The Essential ‘Miscellaneous’ of Leadership

By: Northern Seminary

It’s been too long since I last wrote, and I apologize for that. We had a great end to the school year, including an amazing graduation service. We celebrate at graduation! – not just the achievement of the graduates but God’s goodness and the privilege of knowing and serving him. “We do church!” someone said, and another that “It’s the best graduation I’ve ever been to”. Praise the Lord!

Summer is far from a quiet time around the seminary. We have several classes – doctoral and master’s – happening on or off campus. A great deal of work is also getting done in preparation for the fall term.  We are very motivated about what lies ahead.

I have had the unwelcome experience of pneumonia for the last month. My doctor suspects I picked up the infection on a long flight back from a conference. For several days I thought I simply had bad flu, but the symptoms were very bad and did not clear up. After about eleven days I surrendered and went to the doctor who ran tests and informed me I had pneumonia. After antibiotics and four weeks I’m feeling almost back to normal including my energy levels.

I’ve preached in a couple of places recently (despite the pneumonia), including a conference of vocation guidance people from thirty or forty Baptist colleges around the country. My subject was “What Ministers Need to Know, Do, and Be for the Next Mission Movement.” I’d like to believe all the points in my talk were important, but I surprised myself with how I began.

My first heading was “Miscellaneous.” I told them I’d never begun any talk before with that heading and probably would not again. But I started that way this time because there are things which are fundamental for any Christian leader but often never get mentioned. My list was not complete (miscellaneous never is), but here are the topics I included:

  • Good health
  • Secure marriage (unless single!)
  • Finances in order
  • Strong self-understanding
  • Not easily anxious
  • Plenty of common sense
  • Positive but realistic
  • Learned how to deal with failure


I could probably think of another twenty, but these are the ones I outlined at the conference.

Each of these matters. They are not optional. But they’re often not explored by church search committees or mission agency appointment boards.

For example, someone struggling to manage debt will be distracted from ministry and in some cases, may lack the self-discipline a Christian leader must have. Someone who has not understood their own instincts, strengths, and weaknesses, and how they come over to others will introduce difficulties into their leadership style. All Christian ministry has disappointments which don’t go away easily or quickly, and the anxious will not survive.  Having common sense could have been the 11th Commandment. Being positive without succumbing to your own hype means you keep facing forward but never get ahead of reality. And life’s most important lessons come more from failure than success, so someone who says they’ve never failed in anything probably won’t have learned much of anything either.

These fundamentals are not chapter headings in most books on ministry or leadership. None of them were in the main list of headings for my talk. But I put them up front because important ministries founder because of the lack of them.

Bridges have collapsed because of major design or engineering flaws. But they have also collapsed because of tiny cracks in the steel. Those tiny cracks, especially over time, mean the structure cannot withstand the stresses on that bridge, and down it comes.

I’ve lost good friends from Christian ministry because of issues in my miscellaneous list.  Never neglect the small things. They matter.

August 9, 2012

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