Paul Clark

You are the most difficult person you will ever lead.” (Bill Hybels)

It is imperative that you and I grow in our leadership skills as men and women called to the ministry. As you know, there are a multitude of perspectives and ideas in viewing leadership development.

Several years ago, I was made aware of the concept of self-leadership that was primarily propagated in the field of business management. I have personally found this approach to be quite helpful for me in my own leadership development. It also provides effective tools to encourage church workers in their leadership journeys.

To lead others one has first to lead oneself.

Charles Manz describes leadership as “a process of influencing others and self-leadership can be seen as a process of influencing ourselves.” Influencing my behavior can be described as a learning behavior and is the very heart of leadership development.

Robert Clinton more than 35 years ago conducted a doctoral project at Fuller Theological Seminary, examining the lives of hundreds of historical, biblical and contemporary leaders; carefully observing how they developed over the years in their personal lives and ministry. Clinton’s research resulted in several important conclusions, but the one that struck me most was the sobering fact that many leaders started off well and strong, but their lives and ministry did not end well. (1)

 “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”

(Henery Wadsorth Longfellow)

We are all aware of spiritual leaders who started off strong – on fire for the Lord – and then “something” happened.  Not only did the fire go out, but the boldness in their walk of faith shrank. That “something“ is multifaceted and often   complicated to explain, but still we can humbly learn lessons from that “something“ in the lives of such leaders that will foster our own spiritual development as workers in the vineyard.

The Apostle Paul clearly speaks to us regarding our reaction when we witness Christians who fall in sin, or for whatever reason grow cold in spirit: “Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6,1b)

A balanced self-leadership approach implies we can and should learn with a humble spirit from the challenges and failures experienced by other spiritual leaders.

At every ordination service, and rightly so, the words of the Apostle Paul are often quoted: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (I Timothy 4:16)

Keeping a close watch on myself, more often that not, means I need to take a very close introspective look in my own spiritual mirror.

Personal leadership development is a life-long marathon

Self-leadership means that I take intentional steps daily, making strategic decisions that positively influence my own leadership development. A mountain climber who has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains once remarked: “You just don’t simply drift up to the summit of a mountain.”  The results of a healthy self-leadership process, helps us better understand and grasp the depths of our own unique God-given calling.

John Wooden, one of the most famous basketball coaches of all time, once said to his team:   “The decisions that we make define us.”

  1. As leaders, we are responsible to decide whether we want to grow.
  2. Each decision we make has ramifications for our lives and ministry. (By the way, no decision is also a decision and usually the wrong decision.)
  3. Right decisions allow God to form and mould our hearts.

It’s not about perfection, but it’s all about intentionally and allowing Jesus to form our hearts so that we will become more rooted in Him.

Reggie McNeal in his book, A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, writes:

“Our tendency, looking back at the lives of great leaders, is to believe that greatness showed up in the big moment, just in the nick of time. It did. But it did not show up without foundation work being done. Through the commonplace, every day experiences and how the leader responds to them, the piers of spiritual character are sunk and poured. This foundation determines the kind of ministry superstructure that the leader can build.” (Page 176)

Such foundational shaping in our lives provides the basis for self-leadership. As a pastor, I desire to be pro-active in seeking God’s help to more effectively lead myself as well as leading the men and women who God has allowed me to influence and serve.

In the book of Mark, it is noteworthy how Jesus intentionally spends time alone with his father, strengthening his inner man. Fellowship with the father leads to renewal and transformation. Spending quality time with Jesus will help us to be lead more by the Holy Spirit and thus we are a greater blessing to the people around us.

No matter what is happening right now in you own life and ministry, there are several questions that should be asked:

  1. In which areas of my life do I need to grow and develop?
  2. What necessary steps need to be taken?
  3. What book do I need to read or what course do I need to take to reach this goal?
  4. Which coach or mentor can best assist me on my spiritual journey?

I would encourage you this week to take a few hours out of your busy schedule and prayerfully answer the above questions.

Never Forget: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.“(Eph. 2:10)

We are drowning in information but hunger after knowledge and wisdom!

Through wisdom we continually strive to strengthen the underpinning of our life’s foundation. That which is developed within us will positively influence the men and women we lead.

May God grant you today a larger portion of His wisdom and knowledge:   “For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” (Proverbs 2:10)

(1) The results of Clinton’s study are to be found in his book that was revised in 2012:   The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development

Paul, and his wife Mechthild, have planted several churches in Germany, and are presently planting a church in Bregenz, Austria. Paul is author of the book: German Pentecostal Church Planting 1945–2005: Implications for Intentional Mission in the 21st Century. Paul’s personal missions’ statement: “I intentionally encourage those who encourage others.”