The Pastor as a Leader:
Leading Out of Our Union with Christ

by Mark J. Crocco
Is there a difference between secular leadership and Christian leadership? As a former pastor, and now, as a leadership development expert, I am frequently asked this question. The intrinsic, inherent, and innate nature of leadership in either a secular or a Christian environment is the same. Leadership, properly understood, is always to be equated with influence. Leaders are people who influence other individuals or groups of people. Fundamentally, a leader in any context is someone who knows where they are going, and is able to influence others to go along with them. All effective leaders bring something of a directional and a motivational nature to their people. These characteristics are the distinct DNA of leadership. In summary, leaders bring clear direction to their people, while motivating their people to decide to follow that direction.
The secular literature on leadership is filled with innumerable leadership models. Some of these models have valuable insights to offer pastors, while others propose approaches to leadership that are inconsistent with the principles of God’s Word. The purpose of this article is to provide pastors with a unique approach to leadership that is thoroughly biblical and radically distinct from all secular models of leadership. From a biblical and theological standpoint, any pastoral leadership model must be built on the reality of our union and participation with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Our union with Christ is the foundation and basis of Christian leadership, just as it is the foundation and basis of living the Christian life. When teaching us about our vital organic union with Himself in John 15:5, Christ concluded, “Without or apart from Me, you can do nothing.” This statement must govern how we approach and seek to do ministry at all times.
It could be argued that the apostle Paul may be the single most influential leader in the history of the church. Any discussion of Christian leadership must begin with Paul’s emphasis on Christ in the life of a Christian leader from Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” The most striking and unmistakable distinction that can be made between secular approaches to leadership and a Christian approach to leadership is the presence and power of Jesus Christ in the life of a Christian leader. Those who provide pastoral leadership to others are to lead in light of the personal indwelling presence of Jesus Christ, and their access to His resurrection power 24-7-365! As pastors, we must take a supernatural approach to leadership where our leadership originates in our union with Christ and is anchored to Jesus Christ living His resurrected life in and through us. We must lead primarily out of our union with Christ.
Any pastor who is interested in building a biblical model of leadership must grasp the critical, decisive and pivotal nature of the words, “Christ lives in me” in Galatians 2:20. It is grammatically noteworthy that Paul makes the statement “Christ lives in me” in the present tense. As pastors, we must regularly remind ourselves that Christ is living inside of us continually, incessantly, at all times, under all circumstances, and without interruption. The expression “Christ lives in me” reminds pastors that we are called to lead, shepherd, preach, counsel, and love in the strength, power, energy, and resources of Jesus Christ rather than our own.
Paul’s philosophy of leadership is found in 2 Cor. 3:5-6, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” This leadership philosophy is to be linked to Galatians 2:20 and the expression “Christ lives in me.” A pastor’s adequacy and sufficiency for leadership is to be rooted in our new identity in Christ through our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. We have been united with Christ through our co-crucifixion with Christ in His liberating death, and we have been raised with Christ through our co-resurrection with Christ in His risen life. The fact that we have been “crucified with Christ” delivers us from the rule, reign, power, and authority of sin in our lives (Rom. 6:1-14). The fact that we have been “raised with Christ” empowers us to live supernaturally in His strength and power. This is why in Colossians 1:29, Paul describes his Christ-centered and Christ-empowered leadership of others through the words, “I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” Every pastor is in a position to provide supernatural leadership to their people because of their access to the infinite, inexhaustible, omnipotent, and unlimited power of Jesus Christ. Those in positions of Christian leadership are to be living and leading as the channels of Christ’s resurrection power, continually purposing to “experience the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10) through their lives and ministries.    
How is the divine and supernatural resurrection power of Jesus Christ released in the life of a pastor who is seeking to provide Christian leadership to his people? The answer is found in Galatians 2:20 through the expression, “The life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God.” The power of Christ is released in the life of a Christian leader through faith. The book of Galatians was written to teach us that we are both saved and sanctified by God’s grace through faith, not by placing ourselves under the law, or through human effort alone. There are far too many pastors, who are living a works-oriented and a performance-driven Christian life, rather than a grace-oriented and a Christ-driven Christian life. With our total and complete reliance and dependence in Christ, we can confidently lead, preach, shepherd, counsel, and love supernaturally in His strength and power. The most liberating, encouraging, and empowering leadership foundation a pastor can build their leadership upon is one that is built upon our union with Christ. With this foundation, we know that we can rely upon His supernatural presence and power regardless of the challenges we face as leaders.  
One of the highest priorities in the life of any leader is the priority of motivating others. What was it that motivated Paul to endure the intense and prolonged hardship, suffering, opposition, and persecution that he encountered in his ministry? With an open window into his heart, Paul speaks of Christ’s love for him in Galatians 2:20 in the expression, “who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It was the perfect, unconditional, and self-sacrificial love of Christ that was the central motivational force in his life. As Paul expressed in 2Corinthains 5:14-15, he was literally “controlled and held in the grip of Christ’s love, which motivated him to no longer live for self, but rather for Christ who died and rose again on his behalf.” The primary motive of every pastor and Christian leader is to be an ever-deepening awareness of the love of Christ, and the security that His love brings to our lives (Romans 8:31-39). It should be Christ’s love for us that motivates us to pursue an intimate first-love relationship with Him (Phil. 3:10; Rev. 2:4), leading us to live in faithful and loving obedience to Him (John 15:23-24).
There are many leadership models in secular circles that propose that leadership success is built on the foundations of personality, charisma, education, or intellectual intelligence. Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Scriptures themselves, teach us that integrity and, in particular, a Christ-like spirit of servanthood are foundational in grasping God’s standard of Christian leadership (Matt. 20:25-28; Mk. 10:45; Acts 20:18-35; Phil. 2:5-8; 1Tim. 3:1-13 and Tit. 1:5-9). As a pastor, what is the foundation that you are building your leadership upon? The uniqueness of Christian leadership is the presence and power of Jesus Christ in the life of a leader, who is experiencing the ongoing and continual transformation of their life into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2Cor. 3:18; 1Pet. 2:21; and 1Jn. 2:6).  
The act of leading others is to be viewed by Christian leaders and pastors as a moment by moment, hour by hour, and day by day process. To be effective leaders, who bring maximum glory to God, in those moments, hours and days, we need to be reminding ourselves that “Christ lives in me” and is seeking to live His resurrected life in and through us. The moment Christ saved us, He came to take up His personal residence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Through the divine power of Jesus Christ, we have become partakers, sharers, and participants in His divine nature (2Pet.1:3-4), assuring us that we are equipped for every leadership challenge we will ever face. Any discussion of leadership in the life of a pastor must begin and end with an emphasis upon the presence and power of Jesus Christ. This article is a reminder that your leadership is to flow out of your glorious union and participation with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. May your pastoral leadership, preaching, shepherding, counseling, and loving be marked with your life, giving clear evidence to others of the supernatural presence and power of Jesus Christ in your life to God’s glory.