4 Distinctions of Telling Time for Church Leaders

If influencing others is a key component of leadership, then Christian leadership will be about influencing people spiritually, leading them in a direction that helps them become more like Christ.

I’ve always liked Henry and Richard Blackaby’s definition of spiritual leadership:

“The spiritual leader’s task is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be.”

Most leadership books focus more on principles than people, and this is one reason so many of these books seem out-of-date so quickly.

To think of leadership in terms of timeless principles is easy, but we do well to remember that the tasks of exercising leadership and exerting influence do not take place in a vacuum. They are by nature contextual; that is, they require the use of wisdom in applying principles to various and often-changing contexts.

In this sense, then, Christian leadership is never timeless. Instead, it is a timely application of God-given wisdom regarding specific decisions that must be made in particular moments in time.

Over the next few weeks, I want to return to this topic of Christian leadership. My particular focus is on an essential but sometimes neglected component of Christian leadership: the ability to know “what time it is,” in order to have a clear understanding of the times. There are four spheres in which Christian leaders should know “the time,” and I look forward to fleshing these out in subsequent posts.

1. Biblically

The Christian leader will stand apart from conceptions of leadership that are worldly. How? By the way he or she inhabits the world of the Bible.

Since Christians are called to live within the framework of a biblical worldview that takes one from creation to new creation, Christian leaders must influence others from within this grand narrative.

The Old Testament offers us several examples of leaders who “understood the times” in which they lived and knew “what time it was” biblically. The New Testament adds the element of living in the “time between the times,” in the already / not yet of God’s kingdom. Knowing where we are in the grand sweep of history, according to Scripture, impacts our ethical decisions.

2. Personally

While it is of the utmost importance for a leader to understand biblical teaching on history and the future, one must not lose sight of how important it is to understand one’s own personal story within that overarching narrative.

The Christian leader must be a student not only of world history from a biblical perspective, but also of his or her personal journey. In this way, the leader is best equipped to make good decisions about how to serve God in a particular time, utilizing specific gifts.

Knowing “what time it is” personally is essential for making wise decisions, and these decisions require a deep understanding of one’s personal life circumstances, personal gifting, and personal calling.

3. Organizationally

Once we know ”what time it is” from a biblical and personal standpoint, we must consider the organization and the people we are leading.

Understanding the life and times of an organization is essential for wise decisions; it involves understanding the current state of the organization, how best to communicate the present challenges to others, and envisioning and promoting the future.

Until we understand the particular moment one’s organization is in, whether it be a church or other ministry, we will not know what to do.

4. Culturally

A fourth element of Christian leadership concerns understanding the current context in which one lives. It means one knows “what time it is” culturally and how one’s culture has arrived at its current moment.

The impetus for understanding one’s cultural moment arises from the Great Commission itself, which has an eschatological dimension that must not be ignored. After all, the Great Commission involves making the announcement of King Jesus and leading disciples to obey everything he has commanded. Only within the grand narrative of Scripture does this command make sense, and only in a current cultural context can this command be obeyed.

Not only does the Great Commission challenge cultural views of world history that do not align with a biblical worldview, the Gospel itself is historical to the core, a record of historical events that impinge upon one’s current cultural setting. A biblically formed view of the world, often described as a “biblical worldview,” is vital to fulfilling the Great Commission.

>> Conclusion

  • Knowing the time biblically places believers within the overarching story of their world as described by Scripture.
  • Knowing the time personally helps individuals to view their strengths and weaknesses and, in answer to God’s call, maximize their potential by matching their gifts to the needs of God’s people.
  • Knowing the time organizationally involves a realistic diagnosis of where an organization is and how it got there, as well as healthy communication of the leader’s vision for the future.
  • Knowing the time culturally is essential for effective contextualization and the ability to discern the positives and negatives of a particular cultural moment in time.

The Christian leader who knows what time it is in all four of these spheres will be better positioned to make a major impact for God’s kingdom.

>> Read more from Trevin.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

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