If I’m going to watch a movie, it’s got to have a hero in it. And not a superhero with a cape. I like the guy who is just going along minding his business when circumstances thrust him into some defining role. Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, . . . whatever. Just make them a regular guy, understate their training and then throw some kind of life-defining moment at them. Give me two hours and a tub of popcorn with that and I’m good to go.
In my cinematic view of life the best leader is the unexpected hero, the one who clumsily falls into the role but somehow saves the planet from annihilation. But for a Christian man, however, there are two fundamental problems with this “man for the moment” understanding of leadership.
Our Leadership Is Smaller and Often
The first is that most of us, myself included, will never experience such a dramatic, do-or-die defining moment — or anything approaching it. No, our leadership moments come in smaller and more frequent doses. They’re mundane, obscure, sometimes even boring.
(By the way, when you read exciting accounts of heroic leadership, do you ever wonder, What did the guy do the next day? Take time off? . . . maybe write thank you notes? Fix the disposal?)
Anyone who steps into the call of pastoral ministry quickly realizes that the real work of leadership unfolds in the ordinary responsibilities of life. Sure big events come, but they don’t really define the leader. Like a wise coach, we realize that one victory doesn’t guarantee another — that sometimes the hardest job of leading is not the big game, but the grind of daily practice. “Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4: 2). In a world that measures leadership by immediate impact, God calls us to be stewards who define success by routine, determined, stay-in-the-ring faithfulness.
Our Leadership Is About God and his Church
The second fundamental problem with a “man for the moment” understanding of leadership is something more profound. Ultimately, the call to church leadership isn’t about big events for me. It’s about God and his church. It’s about God’s big event, "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture” (1 Corinthians 15:3). But the fact that Dave’s call should be focused on things outside of Dave can easily get lost when what seems to be really needed (at least in my mind) is more of Dave.
A call to pastoral ministry plays out in the routine of church life, but that doesn’t mean leadership moments don’t happen. They just won’t make you feel like a blockbuster hero. You’ll get your leadership moments when you preach your heart out to a recently planted church of 20 people. God’s man will find out a lot about himself when his idea of changing the meeting location triggers a two-hour debate with team members on whether the Sunday morning service is for the church or the lost. You’ll have a leadership moment when you’re standing with a grieving family and tear-filled eyes look to you for words of comfort.
It’s at these times that you don’t want to be looking for your inner hero. Your secret stash of greatness won’t cut it. The man who is called to ministry learns to look beyond himself to the God who gives grace for faithfulness in time of need (2 Chronicles 20:12). And that’s the kind of leadership moment you should be looking for.
Dave Harvey is responsible for church care, church planting, and international expansion for Sovereign Grace Ministries.
Dave Harvey, Jeff Vanderstelt, and Ed Stetzer will be speaking on church planting at our upcoming National Conference, "Finish the Mission: For the Joy of All Peoples."