A Leader’s Call to Learn


Today, CrossChurchSchool.com welcomes guest writer Peyton Hanna. He is a Resident Minister in the Cross Church School of Ministry serving in the C3 Ministry, Fayetteville Campus. He is from Madison, Mississippi and graduated from the University of Arkansas.

“What makes a great leader?”

This is a question I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves or others during our lives. Coinciding with this is often the question of whether leaders are called, or are they made? Either they are born with great promise and charisma, or they are forged in the fires of experience and hard work. Truthfully, I’m not sure which assertion is more true, but you would be hard pressed to convince me that it wasn’t a little bit of both.

However the mark of a truly great leader, I believe, is not their giftedness in amassing loyal followers or their past experiences that shaped them into a formidable innovator. It is a commitment to lifelong learning. When examining the lives of great leaders a common thread is often their commitment to learning and thinking. Many of them are committed to reading often, experiencing new things, and asking many questions. Sure there are leaders in this world who do only one or maybe none of these things, and I would suggest that those leaders have never (and may never) reach their full potential.

Firstly, I believe it’s important to note that we all are called to some level of leadership. Leadership is not reserved for the senior pastor, the CEO, or the principal of a high school. Leadership is something we have been called into as believers in the way that we speak, interact, and approach our lives daily. Our lives are to be set apart, after all is that not what Paul is urging of us in Romans 12:2? Or Peter in 1 Peter 2:9?

Romans reads, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I imagine that when Paul says, “…be transformed by the renewal of your mind”, he is speaking to the transformation and setting apart that occurs when our minds are constantly transformed by the Holy Spirit in us. Paul understood that if our mind is not being renewed, then we will succumb to the culture around us, and ultimately that is going to limit our leadership ceiling. If we aren’t committed to a life of renewing our mind (learning and critically thinking) then we are not going to conform to the resurrected Jesus and will have no way of discerning “what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Gordon MacDonald says it this way:

“But the transformed person (presumably transformed by the Spirit of Christ) will be busy thinking, reflecting, and making independent conclusions about the meaning of life and reality.​”

MacDonald in chapter eight of his book ​Ordering Your Private World, ​writes about the importance of training the mind to think and analyze. He says that internally organized leaders make it a point to take on new information daily that leads them to fresh ideas and conclusions. MacDonald’s overall point in the passage is that the exercise of the mind is a quality most exemplified in effective leaders.

And I want to be clear: a leader’s call to learn is not for self-advancement or internal improvement. A leader’s call to learn is for the advancement of the people around him/her. The call to continuously learn is rooted in the motivation to become a more effective leader, whose job, when done correctly, is to support and equip the people they are leading. The goal is to build up and encourage the body through humble service to those we are leading. A job that is done best when daily learning and renewing of the mind by the Spirit is at the forefront of a leader’s life.

In order to be more effective leaders, and more effective ministers of the Gospel, we must throw off the shackles of pride and complacency and run hard after things we do not yet know. This daily pursuit of fresh information and experiences takes time, training, and effort. But it is not a far-cry to say that a unified body of believers committed to learning and thinking about the realities of the world and eternity, can be the driving force behind a truly gospel-centered culture shift.