One of the greatest problems in
American Evangelicalism is that we have forsaken the character – competence
leadership model
and perpetuated a charisma-based leadership model
in its place.

Many refer to the charisma-based
leadership model as the cult of personality. This charisma-based model
is defined as an individual using media, the spectacle, the arts, patriotism,
or rallies to create an idealized, heroic, and even worshipful image of
themselves in order to gain influence over others.

Unfortunately, the charisma model of
leadership is being used and abused far too often among Christian leaders. Many
Christians have fallen victim to these charismatic personalities and come under
the sway of their tools. I too have fallen victim to this model and even
perpetuated it out of naivety and ambition, but I have found freedom from its
slavery and insight from a better biblical model.

It is normal and even good for young
pastors to have respect for their fathers in the ministry who have gone before
them. Young pastors emulate those who have taught them in ministry. In some
ways this is how we learn. The Apostle Paul did say, “Follow me as I
follow the Lord.” The lesson I learned as I struggled with the charismatic
model of leadership was to be careful who you emulate and to be cautious about
why you emulate them. I also learned there is a point at which you must be true
to yourself and to the calling God has upon you. Most of all your motives must
be pure before God, and you must set aside your desire to seek great things for
yourself and instead seek glory for God alone. This is much more difficult to
do than to write. This requires deep refining and difficult personal

I remember when I began to formulate
a Character-Competence based leadership model. I was preaching chapel at
“my” seminary, and the president of the seminary was speaking with me
in the “green room” prior to the service. He was making excuses for
why chapel attendance and enrollment had been so low for some time. During our
somewhat awkward conversation, I talked with him about the need for pastors to
learn skills that helped them be effective in ministry. He shocked me by
stating, “I do not believe leadership can be taught – either the Man of
is ‘anointed’ or he is not.” The more I explored his thoughts on
leadership the more clearly, I saw this the “MOG” syndrome being
played out in my denomination. The Man of God approach says follow me, and I
will use my personality, image, and persona to lead and gain influence. After
all I have been “chosen” and “anointed” and that is all I
need to lead.

I am not dismissing the calling of
God or the anointing of God,

but what I am saying is that charisma in comparison to character and competence
has become way out of balance in most churches. It took me a while to formulate
my thoughts biblically, but here is how I outline them:

1. The greatest leaders in
the Bible were not recognized for their charisma. 2. The faithful leaders
in the Bible are celebrated for their character and competence. 3. The
church desperately needs
more Character-Competence based leaders today. Let
me speak to each of these briefly:

First, the greatest leaders in the
Bible were not recognized for their charisma.

As a matter of fact, we are told explicitly their charisma was not what
attracted people to them. Consider three leaders from the Bible. It was said of
the Apostle Paul in First Corinthians 10.10, “His letters are weighty and
strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.”
Isaiah prophesied about Jesus in Isaiah 53.2, “For He grew up before Him
like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately
form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be
attracted to Him.” And poor David embodied such poor leadership
possibilities in his father’s mind that he was completely overlooked as being a
potential candidate for leadership.

It is very clear that appearance and
charisma was not what set Jesus, the Apostle Paul and King David apart. It was
something other than their charisma that made them useful in God’s work.

Second, what is it that sets a servant of God apart? Faithful
biblical leaders are celebrated for their character and competence
. David
is probably the most succinct example of this. It is said of him in Psalm
79.72, “He shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart
and guided them with his skillful hands.” David is a celebrated
leader because of his character and his competence. This is further exemplified
in First Timothy and Titus where Paul highlights the “Qualifications”
for elders and deacons. In both lists the character – competence continuum is
highlighted and what is noticeably absent is charisma. Things like faith,
courage, obedience, love, and hope stick out on the character side of the
equation. Things like discipline, honesty, trustworthiness, transparency,
communication skills, organizational abilities, administrative insights stick
out on the competency side of the equation. Again, charisma is noticeable

Finally, what the church desperately needs today is to recover
the Character-Competence based leadership model
the Bible teaches. Churches
need pastors who shepherd with integrity of heart and guide them with skillfulness
of hand. This means discipling pastors in spiritual formation that develops
Christlikeness and training pastors in the necessary skills sets to lead in the
church effectively.

Let me close by sharing the 7
potential impacts if the church were to recover the Character-Competence
based leadership model

  1. The gospel would become the focus of Christianity not
    the few visible leaders who represent Christianity to the media and to pop
  2. There could be more unity around the essence of our
    faith and not a loyalty to and a tribalism around those who represent
    Christianity to the culture.
  3. The church could treasure the gospel again and not the
    personalities who communicate it.
  4. Movements within Christianity would not be personality
    based so they can be sustained long-term not just for the life of the
    charismatic leader.
  5. Unbelievers could base the merits of the Christian
    faith on the substance of the Christian faith and not judge Christianity
    by who represents it.
  6. Churches could flourish more because there is a focus
    upon the outcomes of a pastor’s work and not upon the style or personality
    of the pastor.
  7. And more pastors could lead effectively in the
    Character-Competency based model than could lead in the Charisma based model
    because character and skills can be developed and taught to anyone willing
    to learn.

To learn more about competency based
leadership visit

To learn more about the competencies
of a skilled overseer, a wise elder and a transformational shepherd you can
take the Pastoral Readiness Assessment as a 360 degree
assessment to see how you can develop in the Character-Competence based leadership