The church has a leadership crisis. Paul Tripp argues that this crisis is one reason many pastors fail, experience burnout, and leave pastoral ministry altogether. He proposes that the solution to this problem is a leadership model based on the gospel, “The model for the community that is the church, and most importantly, its leadership, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
There are twelve gospel principles church leadership teams can use to evaluate how they take care of one another, and faithfully lead the church of Jesus Christ.
- Achievement: A ministry community’s time that is controlled by the business of the church is spiritually unhealthy.
- Gospel: To minister to God’s people in grace, leaders need to nurture grace in one another’s lives.
- Limits: Every leader is limited in their energy, time, gifts, and talents. It is important to recognize this to lead well.
- Balance: Leadership must mutually recognize that balance is needed to fulfill the various callings God gives to us.
- Character: A healthy leadership community understands that character is more important than anything.
- War: Gospel ministry is spiritual warfare.
- Service: Leaders are called to serve God’s people, not domineer over them.
- Candor: A leadership community focused on the gospel will be approachable and have the courage to love honestly.
- Identity: Where leadership gets their identity from is where they will lead from.
- Restoration: When the gospel forms a leadership community, it will be committed to fresh starts.
- Longevity: There can be no longevity without a gospel community of leaders.
- Presence: Church ministry is not possible without the presence of Jesus.
The gospel changes everything, including church leadership. Lead does not argue for a certain leadership structure within the church, such as elder-led or deacon led, but rather encourages a church’s current leadership structure to be formed by the gospel. Too often, this is overlooked. When the gospel is at the center of everything a leadership team does, they will look different, and there will be gospel fruit in their church.
How does the gospel change church leadership? It begins by first changing the leaders. A community of leaders changed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ will desire to and will lead in a way that pleases Christ. They will be committed to His goals and will seek to build His kingdom and not their own. Because the gospel has transformed them, they understand their limits and have everything they need in Christ. They will view their primary identity as someone who is in Christ and not primarily a leader in God’s church. Because they are in Christ, they will seek to be faithful in the roles God calls them to, including their home and ministry.
The gospel also changes church leadership because it helps us see that leaders need to take care of one another. It is very easy to lead the church and think you don’t need help, and sadly sometimes, that thought is there because there is no one to help the leaders. For example, in a church led by multiple elders, they should take the twelve principles and apply them for one another. They will grow in their sanctification because of it, and the church will be healthier for it. Leaders need shepherding as well, and that shepherding happens through the gospel.
For many churches, Tripp’s model will be revolutionary, including a total upheaval of what has been done in the past. For other churches, minor tweaks will need to be made. Certainly, all leadership communities will benefit by intentionally thinking through how the gospel shapes leadership. It changes everything, and leaders rob themselves and the people they lead, and most importantly, rob God of His glory when the gospel is not at the center of everything we do.