Christian organizations differ in many ways. Their size, structures, and services are shaped by internal and external forces--finances, location, personalities. But all effective Christian organizations share at least one thing in common--effectively balanced leadership.

How can balanced Christian leadership be characterized? Defining leadership, much less Christian leadership is an elusive task.

Consider scriptural descriptions of Christ as leader. He is portrayed as lion and eagle but also as lamb and dove--vivid contrasts to be sure. An examination of Christ’s perfect leadership qualities reveals a well-defined pattern of contrasting or balancing character traits: divine/human; compassionate/stern; traditional/revolutionary’ assertive/docile. Because He was truly all things to all people, Jesus was a perfectly balanced leader.


Balance is an essential, though commonly overlooked, ingredient of Christian leadership. Without complementary character and behavioral traits, how else could today’s pastoral or lay leader simultaneously fulfill administrative and spiritual opportunities; be meek, yet assertive; minister to individuals via a corporate body? The effective Christian leader integrates contrasting traits and skills into a spiritual whole.

To fulfill their God-given responsibilities, Christian leaders must be both active and passive. Leadership involves giving as well as taking, serving as well as directing, waiting as well as taking, serving as well as directing, waiting as well as acting. Passive and active traits must be blended to forge a servant/king leader. The true Christian leader thus reflects Jesus Christ Himself.


Christian leadership can be meaningfully portrayed on a continuum of character and behavioral traits ranging from active to passive:

The Active Leader

Makes things happen

Performs tasks personally

Makes decisions unilaterally and individually

Ministers through formal programs


Orchestrates change


Ministers through words and actions

Preaches via oratory

The Passive Leader

Delegates tasks to others

Engages in participative, shared decision making

Ministers through informal interaction


Allows change to happen naturally


Ministers through personal presence and empathy 

Preaches via the Holy Spirit


In reality there is no totally active or totally passive leader, only varying blends of both traits. Leadership effectiveness is enhanced by the interplay of active and passive traits—the leader who can be many things to many people.

The church leader must certainly be capable of "makings things happen" through planning, budgeting, and program implementation. He must also possess the patience to wait for things to happen as the result of prayer or congregational mood.

Likewise, the effective leader balances individual decision making with group deliberation, personal tasks performance with delegation, and formality with informality. The well-balanced Christian leader listens as well as talks, learns as well as teaches, and emotes as well as thinks. Balance and wholeness are the keys.


Problems inevitably erupt when a leader becomes too active or too passive. Lack of balance leads to lack of effectiveness. It is unavoidable.

Overly active leaders (and their churches) are likely to experience the following interpersonal and organizational problems:

  1. Premature decision making and action
  2. Overwork and over-commitment
  3. Precipitation of confrontations and conflicts
  4. Poor interpersonal communication and congregational feedback
  5. Lack of rapport building with individual church members
  6. Difficulty in getting Church workers to implement decisions and programs
  7. Resistance to change

The overly passive leader, on the other hand, is prone to a different set of problems:

  1. Indecisive, inconsistent decision making
  2. Ineffectiveness in inspiring and motivating church leaders
  3. Wasting time in frequent committee meetings and informal group deliberations
  4. Sloppy coordination and integration of church activities and programs
  5. Congregational stagnation and preoccupation with the status quo
  6. Heavy dependence on lay workers for work progress
  7. Tendency for congregational problems to escalate out of control


A careful examination of the demands of balanced Christian leadership can prove frustrating. While agreeing on the need for such leadership, it is easy for one individual to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of being all things to all people.

Indeed, the Christian leader who tries to be all things in all situations will probably achieve little. The answer to leadership effectiveness in a Christian organization is to expand the leadership base beyond one person. The search for balanced leadership really involves creating a leadership team or body within which active and passive orientations complement each other.

Such an interaction among a group of people who lead an organization was what Paul had in mind as he spoke of the church body: "So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Rom. 12:5, NASB) and "For the body is not one member, but many" (1 Cor. 12:14, NASB).

Perhaps the most important, but least recognized, responsibility of an effective leader is that of developing the leadership potential of many church members. By recognizing his own areas or strengths and weakness, the leader seeks to broaden and deepen the leadership base of his organization by gathering around him people with contrasting and complementary traits. Such differing traits provide a check-and-balance for meeting the complex demands of today’s Christian organizations.