In our years of starting, multiplying, and leading missional communities in Portland and Los Angeles, we have seen this list as the prerequisite for being a good missional community leader. People who possess these ten qualities lead their own lives and communities well. Examine your own heart to see if you are qualified to lead.
1. Motivated by the Gospel&Growing in the Gospel
It seems like a given, but many leaders can lead for other reasons. You will be calling people to follow Jesus, not a model, method, or social club. Jesus is your reward, not significance. Being transformed by Jesus is your motivation. To be motivated by the gospel, you have to be re- ceiving the gospel into your life through reading, prayer, community, and struggle.
2. A Friend of Sinners
Do you have friends with people outside the church and outside the faith? Your community will not be on relational mission if its leaders aren’t. We are always looking for leaders who have meaningful relationships with people who don’t believe and who are reorienting their lives to deepen those relationships and are bold in sharing the gospel. Common question I ask is: who are the last five people to eat in your home and what’s your relationship with them like?
3. Desire to Help Others Grow in Faith&Obedience
To lead a gospel community you have to have a desire to help others pursue their belief and their faithfulness. As a leader, you want to be an aid in people’s spiritual forma- tion. This is the goal. If you have another goal, you might not be qualified to be a leader.
4. Commitment to the Long Process
It will take time and will not feel great or exciting most of the time. Longevity is a substantial element to successful community that is growing the gospel. A leader must be invested in the marathon of making disciples. A leader must be prepared to run the race with endurance and live in the urgency of the Spirit, not in our culture. This means speaking the gospel regularly; this means inviting people into the mission regularly; this means clarifying the truth and obedience. This also looks like calling peo- ple to repent. A qualified leader will do this without ex- pectation for immediate results but instead with an ex- pectation for God’s movement and work.
5. Prayerful in dependence on the Spirit
The Holy Spirit dwells within you. It is your helper that empowers you to love others. The Spirit reminds you of the gospel, calls you to repentance, and gives your power over sin. Leaders are those who pray and listen to the Spirit. The primary and initial thing all good leaders do is pray for the people they lead.
You are a servant to God. You are not building your re- sume or gaining God’s approval by leading a community. Instead, you are selflessly serving. This doesn’t mean you are a spiritual-service provider to your group. It simply means you lead with humility. You take initiative for oth- ers growth in the gospel. I love this short saying I got from Andrew Picha: “If serving is beneath you, then lead- ing is above you.”
7. Honest with Their Own Mess
Leaders who are honest and open about their struggles to believe the gospel and their struggles in daily life facili- tate true community. The leaders struggle when they hide their mess by pretending and keeping up appearances. Good leaders of missional communities confess their doubts and difficulties in following Jesus. This is how they model genuine worship of Christ and invite and equip others to do the same.
8. Understand They Can’t Make People Change
People are transformed by Christ, not you or a model. What you can do as a leader is invite people to come and drink of the gospel. You can make it compelling, clear, and connected to their present life. However, no one can orchestrate change in people’s lives. Good leaders know this, trust in it, and respond by praying for their people to taste and see the goodness of God and walk in faithfulness.
9. Not the Answer Man or Woman
These communities take initiative for their own learning. When there isn’t an answer man, they turn to the Scriptures and discover answers together. Leaders have to be confident enough in who they are in Christ to say, “I don’t know.” If you are driven to always know the answer or come up with an answer on the spot, you probably aren’t ready for leadership. As Henri Nouwen writes eloquently in his leadership book, In the Name of Jesus:
“Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance.”
Lastly, is this leader hospitable. Do they welcome people into their lives and have space for relationships. Hospitality, by the way, is much more than Martha Stewart like place settings. It involves a considering of the other and create an environment and place for a stranger to find a home. Are you the kind of leader that does that in relationships.
Develop These Qualities
If you’re a coach or pastor, develop people around these qualities. I attempt to shape my leadership development and conversations with emerging leaders around these character qualities. This is what I’m aiming for. If you want to lead and even if you have people already following you, grow in these qualities to lead them toward Jesus and not yourself.