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PASTOR’S CORNER: The Christian approach to leadership

If you are in a church in the middle of searching for a new pastor, or a new pastor searching your membership for leaders, this article is for you. Scripture gives us an approach to finding leaders before the fact, which provides a better chance of matching the right people to the right jobs.

Our focus here is in the church, but the approach works just as well in the corporate world.

This approach begins with a cardinal rule demonstrated by none other than the author of the approach himself, Jesus the Christ. So, let’s start there, in Luke 6:12-13 where he shows us how to start. In verse 12, Luke described Jesus’s assent up a mountain to pray and the text says he prayed all night to God.

Here’s verse 13 verbatim, “and when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose 12, whom also he named apostles.” So far, we can see that Jesus had 12 very important decisions to make; he was about to pick the 12 who would carry out his redemptive plan after his death. That’s why he prayed all night for guidance from his Father.

We also learn from this passage that he was not hasty in his selections. He waited until he had a group of well-qualified candidates from which to make his choices. Then after talking with his Father, he felt the time was right to select the original 12 apostles. The cardinal rule he followed — leaders should be carefully and prayerfully chosen — is good advice for us today.

We’ve covered the prayerful aspect of the approach now let’s talk about the careful part. Back in the Old Testament, we find advice on personal traits to look for as we examine each candidate. Solomon advises in Proverbs 16:22-23 to look for a person who offers suggestions as opposed to issuing orders; one who speaks pleasantly and not officiously; a communicator.

The story of Gideon and his 300-man army, found in Judges 7:16-18, stresses two leadership traits to look for in prospective leaders: a willingness to delegate as Gideon did when he divided his army into three companies; and a willingness to lead by example, seen in his direction to the soldiers to “look on me, and do likewise.” He did not ask of them what he was not willing to do.

Someone might ask the question, “what about educational credentials, shouldn’t that be a major factor in making a selection?”

I am a supporter of education. Anyone who wants to be consistent in providing for his or her family had better have an education. But, in selecting church leaders I believe it’s overrated and less important than the focus of the Christian approach.

Within the church arena, educational accomplishment is less important than who one is in Christ. The focus of the Christian approach is the latter, because how one relates to people is a better indicator of a good leader than the number of letters following his name. We would do well to follow Jesus, the ultimate people person. He did a pretty good job of choosing the 12.


Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles.

Pastor’s Corner is a monthly religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture to life today. The column appears on the first Thursday of each month in the Wave and its website,