leadership as critical to the mission of God and the advance of his kingdom, I’m convinced we must develop both the posture and practice of leadership that encompasses the kingdom of God (not just the local church) and that is empowered by the gospel.

Such leadership is not radically divorced from much of what passes as leadership in the world around us. We are not dualists or gnostics; therefore, it should not surprise us to encounter leaders whose lives and practices remind us that God in his providence has extended an extraordinary amount of grace, even to those who live in a state of rebellion against him. However, we do believe that the Holy Spirit works powerfully through the gospel to ignite certain elements of leadership that simply do not exist in their best and brightest forms apart from the hot-wiring of saving grace.

It is my contention that there are five primary elements to this kind of gospel-centered leadership. Men and women who lead from this perspective are:

  • Transparent – modeling a life of repentance and faith;
  • Ambitious – for the glory of God and the work of his kingdom in their context;
  • Generous – with their time, energy and resources because of the generosity of God towards them;
  • Intentional – equipping others to play their role in the work of God’s kingdom;
  • Loving – taking appropriate measures to know, teach, guide and protect those whom they lead.

As we delve further into each of these elements in future articles, a familiar picture of leadership should develop, as it is rooted in the imago Dei. And it is in this familiar snapshot where we find the brilliance of God in using ordinary people to serve as beacons that point the way to Jesus and his kingdom.