In Designed to Lead, coauthors Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck assert that the church should be the place where transforming and sustaining leadership occurs: “The center of the church is the Gospel, but the center of leadership development must be the church.”

Neil Bartlett

Their book is a detailed blueprint of how a church can get to that point, but it doesn’t advocate the development of leaders just so they can serve the local church. It supports a full-orbed, culture-changing role for church trained leaders, citing William Temple, the former Archbishop of Canterbury: “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

Research says that 70 percent of leadership skills are transferable from one domain to others. “When a church effectively raises up leaders, it raises them up for all spheres of life,” Geiger says. That includes moms, dads, lawyers, people in the public and private sectors, and in many more roles.

“You’re raising up leaders that will bless the world. The church blesses the world to represent Christ in those different spheres of life,” he says. “They interact as salt and light to understand the goodness of Christ, who’s sent us out into the world.”

At the same time, “we may not always be super beloved and super popular. But we can do good deeds in such a way that those on the outside glorify our Father.”

CULTURE IS PARAMOUNT

No matter how ambitious a church’s leadership plans and strategies are, the church’s culture holds the key to transformation. Designed to Lead includes an entire section about it.

“Unhealthy church culture is ultimately a theological problem,” write Geiger and Peck. A church’s culture has significant power to impede or empower its effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission.

As a bonus, Geiger says, those outside the church are recognizing that many of the character traits of effective, helpful leaders will be beneficial to others. He notes that traits such as acting with compassion, forgiveness, integrity, and kindness are similar to the fruits of the Spirit. “As the church develops individuals who lead that way, they’ll encourage those outside the faith,” he says.

OPPORTUNITIES TO SHINE

Like many other denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention is watching its rolls decline. A 2015 report from the SBC shows that for the eighth straight year, membership fell. And according to experts, that drop is predicted to continue and increase.

But along with this decline comes opportunity, says Geiger. As society becomes more and more post-Christian, Christ followers equipped with leadership skills and character traits will shine more. “As Christian values become less and less, true Christians become more and more devout because they become distinct and different. The mushy middle is being eliminated because it was the cultural thing to do. As it becomes less and less the culturally acceptable thing to do, Christians will stand out, which is historically when the faith thrives.”

As the father of two young daughters, Geiger is acutely aware of the challenges and opportunities. “They’ll be confronted with choices and conversations that I wasn’t confronted with at their age. It’s an opportunity for believers to stand out more and more,” he says.

CHURCH SUPPORT

What part does Christian retail play in this? Geiger suggests several roles, including taking a posture of servanthood toward the church. He encourages retailers to continue listening to the church as well as encouraging and challenging it to fulfill its mission to make disciples. “We go away some day, but the church goes on forever,” he says.