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3 Signs You’re NOT a Kingdom Leader

This past week, I posted on Twitter these words:

3 signs you’re NOT a leader in the Kingdom: you take things TOO (emphasis on “too”) personally, you hold onto grudges, and you want leadership TOO much.

I’ve seen it time and again in my own leadership. Any time I do one of these three things, I am undercutting the Spirit’s work in the midst of a group, I am making it about me and I am subverting the Kingdom.

As a result, I have come to the conclusion that I must consistently test myself and allow others to test me in these three areas. When I start to indulge in these behaviors (which is inevitable) and let them linger, I not only will be messing myself up royally, I’ll be undercutting the reign of Christ — the work of God in our midst — in and through my mis-motivated leadership. So here’s some comments on each of these three.

1.) TAKING THINGS TOO PERSONALLY.

A sign that leadership has gone bad is when someone’s criticism or even comments threaten your sense of security. I think of the many times we must navigate criticism and examine ourselves before the Spirit. We should never callously ignore criticism. Neither should we take all criticism as being true — we would be in perpetual self-examination mode. But leadership in the Kingdom is never “about me.” We can’t lead from that place. Taking things personally gives off the unmistakable, easily detected vibration that “what I am doing is about me, and if you don’t follow me it will hurt me personally.” You can’t lead from this place in the Kingdom.

Instead, we should be open to criticism and examine it. If it comes from one source, check in with somebody. If we received it from three sources, we can begin to trust that this issue has some merit. We intentionally submit this issue for examination to those “with” us, and in so doing we submit it to Christ. We are ready to repent, confess, seek to be faithful, seek to submit, seek to obey, seek to affirm. WE SHOULD NEVER BE AFRAID OF BEING CALLED ON SOMETHING. WE SHOULD ALWAYS BE READY TO REPENT. If we cannot enter into this process of the community (as is so evident in Eph. 4) we cannot grow ourselves, which means we cannot grow with the community, which means we are holding the community back.

If we shut ourselves off from criticism, or we narrow the people we listen to down to our “fans” — the people already on our side — this is a recipe for eventual breakdown. The Spirit works within a community to reveal the truth. If you cannot participate in that process, you isolate yourself from reality. You shut people down from telling you what they really think. You have no gauge. The dynamic of the Spirit in the community is gone. Leaders, therefore, must always be able to receive any and all criticism that comes their way in vulnerability and humility. If you can’t, I consider this a disqualifier for leadership.

Eph. 4:15 Instead speaking truth in love, we will grow up into Him who is the head, that is Christ.

Eph. 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.  

Therefore, here’s a good question to submit yourself to regularly as a leader in the Kingdom in your church, family or elsewhere: Am I taking this too personally Why? What am I afraid of? What does it look like to submit to others in these cases?

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David Fitch is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary.