Leadership in the church is the frontlines of loving others. It means proclaiming Jesus, not ourselves, as a servant of others for Jesus’s sake (2 Cor. 4:5). It means taking the first and biggest steps, often sacrificially, to pursue our joy in the joy of those around us. Our aim is to make our church happy, not in us, but in God.
There are four characteristics we want to emanate as leaders at Cities, whether a pastor, deacon, Community Group leader,
1. Honest Before All
We want to be truth-tellers. Over and against the lust for people’s approval, we can’t truly love people if we are dishonest with them. This includes our interactions with all people, but especially our personal integrity and vulnerability. This doesn’t mean that we air out all our weaknesses, but that we are okay with being perceived as weak.
Jesus was not a man with foibles — he was absolutely perfect — and yet he was never afraid of people making their misunderstandings. He was vulnerable—humble—like that. Was he a glutton? A drunk? A fake? A man dying on the cross completely powerless to change anything? — so some thought, but he knew better.
We want to lead like Jesus, not with polished appearances catered for critics, but with humility that truly believes God’s opinion matters most. It’s our conviction that people would rather follow an honest man than one who is so insecure in his weakness that he only tries to ignore them, or worse, hide them.
2. Concerned for Real People
This gets beyond the general, malaise-like care for an amorphous blob of people. Instead, this means rolling up our sleeves to care about everyone. When Paul defines the scope of ministry in Colossians 1:28, he says that he proclaims Christ … “so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” He actually repeated the word for “everyone” four times in this passage, emphasizing that his ministry is for everyone—for all kinds of people, for whoever I’m talking to at that particular moment.
This means that we must be good listeners. While the gospel is the answer to every problem (it really is), that doesn’t mean we just stamp everyone with gospel reductionisms and move them along. Paul’s words to the Ephesians elders in the Book of Acts make it plain enough: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock…” (Acts 20:28). For all the things that “careful attention” might imply, listening is on the top of the list.
3. Unshaken by Setbacks
Setbacks will come. Opposition is on the way. And the issue will be, in most every case, not what the specific opposition is, but how we respond to it. To be unshaken by setbacks doesn’t mean we are not affected, or that we don’t struggle. It only means that we are relentless with the mission God has given us, and we are determined, by his grace, not to be defined by our opposition, but by the identity and calling we have in Christ.
The difficulties we face on the path of obedience does not change the purpose of God for his people. As the psalmist declares, “This I know, that God is for me. … What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:9–11). And also Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). This is the faith that we have inherited as God’s saints.
4. Resolute About Tomorrow
We want to be leaders in faith. We want to experience and show that Jesus is real — and more real to us than anything else. Over and over again, what we will need as a church, led by her leaders, is not a better strategy or method, but only to see him.
“Remember Jesus Christ,” instructs the apostle Paul, “risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel” (2 Timothy 2:8). To remember Jesus is to grasp his realness in this moment, right now, wherever you are. It’s to remember that he is on the throne, and that he’s coming again. It means that we know, whatever our circumstances, that ultimately everything will be all right — because Jesus “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5–6). For the Christian, the best is always yet to come.