Foundational Characteristics of Missional Leaders by Gary Rohrmayer
Foundational Characteristics of Missional Leaders by Gary Rohrmayer
of my favorite leadership books is "Be, Know, Do: Leadership the Army
Way" by Frances Hesselbein and General Eric K. Shinski (USA Ret.) This
book takes a close look at the official Army Leadership Manual and
applies its principles to the corporate and civic leadership realms.
Here is the Army's definition of leadership, "Leadership is influencing
people, by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating
to accomplish the mission and improving the organization". (pg 5) This
definition has three words that stand out to me: influencing, operating
and improving. Influencing: motivating and loving others in the mission
for the mission. Operating: creating plans, developing systems and
managing their execution so that the mission is achieved. Improving:
adding value to those around you and to the organization for the
betterment of the mission.
So what does a missional leader look like in a local church? Here are
four qualities of those leaders who are seeking to align themselves and
their churches with God's mission.
1. They are passionate followers of Christ.
Their leadership flows out of their relationship with Jesus and his
missional call on their lives. Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the
branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing". (John 15:5 NIV) Cultivating
spiritual intimacy is essential for leaders to live a vibrant missional lifestyle. For the leader to hear and obey God they must first love God.
As a new believer I read a lengthy biography of George Mueller written
by A.T. Peirson. George Mueller lived during the 19th century. He was a
rebellious young man who came to faith in Christ at the age of 20 and
shook up the world with his humble faith and his passionate devotion for
God. Four things that motivated me out of that biography were:
God uses broken vessels. George Mueller wasted the first twenty
years of his life in hellish activity and God redeemed his life for his
God's plans are different than ours. He wanted to be an overseas
missionary but God kept him at home to be a missionary to orphans. I
found it quite interesting that he was a great supporter and friend of
J. Hudson Taylor.
His persistent and argumentative prayer life: A.T. Peirson writes:
"This method of holy argument-- ordering our cause before God, as an
advocate would plead before a judge". George Muller was such a
passionate follower that he wrestled with God on the behalf of those he
was trying to reach and serve. This lesson brought such freedom to my
His spiritual habits inspired and still inspire me. His primary
spiritual habit was to read his Bible on his knees and pray his way
through every word. A.T. Peirson writes,"The passion of George Mueller's soul was to know fully the secrets of
prevailing with God and with man. George Whitefield's life drove home
the truth that God alone could create in him a holy earnestness to win
souls and qualify him for such divine work by imparting a compassion for
the lost that should become an absorbing passion for their salvation.
And let this be carefully marked as another secret of this life of
service-- he now began himself to read the word of God upon his knees,
and often found for hours great blessing in such meditation and prayer
over a single psalm or chapter."
Missional leaders are passionate followers of Christ. They embrace
their brokenness. They are wholly dependent on God to work through
them. Their intimacy with God is unfettered and their spiritual habits
are a lifeline that keeps them connected to the Lord of the Harvest.
2. They inspire others to worship God.
Missional leaders understand that the goal of their lives is to glorify
God, to spread his fame and to lead others to worship God personally and
corporately. Worship in its base form is simply putting God first in
your life. The Apostle Paul appealed to the Christians living in Rome,
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your
bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your
spiritual act of worship". (Romans 12:1 NIV) Missional leaders
understand that worship is primarily a lifestyle, a series of
intentional decisions one makes to allow God to have first priority in
They inspire others by pointing to Jesus and unashamedly calling other
to acknowledge that Jesus Christ in the only Savior and risen Lord. In
their own worshipping lifestyle they model what it means to put Jesus
first in their day, their decisions, in their finances and their
relationships. In their leadership they guide the church corporately to
become a worshipping community by designing and executing a well
thought out spiritual formation process and by creating culturally
relevant worship services that touch the human heart, lift them into the
presence of God, thus bringing God honor and glory. In their preaching
they help people transcend their ordinary routines and transform their
minds as they seek to live a worshipping lifestyle.
3. They serve out of their unique giftedness.
Missional leaders are comfortable in their own skin. They understand
that God, in His sovereignty, has bestowed upon them a unique
personality, a unique story and a set of spiritual gifts, through the Holy Spirit,
for the purpose of fulfilling God's missional purposes through the
local church. The Apostle Paul tells us how to think about ourselves in
light of our unique gifts when he wrote, "Do not think of yourself more
highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober
judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you".
(Romans 12:3 NIV)
First, we are to refrain from thinking of ourselves too 'highly' because
when it comes to spiritual gifts there is no ground for an inflated
view of ourselves because the gifts are given by God, for God, and His
mission. Second, we are to think with 'sober judgment' which means,
sound thinking or a healthy perspective when it comes to our giftedness.
In light of this healthy perspective the missional leader celebrates
what God has given them, determines to develop those gifts to their
fullest potential and becomes humbly dependant on the rest of the body
of Christ because they understand that all the gifts are needed for
God's mission to be fulfilled.
Missional leaders create a gifts oriented culture by celebrating all the
gifts that God has given to the body. They provide pathways for others
in discovering how their unique personality, life experiences and
spiritual gifting fit in God missional purposes. These leaders also
come alongside and challenge people to use and sharpen their gifts to
their utmost potential. The Apostle Paul wrote these words to a young
leader, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of
God". (II Timothy 1:6 NIV) Missional leaders are urgently calling
God's people into service because every gift is needed to fulfill the
mission of making more and better disciples around the world.
4. They have a heart for the lost all around them.
In Acts 17:16 we read, "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he
was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols". (Acts
17:16 NIV) While waiting for his traveling companions, he wandered the
streets of Athens, the intellectual capital of the world and the center
of sophisticated Greek cultural. As he strolled through the city his
heart began to stir deep within him causing him great pain and personal
distress because of all the hopelessness he encountered every time his
came across the lifeless idols throughout the city. One man described
Athens as a junkyard of idols. People giving their lives, their time,
and resources to images made by the hands for men.
Missional leaders see the world through a different set of lenses. They
see the world through the eyes of a God who is on mission and cries out
to a lost world "Where are you?" and "What is this you have done?"
(Genesis 3:8, 13 NIV) They see the world through the heart of a God who
so loved the world the he gave and he gave his Son sacrificially so
that those who came to him would experience the very life of God. (John
3:16) This deep stirring within their souls causes missional leaders to
act and to freely accept the call and the challenge from Jesus when he
said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you". (John 20:21 NIV)
The Apostle Paul's heart was broken not only for the lost souls
of Athens but for the whole world. This is why he wrote, "Though I am
free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as
many as possible. I have become all things to all men so that by all
possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel
that I may share in its blessings." (I Corinthians 9:19-13 NIV) In
Athens Paul figured out how to reach sophisticated Greeks. In Jewish
circles he knew what to do to reach his fellow Jews.
Missional leaders not only feel the burden of God's mission but they
also act on the burden and act upon it sacrificially. Leading a
missional church is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to push
yourself beyond your comfort zone and to lead the church beyond it
personal limits. Brokenness, inner turmoil and sacrifice will always be
part of the missional leader's life.