Ask Pastor Roger Barrier - Church Leadership

9 Things All Great Leaders Do

9 Things All Great Leaders Do

Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at

Dear Roger,

I don't really know what a good leader looks like. In my country, I don't see many great leaders. I live in a place where we do not have pastors to teach us. What does a good and godly leader do?

Thank you,

Theetso Lemogang

Dear Theetso, 

Let me expand the scope of my answer to include people who are not pastors. The church, as well as society in general, need leaders in many areas.

We can learn a lot about leadership by listening to children. A group of children was asked to define leaders. They were right on target.

Leaders are out front.

-A leader charts a course on a star they have never seen.

-A leader is one who causes conflict, but who changes things.

-You know you’re a leader when you look around and people are following you.

-Be careful – some people aren’t worth following.

We can learn a lot about leadership from Kounzes and Posner. They discovered in their research the four things that people consistently want? They want leaders who are:





All four of these are the foundation for Paul’s teaching about leadership in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.

The guidelines for a church leader, and the kind of person he, or she, is to be is written down by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-13.

According to Paul, you will notice that the pastor and/or church leaders (or any leader) must live a life of respect and impurity, be a good teacher and be the kind of person that people like to follow. 

What are people looking for in their leaders?

Kouzes and Posner are well-known for their research on leadership. They discovered that for things appear again and again in their research. What do followers want? They want leaders who are honest, competent, visionary, and inspirational. 

Based on what our followers want, we’re able to discern some of the things that good leaders do.

What Good Leaders Do

1. Good leaders have a passionate desire to know God. 

The pastor must be in touch with spiritual power: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10-12).

A Christianity Today Magazine article detailed the results of a large number of church researchers who interviewed 150 pastors. What they found was that these pastors demonstrated a passionate desire to grow a large church, but sadly, not a corresponding desire to know God.

2. Good leaders are in touch with where the people are, and lead accordingly. 

“The Good Shepherd knows the sheep and calls each by name.”

Studies have shown what we all know to be true. In the average church, 10 percent of the congregation do most of the work and are considered to be church leaders. 90 percent are simply attenders. These groups have different needs. Church leaders respond to commitment. Church attenders are more likely to respond to compassion. Very few respond to reason.

Therefore, it’s wise to mix four portions of compassion to each portion of commitment.

3. Good leaders are willing to take risks. 

Culture is changing. Christianity is struggling in our country. We will soon be under religious persecution—and it breaks my heart that we are arguing over music styles and if we should allow homosexuals to worship alongside us.

Think about the risk Mary took. She did not have to answer “yes” to Gabriel. He gave her a choice. She must’ve thought about all the ridicule, mocking, smearing comments about her out-of-wedlock child. She considered the risk, and said, “Be it unto me as you said.”

Several years ago, I attended conference concerning the handling of church and culture. I will always remember the comment of one woman who said, “I live in the most populous state in America, where the churches still think it is 1950."

How dare we say, “Come weal or woe, the only status we know is quo.”

God said to Jeremiah, “So you want to be my Prophet? If so, the people will beat you mercilessly, throw you in stocks, toss you in cisterns and never believe a word you say. Do you still want the job?” And Jeremiah took the risk.

4. Good leaders model the way. 

“Follow my example as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

People are watching us all the time.

I carefully counted my money at the checkout line at the grocery store. I realized that the cashier had given me five dollars too much in change. I said to her, “you gave me five dollars too much.”

She said, “I know. I was in your church service yesterday and I was just testing you.”

The first century church Christians were known as, the people who love God and love each other.”

Surveys now reveal that 78 percent of Americans feel that the most judgmental place in America is the local evangelical church.

Jesus said, “They will know you are Christians by your love.”

5. Good leaders inspire a vision. 

“Without a vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

Napoleon Bonaparte: “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

George Bernard Shaw: “You see things and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream of things that never were, and I say, ‘Why not?’”

6. Good leaders set people free to act.

Thomas Jefferson: “There are two kinds of leaders – Those who trust people and those who fear the people.”

Jefferson’s comments are known today as Theory X and Theory Y. This has a lot to do with structure.

Businesses or churches that utilize theory X are organizations who really don’t trust the people. The attitude seems to be, “Give them an inch and they will take a mile.” Theory X says that employees must be watched very carefully and micromanaged to be certain that are not slacking off.

Theory Y says, “You can trust the people. You don’t need to look over their shoulders. Stay out of their way and let them do their jobs and you will come out way ahead with your employees. 

My dad advised, “Don’t ever push down the people around you to make yourself look better. Instead, lavish great praise on the people around you and they will lift you up on their shoulders.”

7. Good leaders encourage the heart. 

Who wants to be around an old sourpuss?

Alexander Maclaren: “Be kind to everyone you meet, because everyone’s fighting a battle.”

If someone comes to church with a broken arm, it’s easy to spot. You may go encourage and comfort them. However, many people come in with broken hearts and no one notices. There are people I know to whom I can whisper one word and bring tears to their eyes. 

Watch out for broken people. When you see someone in pain, Jesus said to comfort them.

Many years ago I decided that I would try to say a word of encouragement to at least three people a day. It’s amazing how even strangers will smile when you take a moment to say a word of encouragement.

One day a staff member said, “Roger, do you know what you do best?”


“What you do best is encourage us.”

8. Good leaders know who the real enemy is. 

Ephesians 6:10-12

Early in my ministry, at the Moody Pastors’ Conference meeting in Chicago, Warren Wiersbe asked the question to a room full of 1,500 pastors: “Do you know much about sheep?” Not many hands were raised.

Let me tell you some things about sheep.

First, sheep stink.

Second, sheep need to be led not driven.

Third, sheep are not the enemy.

I’m convinced that that is the best sermon on shepherding I have ever heard.

9. Good leaders understand the distinction between management and leadership.

Management is getting other people to do something. Leadership is getting other people to want to do it. 

I hope that some of these thoughts are helpful to you and that God will develop you into a great leader.

Love, Roger

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: August 18, 2016