Posted on : Monday February 13, 2012

By Bob Simpson, Associate Executive Director and Editor of BaptistLIFE

Bob Simpson, BCM/D Associate Executive Director and Editor of BaptistLIFE

So far this year I have been studying the book of James. It is a fascinating study for leaders today. He had excellent credibility as a leader. James was the Lord’s half-brother and became the leader of the Jerusalem church. He presided at the Council of Jerusalem that was convened to determine the position of converted Gentiles.

He wrote his New Testament letter soon after 40 A.D. It was probably the earliest New Testament letter. It emphasizes practical aspects of the Christian faith and thematically deals with a myriad of subjects including “faith and works,” “prayer,” “speech,” “the second coming of Christ,” “law,” “poor and rich,” “submission to God,” and “temptation” to name a few. And, according to the historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith by being stoned to death in A.D. 61.

What a legacy of leadership! He not only experienced our Lord up close and personal, he led the early church during very turbulent, yet critical times to the new movement. There is so much we can learn from his writings.

For example, right from the start of his letter he identifies himself as being a “slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” I would have been tempted to mention that I was Jesus’ brother. But his self-identity was not based on anything self-serving, only on being a humble servant. That’s a good reminder for any leader!

James suggests that a leader must be totally dependent on God for all things. He said that our source of wisdom is God not anything else. If we lack wisdom, we should to go directly to Him. Translation: we should spend more face time with God than we spend on Facebook!

Another principle James suggests is that integrity has to be a priority in a leader’s life and ministry. He says to “just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned.”

Integrity issues emerge when leaders try to position themselves between conflicting positions. Sometimes a leader has to lead and that, more often than not, requires that a stand be taken.

Speaking of integrity issues. James says that it’s not a question of “if” we are tempted, but rather, “when” we are tempted and if we give into that temptation, something in us will die.

No doubt one thing that will die is our passionate focus on doing the will of God in our lives. A leader must understand that there are consequences to our every action as a leader.

There is much more to learn from James than I have time and space to accomplish. One last thought. James is crystal clear that leaders must be accountable to others. We are not in this alone.

In fact, it is our aloneness that morphs to aloofness. And aloofness leads to faulty thinking and poor decision-making. James says in chapter 5, verse 16 that we should “confess our sins to each other…”

All of us lead something or someone. Often we are leading others who are simply observing us. Others are elevated to the formal leading of many.

Whatever your level of leadership, remember this one last secret that James gives us: “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

Leaders who get this right will truly be effective and winsome leaders!