Leadership: Never Less Than Love

by   |     |   enewton@bju.edu   |  

Leadership is a very common topic. Amazon sells over 58,000 books with leadership in the title. With few exceptions, every church and community and company and even groups of children have at least one leader. Sometimes he is self-appointed. Sometimes she is thrust into the role, while at other times she has steadily grown into it. Sometimes he plays the part even though he doesn’t own the title.

BJU is a training ground for leaders. What does good peer leadership look like? In other words, how would you finish this sentence: Leadership is … ?

Leadership is accomplishment

Leaders tend to pride themselves on accomplishment. Success means achieving the sales goal or winning the championship or landing the promotion or gaining a large social media following or receiving an award or delivering an impressive speech. Some of these achievements are worthwhile. But none of them get to the heart of leadership.

Nearly 2,000 years ago the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of believers who had become caught up in the celebrity culture of Corinth. Some favored Paul, others Apollos, some Peter, and others Christ. They were puffed up. They approved obvious moral sins and tried to gain the upper hand on fellow believers through the secular courts. They wanted the best spiritual gifts, the impressive ones that gave them apparent authority.

But to view influence in this way is to forget the Gospel. The reason we are in Christ is not because of our personal pedigree or accomplishment or status. Through the preaching of Christ on the cross God calls to Himself the foolish and weak and poor and despised. He designed the good news to do us good by bringing glory to Himself.

Leadership is love

In addition, God manifests His Spirit’s presence in every believer through at least one gift “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Our roles and gifts vary, but the purpose is the same—to bring God glory by building one another up. So, the point of my opportunities is not to show my worth but to reflect God’s, not to satisfy myself but to edify others.

What does this have to do with leadership? We should do our best. We should take initiative. We should exercise our gifts and be resourceful. We should communicate in a winsome and compelling way. But these “accomplishments” do not in and of themselves equal spiritual leadership. You could do any or all of these things but in God’s eyes find they amount to nothing without love. There is “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). We could pull off the most heroic feat, give the most inspiring challenge, raise a record-setting amount of money, tolerate the most obnoxious roommate—but without love, it is nothing.

Leadership is more than love

In other words, leadership is more than love but never less. We need good communication skills and initiative and perseverance and vision, just to mention a few. But Christians cannot lead without love. As we consider opportunities as leaders this semester, let’s keep 1 Corinthians 13 squarely in view. Meditate on these verses. Notice the activity. (All 16 characteristics are active verbs.) Notice the selflessness. Reflect on how they exemplify Christ.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. (1 Cor. 13:4–8a)

Finally, immerse yourself in God’s love for you. Remember what 1 John 4:10 says: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” May our gracious heavenly Father enable us to reflect His love as leaders this year.


This article was originally published on the BJU Student Life Blog.


Dr. Eric Newton is the dean of students and the chief student life officer at BJU.