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Missions 101

Ajith Fernando's Leadership Philosophy (Part 2)

Jan. 31, 2013By: Evan Burns

Following yesterday’s post, Ajith Fernando’s book, Jesus Driven Ministry, is full of great biblical insights into leadership that are not primarily based on Western leadership principles.  It is a helpful, thoughtful, and profitable read.  Here are some more leadership principles that he highlights:

Affirming the Will of God.  Fernando looks at the different temptations of Christ in the wilderness and draws out principles for leaders to follow during seasons of significant temptation to compromise and pursue “success” at all cost.   Fernando calls leaders not to succumb to Satan’s temptation to shun the way of the cross by reminding us of our status and privileges.  Much of the thinking about rewards and fulfillment in ministry today are more secular than biblical.  They do not take into account the indispensability of the cross for the fruitful Christian life.  He points out that a leader must not merely seek a job that best satisfies him according to his giftedness and qualifications, but a Christian leader must seek first if God is calling him instead to a cross-like ministry that is not high-impact nor publicly attractive.  He suggests that the biblical doctrine of gifts is being greatly abused today because it is not being considered alongside the biblical doctrine of the cross.  Satan sought to tempt Christ to seek the crown before the cross, and similarly there is a temptation for leaders to circumvent the inglorious ministries and promote themselves to more “respectable” positions of power and prominence. 

Saturated in the Word.  What gives leaders the strength to pursue the straight and narrow path is the sense that this is the way prescribed in the Bible.  There is a temptation to give in and try an easier way or a way that will bring quicker results, but if we follow the principles of God’s Word, we can be eternally sure that God will honor us.  Fernando discusses that the first key to contextualization and cultural relevance in ministry is that the leader know and study the Bible above all else.  This tight-fisted grasp on the Bible keeps the leader focused on objective, unchanging truths and not on passing trends or cultural fads.  It is the security grounded in the Word that keeps the leader fresh and encouraged.   If the leader seeks to lead according to the latest cutting-edge church-growth ideas, he will grow increasingly discouraged because he is always restless and seeking something innovative.  Fernando points out numerous occasions in 1 Timothy where knowledge of the Word and ability to teach it are irreplaceable qualifications for ministry.  The leader not only must teach the Word, but create a hunger among people to delight in it themselves.  He should leave an impression that the Word is full of discoverable treasures.

Bearing Good News.  Christian leaders are a called to proclaim good news, not suggest good advice.  We do this because the gospel is God’s revelation; it describes what God has done to save humanity; the gospel we preach has the power to save people; and we are compelled by the knowledge that those without Christ are lost and without hope.  Part of the responsibility of a leader is to command both repentance of sin and belief in the gospel.  The failure to be specific in calling for repentance could result in people not realizing that Christianity cannot coexist with some terrible sins.  As leaders, our authority is first derived from the Scriptures on which we base our message; secondly, our authority is derived from the call we have received from God to preach the Word; and thirdly, our authority is derived from the Holy Spirit who anoints us to preach.  The leader must maintain that if the gospel is assumed, it is easily forgotten

Growing in a Team.  Though it can be relationally exhausting to be on a team with those whom we ourselves would not choose as team members, the biblical example of both Jesus and Paul is one of patience and partnership despite vast differences.  Team-based ministry helps us with our weaknesses; it helps us when we are vulnerable; it helps us when we are discouraged; and it helps us ultimately on to holiness, though not always happiness.  Working in team-ministry can be tremendous for a leader’s spiritual growth since it forces him to admit his weaknesses, confess his sins, and work through unsanctified areas of his life.  

Tags:  leadership
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