When I was a young pastor, I tried to read Robert Clinton’s The Making of a Leader Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development. I found it heavy going and discarded it. When I picked it up again later in my pastoral journey, I knew I was finally ready for Clinton’s profound insights.
Looking back, I think the difference was that as a young pastor, I often lacked perspective. Perspective is the ability to see things from a different angle. It will help you grow a healthy church.
A change of perspective is powerful. As a pastor, you will often find yourself caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities and pressures that confront you regularly.
The ABC’s of ministry (attendance, buildings, cash) can dominate your thinking. The very real pressure to perform and be fruitful can be overwhelming.
This pressure can also hinder perspective. The juggle between being and doing can weigh heavily upon your heart. Not to mention the genuine needs of people and the immense expectations of others.
However, if you become driven by and focused solely on the ABCs and the varied pressures of ministry it will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on you and your family. Your joy will dissipate, and ministry will become a grinding chore instead of a passionate vocation.
God’s work will not be advanced because His work in you will be diminished.
While your responsibilities and pressures are unavoidable, they are manageable if you take the time to:
survey the bigger picture, and
reflect on God’s work in you.
As you do, you will gain perspective and begin to see the overarching purpose of God and the ways He utilizes to get you to this stage of your journey and to your ultimate destination.
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The Making of a Leader
Dr Robert J. Clinton analyzed the lives of hundreds of historical, Biblical, and contemporary leaders, and in his book, The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development, he outlined the five phases God uses to grow a leader.
A clear understanding of these phases will give you perspective. This will in turn help you to better manage the complexities of contemporary ministry and partner with the work of God in your life.
This understanding will also remind you that ministry is both a marathon and a sprint. It demands both perseverance and stamina as well as bursts of energy that propel you into new arenas.
However, without the perspective of the bigger picture of your journey on your horizon the demands of the race set before you will overwhelm you.
Clinton’s Five Phases of Leadership
Phase 1 Sovereign Foundations
Clinton starts with God’s choices for us.
God sovereignly determines our genealogy, family of origin, personality, innate gifts, calling, place of birth and upbringing, and early formative experiences.
You can gain perspective by stepping back and seeing the bigger picture, contemplating these foundations as gifts from God.
Receive them, resolve any regrets or uncertainties about your upbringing, and accept the unique gifts and personality God gave you.
While continuous improvement is good, never try to overhaul what God sovereignly chose. Embracing His choices helps you avoid the comparison trap.
When Peter asked about John’s fate, Jesus said “What is that to you? You must follow me.” He didn’t want Peter running down comparison alley, it’s a dead end.
Take Action: Embrace your sovereign foundations as tailor-made. Avoid the empty comparison game.
Phase 2 Inner-life Growth
Early on, Christ focuses on developing integrity. There are obedience tests and integrity checks as God observes and deepens your character.
Leaders grow in their faith during this phase – prayer, Bible study, submission, reliability, honesty, and faithfulness are fostered.
Mentors equip. Temptation is conquered. The goal is an unshakable integrity foundation to guarantee longevity. Without proven character, fruitful ministry is impossible.
Take Action: See again the vital role integrity plays in your ministry. Let it motivate your growth.
Phase 3 Ministry Maturing
In this phase, leaders fulfill their potential as they develop their leadership skills and grow in capacity. They learn to cast vision and motivate people towards the mission.
Ministry skills are honed – public speaking, delivering God’s Word, developing people skills, overcoming obstacles and setbacks. Spiritual battles are won by operating in faith. Defining moments build maturity.
Take Action: Reflect on the formative experiences Christ uses to develop your leadership skills and certainty in your calling.
Phase 4 Life Maturing
Leaders grow through life’s joys and challenges. Financial pressures, marriage and family, health issues, travel, and friendships all play their role in our growth.
There are heartbreaking moments of pain, grief, and yes betrayal. These are complemented by highlights of breakthroughs and provisions of grace.
These stories shape you as a leader as you grow in understanding and living out the truth not just cognitively but through experience.
Take Action: Discover why God has taken you through tailor-made experiences to shape you into a seasoned leader.
Phase 5 Convergence
Convergence comes in your 50s and beyond, after varied experiences. You emerge with influence and hard-won respect. Your life bears fruit that people enjoy. What you now see as a bruising battle, God sees as inspiration and courage for others later on. There’s a method in this madness!
Gaining perspective on God’s leadership purposes helps you relax in uncertainty, focus on longevity over instant results, reject comparisons, reduce pressure, value character over gifting, and anticipate future effectiveness. The long view bears good fruit.