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Leading by the Spirit through Community

Leadership models matter because they influence how we think, and how we think determines how we act. Are there distinctive principles that should mark we lead in God’s work? If so what are they?

To focus the question more, let’s ask, “What is that makes leadership in a Great Commission movement unique and different from leadership in other areas of activity?” The only way to answer this question is to dig into the same book that gives us the Great Commission: the Bible. What can the Scriptures teach us about what makes leadership in God’s work unique?

The Bible’s Leadership Story

Rather than looking at specific texts, I’d like to “open the lens” and consider the grand sweep of the Bible’s “leadership story” across the whole span of our creation’s history. The diagram below attempts to capture the main principles.Staring from the top we have:

(Click to View Larger)

(1) God’s decisions in eternity (right and left) followed by

(2) Creation (on the left) and the renewed creation in the New City (on the right);

(3) Our world’s collapse into sin (left) with final judgment of sin (left);

(4) The penalty for sin on the cross in humility but one day he will return in glory (right).

(5) The time in which we live, the age of the Spirit and the Body.

Leadership in Community by the Spirit

Our unique time (in the center marked by the red arrow) is an age during which God is calling people to join his new human community. Those of us who follow Christ are entrusted with this invitation and empowered by His gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to counsel and empower us for this task.

Two primary distinctive qualities that are to characterize our leadership, therefore, are attention to the Spirit and the Community. Leadership in service of the Great Commission depends vitally on the power and activity of the Holy Spirit. It is the life-giving power of the Spirit that produces rebirth to spiritual life. It is the conviction of the Spirit that draws people to respond when we give the invitation.

But we also lead together. Indeed “leadership” implies the collective action of a group. But there is much more than that simple observation. It is the “manifestation of the Spirit” that is given for the “common good” to indwell His followers individually and as a body (1 Corinthians 12.7). We are to lead by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are to lead together. It is no accident that Paul’s profound explanation of the work and gifts of the Spirit immediately precedes his extraordinary exposition of the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13. It is the collective energy and capacity of a mobilized community that we need, not just individual effort however extraordinary.

Are there distinctive principles that should mark we lead in God’s work? The answer is, “Yes!”

We are to Lead in Community by the Spirit.

What this means in practice is a rich topic that deserves more than can be said in a short article. 


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Guy Saffold

I’ve observed leaders for many years, always asking the question, “What should a person do to lead in more Christian ways?” It’s often not an easy question to answer in the midst of the day-to-day events that whirl around a leader. Here I explore some of the dilemmas and answers. I also post some devotional thoughts about the application of biblical teaching.