Gifts of the Spirit- Leadership






We are continuing with our sermon series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This week we are looking at the gift of leadership. When we turn to the Bible there are a number of examples of leadership that would be beneficial to look at. The obvious example for all the gifts given to the body of Christ is, of course, Jesus. But there are many others, as well.

In our Gospel reading we see Jesus reinstating Peter as a disciple (Jesus re-calls him- “follow me”) and gives him responsibilities as a leader. To counter his three denials, he proclaims his love for Jesus three times. And each time Jesus tells him to care for the flock- “feed my lams”, “tend my sheep”, “feed my sheep”. And we hear Peter’s message to leaders in his letter appropriately using the same imagery- 

“…tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising … oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).
We could also follow Peter in the book of Acts and how he emerges to lead and speak for the disciples.

Another great example of the gift of leadership is found in Joseph (Genesis 37-45). Joseph had dreams indicating his gift of leadership. His dreams symbolized his family bowing down to him as their leader. Out of jealousy, Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. But, even as a slave his master saw his leadership gift and soon the whole household was placed under his administration. everything under his administration prospers. He finds himself in jail as the result of a false accusation by his master’s wife, but even there his leadership gift is recognized and soon Joseph has leadership responsibilities in the jail. Eventually, by interpreting the Pharaoh’s dream and predicting years of bountiful harvest followed by years of famine, the Pharaoh also recognizes Joseph’s gift and puts all of Egypt under Joseph’s leadership.

We have some good examples of those with the gift of leadership in the pages of Scripture. Though, we should probably start by talking about what the gift of leadership looks like. The Greek word (proistamenos) in the list of gifts in Romans 12:8 can be translated a few ways. They use words like governing, standing over, organizing, leading, ruling, facilitating, or presiding.

People with the gift of leadership are quick to take responsibility and organize that for which they have been given oversight. They get projects moving fast. They get the supplies they need, and they find people to help, and they delegate tasks that match their skills. They know how to build a team and get them moving to accomplish the things that need to get done. They enjoy working with people. They know people, and they are very happy to share the credit.

People with the gift of leadership also tend to respect authority. If someone is in charge, they are happy to work under their authority. They respect the chain of command. … Joseph was okay working under the authority of his master, Potiphar, or under the authority of the jail guard, but he was also able to lead all of Egypt. Leaders seem to have respect for structures of authority and work well withing that structure. … This also means that they usually have to be given leadership responsibility by someone withing the structure. They aren’t likely to take authority that hasn’t been delegated to them. … Though, if no one seems to be taking charge they will usually step up to get people organized. … They also want to be allowed to function freely within their area of supervision. They don’t do well with someone micromanaging them or someone second guessing all their decisions.

Leaders enjoy working on bigger long-range projects that involve multiple smaller goals within it. To maintain a longer-term project, the leader has to be able to constantly hold the ultimate vision in front of everyone. It is that vision of what they are working towards that will hold the project together and moving forward. The leader has to have that visions clear in their minds and must be able to communicate it well.  
Joseph had the vision of stored grain during a massive famine where many people would be at risk of starvation. Through that vision he was able to help people store grain during the times of plenty, so they could prepare for the coming famine.
 Leaders are people of focus and diligence. They can easily get lost in their project- sometimes forgetting to eat, putting in long hours, and constantly talking about the next piece of the vision they are working on. They are constantly making lists, and writing reminders. … They love the challenge of having to think their way through the problems they are facing. Conversely, they have a hard time with routine and repetitive tasks. … People around them can get overwhelmed by this intensity if they try to compete or keep up.

Leaders are also often the target of criticism. Facing and enduring criticism seems to be a necessary part of being a leader. … For example, when necessary, the leader will challenge the old way of doing things if a new way seems like it is needed. However, organizations tend to be comfortable with traditional ways of doing things and that makes change difficult.  
Remember how Peter received a vision of non-kosher animals on a sheet and was told to “kill and eat”. He replied that he wouldn’t eat what was unclean, and the voice told him to not call unclean what God had made clean. This was a vision about how gentiles would participate in the life of the church. This was a huge change- This meant Gentiles wouldn’t have to follow Jewish dietary laws to become members of the church. This was a huge change in a society where Jewish people wouldn’t even eat at the same table as gentiles, or be under the same roof, without being considered ritually unclean. … Leaders are comfortable using old or new ways as long as they get the job done (Matt 13:52).

Like all the other gifts, there are certain temptations that the leader will face. … For example, it is easy for them to lead an imbalanced life. They can get so lost in their project that they can neglect their relationships- their friends, their family, they might even neglect their own health. … They can take on too much and get their priorities mixed up. Leadership can consume them.

They can sometimes get upset if people aren’t catching the vision. And might even have a tendency to write them off as people who are holding things back. They might neglect to listen to another valid point of view because they see it as just more criticism. … They can become insensitive towards others. Callousness can be a form of self-protection for the leader to protect them from the criticism of others. … That can also lead them to neglecting the people involved, as they pursue the vision. They can start to use people to get the goal done, and not see the people in front of them as those created in the image of God- children of the Creator, saved by the work of Jesus.

We need leaders in the church. We need them to guide us, to articulate the vision that God is giving us for our time and place. We need them to help us get organized, so that we can do more together than we can alone. We need them to help us connect to our place in the vision God has for the church. God bless our leaders.

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