4 Must-Haves of Effective Christian Leadership

What does it take to be a good leader?

4. Ability

Ability—the requisite gifts and talents—is sometimes seen as the most important quality in leaders. Really, it is secondary to character. Yet basic capability is fundamentally important.

Ability includes both native intelligence and the skills to inspire people and to help them undertake the practical tasks necessary to translate vision into reality. A leader’s ability can be increased through education, including learning how to reason clearly (logic) and the acquisition of practical skills—say in organizational dynamics or in appropriate technology.

Effective leaders have the intelligence, the insight and the skills to motivate people and get them working together to achieve worthy goals. A person who combines good character, basic ability, experience and vision is sure to be an effective leader. This seems to be true universally, in any culture.

Effective Christian Leadership

Christian leadership is unique compared with all other kinds. Four reasons: It is centered in the perfect model, Jesus Christ; it has the largest possible vision, the kingdom of God; it relies upon the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit; and it works within the context of community, the body of Christ on earth.

For the church, Jesus is the model. From a Christian standpoint, leadership is more than the effective managing of organizations or people. In fact, from a biblical standpoint, the issue is not leadership as an abstract quality, but rather persons who exhibit the character and “mind” of Jesus Christ. The Bible is not concerned with “leadership” as such, or as a set of theories and principles. It is fundamentally concerned with being authentic disciples of Jesus Christ, and authentically being the body of Christ.

Effective Christian leadership is the combining, through the grace of God, of the qualities of character, vision, experience and ability, all in the spirit of Jesus, within community, with a vision for the kingdom of God.

Many other factors and dynamics may be important for leadership in church and society. But these four are essential.

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Howard Snyder
Formerly professor of the history and theology of mission, Asbury Theological Seminary (1996-2006); now engaged in research and writing in Wilmore, Kentucky. Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, 2007-2012. Formerly taught and pastored in São Paulo, Brazil; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois. Howard Snyder’s main interest is in the power and relevance of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom for the world today and tomorrow. He has written on a range of topics including church history, cultural trends, globalization, worldviews, evangelism, and various cultural issues.