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What you lead will grow to the size you can manage – no more, no less

People grow in leadership – none of us are born capable of leading what we become capable of leading.

What we lead grows according to our capacity to lead it. You will grow your church or department grows to the limits of what you are able to work with. Your team is the size you can manage and effectively engage with.

If a leader doesn’t grow personally, what they lead will always hover around the same numbers and they will always get the same types of people.

Many years ago I taught a six-week course on finding your place in the Body of Christ, during which people filled in several questionnaires. One guy’s form came back with a positive in all five ascension ministry gifts according to Ephesians 4:11-18. In effect, he saw himself as an apostle, a prophet, a pastor, an evangelist and a teacher – (up till then, I had understood that only Jesus Christ was all five) yet he wasn’t leading anything at all and had some troubles working out his own life. He didn’t hold any leadership position. When we talked about it later, he explained that the reason he wasn’t leading was because no one would let him.

We may fool ourselves that we could lead much more effectively if we were given better opportunities, but the reverse is actually true. We start where we are and learn to lead by leading, and our leadership capacity grows like any other skill we learn. The depth and maturity of your call is shown by the number and caliber of the people you draw to your vision and how well you are able to hold them.

As John Maxwell is often quoted as saying – Leadership is influence. The degree that people are influenced by you is the degree that you are leading them.

Influence can be used for good, for evil or for fooling around. In terms of capacity to influence, Hitler was a great leader and so was Osama Bin Ladin, although in terms of the way they led people, they were evil. Winston Churchill, Billy Graham, Sojourner Truth, Angela Merkel, Martin Luther King, Phoebe Palmer, Junia the apostle that Paul talks about and Priscilla who was married to Acquilla, along Paul himself are great examples of people who have hugely influenced others for the good, making them great leaders.

The greater the leadership gift, capacity and anointing, the more AND better calibre people they will lead.

One of the evidences for me that a leader is growing is not necessarily that they’re drawing more people, although that’s part of it, but that the calibre of the people they are drawing is better – greater maturity, more developed in their gifting, more strength, more faithfulness, less afraid, less self focused, etc. Drawing people like that for your team and your church indicates not only that the leader is increasing in their giftings, but also that they are increasing in their capacity to lead people. These are two separate giftings and I will write further on that at a later time.

I knew a couple who had inherited a church of around 1500 people. Over a period of a few years they gradually grew it down by several hundred until ill health made them leave their position, to be replaced by the man who built the church originally. Quickly the church grew again under his leadership.

The couple who had left eventually took on a church of around 50 people which they led for a few years without any change in numbers. In my conversation with her, she complained that they were not ‘small church people’, but that their vision was better suited to a much larger church. It occurred to me then that although they had inherited a large church, they were not large enough on the inside to lead it and continue to grow it, so their first church had been in the process of growing down to the size they could manage. When they pastored the second church with the 50 people, they grew it neither up nor down, making it clear that that was about the right size for them.

Some people are pioneers, called to carve something out of nothing. Others are inheritors and can take what they’ve been given and grow it to become … whatever size they are personally, but whichever we are, the leader will grow the thing they are leading to the size they are on the inside.

Churches and organisations often plateau in their growth because the leader has plateaued. If the leader stops growing, what they lead will stop growing also. The original vision may be great but if the leader has stopped maturing and changing, rising to face new challenges, and acknowledging and dealing with their own issues and inadequacies as God shows them, the thing they are leading will stall, fail, or simply stagnate.

What you lead will continue to grow as you continue to grow and will stop growing as you stop growing. It can’t get beyond you. There’s an indefinable spiritual law at work which means that the leader will keep what they are leading at their own level. If, and sometimes when, they grow beyond their own capacity, inevitably some catastrophe takes place which decimates what they have led – as many of us have witnessed all too many times. Their own character sabotages their vision and life work.

You know you’ve reached a ceiling when you are constantly hovering around the same size – you get some people in, but then you lose a similar amount, or even more. For what you are leading to grow in size and type, you must change, grow, to be able to accommodate something different from what you have led up to now.

If you are having difficult working out how to accomplish that, approach a mentor or a leadership coach to help you identify the areas where you need breakthrough, and how that can be accomplished.

You’re never too old or too experienced to be mentored… unless of course you are not intending to take on any new challenges. Pride and defensiveness are hugely responsible for sabotaging a leader’s destiny. On the other hand, taking up the posture of a learner is something we all benefit from.

It’s for the sake of the Kingdom…


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