SBC Life Articles

Kingdom-Building Leadership Principles

The Empowering Kingdom GrowthActs 1:8 Challenge strategy is focused on the local church. We are praying that God will use this emphasis to help us to defeat "Spiritual My-opia" by renewing our mission passion. God has given the "Keys of the Kingdom" (Matthew 16) to His church. The church has been entrusted with the incredible good news of the Kingdom and, thus, is the primary instrument by which God advances His Kingdom on earth. The original Acts 1:8 challenge was answered as the Holy Spirit empowered the early disciples to plant biblically-based local churches in an ever-expanding sphere of influence throughout the known world, beginning in Jerusalem and extending to the ends of the earth.

Churches today have the privilege and mandate of taking up the baton of the Acts 1:8 Challenge. We are empowered by the same Holy Spirit that enabled those first century believers to turn the world upside down. We are praying that God will accomplish a work so incredible that only He can gain glory for it. It is our passion that we will advance His Kingdom, by His power, for His glory.

Leadership is a key issue if this EKG emphasis is to become more than another slogan or denominational emphasis. I am frequently asked, "What can I do to lead my church or my class to have a greater Kingdom focus?" Let me explore with you six principles of Kingdom-building leadership taken from several biblical texts.

Always Point to the Activity of the Lord

One of the greatest leadership feats in all of history was the leading of a vast multitude of persons of all ages through the Red Sea. Every time I read the story, I stand amazed that one man could mobilize a people that had grown up in slavery to stage one of the most daring escapes ever attempted. Israel had no military ability while the Pharaoh had horses, chariots, and horsemen.

Israel was between the proverbial "rock and the hard place" with Pharaoh's army behind them and the "seemingly" impassable Red Sea before them. You may recall Moses' bold speech recorded in Exodus 14:13-14: Don't be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord's salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet (HCSB).

It appears that this bold Sunday morning sermon was followed by the Monday morning blues. In verse 15 we find the Lord asking Moses why he is crying out and not breaking camp. I can identify with Moses. There have been times when I have challenged those following me to a task that clearly seemed beyond our ability and have been plagued by a sense of doubt. We must keep in mind that all Kingdom work is beyond our capability, because it is supernatural in nature. Thus, it is clearly within God's capability.

What then does the leader do? Moses listened to and obeyed the Lord without any pretension that he was the one with the answer to Israel's dilemma. Look at the result: When Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and believed in Him and His servant Moses (Exodus 14:31, HCSB). If you want people to follow your leadership, show them the Lord.

Give Ministry Away

Now Moses, the leader, is confronted with a new but equally daunting leadership dilemma. As Israel is traveling through the wilderness, they face challenges that require someone to render a judgment. Moses has been shouldering this responsibility alone. The people stood around him from morning to evening (Exodus 18:13). That sort of attention can build one's ego and destroy one's health and family. Perhaps he was having a bit of a "messianic complex." After all, nobody could do it like Moses!

By attempting to do "it all by himself," Moses had worn both the people and himself out. Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, gave him some sage advice. He told him that his leadership style was not good for himself or for the people (18:17-18). He told Moses that he should continue to instruct the people about God's laws, but that he should select God-fearing, trustworthy men and place them over groups of people in thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and allow them to judge the people (21-23).

Moses not only was wise enough to heed advice, but he was willing to give ministry to gifted laity. A good leader teaches God's Word with clarity and gives ministry opportunities to gifted and trustworthy laity. You never diminish your leadership by giving ministry away, you simply multiply it.

Stand in the Gap for Your People

It is hard to imagine the sense of outrage Moses must have experienced when he came down from the mountain after having received the two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God, only to discover that the people had crafted a golden calf to worship (Exodus 32). Insult must have been added to injury when he discovered that his own brother had been instrumental in this rebellion against God.

What does the leader do when he feels betrayed by the very people he has been called to lead? The leadership solution — prayer. Moses chose to stand in the gap for his people. His first response is to intercede for his people before God (11-12). Notice that he doesn't cover up their sin, but he does identify fully with the people he has been called to lead. So Moses returned to the Lord and said, "Oh, this people has committed a great sin; they have made for themselves a god of gold. Now if You would only forgive their sin. But if not, please erase me from the book You have written" (Exodus 32:31-32, HCSB).

Every time I read this passage, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul who was willing to exchange his own blessing for the redemption of his brethren, the Jewish people (Romans 9:1-3). It is not insignificant that in virtually every letter that Paul wrote, he mentioned that he prayed for his churches without ceasing. If you read through these letters you will discover that some of these churches contained people not easy to love or lead, yet the leader is willing to stand in the gap for his people.

Provide for Generational Leadership

Israel is poised to enter the Promised Land. God has promised them this land and has already made provision for them to take the land. Yet, as early as Numbers 11, we can hear the beginning of fear and rebellion. The complaints of chapter 11 are followed by the rebellion of Miriam and Aaron. Nothing can be as discouraging as the rebellion of those who are close to you.

But the final blow comes when Israel refuses to enter the Promised Land when victory is in sight. What do you do when the people you are called to lead fail to buy into the vision that God has given for the expansion of His Kingdom? Once again, Moses pleads for His people (Numbers 14:13-16), but this time he takes a further step. The leadership solution — cast the vision for the next generation. The final days of Moses' ministry are consumed in passing on the vision for the Promised Land to the next generation and the next leader, Joshua.

Kingdom leadership is unconcerned about who gets the credit and takes the long view. Some of us are placed in leadership venues where our Kingdom focus will require that we build the foundation for the leader who follows us. This unselfish leadership style demonstrates both maturity and Kingdom focus.

Serve Your People and Speak Kindly to Them

In 1 Kings 12:1-19, we find that the wise king Solomon is dead and his son Rehoboam had prepared to take the reigns of leadership. Solomon's intense building campaigns had left the people weary, and they asked Rehoboam to lighten the load that Solomon had placed on them. It appears that Rehoboam might prove to be a wise leader, because he consults with his father's advisors. They give him great advice: They replied, "Today if you will be a servant to these people and serve them, and if you respond to them by speaking kind words to them, they will be your servants forever" (1 Kings 12:7, HCSB).

His reaction is tragic. He determines to lead like a dictator, declaring that his little finger is thicker than his father's loins. The result was outright rebellion and the division of the kingdom. The people feel that they have no portion in David (16). One wonders what might have been if Rehoboam had heeded their advice. Kingdom leaders see no conflict between leading and serving. You can't lead people you are unwilling to love.

No one modeled servant leadership like Jesus. Leaders must be servants and shepherds who know and love the sheep.

Model and Mentor

In Matthew 10 we discover Jesus commissioning and sending His disciples out to proclaim the Good News. To fully appreciate this passage, you must read the last part of chapter 9.

In verse 35, we are told that Jesus went to all the towns and village, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom. In other words, Jesus was modeling what He would later ask His disciples to do. You can't lead people where you are unwilling to go. If you want to have an evangelistic church, you must be a soul-winner. If you want to lead a serving church, you must model servanthood. If you want to lead a generous people, you must model generosity.

Jesus' disciples were motivated to go, because they had seen His compassion and they knew his vision. In verse 36, we are told that when Jesus saw the multitudes, He felt compassion for them. People respond to the leader who speaks from passion. Further, Jesus gives them an expanded vision by declaring that the harvest is plentiful. If you want people to serve with passion and vision, you must model it and mentor leaders who will go into the ripe fields.

    About the Author

  • Kenneth S. Hemphill