Leadership Lessons from the Trinity

Leadership Lessons from the Doctrine of the Trinity 
by Jamie Munson

Trinity DiagramSince we are made in the image and likeness of God, we should reflect God’s character through our leadership.

But what does authority look like in a world full of imperfect people? It is an important question, especially when organizing leadership.

Leaders cannot lead as the Trinity in some respects (being God, existing in eternity, glorifying themselves, etc.), but there are leadership lessons to be gleaned from Trinitarian doctrine that shows us how to graciously mirror God’s authority, humility, love, and generosity for his glory and not our own.

Trinitarian doctrine ought to inform Christian leadership, and it is marked by five characteristics.

1. HOW THE TRINITY MODELS HUMILITY

The members of the Trinity are continually serving in humility and seeking to honor each other.

We humans tend to think we are simply awesome, so we seek out ways to point the spotlight on ourselves. Often, the allure of leadership positions is more about our drive for recognition, power, and money rather than our willingness to serve and help people. Christian leadership should be the opposite of self-exaltation.

Scripture compels us to “clothe [our]selves with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5). This suggests an ongoing, daily effort like any biblical command that requires the help of the Holy Spirit. When leaders pursue humility, they invite the grace and favor of God and create a culture that celebrates the victories of others. They demonstrate repentance, which encourages an atmosphere of good consciencesand open communication.

2. HOW THE TRINITY MODELS LOVING GENEROSITY

There are very few commands in Scripture that encourage competition among believers. Yet Romans 12:10 says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

We are not called to exchange pleasantries in the staff lounge, but rather strive with competitive zeal in expressing genuine love and encouragement to others. The loving relationships and the desire to share glory within the Trinity provides an amazing example for us to follow.

How leaders love and care for each other sets the tone for an entire organization. As the leaders go, so the organization will follow. The same principle extends to generosity, which is a specific expression of love. A theology and lifestyle of generosity is conspicuously absent in most organizations, which means they miss out on giving and receiving God’s grace with each other. We need to actively share God’s grace as a conduit of blessing to those around us.

3. HOW THE TRINITY MODELS GIVING GLORY

Will we give God glory or take it for ourselves? Leader worship is all too common in our culture, and oftentimes leaders promote such idolatry by not properly directing people to give the glory to God.

It’s easy to want to steal the glory that so clearly does not belong to us. The Christian life must be squarely fixated on the glory of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, so that all of life serves as an act of worship to our deserving, holy God (1 Cor. 10:312 Cor. 4:6). When our focus is on the glory of someone other than ourselves, a world full of people focused on themselves will begin to take notice.

4. HOW THE TRINITY MODELS ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF LEADERSHIP AUTHORITY

The need for organizations to have a senior leader begins with God. God is one and he eternally exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Within the unity of the Godhead there is an order of work (this is referred to asfunctional subordination) to his plans. In other words, each Person has a different role and responsibility (John 6:44Eph. 1:3-141 Pet. 1:2). Organizations would do well to reflect a level of order as well.

This goes against our culture’s distorted view of equality. Take Jesus’ disciples for example: they were led by Peter, a first-among-equals who represented the rest of the men and served as the most visible member of the early church (Matt. 10:2-4Mark 3:16-19;Luke 22:32Acts 1:13). The difference between Peter and the other disciples—or your leader and the people under his or her authority—is not a difference in individual value and worth. The difference comes from the diversity of talents and gifts to be found within the body of Christ.

Biblical leadership compels leaders to appropriately exercise their authority over the organization. An established authority structure will help your organization’s ability to function at its highest level.

5. HOW THE TRINITY MODELS SUBMISSION

As a leader, the thought of submitting to others can be challenging. Again, we want to take charge, we want to call the shots, and we want to make the final decisions. This is absolutely necessary at times, but a leader who goes unchecked and submits to no one is dangerous. Every single leader has blind spots and needs others to speak into their lives and point out the errors and omissions in their life or organization. Even leaders within organizations who really have no obligation to submit are wise to invite the counsel of others who are farther along a similar leadership journey.

How does this play out in your organization? How can you grow as a leader that reflects the Trinity?

 


 

This article is adapted from Jamie’s book, Authority: The Leader’s Call to Serve. Jamie served on staff at Mars Hill Church for over twelve years, is the author of the free e-book Money: God or Gift. Learn more atJamieMunson.com.

Make Your Word Mean Something

“Make Your Word Mean Something” is the seventh chapter in John Myer’s new e-book WARNING Contains No Sugar: Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the ChurchWhile working with upcoming leaders I have learned to heed the advice given in this chapter the hard way.  While I too must always be on guard to ensure that I follow through with my promises, I have too often encountered people who want to be leaders who say one thing but only follow through some of the time.  The result is a headache for me and the church as we have to pick up the slack or scramble to cover for the other person.

On my end, when an aspiring leader drops the ball I have learned that blowing them away with harsh words is not the best initial reaction.  But ignoring the error is not an option either.  Words of grace seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) is a skill that has to honed as to what to say and when to say it to the person who did not follow through with their verbal commitment.  It also takes wisdom to discern how much responsibility to entrust or withhold from the upcoming leader in the future.

