A while back when I first started this blog, I wrote about a series of attributes for preachers. Feel free to review the series if you wish.
I must summarize all the attributes into one single attribute: leader. The preacher is a leader! Based on all the firestorms and brouhaha stirred up by the reality show LA Preachers, this blog is completely relevant. Though some issues about the preacher are obvious, they bear repeating. To be shepherds, preachers have to lead the sheep. They must know where to find the proper care and direction for the sheep. To be stewards, they have to know his charge and find his direction so that those under their charge will move along in a fruitful way. To be teachers, they know that they need to not only inform but also inspire. The best teacher is often the person who can model the teaching for the students to follow. To be evangelists, they lead others to Christ. To be witnesses, they have to point to the experience and insights they are witness to. All these roles take leadership.
If we look at the Bible though, the leader is first and foremost a good follower. Yet, not all followers make good leaders, just like all good teachers were first and foremost good students, but not all good students become good teachers. Leadership is both a learned behavior and a gift. Good leaders tend to learn from other good leaders by checking on what does and does not work. Great leaders have something extra. They not only know the method but also possess the character necessary to be a great leader.
Before we move on, we must discussion the role of a fake leader to know the counterfeit. Fake leadership is built on false humility and plastic spirituality. It is playacting at its zenith. The false leader appears to be a servant-leader by bowing down to the right parties and those in power. Such leaders are full of spiritual clichés that tickle the ear. Others have an overly inflated version of themselves. They would exude overconfidence to cover up their own insecurities. They are, of course, never wrong. This is an aspect we all have to watch out for when we lead the church. This list is only partial but is enough for every leader to do a quick self-examination.
Obviously, good leaders learn from history but never get stuck in the past. In order to improve, leaders must always look for new ways to look at the same thing. If the renewal mentality fills the life of the preacher, he will lead by example in his fresh preaching instead of preaching the same tired sermons. Whether a new way fits in the proverbial box or not, true leaders must at least reflect on this new way. At the same time, good leaders critically examine every new way and look for possible pitfalls. This balance is hard to get right. Sometimes, stepping into something new creates new risks. This leads to the next complication. What if the leader gets it wrong?
We must remember that everyone gets it wrong once in a while. The difference between the genuine and the counterfeit leader is the real leader is willing to get it wrong, admit it and move on. Based on recent events here in the US and overseas in Hong Kong, a pattern of delayed apology has emerged over public gaffe. Leaders who are clearly wrong and offensive sometimes take up to more than 3 months to come up with half-apologies, probably just to get the public off them. Publicity and public image are more important than truth. To make matters worse, some leaders are more than eager to create false perfection. This is where the true test of leadership comes. Is the ego of the leader more important than truth? If he is stubbornly defending his mistakes, his ego is bigger, and truth is dead. In such a case, this person is unworthy to ask others to follow him because his integrity is in question. Of course, we like to get it right all the time. Who doesn’t? At the same time, the leaders who are willing to admit that they are wrong show that they are both good followers of truth as well as a dispenser of it.
At this stage of the discussion, what does it take to be a preaching leader? It takes guts to execute the plan. It takes humility to admit mistakes. It takes an unquenchable desire to know more about the truth. Leadership is not for the feint-hearted.