CliMaki 03-6-63




Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development


Robert J. Clinton

NavPress, 1988, 269 pp. 



Clinton is a professor of leadership at Fuller School of World Missions.  His master roadmap for understanding how God works to build leaders deserves thorough study.  Book sections include the big picture, early foundation lessons, ministry development, guidance, maturity, ministry philosophy, and challenges. (26)


Definition:  “Leadership is a dynamic process in which a man or woman with God-given capacity influences a specific group of God’s people toward His purposes for the group.” (14)  Leaders influence followers through direct, indirect, and organizational influence.  (19)


“Effective leaders recognize leadership selection and development as a priority function.” 

“Effective leaders increasingly perceive their ministries in terms of a lifetime perspective.”  (22)


“God develops a leader over a lifetime.”  He uses events and people (process items) to impress leadership lessons (processing) upon a leader.  (25)


God adapts the curriculum to fit us.  It’s a lifetime process and requires a long-term perspective.  (29-30) 


Five phases of leadership development: (30)

  1. Sovereign Foundations
  2. Inner-Life Growth
  3. Ministry Maturing
  4. Life Maturing
  5. Convergence


In the first three phases God works primarily in (vs. through) the leader. (32)   Convergence is the matching of gift-mix, experience, temperament , location etc. to free the leader from ministry for which he is not gifted and maximize ministry for which he is.  (32)


God processes a person by working in him before working through him, by bringing “process items,” i.e. activities, people, problems, etc. into his life. (33)


Patterns, processes, and principles are concepts Clinton uses to analyze life and leadership development.  “Patterns deal with the overall framework, or the big picture, of a life.  Processes deal with the ways and means used by God to move a leader along in the overall pattern.  Principles deal with the identification of foundational truths….” (42)


Process items are “providential events, people, circumstances, special interventions, and inner-life lessons that … develop potential, confirm the leadership role, and move the emerging leader along to God’s appointed ministry level.” (42)


“I learned to evaluate men and ministries on the basis of the principles that motivated them as well as on the basis of the fruit they produced.” (43, Wiersbe)


In the Life Maturing phase, “the leader has identified and is using his or her spiritual gifts in a ministry that is satisfying.  He gains a sense of priorities concerning the best use of his gifts and understands that learning what not to do is as important as learning what to do.  A mature fruitfulness is the result.” (46)


“As a leader, you should recognize that God is continually developing you over a lifetime.  His top priority is to conform you to the image of Christ for ministry with spiritual authority.” (54)


“Our greatest challenge as leaders is to develop a godly character.” (57)


God uses integrity checks, obedience checks, word checks, and ministry tasks as process items to test an emerging leader’s character.  Integrity lies at the heart of leadership.  (58)


Some kinds of integrity checks: (60)

  • Values – which determine convictions
  • Temptations – which tests conviction
  • Conflict against ministry vision – which tests faith
  • An alternative in guidance situations – which tests calling
  • Persecution – which tests steadfastness
  • Loyalty – which tests allegiance
  • Restitution – which tests honesty


“An obedience check is a process item through which a leader learns to recognize, understand, and obey God’s voice.” (63)  “Obedience is first learned, then taught.” (66)


“A leader must have the ability to receive truth from God.”  “Leaders always have at least one word gift.  These gifts include teaching, prophecy, and exhortation, apostleship, evangelism, and pasturing. (66)  “A word check is the process item that tests a leader’s ability to understand or receive a word from God personally and then allow God to work it out in his or her life.” (67)  “God speaks to leaders and His message is confirmed.” (68)  “Leadership gifts primarily involve word gifts, which initially emerge through word checks.” (72)


Four stages of leadership development in ministry:  (79)

  • entry – the challenge to ministry,
  • training – development of skills and gifts,
  • relational learning – learning to motivate and influence people,
  • discernment – discovering spiritual principles that govern ministry to please Him. 

“A major responsibility of leadership is the selection and development of potential leaders.  Mature leaders should openly and deliberately challenge potential leaders about specific needs and ministry opportunities.”  (87)


“Leaders who plateau early … learn new skills until they can operate comfortably with them, but then they fail to seek new skills deliberately and habitually.  They coast on prior experience.” (89)


“All leaders are constantly being trained by God, but not all of them learn from the training.”  Training can be informal (everyday life) and nonformal (workshops and conferences) as well as formal (going to school). (90)


Discovery and development of spiritual gifts follows a predictable pattern: 1.ministry experienceè2.discovery of giftè3.increased use of giftè4.effectiveness in using the giftè5.discovery of other giftsè6.identification of gift-mixè7.development of gift-clusterè8.convergence. (91)


Relational learning involved four process items: authority insights, relational insights, ministry conflict, and leadership backlash.  These “form a cluster of related lessons, which I call the submission cluster.” (101)


“Spiritual authority is delegated by God, and differs from authority that is based on position or force.  Leaders who have trouble submitting to authority will usually have trouble exercising spiritual authority.”  Note Watchman Nee’s book Spiritual Authority.  “Anyone can submit when decisions appear right; it is when the decisions seem wrong or are wrong that submission is difficult.” (101)


“The most important relational insight I have learned is that subordinates must be very careful in their correction of those in authority over them.  One needs to be more than just right on issues to correct such a leader.  Rightness or wrongness is not the whole matter.  Sometimes being right on certain issues is less important than maintaining a positive relationship.” (106)


“The leader must learn to sense the spiritual reality (spiritual warfare) behind physical reality, as well as to depend upon God’s power in ministry.”  (110)  “Don’t underestimate and don’t overestimate the spiritual warfare behind every situation.” (112)


