As leaders, its a prayer we pray, a decree we sing over our congregation. We cry out for a shift in holiness. We desire a change of heart, for our church to be refined by the experience of worship. It’s easy to lift up your voice to the heavens, declaring God’s goodness and mercy, but lives are changed through the act of sincere transformation.
Stories are powerful, and when someone comes forward with a testimony, something stirs within us. We relate, we believe, we hope. And that is the power behind transformational leadership.
I was recently listening to a John Maxwell sermon, and he spoke about this very topic. I can’t take credit for the 4 points I’m about to share with you, but when I heard them I knew it was something worth sharing.
We can read all the books we want on the types and styles of leadership, and honestly, it will always come down to your personality and how God has called you to lead. There’s no right or wrong way. But there is a truth that remains universal, and that is that leadership calls us to live life at a higher level. Leadership that sparks change and inspires movement requires a lifestyle that leaves no room for safety or compromise.
All transformation happens through a transformational leader. Look at Scripture, for an example. Paul experienced one of the most radical life changes we see, and without his leadership, we would be missing 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament
The book of Acts, at its core, is about how men stood unified and influenced an entire religious movement. King Xerxes was transformed by Esther’s faith and courage. Moses led an entire nation to freedom because he made the choice to live a life of trust and risk. These biblical heroes are set apart by their intentionality. They chose things normal people were not choosing, they honored God in ways others were not. This is what transformational leadership is about.
So let’s dig into what it looks like for us to be a transformational leader amongst our church and teams.
Transformational leaders see things other people do not see.
Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? Many leaders passed by the man beaten and stripped that day. But it was the Samaritan, the unlikely hero, that saw what others refused to see. He transformed that man’s life through the power of touch and empathy.
Are your eyes open to ministry moments? When you begin your rehearsals, are you so wrapped up in the sound check that you miss an opportunity to bless the new vocalist with introductions? Do you purposefully interact with those who serve unseen? Do you pick up the trash that everyone seems to dismiss? Honor is shown through the noticing. Begin praying for God to open your heart and prompt you as you serve each week.
Transformational leaders say things other people do not say.
Again, I am reminded of the story of Esther. She was told from day one not to reveal her Jewish roots. But when it came down to conviction, she had the courage to speak truth, and she was rewarded greatly for it. Transformational leadership takes conviction and bravery. People do not follow titles, they follow courage.
What has God planted in your heart that needs to be spoken? What song needs to be sung? What person needs to be counseled? What words need to be said to yourself? Do not fear this part of leadership. Life and death are within the tongue, so use every opportunity to speak bold life over those God’s entrusted to you.
Transformational leaders believe things other people do not believe.
When Lazarus passed, the mourners came in droves, and Jesus was soon informed of his friend’s death. As He approached, Martha met Him there. She ran to Him and exclaimed, “If you had been here my brother would not have died!” The passage goes on as Jesus asks her if she believes He is who He says He is. She chooses to believe and even calls out her sister Mary to voice the same. This belief led to Jesus calling for Lazarus to rise from the grave, a miracle that confirmed that family's faith and legacy.
Sometimes in ministry, we are called to believe beyond what even our pastoral leadership can see. Attendance, salvations, offerings, healings. Transformation happens when a congregation sees its leadership believing the unbelievable. It instills hope and trust in a God that is bigger than what we see. What do you, as a leader, need to be believing over your team, over your church, over your family in this season?
Transformational leaders do things other people will not do.
The story of Daniel has always been a powerful one in my life. When King Darius decrees that no man should pray to anyone but himself, Daniel continues to pray 3 times a day to God. When discovered, he’s thrown in the lions' den, and I think we all know how that turned out. God honored Daniel’s obedience and willingness to do what others would not do. It took courage, it took conviction, but Daniel’s belief in God was stronger than the consequences. His heart was settled.
There will be times where you will be asked to do what others might not do. There may be convictions or levels of lifestyle you must obey because you’ve chosen this path of transformational leadership. Your life might look more conservative, it might look more dangerous, it might look more financially minimalistic. Whatever God is calling you to do or to not do, have the courage to say yes. Have the gall to live boldly in your conviction. This will always have a ripple effect among teams.
Transformational leadership is not easy. It is isolating at times and misunderstood. But trying to lead without a heart of transformation can only get you so far. Without the courage to see differently, speak boldly, believe audaciously, and do rightly, you set your team up for failure. So as we move into the summer months, take this time of rest and reflection. Use it to examine your heart and see what God needs from you in each of these areas. What do you need to say? What do you need to believe this year? What do you need to do that will spark change? What will you see that will lead others' eyes to open? Ask God to transform your heart during this season, and watch as it transforms your leadership.