A critical requirement of a Godly leader and minister is personal growth! And growth requires change.
What is growth?
First, growth is the development and progress toward maturity. It also means “expansion, advancement, improvement, and an increase in capacity, extent or prevalence.” Third, as Bill Vermeulen says, growth is “The capacity of each person created in God’s image to reach far beyond perceived levels of achievement.”
Growth is both necessary and required for a leader
In the Bible growth is presumed because it is the nature of God’s creation. What God creates grows. It is a characteristic of creation. Growth is also a characteristic of God’s people (Job. 8:7; Psa. 1; 92:12; 2 Cor. 3:18). At least it is supposed to be. This is revealed more clearly when we consider all the terms and activities that pertain to the Christian: discipleship, nurture, change, learning, etc.
Death and decay, a result of sin, is abnormal. What is not growing is either dying or dead. The intentional lack of growth or maturity is repulsive to and rebuked by God (Isa. 28:9; 1 Cor. 3:1-2; 14:20; Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:12).
We have ample illustrations in the Scriptures of the men God used for his purposes, but after they grew in maturity:
- The prophet Samuel grew “in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men” (1 Samuel 2:26).
- The prophet John continued to grow “and became strong, increasing in wisdom and the grace of God was on him” (Luke 2:40).
- Like Samuel, Jesus the perfect prophet and God-Man “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
- The apostle Paul “kept on increasing in strength and baffling the Jews in Damascus, by proving that his Jesus is the messiah” (Acts 9:22).
In writing to young Pastor Timothy, the Apostle Paul admonished, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (ESV, 1 Timothy 4:7-8). That kind of training is a rigorous exercise that demands change and a push toward maturity. If Christians are expected and called to cultivate (nurture and grow) the gifts God has given them (Matthew 25:20; 1 Timothy 4:7, 14; 2 Timothy 1:6), how much more the Christian leader?
If you are a leader in the local church, especially an elder or pastor, here’s a question for you: Are you growing or are you withering?
Growth for maturity
God is concerned with the growth of the whole person! He calls believers, and especially leaders in his church to grow in life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-11). We are admonished to leave the elementary teaching about the Christ, and to “press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (NASB, Hebrews 6:1).
We all begin our spiritual life as infants in Christ. But one of the evidences of true, spiritual vitality is a desire for God’s Word. This is a desire that craves the Word like infants crave milk (1 Peter 2:2). As we satisfy those spiritual cravings with God’s milk we mature to the point where we want more substantial food. This shows we are growing with respect to salvation.
Deacons, elders, pastors and other leaders should be growing, just like God’s chosen servants did in biblical times. They grew physically, mentally and spiritually (Exodus 2:10-11; Acts 7:20ff; 1 Samuel 2:26; Luke 1:8; 2:40, 52).
Indeed, all of God’s people are to grow from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)! Are you growing in physical strength and health? Are you maturing mentally? Are you making progress spiritually, becoming less like your old sinful self and more like Jesus Christ?
Growth is Commanded
Yes, God calls His people to mental, social, emotional and spiritual growth. In fact, He demands it! As a believer in Christ God expects and requires you to grow in Christ (Ephesians 3:16-19; 4:15; Colossians 1:10; 1 Timothy 4:15; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18). In the New Testament, Paul tells us that “…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, that is Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
As a matter of fact, the idea of perfection in the Bible has to do with completeness, arriving at the destination of wholesome fulfillment and holy maturity in Christ-likeness (Galatians 3:3ff; Philippians 3:12; James 1:4).
On the positive side, you can be assured that spiritual growth will bear a tremendous influence and have a great impact upon you (Proverbs 9:9; Matthew 12:34ff; Mark 7:21).
So, the bottom line is this: at minimum, God’s people are supposed to grow up. How much greater the requirement for godly leaders! What’s more, one of the common and significant traits of all leaders is that they are nearly always growing. To be a leader, it is necessary that you grow!
Growth is a choice
Normally a person grows mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, etc. This kind of growth can be “accidental.” In other words, it just happens in the normal course of time. After a while one must make a conscious decision to mature any further. Should I finish school? Should I go on to college or pursue advanced degrees? Should I exercise and do strength building? Should I become more disciplined in life, become more competent in my field of interest, advance in my line of work, and so forth. So, at some point growth and maturity is a choice.
Real leaders, especially spiritual leaders and godly church officers (deacons and elders), make a conscious choice to mature. Maturity for the leader is intentional. Leaders push themselves to grow in many areas of their lives. They intentionally set out for themselves goals with plans to achieve those goals.
Speaking generally about leadership, Paul B. Thornton in Be the Leader-Make the Difference writes:
Leaders with a continuous improvement mind-set have
- A strong desire to improve
- A commitment to candid self-assessment
- A strong curiosity
- An ability to learn from both success and failure
- A non-defensive response to negative feedback
- A willingness to experiment and try new approaches
Is your life in Christ, which encompasses everything about you, proactively seeking to grow and improve? Is your life intentional, purposeful, goal-oriented or is it just riding on the winds and waves that life presents you?
If you are a church leader serving in Christ’s church, it is critical and imperative that you aim for Christi-likeness, and that means growing and maturing with intentionality. This kind of growth is necessary, required, and commanded. But it is also a choice. A genuine godly leader will grow; maybe not consistently and in every way, but he will seek to make progress, discipline himself toward the ultimate goal of becoming complete in Jesus Christ so as to serve fully as a model to others, and as one equipped to serve others.
If you are in a leadership position in the local church, but you are not growing, then you should either repent and set out for growth or step out of the role. Otherwise, keep on pursuing the course of God’s high calling in your life.
D. Thomas Owsley