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  • David Defries

Leadership is Parenthood

I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (1 Cor 4:14-16)

So you want to be a leader in the church… what do you do? What does that look like? How do you act?

In my experience, everyone (including me) has an idea in their head of what leadership is supposed to look like… and they rarely experience a reality that comes close to that ideal in their head. If you're a follower, there are good leaders and bad leaders who are in charge of you, but even with the best of them you can probably easily point out how you would do things different or what you would change. If you're a leader, you're probably well aware of how difficult leadership continually is and how things don't seem to be panning out the way you want them to. There are always more problems ready to crop up and unforeseen difficulties you need to occupy yourself with.

This is no different in the church than anywhere else… but yet there is a difference. Churches don't (or shouldn't) view leadership in the same way as the rest of the world. In politics, leadership is about having a vision for where the country/province/municipality should go and then having the power and authority to implement that vision. In business, leadership is about having a vision to sell a product or idea and having the power to implement how that is all done. In the church, leadership is about having a vision to father and mother people well.

What do good mothers and fathers do? They provide safety and security to their families. They love them well and speak identity and value to who they are. They teach, they help children to grow, they empower them to learn and accomplish new things… and then they release them to go. They cheer on, encourage, and support… but they also discipline, police, and hold the family firm to the proper principles. They raise up children in the way they should go, teaching them and instructing them in what is right. Parents are willing to sacrificially give to their children because their heart is to see them grow to their fullest potential, even at great cost to themselves.

You see, when the Bible talks about leadership, you don't see a list of personality traits or style. You don't see leadership characteristics. You don't see a set of criteria for how good their vision is or what their qualifications are. What you do see is a question about how well the person manages their own family. (see 1 Tim 3)

This is because the church isn't a political entity. The church isn't a business. The church is a family. Church has always meant to be founded on relationship, both with God and with each other. Every interaction, every program, every aspect of the church has to be done with that family relationship in mind… so then when you look for leadership in that kind of a context, you're looking for a father or a mother.

This concept can be hard for a lot of people to grasp, especially if you come from a family context where you didn't have a very good father and mother. If you have grown up without a father, how do you even know what fatherhood should look like, let alone be a good one yourself? Fortunately, God models that to us in relationship with Him and it's supposed to be modelled in the church as well. If you haven't had a great home to grow up in, you can have a church home with a spiritual father who will model it for you.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home (Psalm 68:5-6)

So you want to be a leader in the church? Learn how to parent well. Learn how to sacrificially give to someone over the long haul to see them prosper and succeed. Learn how to teach and nurture someone and put good parenthood into practice. Your leadership rests in helping others to grow and succeed.

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