Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestselling book, Outliers, refers to a concept developed by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson called the 10,000 hour rule. The rule suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of work to become an expert in any field. The rule has since been challenged, but the underlying concept that it takes a lot of work to become an expert is not questioned by anyone.
A PGA golfer will play his round in a tournament and then spend several hours on the practice tee. Great scholars spend years reading everything that they can find on a subject. As skilled as Wayne Gretzky was in hockey, I have heard it said that no one worked harder in practice than he did.
Becoming good at anything takes a deep commitment constantly to improve. No one is born an expert in anything with the possible exception of crying. Ask almost any new mother and she will tell you that her baby can cry with the best of them.
If becoming an expert in anything takes time and practice, why do we assume that we can put someone into a position of leadership in a church and she is automatically ready to lead. People need to grow into leadership. Part of accepting a leadership position in a church should be a commitment to growth. No leader should ever be the same person today that she was a year ago. She needs to be growing in at least three areas of her life.
The purpose of a church is to grow people in their walk with God. Whether the person is a brand new Christian or someone who has been a Christian for fifty years, she needs to be growing in her personal walk with God. That is what is at the very heart of the Christian life.
If a small church is characterized by growing Christians, it is a success. If a mega-church is filled with stagnant Christians it is a failure.
Leaders will never draw people into a deeper walk with God than they are experiencing themselves. The best thing that any leader can do for the people whom she is leading is to make sure that she has a vital, growing relationship with God. The most important thing that a team of leaders can do is to encourage each other to have a vital, growing relationship with God. That is growth step number one.
Growing as leaders
Leadership is an acquired ability. Even those with the biblical gift of leadership need to develop that gift. Too often we put people into leadership positions and then assume that they already have the leadership capacity to fulfill the job. People, in every situation, need to grow into the leadership role.
We live in a culture that is flooded with books, seminars, courses and podcasts on the subject of leadership.
I just went to my search engine and typed in “leadership” and was told that there were 1,700,000,000 possible entries for me to try.
“Christian leadership” had 46,700,000 entries. “Christian leadership podcasts” had 1, 170,000 podcasts to which someone can listen.
The problem for church leaders isn’t a lack of material on the subject. The problem is deciding what, out of the monstrous amount of material available, one should choose.
I spoke with a pastor a few years ago and in the midst of our conversation she made reference to a book that she was working through that year with her leaders. When I asked her about it, she told me that they worked their way though one book each year.
Leaders need to be growing as leaders and the leadership team needs to be growing as a team. That takes some planning and a great deal of effort but the results will be worth every bit of energy that goes into it.
Growing in Giftedness
One of my favorite topics in the Bible is that of spiritual gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4). I love the fact that the Holy Spirit has uniquely equipped every Christian to play a significant role in Christian ministry. God has designed the church in such a way that everyone is equipped to do something and no one is equipped to do it all. That means that everyone is essential and no one is indispensable.
When we think about that in regard to the leadership team, each leader has a role to play but no leader can do it all. Gifts are just what the word would suggest. They are gifts from the Holy Spirit designed to enable us to serve. They can, however, be developed so that the person becomes more and more capable of using that gift.
In my book “Reality Check For The Church”, I ask the following series of questions:
“What would happen if the person on leadership with the administration gift took at least one course each year that helped him become even more effective? What would a church look like if those with a teaching gift took at least one seminary or Bible college course each year to improve their ability to teach? What impact would it have on a church if those with the gift of mercy or pastoral care took at least one course every year to strengthen their ability in this important area of church life? How much more effective would the leadership be if those with the gift of leadership took at least one course each year that would enable them to more effectively cast vision and set direction for the church?” p. 46
I finished the above paragraph off with the following challenge:
“Leadership is too important to entrust it to people who aren’t growing in their area of giftedness.” p. 46
I would expand that challenge to state that leadership is too important to entrust to people who aren’t growing in their walk with God and their leadership ability as well.
God works with us all where we are but he doesn’t expect any of us to remain there. Leadership must be a constant experience of growth.