Last month we explored leadership as relational work – shepherding to nurture emotional and spiritual well-being. This month we turn to another dimension of leadership: paying attention to God. In any group or organization, one of the critical aspects of leadership is asking the important questions, “Where are we headed?” and “What is our goal?” Such questions shape strategic thinking and mission.

However, as congregational leaders, the question is quite different. The difference is critical, and it is one of the reasons why church leaders often find themselves frustrated and uncertain. The usual practices of leadership in organizations do not apply to the big question.

As the church – as God’s people – the big question is not, “Where are we headed?” but “Where is God headed?” This turns the task of vision work and strategic thinking on its head. Great congregational leaders are not necessarily savvy visionaries or brilliant communicators or great strategists, though these are wonderful gifts he uses. Instead, great congregational leaders are first and foremost prayerful disciples intent on knowing his will for their own lives and for the lives of the congregations they have been called to lead.

Because Christ is the head of the church, and because God is redeeming humankind through the witness of the church, the task of leaders is to pay close attention to God’s leadership. One way to speak of this is with the term “interpretive leadership.” To pay attention to God, congregational leaders are constantly engaged in interpretive work – listening to the Word and listening for the Spirit’s prompting so they might follow.

Here are some examples of what interpretive leadership looks like:

If you are a leader in a congregation, I suggest the best and most important thing you could do for your congregation is to commit yourself to being a prayerful disciple. In order to grow – to really grow as teams of leaders – the challenge will be to create space for leaders to find good ways of asking and exploring the questions, “What is God up to in our community?” and “What is God’s preferred future for our church?”

I believe that in times of renewal God will raise up such leaders. Will you be in that number?


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