Innumerable resources are available to leaders wanting to invest in their personal development. Many books have been written for leaders, from classic books, such as Blanchard’s One Minute Manager and Drucker’s The Effective Executive, to newer works such as Brown’s Daring Greatly and Scott’s Radical Candor. Commutes to and from work and appointments can be turned into leadership seminars by listening to TED talks or podcasts from leaders like Micheal Hyatt and Carey Nieuwhof. Even web surfing can be redeemed for personal development by pointing the address bar to Seth Godin’s blog or Harvard Business Review.
All of these resources help a leader grow. Christan leaders, however, should take care not to be so inundated with leadership books, podcasts, and blogs that they fail to focus on two important ways they can grow in leadership: the study of Christian doctrine and the practice of spiritual disciplines.
Doctrine as Development
Christian leaders have the potential to be the best leaders in their neighborhoods, businesses, organizations, and churches. They have God’s Word to instruct, the example of Jesus Christ to follow, and the Holy Spirit inside to guide. The study of Christian doctrine helps Christian leaders better understand how God designed the world to function, how sin has marred that perfect design, and how Christians are called to live and work in a fallen creation. Right thinking about God’s Word leads to right living, which helps Christian leaders during times of difficult leadership decisions and motivates personal growth.
Learning more about how God exists as one God in three Persons, and how those Persons have worked together throughout all time can help leaders see the value and beauty of teams working together toward a common goal, or encourage them to build a leadership team to help them be more effective. Understanding the concept of Christian hedonism can prevent leaders from placing their sense of worth and satisfaction in personal success, freeing them to lead and serve without fear or worry. When a leader has a right understanding of Christian doctrine based on God’s Word, they are better able to understand themselves and the world around them.
Discipline as Development
Dr. Donald Whitney, author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, writes that “the Spiritual Disciplines are those personal and interpersonal activities given by God in the Bible as the sufficient means believers in Jesus Christ are to use in the Spirit-filled, gospel-driven pursuit of godliness, that is, closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ.” In other words, the spiritual disciplines help Christians know and live like Christ more.
Jesus was the ultimate leader. He taught His followers specific spiritual practices, or disciplines, over the course of His ministry. After spending only three years leading a few men, He made an impact far beyond any other leader of all time. Thousands upon thousands of people still study His teaching and practices, and follow Him as Lord. Growing in Christlikeness benefits leaders as they live and lead; they become more Christlike, embodying all the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Ultimate Goal
Of course, Christians should not grow in their understanding of doctrine and the practice of spiritual disciplines simply to grow as leaders in the workplace, community, etc. The goal of Christian men and women is not to be the best leader they can be. Their goal is to bring glory to God. One way Christians can bring glory to God is to grow as godly, humble leaders who show Christ to the world through their words and actions, wherever and however they lead.
Christian leaders should go ahead and pick up they new leadership book by Patrick Lencioni. They ought to download the latest TED talk. Investing in growth as a leader in a wide variety of ways is beneficial. But Christian leaders shouldn’t neglect the study of doctrine and the practice of disciplines. Christian leaders have used those two avenues to grow in Christ for centuries. Today’s leaders do well to follow their example.
If you’re looking for a way to grow in doctrine and discipline, apply for The Austin Stone Development Program. This 8-month program focuses on the practice of spiritual disciplines and the study of Christian doctrine through cohort-based study and application. Find out more and apply at austinstoneinstitute.org/asdp.