The Obvious Secret to Christian Leadership

Here it is: Without a vibrant relationship with Jesus, you can’t lead others to Jesus.

It’s so obvious that it feels stupid to even write. But it’s something I have to remind myself and our team of constantly.


It’s so easy to do ministry for Jesus without doing it with Jesus.
It’s common for leaders to talk a lot about Jesus without feeling connected to Jesus.
It takes very little for the activity of ministry to overshadow the purpose and power of ministry.

I’m personally prone to drift from my relationship with Jesus. This has always been true of me as a sinner who is “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” But vocational ministry made it worse. Ministry gave me the illusion of being connected to God because I was studying his word and talking about him to people.

Though I still wander at times, these things have helped me prioritize my relationship with Jesus.

1. Embracing the truth about joy and God’s presence. The verse that has helped me the most:

Psalm 16:11 / You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

I want maximum joy. It’s found in God’s presence. Anything else (even good things like ministry) will ultimately be unsatisfying.

2. Routines. Though I love change in almost every area of life, irregularities of schedule — especially in the morning — wreck my time with God and, thus, chills my vibrancy with him. Having a consistent schedule and plan helps greatly. And for me, if it doesn’t happen before breakfast, it doesn’t typically happen.

3. Reading about leaders who blew it. I have a folder on my computer where I’ve saved a number of resignation letters of leaders who have failed morally. I re-read this a few times a year and it always reminds me that the failure began long before it became public, always with a drifting from a vibrant relationship with Jesus.

4. A wife and friends who can see through me. I think formal accountability is mostly overrated, but few things have helped me spiritually as much as a wife and friends who know me and can tell how I’m really doing. They have both the permission and the courage to push on me and exhort me.

5. Kicks in the pants from the Holy Spirit. God disciplines those he loves (Heb 12:6) and there are two memorable times in my life when God dramatically got my attention that I was drifting from my relationship with him.

One of these was earlier this year when I attended a Redemption Groups Immersion with some other leaders from our church. I went to learn how to help others. Turned out I needed help. God used the men in my small group there to help me see that I needed to return to my first love. Additionally, each of us was encouraged to write a psalm — something that expressed where we were with God. Here’s mine:

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge
I have no good apart from you
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup
In your presence there is fullness of joy
(Psalm 16:1-2,5,11)

Apart from you. I once walked apart from you.
On my throne. For myself. Utmost in my own affections.
Able to please others, but never satisfied myself.

Around you. I often walk around you.
Mentioning you. Perking up when others say your name. Like you were down the street.
Talking about you, but rarely to you.

About you. I know lots about you.
Your attributes. Your actions in history. Answers to difficult questions about you.
Doing your work, even when you’re not working in me.

With you. Your offer, your promise is for me to be with you.
As you died and rose. As you reign in Heaven. As I sit, rise, walk, and stand.
Falling into you, trusting you are better than life.

About you. Now everything can be about you.
About your fame. About your pleasure. About knowing your heart.
Working for you, knowing you are with me.

Around you. Now my heart revolves around you.
Drawing near. Leaning in. Resting on.
Talking with you, everywhere I go.

Apart from you. Now I will never be apart from you.
Always loved. Always accepted. Always close.
Trusting your promise, I need not walk alone.

Everything in your life and ministry flows out of your relationship with Jesus. This is your top priority, and you must do whatever it takes to grow as a disciple of Jesus.


What other things do you find particularly helpful in prioritizing your relationship with Jesus?


Published by Luke Simmons

I was born and raised in Denver, CO and lived there through high school. Then I moved to Champaign, IL where I attended the University of Illinois and played on the Fighting Illini baseball team. I was married in December, 2001 to Molly, who I met at the U of I. In June of 2002, we moved to Phoenix and have been here ever since.

10 thoughts on “The Obvious Secret to Christian Leadership

  1. One thing I try to remind myself often is that my relationship with Jesus isn’t a feeling. Sometimes I get discouraged when I don’t “feel” God or have an amazing feeling during morning prayer or reading. What I’ve found very helpful during those times is to simply keep pushing. To let God know what I’m feeling, being open and honest with him in prayer. I have to remind myself that I’m not seeking a feeling, I’m seeking him and his presence. The priority is him and not a feeling.

    1. Great point, Tony. Life is too long to be governed by our feelings. And it’s too easy to quit if we are only seeking feelings. It’s tough, though, when you’ve had seasons of intense feelings and then you don’t. Always seems to rattle newer Christians who expected to always feel the same way.

  2. One of the most simple tools is to insert my name in Scripture while I’m reading it. (I mean, He did write it with me in mind!). An example, “But God demonstrates His own love toward (Howard) in that while (Howard) was a sinner, Christ died for (Howard).” It personalizes it once again, emphasizing the close personal connection He has initiated with me.

    Thanks for the reminder, Luke. I’m smitten by the same disease of operating in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.

  3. I wish your post on this “obvious” topic wasn’t necessary, but it is. Sadly, more often than not I do MOST things under my own power, even “ministry.” “Without a vibrant relationship with Jesus, you can’t lead others to Jesus.” It’s sad and convicting. And a much needed daily reminder.

  4. Hey Luke,

    I really appreciate this. I never realized how easy it would be to neglect time with the Lord when I got married 2 months ago and I find myself in a different kind of ministry (to my wife) that I never realized would be so challenging; and that’s mainly because I didn’t realize I was this selfish. Thanks for the reminder to discipline myself to make time for the Lord, because if I don’t, it mysteriously (not) doesn’t happen… one would think I would have learned that by now.

    How true it is that I can convince myself that talking about Jesus fills the requirement of actually talking to him. I find that if I’m not in active relationship with Jesus, trying to do ministry just makes me feel fake and empty. Man, he’s so gracious that he reminds me of my need for him even after I’ve neglected my time with him.

    I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the honesty in this post. I’m moved by it because it’s convicting and I really need to hear it. Thanks very much. All the best in Queen Creek. Come visit Redemption Tempe sometime!

  5. Oops, I didn’t answer your question:

    Meeting weekly with other men over coffee (Yes. It has to be coffee.) and challenging one another to chase after the heart of God. Although, if we’re not careful, we can miss challenging one another to actually know Christ. This is a good reminder.

    Also, and very practically, fasting for periods of time, although considered archaic by many, helps remind me that I don’t live by bread alone. Whenever I feel hungry I have the opportunity to remember, “I don’t always need food, but I always need Jesus.”

    1. Thanks, Paul. Glad this was encouraging to you as a young husband (and congrats!). Fasting is a helpful tool and I like your slogan that goes with it. I think I’ll be preaching at Tempe in a month or so when Riccardo and I do a pulpit swap…we’ll see. Blessings, Luke

  6. Thanks for that! I so appreciate your honesty!
    Having an almost ten year old really helps challenge the walk with Jesus! Not only do we need extra wisdom with an older kid, but he helps keep us accountable! The other day he asked me, “Mom, are you reading your Bible regularly?” 🙂

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