“When a leader has potential for leadership, which is not yet developed or used, God will challenge that leader to take steps to develop and use that capacity for His purposes.  Often a leader is unaware of his capacity until God brings guidance through people or events to encourage him toward development.”  (115)


“God’s call to leader to increase his or her faith in ministry is one of the strongest challenges a leader will face.  Faith challenges almost always stretch one beyond his present understanding.”  (117)


“Leaders are people with God-given vision, and one of their essential functions is to inspire followers with that vision and hope.  They can’t fulfill this function without faith.”  (117)


“A faith challenge involves three elements: (1) a revelation from God concerning some future plan, (2) a realization by the leader that God is challenging him to act on the basis of this revelation, and (3) a mindset that determines to make leadership decisions based on this firm conviction.” (117)


“A leader is not to consciously seek to expand his sphere of influence as if bigger were better.  A leader is to respond to God’s challenge to accept varying spheres of influence in order to find God’s proper sphere for him.” (118)

“Ministry affirmation serves as encouragement, but it can also serve as confirmation of God’s guidance.” (119)


“Ministry philosophy refers to ideas, values, and principles that a leader uses as guidelines for decision making, for exercising influence, or for evaluating his ministry.” (120)


“Leaders must know how to get corporate guidance for the groups they are leading.”  “A leader first learns about personal guidance for his own life.”  “Guidance development is complicated and delicate.  God must teach a leader to discern guidance, without thwarting the leader’s persona initiative.” (127)


“God frequently brings along wiser, experienced leaders who give timely advice.” (128)  “Often a phrase or a message is a key at the right moment.”  (130)


Mentoring refers to the process where a person with a serving, giving, encouraging attitude, the mentor, sees leadership potential in a still-to-be developed person, the protégé, and is able to promote or otherwise significantly influence the protégé along in the realization of potential.” (130)


Double confirmation involves four steps: 

  • a crucial moment of need for direction,
  • direction from God (direct or indirect),
  • confirmation through someone else,
  • bringing the two together in some unmistakable, sovereign way (133)


What, when, and how are all important facets of guidance.  Certainty on one and not the others often leads to presumption about the others….”  Presumptuous faith assumes God will do something that He has not communicated….” (138)


“Many high-level leaders are known for reading widely and for their capacity to apply lessons to their own lives from what they read.” (141)


“An essential characteristic of leadership is the ability to receive truth from God.”  “It is also an integral part of a leader’s methodology in getting guidance for ministry.” (142)


Crises and conflict process items usually involved negative experiences. (143)  “Crisis process items are special intense pressure situations in life that are used by God to test and to teach dependence on God.” (144)


“God’s guidance to make a major change in a situation should be just as clear as His guidance that led into the situation.  Waiting on the Lord is difficult.” (146)


“Mature ministry flows from a mature character.  A mature character comes through difficult processing.  Many leaders go through such processing without realizing the benefit of it.  Spiritual authority is not a goal but rather a byproduct.” (155)


“The upward development pattern occurs throughout a leader’s life.  It is a spiral of growth in being and doing.  In each being cycle there is an increased depth of experiencing and knowing God; and in each doing cycle there is increased depth of effective service for God.  The final result of the upward development pattern is a fusion of being and doing.” (156)


Isolation is one of the most effective means for maturing a leader.  Being set aside from ministry may happen several times in a leader’s lifetime.  (161)


“I would guess that most leaders spend the majority of their time and energy dealing with conflict.” “God will use conflict to point out areas of character needing modification….”  (162-3) 


“Crisis process items are those special intense pressures in human situations that are used by God to test and teach dependence on Him.” (164)


“A perceptive leader learns to benefit from the maturity lessons of others.  This greatly speeds a leader’s development.” (167)


“IK learned a number of important lessons in my early ministry processing.  These lessons usually became pithy value statements.  Because I valued these ideas, I began to develop principles that flowed from them, and I consciously developed life patterns and ministry patterns that were consistent with them.” (177-8)


“I discovered that in a power conflict the leader with higher power will usually win regardless of rightness of issue, and a person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.  Organizational change without ownership is treacherous.” (179)


“Ministry philosophy is the result of leadership development—the ideas, values, and principles whether implicit or explicit that a leader uses as guidelines for decision making, for exercising influence, or for evaluating ministry.” (179)


“Effective leaders, at all levels of leadership, maintain a learning posture throughout life.”  “Effective leaders who are productive over a lifetime have a dynamic ministry philosophy that evolves continually from the interplay of three major factors: biblical dynamics, personal gifts, and situational dynamics.” (180)


“A Christian leader bases values, methodology, motivation, and goals on what God has revealed in Scripture.” (181)  “The challenge of the times forces a ministry philosophy to be a dynamic changing entity and not a static, perfect guideline for all times.” (182)  “In essence, one develops a ministry philosophy by seeing the lessons of life and applying them to ministry.” (183)


“When I discover a value or principle, I see if it has biblical authority.  If I find generalized teaching containing the principle, I feel more certain about applying it to my own life and asserting it as a leadership principle for others.” (186)


“I learned never to adopt a method until I understood the principle behind it.”  (193, Warren Wiersbe)


“Look at people in your ministry with leadership selection eyes.  Be continually asking yourself such questions as, ‘Where is this person in his or her development?’ ‘What could I do to help him or her see how God is processing toward leadership?’ ‘Is God using me as a divine contact in this situation?’ ‘Can I possibly be a mentor or trainer for this person?’  Remember Goodwin’s expectation principle: A potential leader tends to rise to the level of genuine expectancy of a leader he or she respects.” (200)