Characteristics of Missional Leaders

Keith Doornbos Fresh Ideas Leave a Comment

There are seasons when the hope of our future depends on the quality of our leaders.  We are living in one of those seasons.  The importance of competent leadership in today’s homes, communities, nations and churches cannot be overstated. Thankfully, God always provides leaders to serve his church in times such as these.  He often raises up those leaders, interestingly, from among the least likely (see Judges 6:15). What churches need today are missional leaders who reflect the leadership characteristics of the Apostle Paul.

Here are 7 characteristics of missional leaders:  

Characteristic 1: Their primary work is proclaiming the gospel

(Rom. 1:16-17, I Cor. 11:1 & 15:3-8)

Paul’s passion was to know Christ and make him known. He always attempted to model the Jesus life. His primary work was proclaiming the Gospel of Christ believing that it alone has the power to bring salvation. This singular passion gave life focus, transforming ministry from occupation to vocation.

Characteristic 2: They are culturally fluent

(Acts 17:16-31)

Paul was culturally aware.  With one eye in the Bible and another in the local news, he knew how to meet people where they live and transport them to where God’s Word provides new ways of seeing.  Whether on Mars Hill or in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, Paul spoke the people’s language.

Characteristic 3: They are passionate about right thinking

(Gal. 1:6-10)

Missional leaders are not soft-headed theologians.  They think deeply about what is true and how this truth confronts the dominant thought patterns of the day.  In the book THE PASTOR AS PUBLIC THEOLOGIAN the authors write, “the faithful pastor is always a countercultural figure” (p. 3).

Characteristic 4:  They live out of a God-given vision

(Acts 26)

Paul declared to King Agrippa, “I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.”  Paul’s life was marked by a clear awareness of his calling.  He knew what a God-preferred future looked like and what that future demanded of his life and the life of God’s people.  This clarity created boldness and resilience.

Characteristic 5: They empower others for ministry

(Eph. 4:6-11 & II Tim. 2:2)

Paul was passionate about equipping others for ministry.  Often, he left (or was forced to leave) a new ministry just days or weeks after arriving.  Paul knew that ministry depended on the leadership of others.  He was especially passionate about raising up next generational leaders like Timothy and Titus.

Characteristic 6: They are highly adaptive in changing circumstances

(I Cor. 9:19-23)

Paul wrote that he became all things to all people so that by all possible means he could save some.  When circumstances changed, Paul changed with them.  He pulled off a beautiful “fluid-stability” that  marks the best of God’s leaders.  “Blessed are the flexible,” someone wrote, “for they will not break.”

Characteristic 7: They are constantly seeking new places for expanded work

(Rom. 15:24)

Paul was present in the moment while, simultaneously, anxious for the future.  He fully invested in the “now” while peering around the corner to imagine God’s “next.” Before arriving in Rome, for example, he was already talking about a mission trip to Spain.  Missional leaders are always a bit restless.

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