The Distinction Between Leadership and Ministry - Part I

#businessforgood series

Here's part one on The Distinction Between Leadership and Ministry - excerpts from "The Empowered Church" by Dr. Ian Jagelman.

Leadership vs Ministry - understanding the difference

In Psalm 78:72 we read, concerning the kingship of David over Israel, that he shepherded them with 'integrity of heart', and 'with skilful hands he led them' (NIV).

For many years the Christian books I read on Christian leadership (eg Paul the Leader, by J Oswald Chambers) dealt with matters of integrity rather than mattes of skill. The books were written by wonderful preachers and teachers who equated godliness and fruitfulness and saw the keys to effectiveness as being prayer, fasting and holiness.

The trouble with this view is that many pastors who faithfully pray, fast and pursue holiness in the fear of the Lord are ineffective leaders. In simple terms, their model of effective leadership could be depicted as follows:



Many of the authors on books on Christian leadership have pastored in the context of existing well-established organisational structures which have supported rather than hindered their ministries. They have been neither missionaries nor church planters. God has blessed their own churches, often because of the power their ministry gifts, but few others in their churches have had any opportunity to develop in regard to ministry. They are often one-man bands who can skilfully play the tunes people want to hear. But leaders they are not.

A simple diagram depicting my own understanding is as follows:


The above diagram does not reflect the impact of important contextual factors. We live in what is called the postmodern world, in which there has been a loss of loyalty to structures and the questioning of traditional ministries. Peter Kaldor, in his book Winds of Change, makes the following observation:

Denominational switching is helping change the face of church life in this country. That four out of ten of those who change congregations also change denominations, highlights the extent to which denominational barriers are losing their importance… in contemporary society, loyalty has to be earned.

Leaders lead leaders

Many years ago I interviewed Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission, on the subject of leadership. Loren made a statement I have never forgotten. He said, 'A true leader is a leader of leaders'. In terms of pure logic, this statement makes no sense, because eventually you run out of leaders to be lead by leaders. But the truth of the statement is none the less significant.

Some people who are called leaders have such a strong preaching gift that they easily attract followers. But when you look at their ministry team, you see that there are no strong leaders following them. By my definition they are ministers but not leaders.

Another person may not possess a dynamic ministry gift but builds a large church because other strong leaders, with powerful ministry gifts, find it easy to follow his or her leadership. This person is more than a minister. He or she is a true leader.


Let me try and define the difference between ministry and leadership.

Ministry is any activity which serves the needs of people. It includes such things as preaching, teaching, counselling, praying, visiting, feeding and cleaning.

Leadership is any activity which directs, influences, or facilitates ministry by others. It includes such things as planning, decision making, personnel selection and vision setting.

The problem is not only that people confuse ministry with leadership. It is also that many organisational structures within churches exist solely for ministry, providing little scope for leadership.

In many churches the senior pastor is called the senior minister, not the senior leader. Confusion in relation to his/her role begins with the title that is used and then filters right through the organisation. 

Leadership vs. Technical Competency - marketplace applications

This ministry-leaderhip model is analogous to any leadership context, whereby you can replace the term "ministry skill" with "technical competency". 

Now adapting our earlier example, some leaders are remarkably technically proficient, so much so that they attract followers inside or possibly even outside their organisation. But when you look at those withn their immediate team, you see that there are no strong leaders following them. By my definition they are technically competent, but not leaders.

Another person may not possess an advanced level of technical competency but they have built a successful organisation because other leaders, with strong technical abilities, find it easy to follow his or her leadership. This person is more than just technically adept. He or she is a true leader.

So indeed King David's example in Psalm 78:72 is a timeless principle that applies to today's broader marketplace contexts - where integrity coupled with leadership skills and technical competency will result in fruitfulness. 

Stay tuned for part II of this series, where Dr Ian Jagelman covers the concept of leadership teams and the pitfall of burnout.


Alphacrucis College offers two new business degrees in 2014.

To find out more about on-campus and online study options, come to Sydney Open Day on 18 January 2014.

For further information, contact AC on +61 2 8893 9024 or email


Ian Jagelman is principal lecturer of leadership studies at Alphacrucis College in Sydney, and Director of The Jagelman Institute - an organisation focussing on equipping leaders, enabling organisations and enriching believers (



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