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The modern vision of leadership development is inseparable from what we call the “skills approach” to leadership. In the skills approach, we look beyond both the leader’s personality traits and organizational context and focus primarily on the competencies leaders need to be effective in their role. If we can improve skills, we can improve leadership.

Even though skills do matter, Christian leaders know there is more to leadership than expertise. It’s not that we can lead faithfully without well-honed skills; it’s that the skills alone are not sufficient. As Colossians 3:14 reminds us, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Leaders who follow the crucified Christ are called to know how to love and what to love, which is not an abstract proposition. In our congregations, with all the messiness involved in doing God’s will together, we might be tempted to love God and tolerate people. We can fall in love with preaching and struggle to empathize with those who listen to our sermons. The call to love is more than the expectation that we will always have warm feelings about ministry and the people we serve. The call to love is an invitation to vulnerability and joy, sacrifice and blessings.

Loving others as God calls us to do is not possible without being secure in the truth that we are loved by God. God’s love for us is so expansive and immeasurable that the New Testament says we can barely comprehend “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18). When we are not rooted in God’s love for us, we seek human approval in ways that cannot satisfy or sustain our weary souls. Knowing this, as we strive to become faithful, fruitful leaders, we cannot forget the question Jesus asked Peter: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15)


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Before you go…

I recently asked a group of ministers if they loved ministry. A few hands shot up right away. After that, one minister wanted to know what I meant by love. He liked ministry, but he wondered if “love” might be pushing things too far.

In fairness to the group, I did ask them if they loved ministry. Maybe they would have responded differently if I asked them if they loved God or the people they serve. Of course, I would never ask if it were easy to love people. We know it’s not. But the fact that love is not easy does not make love any less necessary. My prayer is that the God who loves us will draw us into a deeper love with Christ for the sake of our leadership in our congregations and in the world.

You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading and loving!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity