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Leadership as a Spiritual Gift — vs — Leadership as a Verb


Leadership really seems to be a sensitive subject lately. I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere in the past decade, leadership and leaders have been under intense scrutiny.  There are many characteristics that come to mind when someone says the word, leader.  Is it just me, or in the past decade has something shifted in our culture that causes negative stereotypes to intrude our brains the instant we hear the word leader?

If you’d like to read a side post in regards to what are called the top 101 qualities of a leader, just click the picture below and enjoy

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 1.00.51 PM

My first sentence of this post simply states that everybody leads.  I think that most agree, leadership, in its truest definition, is simply influence.  So, in that sense, we all lead because we all influence something or someone.  With that, I want to bring about the fact that there is a difference between Leadership as a verb…which we all do, and Leadership as a Spiritual Gift, which has been given to some and not to others.  The Bible is clear about this in the letter to the Romans in chapter 12:3-8...

Many Gifts but One Body

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:

If prophecy,
use it according to the standard of one’s[b] faith;
if service, in service;
if teaching, in teaching;
if exhorting, in exhortation;
giving, with generosity;
leading, with diligence;  (“Whoomp, there it is!”) 🙂 
showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

I’m writing about this, because it has become personal to me.  By personal, I don’t mean in an offensive way, I mean in a way that has become personally obvious to me and has impacted me personally.  Since the merge of Parkway Christian Church with Christ’s Church of the Valley in 2011, I have been trying to get back into a Lead Pastor position with a local Church, anywhere in the USA, for the past 5 years and I have encountered a tragic phenomena.  I have encountered more than 30 different local churches across the country saying they are looking for their Church’s next leader/Lead Pastor to lead them into the next phases of their church life…and…as I have delved in with them, in regards to what they mean when they say LEADER, I have come to the conclusion that most really don’t want a leader, but a shepherd, or a manager, or worst case scenario, a hired hand that simply does what he is told…but in its spiritual definition…they actually do not want a leader.  They want a Leader as a Verb, but not a spiritually gifted leader.  The first is safe, the second is risky and dangerous.

Bill Hybels spoke up recently about leadership and the Church…here is a poster of what he said…

Now, please do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that people without the spiritual gift of leadership should not lead a church.  I am simply asking us all to consider the fact that a church lead by a Leader, gifted with the Romans 12:8 spiritual gift leadership, will be a very different church than one lead by a shepherd, Teacher, Evangelist, a manager, or any other gift mix.

It seems obvious that each gift type grows a different type of fruit, and, not always but most of the time, a different size of harvest. I think many people are afraid to talk about why some churches are smaller than others.  If I could miraculously remove political correctness, insecurities, all sensitivities, and simply speak with impersonal facts…then the answer of why some churches reach mega amounts of people in a very short time, and others stay under 200 for hundreds of years, are mostly simple.

Some answers are as simple as the population of the city the church is geographically located in.  Other answers are found in a lack of strategy.  Most answers, in my opinion, are simply found in the Leadership and how he/she is spiritually gifted.  (In this setting, it would be very easy to use the parable of the talents that Jesus teaches.  Have we considered whether or not that parable could have been titled, The parable of the spiritually gifted?”   If you have time for more reading…then read the parable here and transpose the word ‘talents‘ with ‘spiritual gifts‘ and see if it makes sense. (In fact…depending on the translation, some translations use the word servants instead of the word talents.)  Here is the passage… Matthew 25:14-30

A church that is lead by a group of Elders will have a certain kind and amount of results/harvest.

A church that is lead by a shepherding gifted leader is typically going to have a smaller, very loving, intimate result/harvest.

A church that is lead by a manager-type gifted pastor will have a unique, often corporate result/harvest.

A church that is lead by a group of 5-10 high financially giving members holding the power will have a specific end-result/harvest.

A church that is lead by a teaching-gifted pastor is going to have a specific result/harvest.

They are all different.  Better or worse?  That’s for the eye of the beholder and ultimately for God to decide.

One thing that is very clear…a Church that is lead by a Leader who has the Romans 12:8 gift of Leadership is very obvious. Like it, love it, or hate it, that fact cannot be denied.

I think the passage below from Proverbs sums it up pretty well…think about it.

