Grace and Leadership

By: Fini de Gersigny
From: June-September 2015
Found in: The Gospel of Grace
If you are a leader in a local church you may have found yourself fighting to please God, the church and your family. You want to live up to the standard expected from a church leader – and you want to please everyone so that the local church will grow. You may even have experienced burnout that so often characterizes leaders in ministries. Let us look at some truths that will set you free from performance-based leadership.

For those on the journey of grace, leadership is such a vital ingredient in the restoration of this truth to the Church. Leaders, especially the lead couple, set the tone, DNA, and theology in the life of a local church. I find this a somewhat daunting proposition, as well as a great joy, since as the Lord gets hold of us and transforms us; the flow-on effect to the local church is stunning. Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you to imitate me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16, NIV)

If leaders are full of grace, it stands to reason that our grace walk will become the grace walk of those following us. The opposite is true as well, if leaders are insecure, easily threatened, and have to lead through control and legalism, that makes for a pretty toxic family.

If leaders are full of grace, it stands to reason that our grace walk will become the grace walk of those following us.

Grace is more than a powerful message; it is a personal encounter with Jesus and a revelation of the finished work of the Cross. It is Jesus ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit at the express will of the Father. We can pick up on a grace message and change our church language without having an encounter with the Person of grace. However, this will not produce long lasting fruit and life.

I discovered how graceless I was almost 10 years ago. One night, as I was putting one of my children to bed, he said to me, “Dad, I’ll never be good enough for you.” Wow! That was a heart stopping moment. I was struck to the core with the depth of what I was communicating to my family, and of course this would have been filtering into the church as well. If grace is not lived out at home, then it certainly won’t be lived out in the church community.

Grace is more than a powerful message; it is a personal encounter with Jesus and a revelation of the finished work of the Cross.

I realized that I was living out my own core belief system, which was based on performance indicators. Those indicators can be all the “right” things, like personal prayer, devotion, holiness, love, etc. and yet our motivation behind keeping them is not grace, but the law. And so those closest to you, and those you are ministering to and with, constantly feel a low-grade disapproval, even though you really want to encourage and release them.

So I will recount some of the key revelations on my grace journey, and law‐detox, which will hopefully help and encourage you to flourish and enjoy the rest of your leadership years.

1. The Father Is Already Pleased with Me, Irrespective of What I Do or Do Not Achieve with My Life and Ministry
And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form, like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, saying ‘You are my Son, the Beloved! In You I am well pleased and find delight.’” (Luke 3:22, AMP)

The Father was delighted with Jesus before he had begun his ministry, worked miracles, taught the multitudes, or paid the ultimate price on the Cross. This is an encounter with the unconditional acceptance and love of the Father that every leader needs to experience, or else the basis of their ministry will be to try and please God, people, or both. By ‘being loved by God’, I mean intoxicated, wooed, overwhelmed, drunk with his love personally, and not just as a one‐off revelation. I believe we can go so deep into the love of God that when people come near us they will feel this love spilling over.

I believe we can go so deep into the love of God that when people come near us they will feel this love spilling over.

I find myself looking forward to Sundays, not just because I love ministering, but because I know I am going to be ministered to by the love of God during our congregational worship. Sometimes I get so caught up in his love and grace that I have to pull myself back to reality so that I can try to work out what we should do next!

How you feel about yourself and your acceptance as a leader, son, daughter, and human being, will ultimately impact what you minister to others. My success is not based on the size of my church, how many people I have baptized this year, or the number of healings we have had. The Father is already pleased with me and loves me now, just as I am, and before I go out and do amazing exploits in his name.

I lead, not out of a need to please the Father, he’s already pleased with me, but out of my secure calling to be the leader I know He has called me to be. I’ve told my children that they have a ‘love tank’ that needs to be constantly filled with hugs, kisses and cuddles. They come to me regularly for love tank refills. This is not unlike our love walk with the Father, where we are able to regularly sit/walk/worship in His presence and have our love tanks filled, for no reason other than just to enjoy Him!

