The pages of History are littered with stories and legends of societies’ great leaders: Napoleon Bonaparte, a brilliant and charismatic military strategist; Mahatma Ghandi, the peaceful revolutionary; Pope John Paul II, the vibrant Roman pontiff that continues to inspire millions; Ronald Reagan, the “Great Communicator”; and the list goes on and on. And these leaders are looked upon, revered, and modeled in today’s society as those having exemplary leadership skills, having the keys to motivating, influencing, inspiring, and moving the masses to accomplish great and mighty things.
But there was only one perfect, righteous leader; one who led by example, and implemented the wisdom keys from the Word of God: Jesus Christ. And He gave to us His Word, the Bible, the perfect manuscript for life, including key leadership concepts that we can be apply today. Using the life of Christ as the primary example and combining His life with God’s word, one finds perfect, holy, and successful leadership treasures that excel in relevance and effectiveness beyond history’s secular leadership examples.
This paper is my exploration into how the Word defines a great leader and those wisdom nuggets that we can use today through the concepts of small beginnings, vision, service, and time management. When Israel returned from captivity to rebuild the Lord’s Temple, the Lord said through the Old Testament Prophet Zechariah, “[Do not] despise the day of small [beginnings]” (New King James Version, Zechariah 4:10). Referencing this verse, Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center rhetorically asks the question, “If it can’t be instantly huge, why bother? (“Small Beginnings”).
The world is consumed with the concept of instant gratification, the desire to be the biggest and the best without enduring the struggle that comes with growth, but Jesus started his ministry small, with 120 passionate, committed followers. The LORD also started the Hebrew Nation with just one man, Abraham. And from that man, a great nation has grown and endured for thousands of years. And even before that, God created the first family, one man and one woman, to fill the earth and subdue it. Our God, the Christian God, is a God of small beginnings.
I attend the mega-church Family Worship Center in Lakeland, FL. The church’s pastor and charismatic shepherd is Reggie Scarborough. Like the greater church body, the nation of Israel, and the beginnings described in Genesis; Pastor Reggie did not despise Family Worship Center’s day of small beginnings. In fact, I believe, he embraced it. Nearly 26 years ago, the church began with exactly 100 members and has flourished to a congregation of nearly 4,000. Great leaders do not despise or forsake the day of small beginnings.
For those who suffer those small beginnings the Lord is faithful to yield much. In the financial world there are three mutually owned financial firms that separate themselves from the rest: New York Life, Massachusetts Mutual Life, and Northwestern Mutual Life. All three companies were founded in the mid-19th century with a strategy for small, slow, conservative growth. Today, the “Big Three Mutuals” are Fortune 100 companies with credit ratings and assets that surpass most other rivals in the financial markets.
These companies saw the value of small beginnings, and the payoff has been a good, strong name. For me, leadership key number one is “do not despise the day of small beginnings. ” To the prophet Habakukk, the Lord said, “Write the vision and make it plain…” (Hab 2:2). This was the Lord’s reply to Habakukk’s complaint of the wickedness befalling Judah. Habakukk was seeking justice from the Lord and an answer on Judah’s future. In similar measure, the Lord spoke through Proverbs to say, “Without a vision, the people parish…” (Prov 29:18). A great leader must have a vision for the future.
The text uses the phrase “mission statement [to] summarize ‘why’ an organization exists” (Kiniki and Kreitner 459). In like manner, the Word of God uses “vision” to give the people a purpose, an answer to the question, “Why do we do what we do? ” A vision or mission statement also allows those in the organization to glimpse the “big picture. ” Pastor Mac Hammond encourages his readers to, “Find out where you fit in the grand scheme of things. ” (“The Big Picture”). It also allow for goal-setting. How will the organization accomplish the vision?
Referring to the passage from Habakukk, Pastor Mac Hammond states, “Setting specific, measurable goals is a powerful exercise… It’s one of the most important motivational tasks for winning…” (“The Exercise of Goal Setting”). Just as Pastor Reggie started Family Worship Center with small beginnings, he also had a vision for the congregation. That vision is espoused in the mission statement of Family Worship Center which reads: Our mission is to create a worship environment through a union of the Word of God and the Spirit of God that will stimulate a progressive Pentecostal community. “Our Mission”).
