Five Practices of High-Performance Christian Leaders,

Five Practices of High-Performance Christian Leaders | Introduction: Lead with Diligence

By Dr. Ben Lovvorn

Hello and welcome to this leadership series, Five Practices of High-Performance Christian Leaders. I’m Dr. Ben Lovvorn, I’m the Executive Pastor here at First Baptist Dallas in Dallas, Texas. I have the opportunity to serve here under the leadership of our Senior Pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress. On behalf of our church and our Pastor, I just want to say I’m so glad you’ve chosen to join us here on the First Dallas iCampus. We want the iCampus to be a hub for discipleship resources that will help you grow in your relationship with the Lord and your impact for His Kingdom.

We are living in a world that is growing increasingly dark. The ministry and mission of the church are in great danger. The number of professing Christians is declining rapidly, many churches are closing their doors, and popular culture is becoming more and more godless. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated and illuminated these trends, as foundational practices of the faith like corporate worship were suspended. And it wasn’t just the church. Every institution—schools, neighborhoods, businesses, hospitals, and even friendships and families—all of them are under immense stress and facing what seem like insurmountable challenges from a human vantage point.

It’s a tough time to be a leader. Our convictions and our commitments are being tested.

But it would be a mistake to underestimate the church of Jesus Christ. Christ promised he would build his church, and even the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). And through the church, through the spiritual formation that happens within a thriving church, God can send his people out to renew and reshape every domain in our culture. Into a hostile world, God is calling faithful Christian leaders both to serve within his body and to accomplish his work in the world. This is a high calling and weighty responsibility. It’s demanding, and it’s sobering. Each of us will one day give an account to the Lord for how we’ve led others.

It’s my conviction that, to lead well in these tumultuous times, Christ’s servants must adopt a new set of disciplines, a set of practices that can elevate them beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary. These are the five essential practices for high-performance Christian leaders.

As we begin, let’s think together about the importance of Christian leadership. In particular, what does God look for in a leader?

Contrasting Leadership: Saul vs. David

In the Book of 1 Samuel, we find the story of King Saul, Israel’s first king. On the outside, Saul appeared to have all the qualities of a great leader. He was tall, strong, and handsome. He was a commanding warrior. But we find that he was not wholly devoted to God. He was not a man of integrity. He was not a man after God’s own heart. In 1 Samuel 13, we see an example of this. Saul knowingly, unlawfully makes a sacrifice to God that was not his to make. In doing so, he exalts himself, disrespects the Lord, and disregards God’s holiness.

As a result, the prophet Samuel tells Saul that God would bring his reign to an end, and that another would assume the throne. Who would replace Saul? In 1 Samuel 13:14, the prophet tells the king, “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.”

Of course, David was that man. David was a man after God’s own heart. And though we know David had many faults and failures, he was a devoted servant of the Lord. In the New Testament, Paul would again recount this story. In Acts 13:22, Paul says, “And when [God] removed [Saul] he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart.’”

As we consider the disposition God shows toward leadership in dealing with Saul and David, there are three things I think we can learn:

Biblical Principle #1: We need righteous leaders.

First, we need righteous leaders. Throughout Israel’s history, we see the powerful effect that leaders have on their society. Under righteous, God-honoring leaders, the people thrive. Under unrighteous, ungodly leadership, the people turn away from God, suffer, and perish. Proverbs 29:2 (KJV) says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked [] rule, the people mourn.”

Moses recognized how badly God’s people needed righteous leaders. As he approached the end of his life, he pled with God to appoint a faithful successor for the benefit of the people. In Numbers 27:15–17 the Bible says, “So Moses appealed to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all, appoint a man over the community . . . so that the Lord’s community will not be like a sheep without a shepherd.’”

Jesus himself articulated the need people have for righteous leaders. In Matthew 9:36–37, the Bible says, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to the disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into this harvest.’”

This is a truth maybe we don’t want to admit. We often default to being so independent and individualistic! But if we really thought about it, we all know we need to be led. We need someone with experience, good character, and a clear vision to show us where to go. It is part of God’s plan for his people to follow righteous leaders.

Biblical Principle #2: God is seeking leaders after his own heart.

Second, because we need righteous leaders, God is seeking leaders after his own heart. This is the chief quality God looks for in a leader. Samuel says of David, “God has sought out a man after his own heart”—literally, he has tried to locate or discover, he has searched for and found a man after his own heart. Similarly, in 2 Chronicles 16:9, the Bible says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” God wants to find leaders who love him above all things. He will then raise them up, strengthen them, and use them to accomplish his purposes in the world.

Biblical Principle #3: God blesses his people with righteous leadership.

Third, God blesses his people with righteous leadership. In Jeremiah 3:15, God urges his people to return to him. And he promises that he will bless them if they do. A major aspect of that blessing is God’s promise to provide them with righteous leaders. God says, “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Good leaders, leaders who truly love the Lord, are something God gives. Christian leadership is a gift from God! This is one reason why we’re told to pray for our leaders and all who are in authority over us.

We know how much we need good leaders. We know what God is looking for in a leader; he’s looking for people who love Him above all things. That’s why, when God finds leaders like that, he can bless his people by putting that kind of leader in a place of influence. That was true in the leadership over Israel, but these are principles that hold true in every sphere of life. We need good teachers, good administrators, good managers, good doctors and lawyers, good sergeants and good mayors. We need good parents and good grandparents. Whatever domain we’re talking about, large scale or small scale, God’s desire is the same—to find people who love Him with heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then to use these kinds of people as leaders who can bless others and influence them for Jesus Christ.

So, as Christian leaders, how can we fulfill such a high calling? God has commanded us to lead with diligence.

God’s Command: Lead with Diligence!

In Romans 12:6–8, the Apostle Paul describes spiritual gifts that Christ has given to those who follow him, and he instructs believers in the use of those gifts. Paul writes, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with diligence (or zeal); the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” So leadership is something that God calls certain people to undertake, and here he gives instructions about how leaders should lead. This passage is talking about the spiritual gift of leadership within the church, but I think that it certainly applies to whatever field or endeavor in life that God has given you to lead.

The Greek word used here for ‘lead’ is pro-histamepro means before, histame means to stand. So, the idea is twofold. To lead means to go before—to exercise authority, direct, and guide people. To stand over means protecting and caring for others. When you combine these two ideas together, then, it becomes a great description of what a leader does. A leader points the way forward while caring for people.

The passage also says leaders are to do this work with ‘diligence’ or zeal. To do something with diligence or zeal means to have an earnest and extraordinary commitment to one’s given responsibilities. A leader should have a deep devotion to the interests of others. A leader should perform his or her responsibilities with personal and moral excellence, as a way of serving God and others.

To lead with diligence means having a complete, unwavering commitment and deep devotion to guiding others in the way they should go and caring for their needs, all while upholding the highest standards of excellence. It is through this commitment that the leader fulfills his or her calling, experiences a life of purpose, impact, and eternal significance, and helps influence others for Jesus Christ.

Now that we know what kind of leaders God is calling us to be, the rest of this series is going to focus on how. How can we become leaders after God’s own heart, leaders who lead with diligence? The Five Practices of a High-Performance Christian Leader are a great place to start. In our next video, we’ll talk about the first practice: submission to Jesus Christ.