Leaders who have not been loved on by the Father, won’t have much to give their flock other than principles and patterns and Bible verses.

He loves to love on us, and I make no apology for needing His love. Leadership can be traumatic at times, and without frequent encounters with God’s love and presence, I don’t think I would have made it this far. Leaders who have not been loved on by the Father, won’t have much to give their flock other than principles and patterns and Bible verses. Jesus was so full of love and was so secure in the Father’s love that it poured out of His every pore. I want to be that full. I want to be that secure.

2. His Yoke Is Easy and His Burden Is Light
I read a quote recently that went something like, “If you haven’t found the place where ministry is fun, then do yourself and all those around you a favor, quit now.” Well, a few years ago I would have glared at you with resentment just for thinking that ministry could be fun! I was so conditioned to ‘the price of the ministry’, that I would have defended my grim demeanor, and even found some scriptures to defend my gloom! How far from the truth this is.

Jesus said that we should take His yoke, which is easy, and His burden, which is light! (Matthew 11:30). Some Christians are so burdened by the ministry that you don’t really want to be around them, because you feel guilty you aren’t more ‘burdened’ by a love for the lost, or desire to plant more churches. Yet you wouldn’t really want to be like them, because they don’t really look very happy and their spouses look positively worn out!

If we preach freedom but live lives of burden and somberness, that’s just hypocrisy.

My life has its fair share of pressures, trials, suffering, persecutions, and the like. But when you are in a joyful frame of mind about ministry, it’s so much easier to tackle the challenges that ministry will throw at you. “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” Jesus was “full of joy in the Holy Spirit,” and I believe His leaders and ministers have every opportunity to live and minister from a place of overflowing joy.

We don’t know exactly what Paul meant when he said he wanted to “share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” (Philippians 3:10), but I asked the Lord, and I felt He said to me that those sufferings are the sufferings you didn’t cause, but that come as a by-product of following Him: persecution, trials, ‘sheep bites’, and the like. We can get through these sorts of sufferings best with a disposition of joy.

If we preach freedom but live lives of burden and somberness, that’s just hypocrisy. I have always been an overly responsible and disciplined person. Unfortunately, these admirable traits don’t always translate into overflowing fun! I think my family suffered the most from my dedicated grim and fun-less demeanor. And I attribute a lot of my lack of joy in those days to my overly responsible preoccupation with the church and ministry, and the rarity of my personal encounters with God and His loving grace. I think many leaders suffer from this. They know in theory that Jesus is building His Church, but they allow the pressure, responsibilities and even godly zeal, to rob them of their childlike joy in the ministry.

These days I look forward to staff meetings, healing rooms, leadership retreats, Sunday services, and all the many other aspects of church ministry. There is a joy in my heart and a spring in my step. Some staff meetings end with a good number of us on the floor, rolling with laughter. Is it perfect? Not at all. It’s just more happy than not! I used to be burdened by whether people stayed at the church or left, whether there would be enough money for salaries, whether the meetings would go well, etc. The more I worried the more grim I looked! I am not saying that nowadays I just don’t care if someone sees fit to leave Jubilee and go somewhere else. If I was close to them I might have a sense of loss, but I just don’t take it all so personally, as though their leaving is a reflection of how I am performing as a leader!

If Jesus is really building His Church, like He said He would, then even when I am sleeping, the job is being done

This is a tyranny no one should live under. Do I get all the credit for all those who stay and build with us? Not often. So why should I shoulder all the blame for those who move on?

If Jesus is really building His Church, like He said He would, then even when I am sleeping, the job is being done and I don’t need to be weighed down by all these burdens, because His yoke is easy (Greek: chrestos – useful, good, manageable, pleasant, kind) and His burden is light (Greek: elaphros – light in weight, quick, agile).

