December 2018 – Apostolic Leadership That Excels for God’s Mission

December 4, 2018 | | GNJ News, Bishop's Relay Column

Apostolic Leadership that excels for God’s mission
Adapted from Jim Collins Writing, Good to Great

Collins calls Apostolic leaders Level 5 leaders:

Within the church we want all leaders to be fruitful leaders who lead congregations or ministries to grow in the five markers of vitality, transformational leaders who lead congregations through change and transition and Apostolic Leaders who lead congregations to become something greater through innovation and multiplying people, gifts and resources.

Apostolic leaders exemplify and embody five types of leadership:

  1. Pastoral and/or Prophetic Leader: Capacity and ability to lead well. This leader focuses on caring and/or justice for others. This type of leadership can be fruitful, especially in smaller congregations/ministries/organizations by caring about others and growing the five markers of vitality (more worshipers, disciples, small groups, people doing mission and giving).
  2. Team Leader: Works in and through teams. A team leader is collaborative and supportive of congregational leadership and their ministry. This type of leadership can be fruitful and transformational by enhancing others’ ministry and creating the change necessary to grow and develop in the five markers of vitality.
  3. Managerial Leader: Manages well. A managerial leader who excels at administration and the organizational life of a congregation. This type of leader can be fruitful and transformational.
  4. Charismatic Leader: Charismatic and visionary. A charismatic leader attracts people through their personality and strong preaching. While this leader can have rapid growth, of the five leadership types, it is the hardest to sustain without the other types of leadership. This type of leadership can be fruitful.
  5. Apostolic Leader: Leads congregations to innovate and multiply disciples. A highly effective pastor who is resolute and even tenacious to make the congregation/ministry/organization great for the world. This leader grows the people around them, demonstrates sustained effort on plans and strategies and is humble by genuinely giving the team the credit and recognizing he or she is part of a larger team. Apostolic Leaders demonstrate exceptional leadership that is fruitful, transformational and apostolic. The leader creates and develops a better congregation/ministry/organization that is sustainable, innovative, regenerating (for disciples and leaders) and growing in the five markers of vitality.

Apostolic Leaders possess the qualities of the other four types of leaders but also have an “extra dimension”, a paradoxical blend of personal humility (“I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job”) and grit or determination to achieve the best progress and results. They are somewhat modest individuals who deflect praise, yet have a determined resolve to do what it takes to make the congregation/ministry/ organization great for the world. They channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great congregation/ministry/organization. It’s not that Apostolic Leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for Christ, the congregation/ ministry/organization and its greatness, not for themselves.

Apostolic Leaders build clocks, they just don’t tell time. They build congregations/ministries/ organizations, they just don’t lead what they have. They are comfortable with the idea that their congregation/ministry/ organization will tick on without them, reaching even greater heights due to the foundations they laid down. The fact that most people will not know that the roots of that success trace back to them is not an overriding concern. As one Apostolic Leadership put it, “I want to look out and see one of the great congregations and be able to think, I used to serve there.”

Looking for Apostolic leader – Two sides of the Apostolic leader:

Apostolic Leaders recruit, nominate, hire, appoint, develop Apostolic Leaders, individuals with the best and most enduring results. To do otherwise is to sacrifice long-term effectiveness for short-term expedience, which is tantamount to an act of irresponsibility on behalf of the people and institution they serve. To be clear, Apostolic Leadership is not the only requirement for taking a congregation/ministry/ organization from good to great and for sustaining greatness, but it does appear to be essential.

So, how are Apostolic Leaders identified? The key step is to stop looking for oversized personalities and egocentric people, and instead to scrutinize for results. Look for leaders with extraordinary results and who are not looking for credit for those results.

There are two sides of an Apostolic Leader:

  • On the one hand… creates and is a catalyst in creating exemplary progress. Yet on the other hand, demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation and never boastful.
  • On the one hand… demonstrates an unwavering resolve to produce the best long-term progress and results, no matter how difficult. Yet, on the other hand, acts with quiet, calm determination and relies principally on inspired standards—not an inspiring personality—to motivate.
  • On the one hand… sets the standard of building an enduring great church and will settle for nothing less. Yet on the other hand, channels ambition into the organization and its work, not themselves, setting up successors for even greater success in the next generation.
  • On the one hand… looks in the mirror, not out the window, to apportion responsibility for poor results, never blaming other people, external factors or bad luck. Yet on the other hand, looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the organization/ministry/congregation to God, other people, external factors and faith.

There is not a shortage of Apostolic Leaders. No, the problem lies in the fact that our culture and church have fallen in love with the idea of the charismatic leader, fast results that are difficult to sustain.  The church and organizations keep putting people into positions of power who lack the inclination to develop Apostolic Leadership, and that is one key reason why so few congregations/ministries/ organizations ever make a sustained and verifiable shift from good to great for God and the world.

Summary – Apostolic Leaders:

  • Exemplify the best of all five types of leadership
  • Build the congregation/ministry/organization and don’t just lead what they have
  • Surround themselves with apostolic leaders and they develop the leaders around them to be Apostolic Leaders
  • Are humble as well as resolute in developing and building a great congregation that is sustainable long after they leave
  • Grow the five markers of vitality, lead through change, and develop/build a great congregation/ministry/organization. They are fruitful and transformational by being apostolic.

Going Deeper – Guiding Questions:

  1. In your own words, describe an Apostolic leader you know. Focus on the attributes of humility, multiplication, innovative for progress, and built a congregation/ministry/ organization.
  2. While an Apostolic Leader has the best of the qualities of all the leadership types, sometimes a leader blends two or more of the qualities.  Of the five types of leaders, what type of leader are you? What are specific examples of when you demonstrated the different types of leadership?
  3. While there are five types of leadership, there is progression within each type of leadership. On a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest, how do you rate your leadership in each category? Why? For example, if you are a Team Leader type, would you rate your leadership 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 with 1 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest.
  4. What gets in the way of your progress? What do you need to do to move more fully towards or live into Apostolic Leadership?

Going Even Deeper – Guiding Questions:

  1. If you are or have been progressing toward Apostolic Leadership, what experiences and activities helped you make progress?
  2. How are Apostolic Leaders shaped? What are the activities and experiences that shape Apostolic Leadership?
  3. Who are three people you work with in your ministry that have the greatest potential to be Apostolic Leaders?
  4. What will you do to further shape the leadership of the three people you identified?


Keep the faith!

Bishop John Schol
United Methodists of Greater New Jersey