Leadership & The Gospel

Written By Victor Stanley Jr.

Christian leaders must always look to scripture as the basis for leadership. With the focal point of scripture being the gospel, it only makes sense to consider what implications the gospel has with regard to leadership. For most Christians the gospel consists of the story or message of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection along with the fact of him being God. Furthermore, it teaches that belief in this message brings about the moment of salvation, which is the conversion of an unbeliever. However, this view of the gospel is narrow in that it leaves out the bulk of the teachings found in the New Testament writings of the Apostles and the teachings of Jesus. 

While the gospel is the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection bringing salvation to those who believe in him, it also includes the call to live a Christian life, the need to live out that life within the church community and society at large, and a clearer look into God’s unfolding plan for humanity known as the meta-narrative. When taking these other factors into consideration one can see how this larger view of the gospel can shape the life of a Christian leader.

The Christian life is not simply living in a past moment of conversion. No, the Christian life is the way one lives in light of that conversion. At the moment of salvation a person is justified, but after justification a person is progressively being sanctified. Throughout the Old and New Testaments God’s people are called to live holy and righteous, that is, to be set apart and carrying oneself according to God’s law.[1] Once saved, a person is filled with the Holy Spirt who then begins the continual process of sanctifying that person and conforming them more and more to the image of Christ. Thus the initial moment of salvation continues on[2] as the Christian increasingly looks different from the world, and lives out a life filled with righteousness; by righteousness it is meant that a person does what is right according to God’s standard.

In light of this progressive sanctification Christian leaders must do two things: 1) They must hold themselves and those under their leadership to a standard of conduct that befits the Christian life, and 2) They must recognize that those under them are constantly being changed into people who will increasingly live righteously. This demands that a leader encourages those under him or her to seek righteousness, but also to extend grace and mercy when someone fails at times to live up to the set standard. Biblical morals, values, and ethics should and must shape the behavior and lifestyle of a Christian leader.

When it comes to the gospel and the aspect of community the first thing that comes to mind is the Church. The Church is the combined sum of all people around the world who profess Christ as Lord. The members of the Church are to consider one another as family because they are all children of God. On a lesser scale the members of the Church meet in smaller groups often called local churches. Jesus and the Apostles emphasized the need for believers to gather together to worship, but they also emphasized the need for believers to engage their communities.[3]

With the words of Jesus in John 17 in mind, the Christian leader must always be aware the he or she is a representative of Christ in the world, and even among fellow Christians. His conduct must reflect Christ, her interactions with others must demonstrate the love and respect of Christ. Ultimately Christian leaders must always be careful to conduct themselves in their churches and communities with Matthew 5:16 in mind, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

While Christians often say that the scripture’s central message is Christ, it must be pointed out that there is a big picture narrative contained in the Bible. In broad strokes this narrative has four headings: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Without understanding this larger story, that is, this meta-narrative, one misses out on certain aspects of the gospel. The creation account shows that man is made in God’s image, and that man is created to worship God and rule over his creation.[4] The Fall reveals that sin entered the world and corrupted God’s creation and man’s image. The Fall also shows the need for a savior to redeem mankind and restore all of creation back to what God intended.[5] The redemption shows God’s love and outpouring of grace for man and his creation through the sacrificing of his son for the sins of the world. This is, and will ultimately result in, the complete restoration of mankind and creation.[6]

The Christian leader must look at the world and life in this larger context in order to recognize that God is always at work seeing his purposes through to completion. The big picture story of scripture reveals the providence of God, and shows the leader that it is not by his or her own authority that he or she leads, but rather it is God who places people in their positions of leadership in order that his plan for history may be worked out according to his design.[7] When a Christian leader comes to understand these things then humility will mark his or her demeanor, and I believe he or she will be a more wise and effective leader.

[1] John 14:15, 21-24

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

[3] Romans 12:14-21; John 17:14-23

[4] Genesis 1:26

[5] Romans 5:12-21; Romans 8:18-25

[6] Colossians 1:19-20; Ephesians 1:7-10

[7] Romans 13:1

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