3. Operate in the Grace Gift that You’ve Been Given
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10, NIV)

“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” (Ephesians 3:8, NIV)

“But by the grace of God I am what I am.” (1 Corinthians 15:10, NIV)

The gifts of pastor, teacher, apostle, administrator, psalmist, etc. are just that, grace gifts. There is an ease and grace to ministry when you are a square peg operating in a square hole. I have wished at times that I had some of the skills and gifts that others operate in so easily and naturally, because I felt that if I somehow had more skill, then my church would grow and I would be more “successful”. What a tyranny! Firstly, success is simply being everything God has called you to be. We have six children but we are not more “successful” than someone who has two!

The size of our church is not related to whether we are successful or not. You could have a sizable church, but if you are driven and grumpy, are you really successful? I think we are successful when we are simply doing what God has called us to do with grace and love. It is obviously more fun to shepherd a growing church, but I believe I was successful before Jubilee really started to grow.

The size of our church is not related to whether we are successful or not.

Whenever we compare ourselves to someone else, we are usually measuring our deficiencies, and it is not the Father’s will to live life in someone else’s shadow. When we are content in what the Lord has called us to, and appreciate the way He has wired us, then we will be so much easier to live with, and so much more content as leaders! When I look at the leaders who have emerged around me, I see people who are different to me in many ways, but we celebrate that diversity and it makes us, and the body, that much stronger. Be the best you can be. Celebrate who you are, love how God has made you!

“A man can only receive what is given him from heaven.” (John 3:27, NIV)

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” (Philippians 4:12, NIV)

4. Work on Your Strengths and Not Your Weaknesses
For years I lived under the lie that I should be “working on my weaknesses.” Somehow, after years of diligent working, some of my weaknesses were even weaker. (I am not talking here about character flaws or morality.) Then a book by John Maxwell liberated me, when I read that my strengths were why people drove across town and past many other good churches to come to Jubilee.

Since then, I have been working on my strengths and allowing the Lord to simply raise up people around me who are strong where I am weak. There is a huge freedom in this, as many leaders live under the misconception that we have to “be everything to everyone”. This is just not true or sustainable. No one can live under that yoke, it will wear you out.

For years I lived under the lie that I should be “working on my weaknesses.”

God wired my wife, Isi, and me in a certain way, and so my family and our church will look like something that comes out of our heart DNA. I can’t look at other leaders, churches, or ministries and try to emulate them, or wish we could do things they’re doing. I need to be myself and let that freedom affect every ministry around me. Down the road from us is one of the most famous churches in the world. We love them and honor them, but feel no pressure whatsoever to be like them. Many leaders look at Jubilee and appreciate our DNA, and some visit and take some of that DNA back with them to their congregations. Ultimately though, each church has a unique thumbprint and true freedom is enjoying yourself and how the Lord has wired you.

I encourage our small group leaders to develop their groups around their strengths. One may be very hospitable, and so food and fellowship will be a major element of that group. Another may be very prophetic and musical, and so worship and prophecy will be a major element in that group. In this way, ministering in the grace God has given us will allow us to minister with longevity, and avoid the burnout that so often characterizes leaders in ministry.

A good example of this is my wife, Isi. For years she lived under the yoke of “pastors wife”, whatever that is! As a result, she functioned in a fraction of her capacity, because the apostolic structure we were in did not have a grid for female governmental prophets (which she clearly was and is). She was able to function only as a psalmist, but she was unable to share or minister out of many of her insights into the glory realm, revelations while caught up into the third heaven, or visions, dreams and trances, etc. because the wineskin could not cope with it.

In her transformation, the first person who needed to repent (change their thinking) was me! Growing up in a misogynistic culture did not help me to see my greatest gift and ally, right under my nose. Our marriage needed a major work-over and I needed a revelation of just how amazing a “helper” the Lord had given me. It has taken some years for this to fully work its way out, but I can truly say today that she is flying in the gifts and callings the Lord has given her, without any stigma to her gender. She is much more of a visionary elder than I am at times, and I am totally comfortable with that. We work together as a team and now that these issues are settled, we accomplish so much more.

