Has the Church failed to equip believers for leadership in the secular world? Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary addressed this question in a recent interview. He told Tony Reinke of “Desiring God Ministries” that yes, churches have failed in this regard, partly because “Many churches don’t know what to do with the world of business.” Also, pastors and other ministers have a “Lack of confidence that we really know what to say in that world.” Mohler has written a forthcoming book addressing leadership called The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters.
Mohler explained: “The Christian needs to understand that he or she has been embedded deep within an organization where no one else could be, where for God’s glory and a very strategic purpose, a Great Commission purpose, a purpose for the glory of God, this Christian is now embedded and is given a stewardship and a responsibility”
He described good leadership as “storytelling,” and said believers should “be very clear about what our story is, and help others understand “who we are, why we’re here, what we’re doing, why it matters, and what every group being led wants to know, where are we going?” The Christian can focus on both the temporal and eternal, knowing that even with the promise of eternity through Christ, life right now is also significant.
Mohler encouraged Christians to think of “Leadership in terms of conviction that is shared by others, and then leads to the right corporate action.” Further, he said “Convictions aren’t merely the things we believe, they’re the beliefs that possess you, that define your life and if you lead that way, you’re going to understand … our first confidence is in the God of all truth, the God who revealed truth in Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life. And thus, our confidence is in the fact that we really do know the one true and living God, and we really do know the purpose of life, and we really do know what it means to find salvation in Christ.”
“Based on those convictions, we do have a certain amount of self-confidence … We should be sure of the conviction. That should produce the confidence,” he said. Good leaders need conviction and confidence, as “human beings actually long for that kind of authority and leadership,” despite the common idea that people today dislike authority. Mohler explained: “We live in an anti-authoritarian age to only a very limited extent … we can’t live without it. God has made us also to desperately need structure, to need authority, that’s true in the Church, and it’s also true in the society at large.”
Authority is an inherent aspect of leadership, as “everywhere you find a great leader, you find the exercise of authority.” He emphasized that “Any authority we have is a delegated authority, and we have it only so long as we have it and we have the stewardship of it so long as we have it” and because it is delegated, “we’re all judged by that exercise of authority and of course the most important authority is that of influence.
People “often [think] merely about positional authority. But there’s the authority of influence, there’s the authority of charisma, there’s the authority of personality and there’s the authority of opportunity. So we just have to be honest and say, wherever you find a leader, there’s some form of authority,” Mohler said.
Another important aspect of leadership is words. Mohler explained how words are critical because “Leaders cannot lead without words, therefore leaders should be skillful with words … Obviously those words need to be the right words, they have to be well seasoned words, and they have to be words of authenticity and they have to be words that lead to action but just try doing that without words.”
But “We are in a linguistically impoverished age an age in which many young people are barely literate,” he said. Mohler continued: “They’re incredibly intelligent, they’re incredibly digitally adept, but when it comes to the task of reading and writing and speaking, they’ve got a lot to learn. And leadership, wherever it’s found in the digital age … it’s still about words.”