I have met leaders in the Christian arena who are deeply political and find ways to negotiate their agenda by alliances and tactics that would make Washington proud. At the other end of the spectrum are leaders who have rejected that approach and simply believe that if they do the right thing (sans politics) that they are leading well, no matter what the consequences. 

I would like to propose a third alternative: Leading in wisdom and discernment. As was said about David in Psalm 78, "David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them." Skillful hands refers to a leadership that was rich in wisdom and discernment. 

Political leadership is maneuvering, manipulating and plotting to get one's agenda. Wisdom is about discerning how to move forward in a way that is productive while understanding the dynamics of organizational leadership and people but without manipulation or coercion. 

Wisdom and discernment does take into account potential individuals or groups who may not want to play ball or cooperate with a leader's decision or direction because that is wise. The difference is in how we seek to achieve our agenda. By manipulation and outsmarting or through discernment and wisdom as how best to proceed? It is being in the words of Jesus as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." This can mean understanding the political agendas of others and responding appropriately without being political or manipulative ourselves.

Too many Christian leaders get outsmarted by people who have ill motives and personal agendas because we cannot believe that someone would play dirty: they are naive. That is where shrewdness comes in - understanding where others are coming from and what their agenda may be. Innocence comes in when we don't respond with the same tactics. While I don't want to stoop to unhealthy tactics I also want to be highly discerning about the actions and motives of others who can and sometimes do hurt ministry.

Wisdom and discernment require time to think and ponder key decisions that we are thinking about making. Is the timing right? How will they be received? Who is going to push back and why? What are the potential unintended consequences? Whose agreement would it be wise to have on the front end? How do we communicate the decision? And so on. In fact, as a leader I want to be one step ahead of others rather than one step back. That is discernment! And wisdom.

All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence,  are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.

  • Jan 12, 2015
  • Category: News
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