Christian leaders are the number one group of people that believe they have no need for the gospel. It’s not because they have not received the gospel, but because they fail to understand the full implications of the gospel. They are tempted to believe that because of their time and experience in the faith that they “get it", when in reality they don’t. Precisely because they think that the ones that need the gospel are those that have never received it and since they already have, they have arrived. Therefore, no longer need it.
I suspect that the vast majority of christian leaders, if asked about their greatest need as leaders that they would answer somewhere along the lines of techniques and best practices. I just think of all the books that have shaped christians leaders in America and how 90% (if not greater) of them are principle based.
On record, I want to say that there’s nothing wrong with learning new leadership principles and studying innovative leadership trends. These can all be important, useful, and good but these are not what christian leaders need most.
A Christian's primary need is the gospel. They needed the gospel when they first became christians and they need it for the rest of their lives. They need to be reminded of the gospel always. They need to learn the implications of it for every aspect of leadership, and they need to apply it to their lives as leaders. Reformer Martin Luther used to say that “we need to beat the gospel into our heads continually”.
Why do leaders need to follow Luther’s advice?
1. Because there’s success. Success is misleading because it tempts leaders to believe that it was their giftedness that have brought them to such a place. There are talented people that have done all the right things by the book and yet have had no success. The gospel shows leaders that it’s all by grace, and that unless they are constantly reminded that if it was not for Jesus that they wouldn’t be leading in the first place, success will go to their heads and will destroy them and those they lead.
2. Because there’s failure. The same way leaders tend to build their identity around any indication of success, they tend to build their identity around their failures as well. Many leaders will not recover from failure because they will refuse to believe the gospel -- that what Jesus did for them was enough. Because they refuse to rest in such truth, there will be a constant need to prove themselves, turning every failure into an extremely debilitating experience. I’ve heard failed leaders say: “How can I possibly make a comeback after a major screw-up?” Leaders need the gospel to remind them that God always brings greatness out of weakness and that they are loved and approved not because of how well they’ve performed but because of what Jesus has done for them.
3. Because there are people. The people we lead and lead with are sinners just like we are. Sure they drop the ball, but so do we. Constantly. The primary reason why God gives us grace is so that we would not boast on our own accomplishments but that we would boast of His accomplishments, His grace, and share it with others (Gal 6:14). What followers mostly need from their spiritual leaders is, Jesus’ grace. Grace is what promotes change and what enables them to keep growing. But again, leaders will not output grace if there’s not an input of grace.
4. Because there’s a thing such as “good news.” As I have said, getting and giving good advice is good but receiving and giving good news is infinitely better. Why settle for what’s lesser, leader? Quoting Isaiah Paul wrote in Romans: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Why? Because good news has to do with what has already been done not what it has to be done. And that is rest. If you’re able to lead from rest and dispense rest through the gospel in your leadership, you will lead as Jesus wants you to lead.
As you can see, it’s only through the gospel that leaders are truly free to lead, because the gospel is what leaders ultimately need.