We can talk all day about how we lead or what good leaders do. But the most important thing about leaders in the church is who they are. Nothing replaces character. Giftedness might get us places, but character keeps us there.
For me, one of the most influential leaders is the apostle Paul. I often look into the scriptures to see his focus, to learn about his character and to see if I can find some “nuggets” when it comes to practices in leadership. One of the biggest things that pops out about his leadership is that he “lived among” those he served (see Acts 20:17-21 for an example or you can also see this phraseology throughout the book of 1 Thessalonians if you read through that).
We might say Paul’s leadership was “down to earth.” I think there is a real beauty to leading this way. He didn’t lead from a position, but instead from his life. That’s a big difference and one that is critical for working with students, especially today. In Acts 20:17-21 alone we see those he led could attest to at least the following things about his life:
1. His humility—Can we look at those we lead and say to them that they can attest to our humility?
2. His compassion for them as human beings—Do we actually love people or just say we do?
3. His own trials in life—Do we allow those we lead into even the difficult aspects of our lives?
4. His commitment to speaking truth—Do we love people enough to tell them the truth?
5. His consistency between public and private settings—Are we consistent in character regardless of where we are?
6. His unchanging message—Are we committed to telling everyone about the gospel?
It seems as though Paul could answer all these positively, which is partly what made him such a powerful leader. If we are smart, we will look to these characteristics as a model for our own lives. I believe Jesus modeled these as well.