SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Everything rises or falls on leadership, Paul Dixon, chancellor of Cedarville University in Ohio, said during a breakout session of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference in San Antonio June 11.
Dixon, a former 25-year president of the university, spoke on the topic “Equipped for Relational Leadership” by relaying anecdotes, Scripture references and personal stories from his life in ministry, which includes 49 years of itinerant preaching.
Jesus was a relational leader, Dixon said. “We have confusion today over servant leadership versus strong authoritarian leadership,” he said. “No confusion with Jesus. He was strong. He knew where He was going. He was dogmatic. He was confrontational. He was in charge. So must we [be].
“He was a loving and a forgiving leader,” Dixon continued. “He said in Matthew 11, ‘Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I’ll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart. You will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ … He was our perfect model of being kind yet being firm.”
Dixon touched on leadership excellence in government, business, education and athletics, focusing on the San Antonio Spurs, who at the time were two victories away from capturing their fourth NBA championship in the past nine years.
“The leadership goes back to ownership,” Dixon said. “It goes back to the general manager, to the coach who has been there a number of years, the leadership on the floor by Tim Duncan and [Tony] Parker and those around them. Everything rises or falls on leadership.”
Biblical leaders like Moses, Jeremiah, Paul and David all could be described by one of Dixon’s leadership proverbs that he sprinkled throughout his remarks: “Successful leaders model godliness.”
Leadership in preaching, Dixon said, is generally characterized by energy, a biblical foundation and practical and relevant application. And confrontation can be useful. “A lot of us are weak on that,” he said.
Dixon also emphasized the importance of relationships and said Christians should work to create a caring culture within their churches.
“If you want a warm church, you’ve got to be a warm pastor,” he said.
At Cedarville University, Dixon said he tried to model the concept.
“I’d eat with the troops,” he said. “Whenever I wasn’t eating with the guest speaker [at chapel], I’d go in the dining hall and eat with the students.”
He also noted the importance of handwritten notes.
“Praise God for e-mails, but e-mails have about zilch worth of warmth,” he said.
Before Dixon, James T. Jeremiah served as president of Cedarville for 25 years. The lesson of Cedarville leadership, Dixon said, is that if you discover that you fit somewhere, stay. Dixon urged pastors in the room to follow that advice.
The power of contentment in leadership is tied to the power of character since a person’s relationship with God is of greater importance than his relationship with people.
“It’s more important who we are than what we do,” Dixon said.