Skillful Hands

Thursday, February 29, 2024

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Dear Pastors

Skillful Hands

Over summer I have been thinking and reflecting a lot about Spiritual Leadership. I have pondered questions like:-

  1. Are there any features of Spiritual Leadership that distinguishes it from leadership in any other sphere of life? Business, NGO’s, Education, Health and so on. If so what are they? If not, why not?
  2. If we had a mandatory exam specifically testing a person’s leadership abilities (we don’t), what would we be ‘testing’ in that exam?
  3. Is the ‘bar’ to enter into any kind of Spiritual Leadership high enough? Has the bar dropped in the last one to two generations of leaders compared to former generations?
  4. Why are we hearing of so many leaders who are crashing…… small, medium and large churches and Christian organisations? Are leadership train wrecks more common these days or is it a case that with modern communication we are just hearing about it more often?
  5. Are there a ‘set of skills’ that we can agree on that are essential to master before or at least early on in a person’s leadership journey?
  6. What are the ‘key’ differences between pastoring (shepherding), preaching, managing and leading?
  7. And the old chestnut. Are the really good leaders ‘born or made’?

I’ve also been thinking about passages in the Bible that talk about Spiritual Leadership. Passages like:- Ezekiel 34, Proverbs 11:14, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Matthew 20:25-28 and this verse in Psalm 78:72:-

“So he (David) shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided (led) them by the skilfulness of his hands”. (NKJV)

I have been asking myself what does it mean to lead with skillful hands? In his BE Bible Study Series, Warren Wiersbe says this:-

“Kings were called “shepherds” (Jer. 23:1-6; Ezek. 34) because God’s chosen people were the sheep of His pasture (v. 52; 77:20; 100:3), and no one was better qualified than David to hold that title (2 Sam. 5:1-3). He loved his “sheep” (2 Sam. 24:17) and often risked his life for them on the battlefield. His hands were skillful, whether holding a sword, a harp, a pen, or a scepter; and, unlike his predecessor Saul, his heart was wholly devoted to the Lord. Integrity and skill need each other, for no amount of ability can compensate for a sinful heart, and no amount of devotion to God can overcome lack of ability”.

So, assuming we agree that skills are really important then specifically what are those skills1 that we are talking about these days when it comes to leading a church (or a Christian organisation)? Here is my list of what I call ‘key abilities or competencies’. In no particular order:-

  • Consistently good decision making.
  • Highly effective problem solver.
  • A disciplined personal work style.
  • Chairing Meetings
  • Execution of decisions. Executive ability.
  • Clear communication both written and spoken.
  • Building teams that are performing well…..year in and year out.
  • Resolving/managing conflicts in a timely manner.
  • Strong inter-personal relationship and social skills.
  • A basic understanding of Finances and Accounting.
  • Planning - both week by week and longer range strategic planning.

A couple of concluding thoughts.

a. What have I left off?
b. You will notice that this list could easily apply to a Principal of a school, A company CEO or a Manager of a Social Service Agency. There is nothing particularly spiritual about this skill set. That said, I want to quickly add that how we go about these tasks and the values that underpin these tasks will at least to some degree determine the ‘nature’ of what we do and how we do it.
c. This list assumes a person leading in a regular modern day church. The leadership skills needed in a micro-church for example are different I believe, perhaps not as demanding but certainly as important.
d. Finally for today, you might like to reflect on this list and give yourself a mark out of 10.

Next week I want to talk about ‘integrity of heart’.


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