Leadership Development: You Are What You Eat–and You Reproduce It Too (part 1) 1

I remember a Public Service Announcement that would air on television whenever I would get home from elementary school.  It was this crazy 60-second cartoon of a strange character who would remind kids to eat healthy food.  His jingle included the phrase “You are what you eat from your head down to your feet!”

Leadership development is similar to this matter.  What we consume (e.g., models, books, conferences) on raising up leaders for our churches will affect how we equip others to do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-12).

A question we need to ask ourselves is, “What are we looking toward for guidance in the area of developing leaders?”

Obviously, we must give priority to the Scriptures. Even though the Bible was not written as a leadership training guide, there are numerous principles and examples that we should follow first and foremost.

However, my concern for most of us is that we are often falling short in two areas when it comes to raising up leaders for the harvest fields.

Results for Another Kingdom

First, we uncritically accept the latest and greatest leadership paradigm that is praised by the Harvard Business School or Forbes.  Now, while there is much we can learn from these and other similar resources (I enjoy reading from these two on a regular basis.), we must remember that the church is not a business, organization, or institution that is like what is found in corporate America.  There are radically different worldviews that support leaders in that world.

Just because a model works in the world and also works in the church to “produce results” does not make it right.  I fear that some of us will one day realize that what we thought were “Kingdom results” were results for another kingdom.  We won the sprint, but lost the marathon.  I pray that God will reveal to us where we are wrong and grant us the grace and courage to change where necessary.

Leadership Development Can’t Be Accomplished in a Greenhouse Alone

Second, we reproduce what we know and we know what was modeled before us.  Most of us only know of leadership development as a classroom experience.  Many of our schools and churches have taken a paradigm of leadership development from the public and secondary school systems and have limited leadership development to growth in knowledge.

Now, while knowledge is very important (Prov 19:2), it alone is not sufficient.  What Jesus modeled before his disciples (Matt 9:35), He sent them to do likewise (Matt 10:5-8).  Paul often told his readers to “imitate me” (1 Cor 4:16). Timothy was sent to “remind you of my ways in Christ” (1 Cor 4:17).  Praise was given for the Thessalonians who had become an example after seeing the example of the church planters (1 Thes 1:5-8), Timothy was challenged set an “example” (1 Tim 4:12) and to watch both his doctrine and his life (1 Tim 4:16).

Way of Insanity

The reality is that most of us have had a poor model of leadership development modeled before us.  And though we talk about wanting to see the multiplication of disciples, churches, and leaders, our paradigm to move us in that direction is an unlikely approach to get us there.

We continue to repeat the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.  That is the definition of insanity–and the way of the unwise leader (or should I say steward).

What are we to do? Are we stuck in a rut that we can never escape? I don’t think so.  But, I do think the change that is necessary will be difficult for us.

In my next post, I hope to share some practical matters to move us away from the unhealthy diet that most of us have been eating so that we may be more effective at raising up healthy leaders.

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