A Christian is a person who is a follower of Jesus Christ. A leader is a person who has influence over others. The question is what is unique about a person who is a Christian who serves in leadership? How is Christian leadership different from leadership in general?
The teachings and life of Jesus offer an important answer to this question. He came to seek and to save the lost, to serve others rather than to be served. Further, Jesus left heaven to live among sinful humanity and minister to the needs of people. These traits of service, love, and compassion are to likewise mark those who seek to be effective Christian leaders.
In addition, Jesus presented Himself as a shepherd of sheep, even noting that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). A Christian leader can learn much from this analogy of a shepherd. The shepherd in Jesus' culture was a person who cared for the sheep, met their needs, and protected them from harm. The sheep "knew the voice" of the good shepherd, indicating a personal relationship that made followers desire to respond to the shepherd.
The apostle Paul also provides important instructions for Christian leaders. Most of his letters begin with reference to himself as a servant or slave of Christ Jesus. Today's leaders are also called to identify themselves first as servants of Jesus. The service of the Christian leader is to be as a person under Christ's authority, genuinely concerned with living a life that reflects the values of Jesus, a life of integrity that leads by example.
In 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, Paul provided many qualities for those who would serve as the official leaders of local churches. Most of these qualities focus on issues of integrity. While even an evil leader can be effective in rallying people toward a cause (such as Hitler and Nazi Germany), a Christian leader must serve as a person whose life resembles the life of Christ.
In summary, the unique traits of Christian leadership primarily focus on two important differences—an attitude of service and a life of integrity. Those who follow Jesus seek to show the same care toward others that He does and to live by His teachings. This consistency of one's life and actions can have great influence among others as a leader who changes lives according to the principles of God's Word.
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