By: Christa Meland
The big God story is not about building a great church, author and speaker Reggie McNeal told about 50 congregational and ministry team leaders from the Minnesota Conference who were gathered Friday at Hennepin Avenue UMC in Minneapolis. The church is established for the purpose of the kingdom—but too often, our narrative is church-centric rather than focused on the kingdom of God.
“It’s easy for us to think that Jesus died so we could have a great Sunday experience—then we evaluate how worship went on Monday,” said McNeal. “It’s as if Jesus has been shrink-wrapped down to how a worship service went. We’re supposed to bear witness to the kingdom and build on-ramps and roll the stone away.”
McNeal listed and described eight characteristics of leaders who are kingdom-centered rather than church-centered. They are:
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
- Kingdom leaders pray with one eye open. They’re not trying to shut out the world while they pray. Instead, they have the world in the cross-hairs of prayer efforts. Their prayers are informed by what’s happening in world.
- Kingdom leaders agitate well. They don’t just get people riled up—they get people riled up to do something. They are intentional about agitating for justice and joy. They are great about selling a problem around which people can rally to work toward a solution.
- Kingdom leaders combine social and spiritual entrepreneurship. If you want to help eliminate hunger in your community, for example, you might have one person helping people find housing, another person helping people find jobs, and someone else providing meals to children so they’re well-nourished and can focus at school.
- Kingdom leaders marry vision with action. They don’t just sell a passion; they build on ramps for people to get involved in it. They answer the question “So, what should I do?”
- Kingdom leaders shape a people-development culture. They are constantly helping people live a better life. Their scorecard doesn’t have to do with how many people are in worship or participate in church activities. They measure success by the number of people who are living more abundantly as a result of their efforts.
- Kingdom leaders curate curiosity. McNeal pointed to the man who developed the StrengthsFinder tool—Don Clifton, who died in 2003 and was United Methodist. His insatiable curiosity about what would happen if we focused on what was right with people instead of what’s wrong with them led him to develop a resource that’s been used by about 12 million people nationwide.
- Kingdom leaders call the party. They have built relationships in their community, and they can easily convene a crowd. If they have a passion to do something, they know how to get people around a table to make it happen. They have a high capacity that they constantly work to maintain. They know that leadership is not just positional; it’s personal.
- Kingdom leaders maintain a pain-tinged optimism. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a prime example, said McNeal. His “I Have a Dream” speech was not just focused on what was wrong in the world; it painted a picture of a more hopeful future. All great kingdom leaders, in moments of rest, carry the pain of something that still isn’t right or needs to be done. But they convey hope because hope inspires (there is a reason this famous speech wasn’t “I Have a Plan”). Dreams and hope are a vestige of the kingdom of God.