successful vs effective leadership

I’m continuing to ponder Christian leadership. And a couple of things I’ve been reading lately are causing me to rethink my earlier post that strongly implied that all genuine Christian leadership should head in the pastor-teacher direction.

I’m prepared to admit that this may be broadly true of Christian leadership without being an absolute necessity for each and every individual Christian leader.

In a team context, for example, different people working together could conceivably have particular strengths in one direction or another — although, I’d personally be pretty hesitant to grant the label Christian to a ‘kingly’ type leader whose head and heart was so deep into systems that he or she had no time for people.

I’m also willing to concede that whereas the New Testament paints us a picture of Jesus as the perfect prophetic and priestly king, we shouldn’t expect the same perfection and completeness of every Christian leader.

There’s an important theological priority to observe here. Before he gives us the pattern for Christian leadership, Jesus lays the — unique and irreplaceable — foundation for it.

And yet, and yet… If we’re building on him as the foundation, then whatever we construct will presumably have the same dimensions as his foundational action does (although not the same function). That’s why Mark 10.45 is joined to Mark 10.42-44 by a ‘for’:

Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Maybe we need something like the distinction between ‘effective’ and ‘successful’ leadership employed in this paper on ‘The ABCs of Effective Pastoral Leadership’.

Successful leadership focusses on church growth — and often produces it — usually by leaning heavily on the ‘strategic’ direction provided by kingly leaders. But it may veer a long way from biblical priorities. Effective leadership prizes church health above church growth, striving to major on what’s biblically central in pastoral ministry — and often sacrificing ‘success’ as a result.


  1. Thanks again! Love the same dimension but different function categories – well differentiated! 🙂

    Hm… I would have thought that when you go for ‘health’– that will lead to genuine and over abundant numerical church growth??

    Focusing on church growth – I wonder whether that is us stepping into God’s role. That is, we are told to preach the gospel to one another and to our world and depend on God for the growth ( numerical vs maturity ). Our job = proclamation of gospel in its fullest sense. God’s job= growth. I think your categories apply here. We shape the dimensions of our ministry on what Jesus did. But our function is different. He is the saviour, not us.

    Though, I also think that there is something to be said about using numbers to check the pulse. Would love to hear more on how strategies( human measurings ) fit into our us fulfilling our function .

  2. I’ve thought some about how to measure leadership effectiveness. Numbers IMO is only a way to measure those gifted in evangelism. Unless a pastor is also an evangelist it really isn’t a proper measurement of his or her effectiveness.

    IMO there are a few measurements we should pay attention to. Does what we preach or teach have any evidence of being Holy Spirit inspired. One way to tell is to hear that someone just heard what we’re talking about from another. Or they were just talking to God about that subject. Or something similar where you can see the Spirit is moving and you are moving with Him.

    Another way is when your hearers evidence that they learned something or it ministered to some pertinent concern for them. When your teachings answer questions that are important for your hearers, then you are doing the job you were called to do. And the most important evidence of all, is that believers are drawn to trust God more, to love the Lord more deeply and to draw ever closer in their relationship with Him.

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