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”  Proverbs 14:4

Our culture, for some safety reason, is afraid of strong leadership.  No doubt a strong leader will stir it up, break power controls, push us out of our comfort zones, and even sometimes make messes…but the fruit produced is tremendous.

Perry Noble said, “The size of the dream you have, is directly correlated with the amount of pain and suffering you are willing to endure.”  Solomon was right…the stable might get dirty, but wow…what a reward.

I know that we can agree that the Church is living in interesting times and facing difficult circumstances.  If Bill Hybels is right in his statement above, then there are some serious decisions that need to be made in The Church. If you are currently looking for a Lead Pastor, does your church have the courage to allow a leader, with the spiritual gift of leadership, lead you?  If so, get ready to begin an unforgettable adventure with a huge harvest of fruit on the way.


  • Rodger Thompson |

    Great blog post Trent. If you don’t mind, let me respond out of my own experience and long studied contemplation. I can certainly see how you would find it frustrating and perhaps even confusing to not find that place where God would assign you to apply your gift of leadership. I appreciate your comment that you are not saying people without the gift of leadership should not lead a church. That relieves some tension for me. Yet the tone of the post seems to suggest that the gift of leadership should be preferred by churches for their “lead” pastor. I realize you are speaking very personally, so let me respond personally.

    I agonized for most of my ministry life (now 52 years), over the fact that I do not, and could not seem to rise to the kind of leadership that was promoted in the church growth movement of the 70’s and 80’s, and the leadership movement (Bill Hybles etc.), of the 90’s and the 21st century up till the present. This was personally complicated by the fact that I have a brother-in-law that is very successful. I had to face my own spiritual gift and come to grips with my doubts. Though I had visions of a huge harvest, that vision never materialized no matter how hard I tried to apply what the church growth leaders were holding up as the way to grow a church. Did this mean I was a failure? It felt like it. Did it mean I shouldn’t be trying to lead a church? It seemed like it. Did God call me to lead a church? I questioned it. At one point, in the 90’s I left ministry broken and burned out, not sure God had or would ever call me back into ministry as a lead pastor. Thankfully, after a period of healing and adjusting of my thinking, He did call me back.

    I came to realize that those with the Ten Talent gift of leadership are rare and of high value to the Lord. They are called and placed by Him in strategic locations. He does the gifting, the calling, and the assiging. On the other hand He also values the shepherds, the pastors, and the teachers. Without them the church would be a mile wide and an inch deep. True, in a large church a multi-gifted staff can provide these other gifts. But the large percentage of the churches in the world are small churches. This is not because they don’t have gifted leaders, but because this is the way Christ has built His church. Those small churches can greatly benefit in the task of making disciples, equipping disciple makers, and shepherding sheep, from a pastor who is gifted in these areas. It would be a travesty (and many have felt this pain), to try to train or coerce pastors who do not have the gift of leadership to try to somehow conform to this gift.

    I personally came to accept and give thanks for my gift of pastor/teacher. I give my whole heart to that ministry. Frankly, I think most lead pastors are in this category. That is not a default ministry category, it is the way the Holy Spirit has handed out His gifts.

    Perhaps I am not telling you anything you do not know. I am not rebuking you or trying to correct you, just sharing with you my own journey, as you have shared in your blog. Trent I have tremendous respect and admiration for Don and the way God has used him to grow the Kingdom in the Valley. I have the same admiration for you. I do not know why you are in this desert season, but I do know it is not the fault of short-sighted churches (although I admit there are no doubt many of them). God has an assignment for you, but right now He has you on His potter’s wheel. When He is satisfied you are ready He will issue that assignment. That has been my experience.

    I love you and Kelli and am praying for that perfect opportunity for you, that you might give your whole heart to do what God has gifted you to do.

    Bless you my brother, God is not finished with you yet!
    Rodger Thompson

    • Trent |

      Thank you RT for your comments. I do not feel rebuked by you at all and am grateful to hear your story. I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings of frustration, although I tried in this blog. I was blessed with such great fruit at an early age in ministry, and it multiplies my frustration in this hallway I seem to be stuck in. The only way I know to battle it, is for me to continue to become less so He can be more. I have the spiritual gift of leadership and I’m pulling against a leash I seem to be stuck on. I sense God is about to free me and let me lead again. His will be done.