I have learned to be extra cautious with those who demonstrate an extra dose of charisma or talk a lot and talk big.  It is not that they are less trustworthy than other aspiring leaders, but history has taught me that these aspiring leaders tend to think bigger than their abilities or their commitment levels.  Past experience has also taught me that these people tend to be able to inspire other people to do their work for them.  Unfortunately for these aspiring leaders, the other members in the congregation tend to fall for this (whether it is intentional or unintentional manipulation) only a couple times before becoming disgruntled and joking about the aspiring leader behind their back.

Those who desire to become leaders in life and in the church would do well to heed the words in the chapter seven of WARNING Contains No Sugar:

Take note: folks might follow talent or charisma for a while, but over the long haul, they follow commitment.  Everyone wants to follow someone who believes so strongly in what he’s doing that he (or she) backs it up with energy and follows through  You might want to say that to yourself twice a day…

Too many have the habit of volunteering an then sheepishly folding because at the back of their mind there’s always a fire escape.  If they become inconvenienced they can simply back out later with no ill effects.  Jesus will not fire them.  And aside from a little embarrassment, the church will not overly harass them.  No doubt we should find the best niche for our gifts.  The church ought to be a green house of grace, allowing us to find the best fit for our unique gifts.

In fact, our church allows for limited periods of commitment just so that no one feels stuck in any one place.  On the other hand, if you take it too far by dancing in and out of promises every month, you’ll come across like the person who routinely dates around and flirts with commitment, but never gets married.  Don’t go there.

As a leader, when you say, “I do,” try to make it count (pp. 24-26).

“WARNING Contains No Sugar” Review

WARNING Contains No Sugar:  Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the Church by John Myer fulfills its title.  There is a lot of honesty and the closest a the book comes to having sugar is in the final chapter.  That is not to say that the new (and free) 43 page e-book is harsh or mean-spirited.  Warning is neither.  What Warning does convey is an honest appraisal of what a current and aspiring leader in the church should have in regards to a godly character.  As Myer states in the first chapter:

Most folds who aspire to leadership have little understanding of what they’re getting into.  The nutshell version of it all comes down to people entrusting their souls to you.  They trust you won’t lead them down a dark alley into religious extremes or doctrinal error, wasted time, or worst of all, a wasted life (p. 4).

Too often people desire the title of “leader” without demonstrating the character and consistency of a leader.  The thought appears to be that “the title makes the man” rather than the reality that man should already embody the title.  The eyes are attracted to the “big” decisions of leadership and often overlook the “small” details that make the big difference.  Myer draws this out in his description of the book:

The Devil is in the details. That’s what new leaders need to remember as they aspire to  become effective in the church. Those who are just beginning to navigate leadership roles usually pay attention to critical big box items like vision, style, and methods. Meanwhile, a multitude of smaller issues that go undetected may be undermining their service.
  Symptoms include: 
         • Not being taken seriously
         • Getting little or no cooperation
         • Failing to inspire others
         • Ideas that fizzle out
         • Toxic team dynamics 
With a decided emphasis on honesty rather than sweetness, “Warning” gives a diagnostic tour of areas that leaders commonly overlook.

The eleven short chapters, it is only a 43 page book, are well worth reading and prayerfully considering.  The chapters are:

1) Get Your Head on Straight
2) Learn to Value a Following of One
3) Be the Man
4) Love Your Meetings and be Prompt
5) Decide What You Want to Do With Your Life
6) Nail the Reason Why You “Don’t Get No Respect”
7) Make Your Word Mean Something
8 ) Have a Jalapeno Faith
9) Value Effectiveness Over Busyness
10) Get Along With Your People Famously
11) When Am I Not in the Wrong?

Filled with the Spirit

What comes to mind when you hear a person describe being “filled with the Spirit”?  Some people get really excited while other people get rather nervous.  The former may get excited because of thoughts of charismatic expressions. The latter may get nervous for the exact same reason. Whether you are the type who gets excited or nervous about the term “filled with the Spirit”, don’t worry because this is not going to be pushing an agenda for or against certain stereotypical “expressions” of the Spirit.

Instead, we are going to look at the power of the Spirit within a person’s life outside of the worship services of Christians.  We are going to look at the normal, daily expressions of being filled with the Spirit.  The filling that can have a profound effect on our interactions with the people around us at school, work, play, and family.  I believe J. Oswald Sanders describes being filled with the Spirit in excellent terms in his book Spiritual Leadership (p 80):

To be filled with the Spirit means that the Christian voluntarily surrenders life and will to the Spirit.  Through faith, the believer’s personality is permeated, mastered, and controlled by the Spirit…When we invite the Spirit to fill us, the Spirit’s power grips our lives with this kind of strength and passion…The [Christian’s] mind, emotions, will, and physical strength all become available for the Spirit to guide and use…Through the work of the now ungrieved and unhindered Spirit, all the fruits of the Spirit start to grown in the [Christian’s] life.  His witness is more winsome, service more steady, and testimony more powerful.  All real Christian service is but the expression of the Spirit power through believers yielded to Him (John 7:37-39).

