Session 4: The Twenty Top Qualifiers for Successful Christian Leadership.

Somewhere back in the past half-century, we diagnosed the church’s problem as a crisis of leading, not a crisis of following. It’s as if we read Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship and decided we’d rather talk about something else entirely. Leonard Sweet, I Am a Follower.

A few years back, I was invited to teach an evening class on the subject of ‘maturity and qualifications for Christian leadership’ for a group of about twenty or so individuals who were in process of stepping into leadership roles in their home church. I decided the first step in our discussions would be to find out any pre-conceived perceptions my students might have before I started throwing in my two-cents on the subject.

I opened by asking for the class to list the words that came to mind when they thought about defining ‘successful church leadership’. The list of nouns and adjectives they assembled, in all honesty, was a bit more refreshing and hopeful than the list I had come up with. I heard words like, ‘servant’ and ‘pastor’ but, as expected, I heard words I expected to hear from anyone who’s been around everyday American church life as long as some of them had been.

So, after a healthy time of discussing some of their ideas, I shared the list I had brought with me.

Now, while I claim that my list of ‘Twenty Top Qualifiers for Successful Christian Leadership’ is not a scientific study, I did spend considerable time on-line going through a fairly definitive list of top ten qualities that have been published in many Christian leadership books over the last decade or so. My original goal was to take the ‘top-ten’ qualities of a successful Christian leader and share that list with you. But after looking at the vast number of popular books out there, I decided to expand my list to twenty qualifications, just so I could get the full flavor of what we American church-experts are looking for in our pastors and leaders. So, ready or not, here we go:

Twenty Top Qualifiers for Successful Christian Leadership (in alphabetical order)






Effective Communicator


Excellent Character

Excellent Listener

Excellent Negotiator

Goal Setter

Helps Others Succeed

Inspiring Motivator

Life-Long Learner

Positive Attitude

Problem Solver

Risk Taker


Team Builder


Well? What do you think? Does your list come close to what I compiled? Maybe a few differences, huh?

I asked my class if the list looked legit to them. Most the words I used were similar to the list of words they had written down in defining ‘successful church leadership’ as well.

I asked my class to go over the list again, and this time; reflect upon their unique gifts and abilities as they read. I asked if anyone was overwhelmed or intimidated in any way by the list I shared. Many shook their heads and sighed in agreement.

As I see it, this list, while it might be accurate and impressive, is indeed, a very intimidating list for most pastors and potential leaders in many of our churches across North America. Growing our churches, you see, under the watchful thumb of the 3-B’s; where success is defined through (B)uilding size, (B)ucks in the bank, and (B)utts in the seats; leaves many pastors and lay leaders beginning to question if any of us are qualified to serve Christ at all.

So, let me break some news to you. While my list of Twenty Top Qualifiers for Successful Christian Leadership might look impressive to some, let me suggest to you that many of the words we so commonly associate in westernized Christianity with ‘successful church leadership’ are not words the New Testament uses in defining leadership for those who were called in the first century! In truth, while the words ‘leader’, ‘leadership’ and ‘lead’ are some of the most common themes found in Christianity today, these same words are fairly foreign in the New Testament when describing the jobs you or I might be called to when serving God’s people!

Next time, we’ll begin a New Testament word study that might just scare you out of your ‘leadership’ role completely! Note: you’ve been forewarned!

(For those of you who are wanting to look under the hood on the “word” statistics I’m presenting in this blog series, click here for all of the references we refer to in this blog)

My prayer: Jesus, to be quite honest, I’m a bit intimidated by the list of 20 top qualifiers for successful leadership in Your church of today. In truth, it seems that there might only be a handful of individuals who might come close to fulfilling this daunting list. Holy Spirit, come speak Your truth to me in the days ahead. Show me Your list. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Which words on this list of qualifiers seem to describe me? Which words seem to be well beyond my abilities, strengths and giftings? What inward feelings arise, good, bad, and ugly, when I ponder on all these things, and am I willing to invite Jesus into those feelings?

So, what is God speaking to you today as we ask the question, To Lead Or Not To Lead?

As I see it, something needs to change in the way we define ‘successful’ Christian leadership. And the question today should not be, ‘Do we need leadership?’ but rather, ‘What kind of leaders is God asking men and women to be? Over a four-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at this question. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our To Lead Or Not To Lead? home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

Click here to go on to the next session…

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