In Dr. Bobby Clinton’s study of 3,500 leaders for Christ it was found that only one-third of leaders finished well. 

Many drop out (usually due to burnout). Some have a moral failing. The majority plateau (fade into a slow fail).

In the Bible this same pattern holds true. Out of 49 leaders featured in the Bible only 13 of them finished well.

This is why Jesus’ little brother warned us not to be too quick to step into being a spiritual teacher or leader over others (James 3:1). It’s why Paul urged his young pastor Timothy and all of us who serve God to watch carefully over our ministry and our soul which is the source of our ministry (1 Timothy 4:16).

Leaders in the way of Christ have God-given influence over a group of people to bring them to reach a goal. They’re called and equipped by God to join with Jesus in advancing the Kingdom of Light and Love on earth.

This is counter-cultural. It’s spiritual leadership. We’re relying on God, not ourselves. We’re following Jesus first and leading others second.

4 Reasons Why Christian Leaders May Not Finish Well

Why do seminary trained pastors and other highly educated Christian leaders fail? Why is it that even men and women who are very intelligent, great with people, and spiritually gifted often fail in their leadership? How could it be that a leader’s excellent training and superior giftedness are so often not enough to finish well?

  1. Lack a Sovereign mindset. They don’t see and trust God at work in all their life situations, even hard or bad things. They’re not abandoning outcomes to God.
  2. Haven’t developed a ministry philosophy. Leaders who don’t articulate and live out their God-given mission and values get diverted and become ineffective.
  3. Don’t have a close mentor. Leaders will rise to the level of expectancy of their mentor — if they don’t have a caring and wise guide they won’t rise high.
  4. Stop learning. Plateaued leaders neglect to develop and improve by reading, reflecting on their experiences, and seeking feedback from others.

If a leader has any of these weaknesses it leads to problems, especially in the pressures of ministry.

6 Traits of Leaders Who Do Finish Well

Here are six ways that our Soul Shepherding Institute develops healthy and effective leaders in the way of Jesus:

  1. Cultivate intimacy with Jesus. Being fully devoted to Christ and submitted to God’s kingdom with him (developing a Sovereign mindset) is the source of great leadership.
  2. Articulate and live by our God-appointed mission and values. To lead well in ministry we need to discern God’s call for how we can serve other people in Jesus’ name. This is what will make our heart sing!
  3. Form a close relationship with a mentor. You can’t care for your soul by yourself — you need someone you turn to for listening, pastoring, and counseling. It’s not enough to learn from books, podcasts, and conferences. All of us in ministry and leadership need a soul shepherd.
  4. Keep learning. Study Scripture, books and seminars on spiritual formation and leadership. Reflect on your life and leadership. Engage in soul talks with friends and mentors, seeking their empathy and feedback.
  5. Manifest Christlikeness (the fruit of the Spirit). In your relationships and service what impacts people the most is the kind of person you are. For instance, becoming patient and kind like Christ Jesus will have more positive impact on the people you lead and care for than anything you say or do (1 Corinthians 13:1-4).
  6. Believe that God is doing something special through you! Great leaders in the way of Christ have a sense of unique God-given purpose. They’re not jealous of other leaders or competing with them, they appreciate and enjoy their place of service.

Leaders like this leave behind a legacy of changed lives, fruitful models of ministry, and good works that last. Yet, they’re not focused on their legacy — they’re focused on loving God and the people around them with the resources the Lord has entrusted to them.

(This article draws on insights from The Making of a Leader by Dr. Bobby Clinton.)

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Bill and Kristi explore Why Pastors Fall further in this post’s companion Soul Talks.

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