Sanders’ insight on being filled with the Spirit has several great attributes.  First, being filled with the Spirit is not for us to use God to do what we desire but for God to use us according to His desires.  Second, the result is a sanctification of our entire person for His use.  Third, there is an active openness to willingness to respond to the Spirit’s direction even if we may be uncomfortable with that direction.  Fourth, being filled with the Spirit is not primarily for personal enjoyment but for serving others and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Having this mind in regards to being filled with the Spirit should result in Christians becoming the best students they can be, the hardest working employees, the most fair-minded employers, loving husbands, respecting wives, obedient children, and caring parents.  The result would be people who love God and love their neighbors.  People who seek to meet the temporal and eternal needs of the world.  These are but a few examples of living life daily under the control and filling of the Spirit.

Humility in Leadership

“Yes, leaders are vital to the church, and it’s appropriate to thank those leaders who have been used by God as a means of grace. But we’re to ascribe glory to no man.  Glory is ascribed exclusively and entirely to God. Only He can regenerate a heart. Only He can change a life. Therefore, only God should receive glory.”
-C.J. Mahaney (Humility p 81)

Leadership in the Church Team

“This is a sick world that hates leadership. Everybody thinks they should be able to text message the president and boss him around. It’s a weird day, from social networking to continual comments to consumerism. People don’t want to follow a leader, all they want to do is criticize a leader. They don’t want to even recognize leadership. And some Christians will even say, “I don’t believe in leadership.” Really? Do you believe in God? Because God’s in charge. So you’ve got to recognize at least one leader.”
(The Resurgence Blog: Every Team Needs a Leader).

Over the past few years I have been in conversations and received a bunch of emails from Christians about the topic of leadership in the church.  Mainly from Christians trying to sell me about the need for no clear leadership or leaders in the church.  Some have been from people who felt hurt or were disciplined by a church, some were from people who didn’t want anyone to tell them what to do or disciple them, and some, ironically, from church leaders.

One funny email declared that there is no command or example of leadership in the church in the New Testament.  Another person was declaring that there was no formal leadership in the church using 1 Timothy 3.  I found that odd because in 1 Timothy 3 it talks about the office of overseer and the qualifications to oversee the local church (v 1-7) as well as the qualifications and testing of people before they are allowed to become deacons in the church (v 8-13).  Granted, there isn’t a handbook in the New Testament going into detail about these two offices, but it is clear that there was an established leadership structure within the local church in the first century at the times of the apostles.

The Resurgence blog Every Team Needs a Leader is well worth reading as it expounds on this subject.  I have put two more excerpts from the blog below, but encourage the reader to go to the Resurgence link to get the full context and the full argument of its writer.

So this plays itself out in the government of a home. Mom, dad, the kids are equal, but dad’s supposed to lovingly, humbly, sacrificially lead. In the church, elders, members, deacons are equal but the elders are supposed to lead. In a community group, everybody’s equal, but the community group leader is supposed to lead. In a redemption group, everybody’s equal, but the redemption group leader is supposed to lead. On a worship team, everybody’s equal, but the team leader is to lead. In a serving team, everybody’s equal, but the team leader leads. So there are teams that have leaders, and leaders, according to ministry, they do doctrine: what do we believe and not believe? Direction: where are we going and not going? And discipline: what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior? That’s what a lot of leadership is: doctrine, direction, discipline…

So every team needs a leader. In this day when authority is jettisoned and leadership is despised, and everybody thinks that they’re smart, and everybody thinks that they should be obeyed. Everybody still believes in leadership, they just think that they should be the leader. So we have a day of complete anarchy. It’s like the days of the judges, everybody did what was right in their own eyes.

Pershing

A couple weeks ago I finished listening to the book Pershing by Jim Lacey.  The book became an excellent driving companion during my travels.  Lacey’s book was a great biography in that it effectively told General “Black Jack” Pershing’s story in a way that displayed what made him great but also did not shy away from talking about the man’s faults.

I recommend this book (4.5 out of 5 stars) not only because it is good to learn about history and those who helped define it but because the book offers leadership insight.  General Pershing was instrumental in organizing and leading the US army into being a premiere fighting unit as well as excelling as a military diplomat in the Philippines.  His abilities shined as he effectively brought about the end of World War I, bringing victory at a time when England and France were on the verge of defeat.

Ironically, his greatest fights during the First World War were not against the Germans but against his own allies.  This fight was for an independent and unified American expeditionary force under American leadership in the midst of constant pressure for amalgamation.  France and England just wanted to take the incoming US troops and use them to fill up their depleting ranks and under their leadership (a “leadership” that had already spilled the blood of a million troops in ineffective campaigns).  Pershing is a great example of standing firm against popular opinion in order to implement an effective strategy.