Our marriage needed a major work-over and I needed a revelation of just how amazing a “helper” the Lord had given me.

What that looks like in day-to-day ministry is that we consult together on everything. We pray together, we work to each other’s strengths. Sometimes I take a stronger lead and other times she does, depending on the situation and season. It’s really still a work in progress, but we are determined to listen to the Holy Spirit and each other and try to have as much fun as possible on the way.

What are your strengths? Work on them. Be happy with who you are and those you minister to will become happy too. Happy leaders, happy sheep!

5. Lead without Apology
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well…” (1 Timothy 5:17, NIV)

The Lord Jesus is expecting elders to direct the affairs of the Church well. And I believe that the father and mother of the work need to direct the affairs of the eldership team well. They might have different titles in different Church contexts; Senior Pastors, Visionary Elders, Lead Elders, etc. but the title is not as important as the anointing and function. Throughout history, both biblical history and Church history, God has always used strong leaders to accomplish His purposes. A leader will always have to pay a price to stand in that front line position. Yet, the way they tackle their task needs to be built on a foundation of accepting what God has called them to do, that is, to lead.

I think in some grace circles there is the misconception that to be a grace leader, you must become a push over: a fuzzy, warm, congenial nice guy who offends no one. When a leader comes out of an autocratic wineskin, he can sometimes swing to the other extreme of weak leadership. Neither extreme is a healthy one.

I think in some grace circles there is the misconception that to be a grace leader, you must become a push over: a fuzzy, warm, congenial nice guy who offends no one.

Jesus was the perfect leader. He admonished His disciples and He demanded humility and integrity. He did not tolerate the religious spirit nor did He bow to popular opinion or corporate expectations. He followed the direction of the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. He loved, rebuked and corrected His disciples in equal measure. He was not intimidated, and at no point felt the need to pander to, or be popular with, those He led. And yet, John was so relaxed and secure with Jesus’ love that he leant on His chest at the last supper. Jesus somehow kept the balance of leader and family. His disciples were constantly aware of His love and servant heart, yet were also happily submitted to His direction. I am sure Peter felt a bit bruised after being admonished with “get behind me Satan!” and yet a good leader knows how to encourage and correct in balanced proportion. If we’re correcting more than encouraging, we’ll run out of followers!

Paul, the grace champion, does not mince his words either; encouraging the elders to warn divisive people, hand one person over to Satan and “command” the wealthy to be generous. To balance this, though, we see elders always appearing in Paul’s writing in the plural. A team of elders is more likely to hear the heart of God on a matter than an isolated dictator. I don’t believe eldership is a round table, where everyone has an equal say either. While I believe we are all equal before the Lord, there is a weight, of both responsibility and authority resting on the lead couple, where they will have to make a final decision, one way or another, once they have heard and taken cognizance of the elders’ input. It would be a foolish senior leader who would consistently ignore the input of his team. No one needs a team of ‘yes men’. Our elders need to be leaders of stature and anointing, prayer, and the Word, able to discern doctrinal issues, and do it in a way that is full of grace.

a good leader knows how to encourage and correct in balanced proportion.

The eldership team needs to be a tightly knit band of friends who have each other’s best interest at heart. They are in love with Jesus and love each other deeply, and so would never do anything to hurt or damage the family fabric of the Church.

Leadership in the Church is a challenge. Statistically, only a low percentage of us will make it through our whole lives in ministry and finish well. Let’s make sure we’re among those who finish well. Listen to the Holy Spirit, listen to your wife or husband, heed those leaders around you who you love and trust, and above all – have fun!

By: Fini de Gersigny

Pastor of Jubilee Church, Sidney, Australia

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