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Strength in Leadership: How Gentleness Changes Everything

Of all the statements Jesus made in the Gospels, one that is among the most difficult for people today to reckon with is this: “Blessed are those who are gentle. They will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 GW).

We don’t normally think of the people who “inherit the earth” as gentle. But the Bible tells us that the leaders who make a difference in the world around them are gentle. 

This goes against the grain. Too many leaders today, even Christian leaders, believe that gentleness is equivalent to weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

In fact, leading with gentleness has at least eight benefits that make you a better pastor, not a weaker one. 

1. Gentleness diffuses conflict.

Facing conflict is an important part of effective ministry. You will face conflict; every leader does. But gentleness will help diffuse it.

Gentleness is an antidote to anger.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (NIV). Humans mimic the emotions of those around them. That’s why, when someone raises their voice with us, we need to learn to lower ours.

2. Gentleness disarms critics.

Our instinct when we’re criticized is to respond with harshness. We want to give our critics the same pain they’ve given us. But that’s what critics want. They want you to get mad. The Bible gives us another way: “We appeal gently when evil things are said about us” (1 Corinthians 4:13 NLT).

I’ve learned firsthand that critics can become friends when we show grace, not anger. We need to regularly ask God for thick skins and soft hearts, so we can handle critics his way.

3. Gentleness is persuasive.

Do you want to move your congregation to action? Forcefulness isn’t the answer. Gentleness is. “Gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses” (Proverbs 25:15 MSG).

You can’t harshly persuade people to live for Jesus. Harshness builds up emotional barriers. It doesn’t work in your home, and it doesn’t work in the pulpit.

4. Gentleness is attractive.

Too many leaders in our image-driven culture believe that people are drawn to strength and confidence. But when Paul wrote to Timothy, urging him toward living a godly life as a young leader, he encouraged his young disciple to run toward gentleness. “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11 NLT).

If we want to draw people to Jesus, it won’t happen through displays of power. It happens when we show gentleness.

5. Gentleness communicates love.

Love is an essential part of leadership. Paul tells Timothy to be an example of love for those he leads (1 Timothy 4:12). You can’t lead people well without love. You can’t refuse to be gentle and still show love toward those you lead.

6. Gentleness earns respect.

The meekest leaders are the most respected. I can’t think of a better example of this than Mother Teresa. Barely five feet tall, that diminutive Romanian nun could walk into Congress and put the fear of God into every power broker in that room. Her gentleness—not her strength or power—earned her that respect.

Every influential leader that’s been widely respected in history—from Mother Theresa to Abraham Lincoln to Gandhi—has been gentle.

If you need to throw your weight around to lead your church, you’re not a leader; you are a dictator. Leadership is earned and discerned, never demanded. 

7. Gentleness is a witness to unbelievers.

If you want your church to reach people far from God, a pastor with a gentle approach is essential. Every time you have visitors, they watch the pastor. When you go into the community, people have their eyes on you. Pastor, they want to know who you are under stress. They want to know whether you will lash out in anger when you’re frustrated or if you’ll consistently treat others with respect.

The Bible tells this to all believers (not just pastors): “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). People will not listen to you share the Gospel unless they first trust you.

8. Gentleness makes me like Jesus.

Of course, this is the most important aspect of gentleness. Godly leaders need to be gentle because Jesus was gentle. In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus says: “Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives” (NCV).

Learning how to lead from Jesus means learning how to love people gently. All throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows his gentleness—from how he dealt with children to how he shepherded his own disciples. A Christ-like leader will do the same.

Pastor—no matter what anyone tells you—gentleness is not weakness. When you learn to be gentle like Jesus as a leader, you won’t become a doormat.

Gentleness is strength under control. 

The Greek word for “gentle” in Matthew 5:5—“Blessed are those who are gentle” (GW)—is the same word that describes a wild stallion that has been tamed. A tamed horse has the same strength as an untamed one. But a tamed horse allows its strength to be bottled up for its master’s use.

Is your strength bottled up for the Master’s use?

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