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What Makes a Leader?

January 11, 2019

What makes a leader? Is it about communication? Presence? Knowledge of a particular topic or job? Is it about holding a certain position? Go to your local bookstore, Christian or otherwise, and you will likely find a section of books marked “Leadership”. There are many different theories, but the best ones always are based on the same things taught in God’s Word. 

In the last book of the Old Testament, nestled in Malachi Chapter 2, we see the definition of what God says is leadership. In chapter 1, the Lord spoke through Malachi to the Israelites to tell them that their lame, blind and sick animal sacrifices were no sacrifices at all. In fact, God said if that was the way the temple sacrifices were going to be carried out, they might as well shut the doors. He did not mince words. 

As we come to chapter 2, the focus turns to the priests. The priests were allowing all of this to happen. Obviously, they had compromised the standards and had come to accept the new “normal”. It’s a gradual slide sometimes. It’s like the lady who was told by the church consultant that the church had declined 50% in attendance over the past 20 years. She insisted that it had not and took great offense to the assertion by the church consultant that it had. When the data was shown to her by the consultant, the lady continued to deny its truth. The slide had been so gradual that she hadn’t even really noticed and had come to accept each new level as the new normal, without even realizing it. 

So, what makes a leader? Here are some quotes from the world about leadership

  • “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Q. Adams
  • “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” -John Maxwell
  • “A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.” John Wooden

The priests here were poor examples of Godly leaders. God was saying to them, “it’s time to make a move”. 

How does Malachi describe a leader? What is the Biblical model for a leader? Let’s refer to Malachi 2:5-7

V5 – (speaking of a Levitical covenant leader) “He revered me and stood in awe of my name” – A Godly leader is a Whole-heart-Worshipper. No matter how powerful a leader is – unless he’s God – a leader must honor authority. We honor God thru worship with our whole hearts. There is no better leader than one who is also a servant. Jesus himself was a servant-leader.We cannot be afraid to be visible, vulnerable worshippers. 

V6 – “True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips” – A Godly leader is a Truth-Teacher. A leader never stops growing. The world’s greatest leaders are also great students, with many of them being active readers. If a leader fails to grow, his influence fades. Leaders in the church have a responsibility to be students and teachers of God’s Word, which is living and active.

V6 – “He walked with me in peace and integrity” – A Godly leader is an Integrity-Influencer. The call to leadership is a call to purity and integrity. We are influencers. This is why it hits the news so quickly when educators and pastors fail morally. The call to follow Christ is a call to holiness. We must stay close to the source. 

V7 – “and turned many away from iniquity” – A Godly leader is a Relationship-Reviver. A leader values the people that he leads, and invests his life in them, sometimes sacrificially. Leadership is people. With investment in people comes accountability. With growth in the Word comes truth, which leads to sanctification.

V7 – “he is the messenger of the Lord of Armies” – A Godly leader is a Mission-minded-Messenger.Being a leader is a calling. You don’t assume that position. It comes to you and should be received as such.Malachi emphasizes that we must understand that leadership comes not in position, but in mission. We are messengers.

Ed Stetzer, formerly of LifeWay and now a professor at Moody Bible College, says Jesus demonstrated leadership this way:

  1. Jesus humbled himself and allowed God to exalt Him.
  2. Jesus followed His Father’s will rather than seeking a position. 
  3. Jesus defined greatness as being a servant.
  4. Jesus took risks to serve others because He trusted He was God’s Son.
  5. Jesus left His place at the head table to serve the needs of others.
  6. Jesus shared responsibility and authority for those he called to lead.
  7. Jesus built a team to carry out a vision worldwide.

Leaders – are you continuing to grow or are you at rest and losing influence? Is God raising you up to be a leader?

Tony Watson
Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church
Palestine, TX

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