If we are going to raise up biblical leaders around us, whether in our ministry workplace or in our own home, we need to grasp that biblical knowledge - though important - is ultimately different from being a biblical leader.
By: Aaron Babyar
Raising Up Biblical Leaders
By: Aaron Babyar
As an adolescent, I earnestly wanted to be known for certain attributes. World's biggest Chicago sports fan (Bulls, Bears, Sox, Cubs, Blackhawks- I followed them all far too intently). Vicious basketball dunker (As I never quite made it to 6 foot tall, I was quite proud of slam-dunking a basketball on the heads of people 8 inches taller than me). Lover of Mt. Dew (oh what sweet nectar - I don’t talk about it much anymore or wear the t-shirt...but it’s still a treat the rarer times I allow myself the splurge).
Though these dreams seem rather silly now, there was a time when having these so-called achievements meant far too much to me, despite their profound unimportance to my primary identity. Slowly, God changed my heart via the use of scripture and the wisdom of those He put in my life. As I began considering what is REALLY important in life, one passage that got my attention was Ecclesiastes 2:11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
Over time, I realized that there were far more important things, eternal things, to set my sights on. My real identity as a child of God began to take far more precedent. In our culture, identity is a massive issue that has derailed many people wholeheartedly pursuing temporal things. If we are going to raise up biblical leaders around us, whether in our ministry workplace or in our own home, we need to grasp that biblical knowledge - though important - is ultimately different from being a biblical leader. The Bible does not specifically say, “....and this is the definition of a biblical leader:.......” However, I hope the following admittedly oversimplified definition of a biblical leader will suffice for our purposes: A biblical leader is a person whose primary identity and value is seen first and foremost through God’s lens, who embraces the whole of scripture (including easy and difficult parts), and whom others find themselves following due to their Christ-like influence.
Let’s acknowledge that that is a very lofty definition. I could argue that none of us fully live up to that ideal, but it seems like a God-honoring goal. You can have positional authority of course, yet relational authority carries far more staying power in the lives of those around you. I'll likely not forget the misguided pastor who publicly berated and embarrassed 17yo me. I was in the chapel at East Iowa Bible Camp (a wonderful ministry to this day!), and the first time I picked up a guitar I slowly and repeatedly plucked out the 3 primary notes that I could haphazardly find (which almost sounded like the popular and innocent song “Louie, Louie”). The brash, loud, and impromptu sermon, along with shame suddenly heaped upon me by the visiting fundamentalist pastor espousing theories of demons and rocknroll was neither biblical nor a good example of leadership.
Many good things can be said about leadership, the Bible, and intermingling the two. But as you can tell from experience, I take pause and get a bit concerned about too strict of a definition of what is biblical leadership. You don’t have to look hard to find so-called leaders that play fast and loose with which scriptures they want to apply vs. those that make them uncomfortable because it doesn’t fit the narrative of their cultural lens or current situation, which is a very slippery slope. Similarly, you may have known or experienced leaders who take on a perceived moral high ground and take some passages from the Bible as an opportunity to beat down the sinners around them in a misguided attempt to fix the world at the expense of love, reason, logic, kindness, etc. Christ was called a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34), and as someone who would like to be a “biblical leader,” I hope I’m guilty of the same.
Rather than further parsing “what is Biblical'' and “what is leadership,” or keep telling about leadership fails I’ve witnessed at the hands of missionaries, pastors, etc….it’s better to seek God’s wisdom on all manner of subjects that are interrelated to seeking God for wisdom.
Proverbs 2:1-10 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORDand find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
If you were hoping for a quick answer to the question: “How do you raise up Biblical leaders?” I apologize for letting you down. However, I challenge you to consider the following short list of answers, while also seeking the Lord and scripture to perhaps add to this list.
Aaron Babyar is the founder and CEO of Exago Ministries. Read his full bio here.