The Most Attractive Quality in a Leader image

The Most Attractive Quality in a Leader

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What is the most attractive quality in a leader? No doubt there are all sorts of ways of answering that, and although some responses are obviously wrong, I don't think there's any particular one that is obviously right (other than "Christlikeness" or "love", which just push the question back a stage: "OK, so what does that look like?"). For years I've oscillated between "prayerfulness" and "humility" (which, when you think about it, are two sides of the same coin), with "zeal" and "wisdom" also up there. But more recently I've thought about it in a slightly different way, based on the beautiful image in C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle. The most attractive quality in a leader, I find, is when you discover that the inside is bigger than the outside.

I was thinking about this last month, when I had the privilege of meeting and praying for two days with the key leaders in Newfrontiers in the UK. None of them are household names. They all live in very ordinary places. They don’t have bodyguards, Twitter fan clubs, lucrative publishing deals or six figure salaries. They don’t pack stadiums or have profiles in the national media (not that those things are necessarily bad). Most people outside of a very specific slice of British evangelicalism have never heard of them. But having travelled, stayed or shared family dinner with all of them, one thing that they all have in common—as far as I can tell, anyway—is that their inside is bigger than their outside.

I don’t think that’s true of everyone in pastoral ministry. Many of us can probably think of examples: Christian leaders whose books, sermons, albums or organisations were far more impressive than the real person you found when you looked behind the curtain. There is nothing innately sinful about money, or popularity, or big churches, or social media followings, but when they work in combination with each other (which they often do), they have the potential to inflate a person’s “outside” while simultaneously diminishing their “inside.” Their stage presence is better than their prayer life. Their preaching is better than their parenting (if applicable). They give the impression of reading the Bible, and sharing the gospel, more than they actually do when you get to know them.

So when you see someone whose inside is bigger than their outside, it is immensely refreshing. You can hear it in their prayers. (Without exception, each of the ten or so people I mentioned earlier are more impressive in prayer than on the platform, at least from my interactions with them—and that’s one of the highest compliments I can pay someone.) You can see it in their homes. You can tell by hearing the jokes they make (or decide not to make), the controversies they avoid, the judgments they pass (or don’t), the way they interact with their families, the things they spend their money on, the way they treat those from whom they have nothing to gain. When you see it, as I did years ago with Terry Virgo, you realise you’re looking at the real thing. It makes you think: I want to be like that.

Lewis, of course, used the phrase to refer to the new creation, and (by extension) to the realities of Christianity: “like an onion,” as Mr Tumnus puts it, “except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.” Peter Lewis (no relation) makes a similar remark about Jesus at the start of The Glory of Christ: “the closer I get, the bigger he becomes.” I find it a wonderful way of thinking about the realities of the age to come, and the ways in which pastors can reflect them (or not) in our own lives. So my prayer this week, as I have been thinking about these things (and as I prepare to spend another two days with a group of such leaders this morning!), is that my inside would be bigger than my outside. Or, as Matt Redman puts it:

So let my deeds outrun my words,
And let my life outweigh my songs.
Unbroken praise be yours.

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