Church Leadership Simplified

More By Hans Kristensen

I have multiple bookshelves filled with leadership books. They are generally written by athletes, coaches, business leaders who have excelled in their fields and have become great leaders. But over several years, I grew tired of reading these books, because each one seemed to add yet another bunch of things that I need to do or be as a leader. Each book seemed to complicate rather than simplify the task of leadership. This is a problem because if we, as leaders of God’s people, are not clear on what we should be doing then we cannot do our job.

These chapters are a breath of fresh air, because they provide such a straightforward template for those of us who lead God’s people.

This is where Joshua 3-4 are a breath of fresh air, because they provide such a straightforward template for those of us who lead God’s people. To be clear, “leadership” in Joshua is a sub-theme of the passage, not the main theme. But because it is a theme, we can mine this passage for leadership gold.

There is a discernible pattern in this passage: God speaks, Joshua obeys, and passes on what God has said to him. Notice that:

  • God’s command in 3:8 (for Joshua to tell the priests what to do) is passed on to the people in 3:13.
  • God’s command in 4:1 (about making a memorial out of twelve stones from the Jordan) is obeyed and enacted by Joshua and the Israelites in 4:4-8.
  • The command that God gave to Joshua in 4:16 (about the priests coming up out of the Jordan) is conveyed by Joshua in the next verse.

Joshua’s leadership in these chapters consists of hearing God’s word, obeying it, and then passing it on to God’s people. Can there be a more simple or important description of ministry leadership than that?

Before we move on to the implications of this description of leadership, there is another leadership lesson to be learned from Joshua 3-4. This is the exaltation of Joshua. Notice in 3:7 and 4:14 that it was God who “exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel” so that they stood in awe.[1] Being in our world of influencers and the self-promotion that goes with them, it is refreshing that we see Joshua being exalted[2] in the eyes of Israel. That’s a good reminder that it is up to God to exalt whoever he wants and to present them at the right time. It is not our place to pursue influencer or “celebrity Christian” status. Our place is to hear God’s word, obey it, and convey / proclaim it to others. Then we let God do with our work what he will, according to his good time and sovereign plan.

Simple but Motivating

If we grasp this vision, it will also help us deal with all the peripheral areas.

This view of leadership is not only simple but motivating. If we grasp this vision, it will also help us deal with all the peripheral areas of our main work. For example…

  • Why should we deal with problems and relational issues in the church? We do so because these things can distract us from hearing and proclaiming God’s word. So we deal with them quickly, biblically, lovingly, and wisely—so that we can get on with hearing God’s word and proclaiming it.
  • Why should we want our church services (or other meetings where the word is read and explained) to be the absolute best they can? Because a great church service can enable us to better hear God’s word, and can buttress and highlight the preaching of God’s word—whereas a bad church service can distract us from doing these things.
  • Why should we make sure we have good business meetings (e.g., elders board, Parish Council, staff meetings etc.)? Because if we have good business meetings with the right outcomes, they will help us as a church to listen to, obey and proclaim God’s word.
  • Why should we employ that extra staff worker, be they a support person, an apprentice, or a pastor? We do it so that our church or ministry might get better at proclaiming the word to more people.
  • Why do we design and implement ministry structures? Because those structures, if planned and executed properly, will help us listen to, obey, and proclaim God’s word to more people.

None of this means that our leadership will be any easier, but it will be simpler and more focused. And that can only lead to us being more motivated and effective leaders.

[1] Literally “all Israel feared him (Joshua)”

[2] Literally Joshua is “made great”