Instead of focusing upon WHO is the latest leader to stumble and fall in epic fashion, we should ask ourselves “WHY” and “WHY NOT ME NEXT?” May the Lord give us more of the Galatians 6:1 spirit, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” What is going to stop you and me, made of the same feeble flesh, from what feels like the “inevitability” of eventually slipping up and joining their ranks? From everything I am learning, the key appears to be as Erasmus reminds us, “Prevention is better than cure.” How do we prevent soul-level unhealth instead of waiting until we we feel like we need to but can’t seem to recover from it?

In their book, Replicate: How to Create a Culture of Disciple-Making Right Where You Are, Robby Gallaty and Chris Swain submit three nonnegotiable relationships that every faithful leader MUST establish and maintain:

A “Paul”-who can invest in them as a mentor.

This relationship of sitting at the feet of another grows more crucial, not less the higher one rises in senior leadership where every relationships tend to be “me over them” in nature. Without a select few mentors, the disparity between what we publicly stand for and against and who we are in the private recesses of our hearts and lives will only metastasize. 1 Timothy 1:12 reminds us that there are unique, divine gifts that are only ours through a mentoring relationship: “Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” Did you catch them-grace, mercy, and peace? My leadership that is admittedly at-times reluctant to open up to a new Paul is in desperate need of more of all of these! As Gallaty and Swain point out, “The great paradox of church leadership is that the shepherds of the church need to be shepherded too.” The number one job of every leader is self-leadership, a task that is impossible to consistently accomplish ALONE.

So where do we look for our Paul?

  1. Someone we can relate to but is ahead of us in life stage, experience, and being mentored themselves
  2. Someone who is already demonstrating a willingness to pour into us (returning our phone calls, sending us books, going the extra mile to bless and encourage us)
  3. Someone who exhibits a consistent blend of grace and truth toward both the failures and successes of those who are coming AFTER them/lead UNDER them

A “Timothy”-an individual or group of individuals in whom they are investing.

The only way this collaborative approach to leadership works is if we are willing not just to be a taker but a giver. If we stiff arm those who ask for or need our support, we sabotage the never-ending cycle intended by the Lord in 2 Timothy 2:2 “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” This not only should involve your being the mentor but also simply a peer amongst equals. The leader who is only UNDER or OVER those around him or her misses out on the humbling, sanctifying effect of just being “one of” a larger group who derives its identity and direction from more than them.

So where do we look for our Timothy?

  1. In our homes (your spouse, kids/grandkids, young families in your neighborhood)
  2. Around our local church (small groups/Sunday School class, pastoral staff/deacons, younger-than-you adults.)
  3. Those beneath us in the org chart at work who exhibit a humble desire to learn and grow

A “Barnabas”-a friend who holds them accountable.

The final category is the hardest to find and maintain. We, if we are honest, tend to “put on airs” toward our Timothy’s and duck and weave toward our Paul’s. This friendly accountability of a Barnabas or two is key to filling in the voids of every leader’s soul care left by the first two categories. Remember Barnabas, even as the son of consolation, would not let the great Apostle Paul off the hook in the matter related to John Mark. Paul eventually conceded that Mark “was profitable” (2 Ti. 4: 11) all at the behest of a dear man who would not back down to “the greatest Christian that ever lived.” Do you have that kind of tough love in your life? Each of us only RESPECTS what others INSPECT-none of us is above this maxim. As the late, great coach Pat Summit once said, “Accountability is essential to personal growth as well as team growth. How can you improve if you are never wrong?” Accountability ultimately is not a burden but liberating. It frees you from yourself. Your flesh and pride and proneness to intrinsically wander. Listen to me dear friend, if you don’t have several someone’s who have your permission and enough personal fortitude to tell you when you are wrong, you are ticking time bomb who will shortly self-destruct and greatly damage the organization and everyone in it that you currently lead.

So where do we look for our Barnabas?

  1. A group of authentic followers of Jesus comprised of only your gender (This especially helps with sexual purity.)
  2. Someone who knows where you live but is outside of your immediate context enough that you can be completely transparent and vulnerable
  3. An individual who possesses the personal integrity to maintain in confidence as well as take appropriate action on what you share privately with them

The less it is about “me” and the more it is about “us” the better chance my little bit of influence has of respectable and God-honoring longevity. For only then can my prone-to-wander heart stay tethered in my ultimate relationship with God! As Thomas Paine wisely asserts, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not be trusted by anybody.” Based upon this standard alone, no group of leaders often merits instrinsic trust less than the spiritual leaders of our local churches who should know better. Leadership truly is all about relationship, not just for followers but also their leaders. Don’t isolate and insulate yourself from relationships. Be a Barnabas, Timothy, and Paul to others and let them be the same to you. Lean into the people God has handpicked to do life with you for the long and healthy season of influence for which God has placed you on this planet.

Ec 4:9-12 “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord (Of Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas?) is not quickly broken.”

Gallaty, Robby; Swain, Chris. Replicate (p. 206). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash