Seminary Viewpoints

The Leader God Wants Today and 4 Qualities He Needs

Guest Author, Les Ollila | March 3, 2022
Theology Thursday

As discussed by Les Ollila on The Steve Noble Show on March 3.

Even the secular world is noticing the leadership crisis facing the church. Noted The Wall Street Journal last week:

“(C)lergy members are stepping down … . The job, always demanding, has become almost impossible during the pandemic: Relationships with and among parishioners have frayed while meeting only over video, and political divisions have deepened … .”

Prophets not prophesying. Priests profaning. People partitioning as politicians prey. It’s reminiscent of the situation in Ezekiel 22 when God issued a shocking indictment:

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”

Today God is reissuing that call for men to stand in the breach. And blessedly, we have a model of the leader God wants today: Moses, as described in Hebrews 11:20-29.

He was a man who for 40 years learned to be somebody, then for 40 years to be a nobody. After which for 40 more years God took that nobody who was a somebody and did something for His glory.

All because Moses possessed the four qualities of the leader God wants for today:

1. Evaluation

Taking the long view: discerning long-term gains for the kingdom in eschewing short-term pleasure. Hebrews tells us that Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24b-25).

Moses put aside riches and a potential throne, along with the deviant practices of Egyptian royalty, to set the stage for a new covenant foreshadowing the Lamb of God.

Some would-be leaders today can’t manage such discernment. I once met a brilliant pastor who planted multiple churches, including one of America’s fastest-growing. Yet he left the ministry (and cheated on his wife) after being waylaid by pornography. I observed, referring to 2 Peter 1:5, that in evaluating he had managed to add knowledge to his faith but bypassed virtue, with tragic consequences.

2. Determination

Determination is about “choosing,” which determines consequences. Moses chose the “reproach of Christ” because he “esteemed” God’s eternal riches over all Pharaoh had to offer.

When my wife Charlene and I were church planters, we once zeroed out our checking account to write a check to a congregation without the means to support us.

Within hours, a man arrived with a car full of food (I remarked that he couldn’t have been an angel because heaven is not so bad off as to deliver groceries in a Volkswagen Beetle). And on top of that, someone called offering us a vehicle, upon which we sold ours. Choosing to trust God left us $1,000 richer (in the 1960s when that amount meant something).

3. Elimination

Moses chose “rather.” Likewise, the leader God wants today must be willing to embrace affliction, eliminating anything less than the Lord’s best for His long-term glory.

Exhibit A: Finnish member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen, is on trial facing jail for tweeting Romans 1:24-27, denouncing a national church’s participation in a “gay pride” event.

Exhibit B: An Illinois pastor’s confessed to me uncertainty that his son-in-law was ready for persecution from authorities if he accepts a pulpit and simply preaches Bible truth.

Can today’s leader, determining that God’s will is paramount, eliminate all other considerations and trust in His protection?

4. Continuation

Moses “endured,” “kept the Passover” and “crossed the Red Sea” (Heb. 11:27-29). With his gaze on Christ — the long view! — he kept on keeping on.

In order to continue, God’s leader must maintain three blinders:

  • Keep passion for Christ growing through intimate, alone time with God, just as Moses twice spent 40 days with the Lord and both Elijah and Paul were called apart to fulfill their missions.
  • Keep your eye on the mission. Why are you here? In hockey, it’s not to get distracted by poking and prodding and land in the penalty box, but to get the puck into the net. In ministry, the mission is making disciples and ignoring how people who should be praying for you are reviling you and penning evil, nonsensical letters.
  • Keep your relationships right as much as is humanly possible. Otherwise, your power plug will be pulled as conflicts grieve and quench the Holy Spirit.

In 2004, Brazilian Olympic marathoner Vanderlei de Lima showed this level of continuation, hanging on for a bronze medal when his seemingly insurmountable lead dissipated after a publicity-seeking spectator attacked him. The International Olympic Committee later awarded de Lima the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship, and he won the honor of lighting the 2016 Rio Olympics’ ceremonial torch.

Can we find leaders equally committed to advancing the Gospel — the only hope for a lost and dying world? Can we, with de Lima and the Apostle Paul, “finish the course” and view the “henceforth” of a future crown rather than joining the droves abandoning the ministry amid the pressures, demands and divisions now rending the church?

Oh, that today’s church may avoid God’s indictment — “I found none” — and abound like God’s leaders with the qualities of evaluation, determination, elimination and, most of all, continuation to stand in the pulpit — and the breach.

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