Some churches grow and others don’t. Some (groups of) leaders excel, while others battle to get going. There might be many reasons why churches (and for that matter organisations and institutions) grow or decline, but one crucial factor is the leadership of that church or organisation. In one church I served for fourteen years, the church grew with leaps and bounds, but in another church, well how would I put it……?
One way to understand David’s success is to notice the kind of men who followed him as described in 2 Samuel 23:8-23. During the time he was being hunted by Saul, David gradually built a fighting force of several hundred men. Some were relatives, others were outcasts of society, and others were in trouble with the law. They all had at least one trait in common – complete devotion and loyalty to David. Their achievements made them famous. They were able soldiers and military leaders, they shared many special skills, though they were often outnumbered, but they were consistently victorious. Among these men were élite military groups like “the Three” and “the Thirty.” They were true heroes.
Scripture gives the impression that these men were motivated to greatness by the personal qualities of their leader. David inspired them to achieve beyond their goals and meet their true potential. Greatness is often inspired by the quality and character of leadership. Even a small force of able and loyal men can accomplish great feats.
Competent leaders and leaderships know the importance of building a team. But how is this accomplished? Jesus provided us with an example in Matthew 16:13-20. There’s one factor that may be more important to effective leadership than leadership qualities or extensive training. Effective leaders “simply need to believe in their purpose and their people.”* The stronger the belief, the more it will enable leaders to instinctively strike the right balance between action and patience as they work to build effective teams. Jesus illustrated this principle more effectively than anybody else. When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” he wasn’t engaging the fisherman in an intellectual exercise. If Peter was to lead the church he would have to have a grasp on the identity of Christ and his purpose. The disciples in general had the common view that Jesus was one of the great prophets, but Peter didn’t blink an eye before answering, he boldly declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). When Peter confessed that Jesus was the “Christ” he exhibited an understanding of the Lord’s purpose. Peter declared that Jesus was indeed the long-expected Messiah, He was the Christ, the Saviour. He had come to save all who would trust in him.
Jesus responded not only by affirming Peter’s God-given insight, but also by expressing his confidence in the disciple’s future role in leading the church. While theologians may debate about the exact meaning of Jesus’ words, one thing is clear: Jesus entrusted Peter with a key leadership role. And that step was crucial to the future development of the team of men and women who were to go to the Roman Empire with the gospel.
The leaders we follow and the causes to which we commit ourselves will affect our lives. David’s effectiveness was clearly connected with his awareness of God’s leading. He was a good leader when he was following God’s leading. Do you know whom the people you respect most are following? Your answer should help you decide whether they deserve your loyalty. Do you also recognise God’s leading in your life? No one can lead you to excellence as your Creator can.
*Taken from John R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization. Copyright © 1993 by McKinsey & Company Inc., Boston: Harvard Business School Press.