Earlier this week, we began an exploration of leadership development, focusing on a model created by Dr. J. Robert Clinton and detailed in his book, The Making of a Leader. In it, he identifies five distinct phases of leadership development. We covered Phase I: Sovereign Foundations, and Phase II: Inner-Life Growth on Monday. Today, we will take a closer look at Phase III–Ministry Maturity.
Let’s  start by defining what we mean when we use the term leader. Dr. Clinton defines a leader as “a person with a God-given capacity and a God-given responsibility to influence a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.”

Phase III: Ministry Maturing

In Phase III, the leader’s prime focus of life is ministry. He or she pursues training formally through an institution or informally through self-study or workshops. Similar to stages I and II, the major work God is doing happens in the leader rather than through him or her.
According to Dr. Clinton, four major processes are used to develop a leader in this phase — authority insights, relational insights, ministry conflict, and leadership backlash.
He describes each:

Authority Insights

Authority insights “refer to those positive and negative ministry lessons that teach about the use of spiritual authority. These are lessons on submission to authority, authority structures, authenticity of power bases, authority conflict, and how to exercise authority.” Many of the lessons learned in this phase come from negative, rather than positive, experiences.
We see this fleshed out in Scripture through a number of stories: the centurion in Luke 7:1-10, Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12:1-16, in the incident involving jealousy over Moses’ authority, John and James’ request in Matthew 20:20-18, as well as others.
As you coach leaders around authority issues, consider the questions below:

  • What is God teaching you through this experience?
  • What would it look like to submit to authority in this situation?
  • What lessons can you take from this situation and apply to your own leadership?

Relational Insights

Relational insights “are those instances in ministry in which a leader learns either positive or negative lessons about relating to other Christians or non-Christians in the course of ministry decisions.”
We see a negative example of a relational insight in Acts 15:36-39, in the story of Paul’s conflict with Barnabas over Mark. In his mentoring relationship with Mark, Paul clearly exhibited impatience and unforgiveness. However, we see Paul’s change of attitude in Colossians 4:10 as he encourages the Christians at Colosse to welcome Mark.
When your client is facing a relational challenge in ministry, questions like these might help:

  • What is God teaching you about yourself in this situation?
  • What are you learning about relationships through this?
  • What would it take for you to relinquish the need to be right?

Ministry Conflict

Ministry conflict…tests a leader’s personal maturity, Dr. Clinton says. “Conflict processing is important…for its value in revealing character. Who we are in the conflict much more critical than what we do.”
We see an example of this in Acts 6, when the apostles faced conflict from members of the church concerning the distribution of food to widows. At the heart of the issue lays the real problem — authority and relational difficulties. To their credit, the apostles resolved this issue well.
The truth is, conflict is a challenge for even the best of leaders. Consider these coaching questions when working with leaders facing conflict:

  • What past experience of conflict can you compare this with? What worked? What didn’t?
  • How might this reframe your view of conflict?
  • What is God’s invitation to you in the midst of this conflict?

Leadership Backlash 

“Leadership backlash tests a leader’s perseverance, vision, and faith,” Dr. Clinton explains. It usually looks something like this: The leader gets a vision and he, along with his followers, move on it, only to face difficulties or spiritual warfare. The leader receives backlash from the group. According to the author, “Leadership backlash is a form of integrity testing, in which the leader’s actual motivation can be revealed.”
Moses faced many instances of backlash from the Israelites as he led them in the desert. They murmured against God, complained about the manna, and created an idol. Yet, despite obstacles in his ministry, Moses remained true to the call of God.
Ministry backlash is always hard, regardless of how spiritually mature you are. When working with a leader facing ministry backlash, consider asking him or her these important questions:

  • How has this challenge drawn you closer to God?
  • What does spiritual maturity look like in this situation?
  • How can you guard your heart and honor God in the midst of this situation?

As we’ve unpacked Phase III on ministry maturity, what have you learned about yourself? How will you use what you’ve learned in your coaching?
Be sure to check back next week, as we conclude our discussion of Dr. J. Robert Clinton’s model of leadership development.

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