One natural byproduct of the spiritual growth that people experience in small groups is a better understanding of who they are. They discover the uniqueness with which God made them, or their personhood. They discover the reason that God created them, or their purpose. They discover the definition of success in which they can invest their lives, or their priority. In addition to being markers of spiritual maturity, these byproducts of spiritual growth are also powerful sources of effective leadership.
But here’s the thing, these byproducts of spiritual growth are most potent not when they are used to try to amass authority, but instead when they are used to serve others. It is by sharing the authenticity of my personhood that I obtain influence and gain the clout to lead. It is by sharing the significance of my purpose that I produce results and gain the credibility to lead. It is by sharing the wisdom of my values that I develop others into leaders and gain the capacity to lead. It is when I share myself with others without expectation of anything in return, that I am most effective as a leader. Conventional leadership, by contrast, depends on transactional strategies like compensation and control and convincing to gain influence, produce results, and recruit leaders. Christian leaders end up with these same things, but they obtain them by sharing themselves with others.
Some would call this servant leadership, but even that falls short of the full explanation because it does not account for motivation. Servant leaders may serve with the intention of obtaining authority, but Jesus told his disciples to simply serve without the expectation of getting anything in return. This is the way Jesus himself led. He said that he “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28, NIV). Using this approach Jesus became the most effective and powerful leader in history. He didn’t pursue leadership. Leadership came to him because he shared himself with others. This is the type of leader that small groups are potentially producing. But these people will become those kinds of leaders only if they know what they have and they know what to do with it.
Dave Alford Is Pastor of Leadership Development at Saddleback Church. In this role he develops leaders through several channels including the intern program, the online campus, and small group curriculum development. Dave’s background includes experience in business, pastoral ministry, and higher education.
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