Hi-def Leadership in a Hi-def World: Attributes of Godly Leaders

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IMG_0003High-definition (or, Hi-def, or HD) refers to increased visual resolution as compared to the commonly used standard of resolution. This involves twice as many scan lines per frame, a proportionally sharper image, and a wide-screen format. In other words, this technology produces a sharper, clearer image. Therefore, a Hi-def view of Christian leadership should present a clearer understanding of what leadership involves. As an aid to examining the characteristics of Christian leadership, I have outlined my thoughts by means of “HI-DEF” as an acronym:

  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Discipline
  • Excellence
  • Faith

Humility

As Andrew Murray pointed out in Humility and Absolute Surrender,[1] neither failures nor sin can produce humility. Instead, humility comes by experiencing divine grace. When a Christian leader possesses or develops true godly humility, it results in him being forgiving and gracious. Humility roots out arrogance and any need to defend oneself or one’s actions. Humility involves becoming a better listener—not always having to have one’s own say or the last word. Note the context and associated attributes in Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian believers:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1–3 NASU)

Pride works against gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, and unity—only humility can join with these attributes to produce unity. The Hi-def leader must be humble.

Integrity

Hi-def leadership majors on truth and transparency, even when it hurts. Integrity makes communication more effective and contributes greatly to consistency in word and action. As the old adage declares, if you tell the truth, you don’t need to try to remember what lie you told. A leader needs to stand in the Lord’s presence with integrity. David wrote of the one who can dwell in God’s presence: “He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:2). Speaking truth in the heart means that one does not even deceive himself in what he thinks, much less in what he says. Asaph wrote of David, “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart” (Psalm 78:72). Integrity and truthfulness characterize the shepherd-leader whom God chooses, empowers, and leads.

Discipline

One of the greatest causes of failure in leadership relates directly to one’s failure to manage himself properly—in other words, a lack of self-discipline. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, could not become a leader: “Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence” (Genesis 49:4). Self-control (self-discipline) must be carried out in ten major areas of life—the Ten Towering T’s:
Decorative Letter T clip art

  1. Thought. Self-discipline begins with managing our minds, our thoughts, our daydreaming. We waste mental energy in worry, anxiety, and over-thinking each situation we face. As leaders the best use of thought involves developing priorities and focusing on a plan of action and how to implement it efficiently.
  2. Time. Too often we end up piddling around with minor matters, or exhausting valuable time avoiding the difficult matters. In the Facebook age, we begin by looking at what one friend has posted and end up three hours later on an online rabbit trail that leads us away from the things we ought to be doing offline.
  3. Transformation. The task of becoming a man of God continues unendingly. We must begin every day seeking God’s presence and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).
  4. Tasks. A godly leader must order his tasks according to their priority before beginning to do the work itself. A Hi-def leader must identify, define, and prioritize pertinent tasks.
  5. Toil. A persistent devotion to labor marks every great Christian leader. Paul spoke of how he surpassed others in the amount of labor he expended in gospel ministry: “I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Such leaders “who diligently labor” are worthy of respect (1 Thessalonians 5:12).
  6. Talents. Skills and abilities, as well as spiritual gifts, come from the Lord. Great leaders know how to manage their gifts and how to maximize their efforts. They recognize where they lack skill and seek co-laborers who make up that which the leader himself lacks.
  7. Treasures. Wise and prudent management of one’s finances and possessions also characterizes godly leaders. Being “free from the love of money” (1 Timothy 3:3) does not mean that a godly leader should ignore proper management of what God has given to him and to his family. Such good management includes honoring “the LORD from your wealth” (Proverbs 3:9).
  8. Tongue. With Hi-def clarity James 3:1–12 reveals the importance of controlling one’s words. The same teaching abounds in the Old Testament in passages like Psalm 39:1—leaders must guard their mouth “as with a muzzle.” The Hi-def leader chooses his words with care and keeps silent when it is wiser not to speak (James 1:19).
  9. Teaching. A leader must practice what he teaches (Romans 2:21). Paul exhorted Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16). This discipline must be passed on to future leaders: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
  10. Thanks. Being thankful takes discipline and management. A godly leader will excel in giving thanks when and where thanks is due—first of all to the Lord, then to others. Thanksgiving was such an important aspect of corporate worship that David appointed Asaph as “the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at prayer” in the Tabernacle and the Temple (Nehemiah 11:17).

Excellence

Godly, Hi-def leaders pursue excellence throughout their lives and ministries. A leader must be satisfied with nothing less personally. Pursuing excellence must begin with him, if it is to characterize all the members of his team. Such a pursuit manifests itself also in the leader being the rest of the team’s best cheerleader. Excellence invites recognition; it is worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). The pursuit of excellence means that the Hi-def leader never accepts second best in regard to his own standards and efforts.

Faith

The “F” in HiDef could be Foresight or Farseeing—the exercise of vision as a leadership task.[2] However, vision without God-given and God-empowered faith eliminates God from the formula for godly leadership. The Hi-def leader must picture the path to new goals, and communicate them clearly to his team. Above all else, a godly leader must “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Hi-def leadership cannot be merely a concept, a blog, or a teaching lesson—it must be practiced. The Christian leader who ignores these five principles will fail to model true leadership. God chooses leaders for His people. God also sets the standards for godly leadership in His Word. Those standards are not optional—they are required. Let no one seek leadership without a commitment to living out those standards day in and day out.


Notes:

[1] Andrew Murray, Humility & Absolute Surrender, Hendrickson Christian Classics (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 1.

[2] For a superb discussion of pastoral leadership, see Alex D. Montoya, “Leading,” in Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry: Shaping Contemporary Ministry with Biblical Mandates, ed. John McArthur, Jr. (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1995), 281–304.

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