Godly Leadership Takes the Initiative

by Derek Brown

The Blessing of Godly Male Leadership
Over the past four decades the notion of male leadership has been under significant attack in our society. Sadly, the rejection of male leadership is the rejection of God’s blessing because God intends that good leaders be a source of prosperity for His people. We see this in the life of David. Note David’s words from 2 Samuel 23:3-4:

The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: “When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.”

2 Samuel 23:3-4

Despite his sin, the kingdom had flourished under David’s wise, humble, God-centered leadership. David’s rule was characterized by justice and the fear of God, and as a result, Israel enjoyed spiritual and material prosperity. Godly male leadership was like warm sun and pleasant, life-giving rain. We do well to keep this truth at the center of our thinking about male leadership. Men are tasked with leadership to bless those under their care and to labor for their good. 

Godly Male Leadership Takes the Initiative
But how do men lead others for their blessing? In order to truly lead, a man must take the initiative. And he must not take the initiative only once or twice, but continually throughout his life. Why? Because leadership, by definition, is antithetical to the passivity Adam exemplified in the garden. Adam, among other things, waited for someone else to fulfill his responsibility to guard his wife from the serpent. Because he didn’t take the initiative at a crucial moment, today we are experiencing the tragic fallout from his failure to step out in bold leadership. But in what ways are men expected to take the initiative? Let’s look at two specific areas.

Men are to Set the Example
First, men are called to take the initiative to set the example. A man deficient in character, integrity, or a personal walk with Jesus Christ is not able to lead effectively in any area of his life. We must be able to say to those under our care and within our sphere of influence, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (see 1 Cor 11:1). This does not suggest that we must be perfect or sinless before we can start leading. Perfection is impossible in this life and we will always be troubled by some measure of sin and weakness on this side of heaven (Rom 7:14-25; Gal 5:17). Nevertheless, genuine leadership demands that we make progress in personal holiness and spiritual growth so that we demonstrate authenticity in our leadership. We cannot lead others spiritually to a place where we have not already been, nor will we win the confidence of those under our care if we preach but do not practice (see Matt 23:3).

A man deficient in character, integrity, or a personal walk with Jesus Christ is not able to lead effectively in any area of his life.

Men are to Cast a Biblical Vision
Second, men are called to lead by casting a biblical vision for those under their care and within their sphere of influence. One might think that this notion of casting a vision derives mainly from contemporary leadership theory rather than Scripture. But the responsibility to cast a vision is not the exclusive prerogative of corporate CEOs. Casting a vision is vital because it enables obedience to God’s Word and motivates our followers to continue following us. “A real leader’s aim,” one author observes, “is to make everyone around him better. He makes them stronger, more effective, and more motivated.”3 People are strengthened, made more effective, and motivated when they are captured by a biblical vision. That is why we find regular examples throughout the Scripture of men casting a vision for their people.

We find Moses casting a vision as he tells Israel to follow him into the wilderness. He reminds them of God’s goodness and tells them of future reward so they are able to hope in God through their troubles (see Deut 8:1-9:5). We see Samuel encouraging Israel to repent of their sin of asking for a king on the basis of God’s goodness and kindness (see 1 Sam 12:20-23). We see the prophets reminding disobedient Israel of God’s intention for His people and His plan to restore them in the future (Jer 29:11-13; 33:11; Zeph 2:7).

But best of all we see Jesus casting vision as He gathered His disciples for ministry. In a brief, concise sentence, Jesus shows us how to cast vision for those whom God has entrusted to our care.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” While walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him (Matt 4:17-20).

Notice how Jesus calls His disciples. He first says, “Follow me.” He could have stopped here if He chose to. Jesus was the self-authenticating God-man, and His very presence and the words, “Follow me,” could have induced obedience on their own. But Jesus does more than just call for immediate obedience. He provides these men with compelling motivation. “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Follow Me, and you will be part of something bigger than yourself. Follow Me, and I will transform you into the men you were created to be. Follow Me, and you will experience the joy of living for the eternal benefit of other people. That’s vision, and it creates happy followers.

Men, there are plenty of opportunities to cast vision in your respective spheres of influence. In your local church, for example, you can cast vision in order to draw a few other men around you to begin a weekly prayer and Bible study meeting. Explain to your brothers why regular fellowship, prayer, and corporate reflection on the Scripture are vital disciplines in their walk with Christ. If you’ve been entrusted with a ministry at your church, take the initiative to cast a compelling biblical vision for the servants in that ministry.

Husbands, take some time to craft a vision for your family. Write down spiritual goals, hopes, and dreams for your family, and set that document in a place where you will be regularly reminded toward what you, your wife, and children should be striving. If you’ve been invested with leadership responsibility at work, think of ways to develop a culture of integrity, respect, and diligence among your colleagues. If you are a single man in a dating relationship, take the initiative to cast a vision for your girlfriend about how you desire the relationship to proceed, how you plan to protect her emotional and physical purity, and what you believe a godly romantic relationship entails.

As we lead by taking the initiative in each of these vital areas, we will be a means of blessing to those whom we lead. Like rain and sunshine on fertile soil, God will use our leadership to enable growth and fruitfulness in those under our care.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash


You can read more on this topic in Derek’s book, Strong and Courageous: The Character and Calling of Mature Manhood.

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