Its vision allows its congregants to know why they are there and how they fit in. The vision also helps Pastor and his Board of Advisors create and manage goals for Family Worship Center’s growth. And from that growth through goals formed from the vision, Family Worship Center has grown to a mega-church that sows into ministries throughout the world. Likewise, the Big Three Mutuals all had separate, yet similar, visions. All of their stories are alike in that each of their founders laid out a vision or mission for long-term financial security and conservative growth.
The following mission statement was released in 1911 from the Northwestern Mutual Life (NML) Board of Trustee, and reads as follows: The ambition of the Northwestern has been less to be large than to be safe; its aim is to rank first in benefits to policyowners rather than first in size. Valuing quality above quantity, it has preferred to secure its business under certain salutary restrictions and limitations rather than to write a much larger business at the possible sacrifice of those valuable points which have made the Northwestern pre-eminently the policyowner’s company. Shannon and Poley)
This mission statement has allowed NML to grow in an efficient conservative manner for nearly 100 years, and its reputation and name is revered in the industry. Like Family Worship Center, NML’s vision has giving its policyowners and staff the ability to see NML’s big-picture, and the vision has been the guidebook NML uses when setting goals and future plans. A Vision does multiple things for any organization: It gives the organization purpose, it shows the people where they fit in with the big-picture, and it gives a clear path for goal-setting.
For me, leadership key number two is “have a vision. ” Another prominent leadership concept is servant-leadership. Although the term “servant-leadership” was coined by Robert Greenleaf in 1970, the concept was espoused by Christ two millennia before (“What is Servant Leadership”). Jesus promoted the idea of servant-leadership when He said to His disciples, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…” (New International Version, Matt 20:26). His focus was putting others before oneself.
I like the way John MacArthur describes the passage: In this rich text, the Lord was teaching the disciples that the style of greatness and leadership for believers is different [than for none believers]… [Christians] lead by being servants and giving themselves away for others, as Jesus did. (1430) Servant-leadership gives the leader influence, builds moral, and provides him or her understanding. Through Jesus’ example, He did all those things. He had influence; He inspired the crowds; and His leadership style showed understanding.
From a business point of view, there is an old saying, “He who serves best, profits most. ” (Source unknown). And it’s true in any organization. Leaders in a church must serve the sheep, just as Pastor Reggie has done at Family Worship Center. Leaders in business must serve their clients, just as the Big Three Mutuals. For me, leadership key number three is “service. ” The Apostle Paul said to the church at Ephesus, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…” (Eph 5:15 – 16).
In comparison, the New King James uses the phrase “redeeming the times” instead of “making the most of every opportunity. ” For the leader, what Paul may be inferring here is, “Use your time wisely. ” In support of Paul’s letter, John MacArthur opines: “We are to make the most of our time on this evil earth in fulfilling God’s purposes, lining up every opportunity for useful worship and service (1812). In Scripture, we constantly see Jesus “redeeming the time” and “making the most of every opportunity. ” He had priorities in place, taking care of the most pressing matters, first.
Many of his miracle healings were interruptions in His schedule, but He often turned aside from His journey to touch the sick and heal the blind, making the most of the opportunity. He redeemed the time He had on the earth. For the Christian, Pastor Mac Hammond says, “…one of the most crucial lessons any leader can learn is how to use time wisely. ” (“Time Management”). For me, leadership key number four is “time management”. Although this paper has addressed four keys to successful leadership, the wealth of leadership treasure in the Bible is without end.
It does not matter the type of organization that applies these concepts. Whether a church like Family Worship Center, or one of the Big Three Mutuals; biblical leadership keys work. For me, if I only master these four, I believe I will be successful in both Christian ministry and the secular business world: small beginnings, the willingness to forgo instant gratification; vision, the idea that gives me purpose; service, putting others before myself; and, time management, making the most of every opportunity.