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Immeasurable Leadership

During this semester of seminary, I read a book that helped me understand spiritual formation and its application to leadership. Spiritual formation is the process by which our personal identity is formed. This is our sanctification journey with Christ, as he seeks to form and shape us into his image, through our life experiences. It’s a process that takes us beyond our own personal salvation. Through it we are drawn to Christian community and we actively seek opportunities to serve and disciple others.[1] If we choose to base our personal identity on Christ, he works in and through us to influence others and to lead others into closer relationship with him.

Leadership is often defined as the ability to influence others. It is therefore easy to argue that all Christians are called to leadership, regardless of whether they hold a position or office in a church or ministry. Leadership development is a popular topic today in Christian circles, as we seek to influence and draw others into local churches and into relationship with Jesus Christ. The gold standard for Christian leadership is referred to as servant leadership, which seeks to replicate the style Jesus demonstrated in his ministry on earth. As ministry leaders, it is important to understand what servant leadership requires, and how we can be leaders like Jesus in a fallen world.

According to Andrew Seidel,  there are two motivations for servant leaders, “(1) the fulfillment of God’s mission for his or her ministry or organization and (2) the fulfillment of God’s purpose in the lives of the people who are part of the ministry or organization.”[2] Bearing this in mind, what is a servant leadership culture? How will we know when we have achieved it?

What we prioritize takes priority. In the thousands of years that have passed since the fall of mankind, our struggle has not changed. We prioritized Knowledge over Life then, and our natural inclination is still the same. We crave relationship, but we want to measure our achievements. We may not disagree with Seidel’s two motivations for servant leadership, but yet we are upset that there’s no clear measurement for our success as servant leaders.

That said, we can come up with many things to measure and prove.

  1. How many seats are filled on Sundays?

  2. Does that number increase over a period of time?

  3. How many people claim salvation during the year?

  4. How many are baptized?

All measurable. None of these things are bad. And yes, these statistics may say something about the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. But do you feel the tension here between Knowledge and Life? Why are we so drawn toward church statistics?

The irony is that Christianity is about relationship, but relationship isn’t easily quantifiable, nor is it something you can measure or prove.

Perhaps we need to become more comfortable with the fact that we cannot measure our success as servant leaders. I think Ephesians 3:19-20 will help us maintain this perspective. Christ’s love surpasses knowledge, and through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to do immeasurably more than we think we can.

[1] Paul Pettit, Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008),  19.

[2] Pettit, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, 180.

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