Shepherding the Church Toward Jesus

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Two Sides of Church Leadership


Church leaders do not generally discuss emotional intelligence (EQ), yet, they often lose influence with their flocks because they lack self-awareness and relational management. Tension in the church arises, not generally out of theology or ministry unfruitfulness, but out of the inability of leaders to apply gospel principles and emotional intelligence when dealing with congregants and staff.

The gospel is necessary to understand your emotions. Gospel Leader principles rest on the foundation and perspective of the gospel and view it through the secondary lens of emotional intelligence. Noted science journalist Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., posits that emotional intelligence is the prerequisite of leadership. He writes, “Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he [or she] still won’t make a great leader.”[1] I firmly believe church leadership requires both gospel application and emotional intelligence.

Only healthy Christian leaders can produce healthy organizations. Formal education is critical to Christian leadership. However, traditional theological education alone is not enough for long-term, sustainable ministry. Christian leadership requires both spiritual maturity and emotional intelligence to care for the church of God skillfully. An emotionally unsound leader or board member can derail an entire organization. I have seen it happen—more than once.

A church installed three new elders who immediately undermined every decision brought by the pastor and the other elders who were not aware of the secret plan to remove the veteran elders. When the pastor confronted the malicious disunity, the veteran elders refused to address it. The beloved pastor resigned, and the church suffered. The issue was not doctrine or budget differences. It was a failure to manage relationships among the leadership team with gospel application and emotional intelligence. The Apostle Paul addressed both sides of leadership needed:

I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-3, emphasis added).

We need to bear with one another in love, even if the fellow leader has evil intentions. A gospel-driven leader with emotional intelligence will pursue the unity of the Spirit with humility, gentleness, and patience.

Keep shepherding the church toward Jesus.


[1] HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence (Boston MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2015),p. 1.