Leading By Heart

Success is about building hearts, not resumes. – Tommy Spaulding

If you are reading this journal, you are almost certainly a Christian leader, meaning you have given your heart to God. While your leading ministry is sure not to have always been as easy as you first expected, over time you have learned lessons and matured. In the process, while you have used your head and brain a lot, have you found that using your heart has become harder and harder? “Brainy” activities, such as developing strategies, planning and attending events and meetings, tending to administrative or other tasks waiting on your table, easily take precedence. How does the concept of “leading by heart” fit into your ministry and life?

God chose David to be King of Israel for this reason—his heart. “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22, ESV; see also 1 Sam. 13:14). Did David always do God’s will? You and I both know that this is not the case. However, overall, David was received well not just in his early days when he was young “and the women sang to one another as they celebrated, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’” (1 Sam. 18:7, ESV); we see in the conclusion of Asaph’s song, written late in David’s reign: “. . . and David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them” (Ps. 78:72, ESV).

Perhaps some may find it unfair that David was esteemed so high, considering he faced serious personal integrity issues during his time as king. However, David serves as an example of a leader in power who humbly repented from his sin, despite his shame (Ps. 51). He was a mighty warrior, but he was also able to sing, play, and dance amidst his people. When we try to make sense of what it means to “lead by heart,” David’s legacy is definitely worthy of our attention. David not only awakes my admiration and respect, but his legacy gives me hope and encouragement.

Before introducing the articles of this issue, I want to share with you an interesting adaptation of 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 for leaders, proposed by CIO Bryson Paine, a computer science professor. Paine (2011) presents 15 traits of a 21st century leader, each of them pointing to leading by and with heart:

     A leader is patient.
          He is not passive but gives people the time to do things right.
     A leader is kind.
          She is considerate.
     A leader is not jealous.
          He celebrates everyone’s victories.
     A leader is not boastful.
          She shares the credit.
     A leader is not vain.
          He values others.
     A leader does not dishonor others.
          She treats everyone with respect.
     A leader is not self-seeking.
          He builds up the people around him.
     A leader is not easily angered.
          She creates a safe fail-and-try-again zone.
     A leader keeps no record of wrongs.
          He forgives.
     A leader does not delight in evil.
          She strives for the greater good.
     A leader rejoices in the truth.
          He is transparent.
     A leader protects.
           She stands up for what is right.
      A leader trusts.
          He believes in his people.
     A leader hopes.
           She does not give in to negativity.
     A leader perseveres.
          He keeps moving forward.

We hope in this issue you will find helpful information, insights and encouragement to lead by heart. This issue of the Journal of Applied Christian Leadership starts with a Biblical Reflection brought to us by Brian Legg. In this article, Legg discusses team leadership’s sanctifying cost—specifically self-denial—as found in Mark 6:7–13. When we examine this leadership model, we see the team leadership dynamics of mission, authority, and accountability emerge. Legg also discusses two realms of cost that team leadership often requires: physical cost and relational cost. As the article closes, we are left with the challenge, “Believers grow through cost to self as an active process of sanctification and may fulfill the mission of God through team leadership.”

Drs. Nancy and Ron Rockey bring us our Leadership Interview and share their experiences as partners in ministry. These two have worked side by side in a variety of ministerial positions and share some of their joys and sorrows along the way, as well as words of advice regarding what makes a good leader, how to develop strong relationships, and how to stay healthy and balanced as a leader. You will not want to miss this encouraging interview.

Our first Feature Article is brought to us by Skip Bell, Gyeongchun Choi, Stanley Patterson, and David Penno, and is entitled, “A Call to Relational Leadership Arising from a Shared Eschatological Vision.” In this article, the authors contrast two distinct types of leadership compared in the book of Revelation and traces them from the rebellion in heaven, through creation, and the life of Jesus, with a focus on Scripture’s apocalyptic messages. This article concludes that the loving, non-coercive, relational dynamic—demonstrated by the Lamb’s leading during the Eschaton—provides a biblical template for Christian leadership in the present time.

Next, Seth Nelson brings us a compelling piece about Christian leaders at midcareer. It is during this season that the Lord seeks to bring clarity to, and integration between, the leader’s calling as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, the leader’s personal identity as united with Christ, and the leader’s occupation within his or her organization. Nelson proposes a conceptual framework for the experience of midcareer and discusses common themes, challenges, and opportunities of “middlescence.” This article concludes by proposing a series of developmental assignments midcareer Christians could employ as they move toward fruitfulness.

Our last Feature Article, written by David Dunaetz and Peggy Lanum, examines forms of gratitude expression and their value. Through their research, they found that different personality traits predict the type of gratitude expression a person prefers and finds most meaningful. For leaders in ministry, this article offers valuable insight and has much practical application.

Lance Wilkins, a former member of the United States Air Force, brings us the Leadership Lived article. Through an assessment of the United States Air Force’s core values, the role of the military Commander, and a cursory exploration of work/life balance coupled with the importance of family to the leader, this article provides a fresh approach to looking into theories at work in the more routine aspects of military and Christian leadership. Wilkins seeks to pull back the curtain and offer a glimpse into the union of theory and practice by some of America’s noblest citizens.

Finally, Rob Parkman, René Erwich, and Joke vanSanne close out the article section by examining how the Apostle Paul promoted and exemplified sustainable leadership. Using Paul as a case study, Parkman explores practical biblical advice for Christian leaders and uncovers nine spiritual/mental processes that may be employed. This article proves to be particularly timely, considering the increasing stresses placed on pastors ministering in the context of cultural shifts and a global pandemic.

As always, this issue of JACL concludes with book reviews of some of the latest and greatest publications in the realm of leadership, as well as dissertation abstracts.

I thank our God for Christian leaders and pray that He be your shelter from pressures of all kinds in these unprecedented times. I pray He gives you graceful moments that recharge so you are ready again to “lead by heart.”


Payne, B. (2011). Leading from the heart. Bryson Payne. Retrieved from http://brysonpayne.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Leading-from-the-Heart.pdf

Petr Cincala, PhD, is the director of the Institute of Church Ministry, Andrews University, assistant professor of World Mission, the director of Natural Church Development (NCD) America, and the managing editor of the Journal of Applied Christian Leadership.

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