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Concepts Related to Leadership and

the Development of Church Leaders

By John M. Elliott

Here you will find brief discussions of a number of concepts that I have found helpful in understanding leadership development. The works of J. Robert Clinton have played a dominant role in shaping my thinking, and many of these concepts are based in his works.

 The first concept is on this page. Use the navigation menu above to read about the other concepts.

1. Leadership Development - God's responsibility or Ours?

2. Defining and Studying Leadership

3. Clinton's Leadership Emergence Theory

4. Five Types of Church Leaders

5. Informal, Non-Formal, and Formal Training

6. Stanley’s Constellation Model of Relationships

7. Leadership Training and Timing

8. Three Domains of Educational Goals

9. Holland's Two-Track Model

1. Leadership Development - God's responsibility or Ours?

God plays a profound, primary role in the development of the Church’s leadership. The Bible teaches that God calls men and women to serve as leaders of His people. He furthermore provides them with the necessary enabling spiritual gifts and directs these leaders as to where and how they should guide His people. These three roles, while crucial for the success of all church leaders, are God's responsibility and not that of the Church.

Unlike the call to church leadership or the impartation of spiritual gifts, the development or shaping of a leader is the result of a complex interaction of events and relationships which may be directed by God but also involve the actions of others. In a few cases the Old Testament gives us glimpses into how that shaping process made someone into a leader God could use. David’s experiences in killing the lion and the bear while tending his father’s sheep prepared him to take on the challenge of Goliath. The forty years Moses spent in the Sinai wilderness humbled him, making him a man capable of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Who bears responsibility for this process of shaping of future leaders—is it God or man? The Bible teaches us the answer to this question is not “either/or” but “both/and.”

If someone exercises terrible leadership and proves incapable of giving guidance or direction to a church, it may not be because God wanted him or her to be that kind of leader. The Bible teaches not only the sovereignty and omnipotence of God but also that everyone has a free will. People bear responsibility for how they respond to the events that swirl around their lives. The same circumstance that causes one leader to fail turns another into a stronger leader. Free will also extends to the role each person plays in shaping the leadership potential of those around him or her. The failure of a father to properly raise his son can prevent that child from being used by God later in life. The pastor of one church assists a dozen young people under his ministry to become pastors and missionaries while the pastor of another church in the same town of the same size sees none. Should this only be seen as God’s will? Is it not more likely that, if God’s perfect will was truly done, both pastors would have seen future leaders develop as a result of their ministry?

Experience and Scripture seem to suggest that we bear responsibility both for how we respond to the circumstances of life and for the influence we have on others. The shaping of future church leaders involves the interplay of God, a great number of individuals, many events, and the responses of the future leaders to all of these. The church today needs to take seriously its significant role in the development of the next generation of church leaders. The church must provide a nurturing environment in which future leaders can develop their God-given gifts and abilities. If the church’s current methods do not yield the necessary kinds of leaders, the church should adjust its methods and find new ways of developing church leadership.


Clinton, J. Robert. Leadership Emergence Theory. Altadena, CA: Barnabas Resources, 1989.

________. Leadership Training Models. Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1984.

________. The Making of a Leader. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1988.

Clinton, J. Robert and Richard W. Clinton. The Mentor Handbook. Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1991.

Stanley, Paul D., and J. Robert Clinton. Connecting. The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life. Colorado Springs, CO:NavPress, 1992.