Is there any difference between leadership in non-Christian groups and leadership in the church, or in Christian groups? And, if so, what is that difference? Some would say there is no difference: leadership is leadership. Others, and I join that crowd, would say until leadership is re-shaped by the gospel it is not even Christian leadership.
One pastor-theologian who has baptized all of leadership theory into theology and wisdom is Mel Lawrenz, a teaching pastor at Elmbrook Church near Milwaukee. His new book, Spiritual Influence, records his years and years of leading, pastoring and reflecting on pastoral leadership as spiritual influence. In fact, as Mel defines leadership, I would say he has a missional theory of leadership: we are given the opportunity, or calling, to aid in the influence of God — through God’s Spirit, Christ, Scripture, etc — on a person or organization. There is an excellent website with more resources for this project, where “Circles of Influence” and stories are discussed.
Years of thinking through this topic led Mel to this: “I have learned about human nature and the nature of God” (18). In the post today I want to sketch some of Mel’s ideas about the meaning of “influence.” But Mel believes all authentically Christian leadership is connected to the kingdom of God vision of Jesus.Who has influenced you the most? In what ways did that happen?
Influencers have “some driving idea or ideal underlying what they do” (26). They “have a grasp of something under the surface, something hidden …” (26). Yet, this is not pragmatics: “influence comes out of the core reality of who the influencer is” (26). So he defines it: “Influence is about the hidden forces that make visible results that have an enduring effect” (27). You can see where he is headed: those hidden forces are the influence of God through God’s Spirit.
It is too easy to think of leadership or influence as something that happens through a motivating talk. I think Mel’s right here, and that is why I think the pragmatics of leadership miss so much: “Influence is a cumulative pressure that gets things moving and keeps them moving” (29). Hence, I disagree so much with those who define leadership as “imposing one’s will on a group” — that coercion and force and authority, not spiritual leadership.
So now it gets theological: “Spiritual influence and leadership take place at the level of the human spirit, and they are prompted by the Spirit of God, who works to reform the human spirit, bringing people back to the shape God designed in the first place” (29-30).
Some elements then of spiritual influence:
1. It is about people.
2. It is about all of life.
3. It is about priorities.
5. It is about time.
6. It is about character.