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The head, not the tail

Abi Jarvis urges emerging Christian leaders to embrace their calling

One of my favourite Bible verses is Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I love these verses not only because of their focus on justice, mercy and humility, but because they are active, intentional actions that effect our relationships with each other and with God. We are instructed not to simply approve of the theoretical concepts but to embody justice, mercy and humility as we act, love and walk.

When we act in godly ways, we reflect the One who made us. As many involved in justice and mercy ministries can testify, such public demonstrations of our faith are a powerful witness to others. They build relationships with the people who engage with them and help bring people into relationship with God.

But actions of justice, mercy and humility are not limited to social justice, just as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) is not limited to our personal relationships with friends and family. They are attributes that should be applied to everything we do, including our leadership responsibilities. 

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God has given us the gift of delegated authority in this world: Adam cares for creation by naming the animals (Genesis 2:19 – 20); Daniel and Joseph served in foreign governments; and the early church included a member of the Areopagus (Acts 17:34), a government official (Acts 2:37), a business woman (Acts 16:14), and many others who had influence in their workplaces and communities.

Today, there are Christians in every sector of society, and how we act in leadership roles will reflect upon the God who sent us to those places. But leading in our workplaces and communities can be difficult. Increasingly, in the UK it is challenging to hold – let alone speak out – alternative views to the majority (or the vocal minority). Public faith is acceptable if it’s limited to doing nice things that serve your community, otherwise it should be kept for private activities such as going to church and reading your Bible before bedtime.

Our churches are full of people leading and influencing the people around them.

The moment your faith affects your social, moral or political views – or even your behaviour – opposition arises. The temptation in such circumstances is to stay quiet, to flee from the conversation and adopt the attitudes of the group. Why stand firm when it will only damage your reputation and friendships? It’s much easier to leave the difficult conversations to others. 

Unfortunately for those who would prefer a quiet life, Jesus didn’t really give us that option. He is pretty clear that our faith should be public: You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14 – 16).

Last year, the Evangelical Alliance released What kind of society?, a report that encourages Christians to think about their vision for the society they would like to live in. But for such a vision to become reality, we need Christians to step up, speak out, and be intentional in making a difference. This doesn’t just apply to people in national positions of power. In a community or workplace where it is normal to swear, criticise and gossip, simply acting and speaking with gentleness, self-control and forbearance (Galatians 5:22) is a counter-cultural act of leadership. 

And we need to be open about our God who asks us to step out in faith and leadership, so that we are a light to others, and bring glory to Him. Such leadership is incredibly effective relationship building, and key to the church fulfilling its mission to make Jesus known. Our churches are full of people leading and influencing the people around them: trustees, business people, stay-at-home parents, bloggers, teachers, shop owners, shift managers and campaigners. When everyone is intentional in leading in accordance with God’s instructions, collectively they can shift the culture of their town, village or borough. 

Leaders cannot operate in a vacuum but must work with others and support them in their leadership as well. It is important to have a support network, people who can pray in difficult times, off er guidance from their own experiences, understand when you fall short of your expectations, and encourage you to take a risk and step out in faith. Often, Christians do not recognise the leadership roles they have, or the leadership gifts God has given them. 

The Evangelical Alliance’s Public Leadership initiative exists to take people on a journey beyond themselves and towards the public good. Part of what we do is to support churches by creating resources to disciple the public leaders in our congregations and connect them with others who are making a difference. So, we’re excited to launch SENT, a new four-month course, designed to both develop individual leaders and create a network of leaders in a local area who can support each other in their leadership roles.

It is designed for use in local churches or Christian networks so that leaders can think about the context that unites them (such as a geographic area, workplace or sector) as well as their individual roles. In regular meetings, groups come together to watch a leadership talk, discuss the themes and pray together, building relationships and learning from each other as well as receiving the teaching. 

In between each meeting, there are two activities for each participant to complete relating to their individual leadership, which gives opportunity for each participant to think about how the material relates to their specific context. This includes activities to discern leadership opportunities and identify – and pray about – the leadership gifts and skills God has given participants.

The course is a great opportunity to show public leaders in church that the roles they play in God’s kingdom are valued and understood. The course can be used as a formal part of your church’s discipleship programme or informally with a couple of friends, or even with an online community. We hope that churches throughout the UK will find SENT to be an invaluable resource as Christians work hard to off er an alternative vision of society – one that places God’s values at its very heart. 

You can find out more about the resource at eauk​.org/​s​e​n​t​c​ourse

About the author

Abi Jarvis is the public leadership coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance, seeking to equip Christians with the skills and confidence to be leaders in the places where God has called them. She has responsibility for the SENT course and the Public Leader: England curriculum.

Abi has a BA in Ancient History and an MSc in Political Communication. She enjoys going to the theatre, watches too many American TV dramas, and somehow became responsible for daily office exercises despite her hatred of all things sporty.

Much to her dismay, Abi ticks the box for pretty much every stereotypical feature of a PK – a pastor's kid.

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