Leaders aren’t just born; they are grown. Just as a seed is planted in good soil and given time to grow with plenty of sunlight and water, so also leaders must develop over time.
All believers are leaders because we influence those around us, either toward Christ or away from him. We are all called to Christ’s command to make disciples, sharing the gospel and building into the lives of other believers. We do not all have the spiritual gift of leadership, but we all can grow our influence as we mature.
To influence others, we must assess where we are. If you recruit leaders in your church, look for the same signs that you look for in yourself. Several marks of maturity come to mind:
- Intimacy with Christ
Although we may fake out those around us by pretending to spend more time in prayer and other spiritual disciplines than we really do, overall the adage is true that we can’t fool all the people all the time. Just the other day my mother described someone: “When you talk to him, you can tell that he just loves Jesus.” Somehow God enables us to sense that love relationship.
A leader may struggle with busyness and priorities, but a mature leader is growing in her time and intimacy with God. How are you doing? Remember, it’s not the fact that you pray that determines your intimacy; it’s the way that you pray and listen to God that changes you.
Humility is a foundational quality for growth. When we cannot see our own faults, even when they are pointed out to us, we will not mature. Every leader messes up and fails, sometimes falling flat on her face, but maturity requires admitting it and growing from it. The strongest signal that someone is ready to lead others is a willingness to share about and learn from her sins and mistakes.
Those who walk intimately with Christ become more like him as the Spirit of God produces fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Assess yourself by considering each quality honestly before God, perhaps for a day or a week. Ask him where and how you need to grow as your depend on his Spirit.
A mature leader gives grace to those who don’t deserve it—those difficult to love or caught in sin, people who disagree with her goals or plans, those who see politics or the church’s priorities differently. Do you really give grace to such people? God’s leaders must be people of grace, who accept that Christ-followers are flawed and human and love them anyway.
As I assess myself, I don’t claim to be a 10 in any area, but I can see growth. By God’s grace I will continue to do so as he speaks to me and puts me in situations that force me to change. I hope you see the same thing in yourself.
What other qualities help you discern whether someone has the maturity needed to lead well? What do you learn about yourself as you read this list and how will you grow where needed?