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Understand the Processes God Uses in the Making of a Leader

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When I was a young pastor I remember reading J. Robert Clinton’s The Making of a Leader.

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.

Check out this photo of the Auckland harbour bridge that I saw on a recent trip to New Zealand. It grabbed my eye because it showed the bridge and harbour from a completely different perspective.

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 on a regular basis. 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:

  • step back
  • 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 particular ways He utilises to get you to this stage of your journey and to your ultimate destination.

The Making of a Leader

Dr Robert J. Clinton analysed 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 your genealogy, family of origin, personality, innate gifts, calling, place of birth and upbringing and the experiences of your early years.

You can gain perspective by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture by:

  • contemplating these foundations
  • receiving them as gifts from a sovereign God
  • resolving any uncertainties and regrets you have about your upbringing and the circumstances of your formative years
  • accepting the unique gifts and personality God has given you

While your goal as a lifelong learner is continuous improvement, you should never embark on a makeover of what God has sovereignly chosen for you.

This stepping back process of embracing God’s sovereign choices will help you escape the clutches of comparison that can plague your mind.

It’s worth noting that when Peter asked Jesus about John’s fate, Jesus replied with a probing question, “What is that to you? You must follow me”, John 21:18-22. Jesus didn’t want Peter running down comparison alley. It’s a dead end.

Take Action

Embrace your sovereign foundations as unique and appropriate and you will avoid the empty comparison game too many people play.

Phase 2 Inner-life Growth

In the early years of a leader’s development Christ focuses on the development of integrity.

There are obedience tests and integrity checks as the Lord observes and increases the depth of your character.

During this formative phase a leader grows in their walk with Christ. A life of prayer is formed. The Scriptures are studied and loved. Submission to experienced leaders is fostered.

Reliability, honesty and faithfulness are tested and honed. Temptation is conquered. Mentors challenge and equip.

The primary purpose of this phase is to build an immovable foundation of integrity that will guarantee longevity.

Why? Without integrity, you cannot have a fruitful ministry because proven character underpins all ministry and leadership endeavours.

Take Action

Step back and see again the potent power of integrity and its central role in your ministry.

Phase 3 Ministry Maturing

In this phase the leader fulfils potential as they grow in their gifts and capacity. They develop their leadership skills as they learn how to cast vision, galvanising and mobilising others towards mission fulfilment.

Ministry skills are honed as the leader learns how to be effective on a platform and deliver God’s Word with poise and precision.

They grow people skills and develop the necessary abilities to handle a variety of problematic situations.

Tenacity is fostered as they persevere through obstacles and overcome disheartening setbacks including rejection and betrayal.

Maturity is forged as spiritual battles are won and faith is operated.

Take Action

Reflect on past and current defining moments and formative experiences that Christ uses to make you a leader of skill and poise, with a certainty in your calling.

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Phase 4 Life Maturing

A leader not only matures through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the processes of ministry, they also grow through life experiences. As you walk through countless joys and challenges in life you will come to understand truth through experience and not just cognitive reasoning.

These experiences will include the good and bad of life. Financial pressures, the ups and downs of marital life, raising a family, health battles, travel, friendships, spiritual encounters and much more.

Some will be heart breaking while others, memorable highlights. The stories that will emerge from your journey will become part of you and who you are as a person and as a leader.

Take Action

Discover why God has taken you through certain tailor made formative experiences and life changing defining moments as He has formed you into a prevailing leader.

Phase 5 Convergence

Convergence occurs when a leader enters their 50s and beyond.

They emerge from their many and varied experiences into a place of influence and hard won respect.

People observe the fruit of their ways and enjoy their story filled wisdom.

While you may be currently immersed in the midst of a bruising battle, God envisages the day of convergence when your journey will be the means to inspire faith and courage in others.

He sees the polished skills and wise reflections being utilised in settings you have not yet envisaged. There is method in this ministry madness!

What Do We Learn From The Making of a Leader?

As you gain perspective and see the bigger picture of God’s purposes and ways throughout your journey it will help you to:

  • relax in your current season
  • focus on longevity as well as the now
  • reject comparisons with other leaders
  • lower the pressure to perform
  • see that character matters more than gift
  • embrace hardship as well as success
  • look forward to days of convergence when your effectiveness will be maximised.
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