Strengths-Oriented Leadership, pt. 2 – Forget Saul’s Armor and Grab a Slingshot

Leadership-qualities1 Any leader or church wanting to be all God created them to be will want to learn from others and apply those learnings. However, there is a big difference between the contextual application of learning and trying to wear "Saul's Armor," that is, trying to cut and paste someone else's ministry method's and strengths onto yourself. If you are too small to wear the King's armor but know how to use a sling shot…start there. This takes self-honesty concerning both strengths and weaknesses.

Every leader has some things they do very well and other things they don't. Knowing those strengths and weaknesses is an important beginning to changing the direction of the church one serves over the long-term. However, it isn't just knowing what one's strengths and weaknesses that matters. It's knowing how to skillfully and in dedicated fashion hone one's gifts over time while committing lesser amounts of time to rectifying one's weaknesses. To say it plainly: focus on your strengths as a leader first, and rectifying weaknesses second. Strengths are what God has gifted you to do. Do those things, primarily. Do them even better than you do them now.

Let me illustrate by oversimplifying the issue. Remember Michael Jordan's experiment in playing baseball? Let's just say he'll only get into to Cooperstown if he buys a ticket for the tour. He was a basketball player. He wanted to be a baseball player. But he wasn't. Now, I'm not as good at anything as Michael Jordan was at basketball, but through spiritual discernment and the encouragement of others I know I'm more gifted at some things than other things. If I decide to stop preaching or leading so I can be better musician or youth minister–well… I do the church a disservice. If John the Baptist had spent his time focusing on honing his mercy gift to the detriment of the prophetic word, he would have been ignoring God's call. This doesn't mean we shouldn't focus on honing our character or peripheral gifts we believe could be of use to others and the Kingdom. Nor am I suggesting we not work on weaknesses in our character. Those should be dealt with quickly. I'm talking about our ministry strengths and avoiding the trap of thinking I need to be master of everything. Instead, I need to allow the Parable of the Talents and the truth that God's Spirit giving gifts to people "just as He chose" (1 Cor. 12:11) to guide my honing of the gifts. In general, I am the biggest blessing to the church when I offer what what God has equipped me to do best.

The same principles applies to churches. For instance, extremely small churches in decline often want to focus on building a ZOE-group like assembly. They believe it's their greatest weakness…and it probably is. However, it's an example of Saul's armor to focus on that rather than building on the strengths that come with their given size (intimacy/fellowship, prayer, flexibility, etc.). I'm not saying they should ignore the assembly issues. However, if those gifts are honed and given a missional shift, the church is far more likely to grow into a church that could someday have a more vibrant assembly.

Forget Saul's armor and grab a slingshot. You're a lot more likely to kill giants.

What are you good at (don't say, "nothing")? What are you not very good at (be honest)? Is there one area of ministry that you know will dramatically improve your ministry overall? How can you invest the time and energy into improving in that area without compromising your primary gifts.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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