What It Means to Be a Christian Leader with Richard Stearns

Modern Church Leader feat. Richard Stearns
What It Means to Be a Christian Leader feat. Richard Stearns on Modern Church Leader

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What It Means to Be a Christian Leader

The role of a Christian leader is both challenging and rewarding. Those in leadership positions are tasked with guiding others spiritually while upholding biblical principles. In order to be effective leaders, Christians must develop a servant’s heart and be willing to put the needs of others before their own.

It is more than just preaching the gospel or leading people in prayer. It’s about standing up for what you believe, even when unpopular. It’s about living your faith and values in everything you do, no matter the cost.

If you are a leader, you need to remember that people are influenced by your example, actions, and faith. Your impact grows stronger because of your commitment to God and your love for others. It requires daily surrender and sacrifice, but it’s worth it. The power of your words and actions will touch others and create a ripple effect that will ultimately last for generations.

In the book of  2 Corinthians, Paul talks about the many ways that Christian leaders can impact their communities. It’s because of their example that people follow Jesus Christ. They are not leaders who just show up, preach, pray, and expect to get attention. Instead, they are leaders who take their faith seriously and lead their lives in a way that helps others to follow Jesus. That's what it means to be a Christian leader.

Leadership is not a position of privilege but a position of responsibility. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the lives of others change and grow.

In this episode, we are so blessed to be joined by the CEO of World VISION, Richard Stearns. Richard believes Christian leaders are called to be different because their leadership serves as a testament to the reality of the gospel message.

“You may be a pastor and think you've already surrendered. But surrender is a daily thing. You've got to surrender your church growth, you've got to surrender your church giving, you've got to surrender your sermons, and just say, ‘Lord, not my will, but Thy will. Help me to stay faithful and be the kind of leader you want me to be.’”
-Richard Stearns

Richard Stearns is president emeritus of World Vision US, where he served as president for twenty years, traveling more than three million miles as an advocate for the world's poor. Before leading the Christian relief and development organization, he was a corporate CEO at Parker Brothers and Lenox. Stearns is the author of several books, including the best-selling, award-winning The Hole in Our Gospel. He also wrote Unfinished, God’s Love For You, He Walks Among Us & Lead Like It Matters to God.

We hope that this episode has provided you with some new insights into becoming a more effective leader. Now is the time to be the change we wish to see in the world!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • How to place Christ at the center of Christian leadership values
  • The challenge of surrendering your will to God
  • The importance of humility in leadership
  • Strategies for navigating secular or sacred spaces as a leader
  • The World Vision Organization's efforts in helping communities lift themselves out of poverty
  • Some insights from his book “Lead Like It Matters to God”--If you’d like a copy of this book along with its study guide, listen to this podcast and use the promo code "MCL22" to get a discount of 30% with free shipping through ivpress.com. Promo runs from June 7 to June 21, 2022
  • And so much more…

Resources Mentioned:

Know more about World Vision: worldvision.org
Richard’s Bio:: Richard Stearns
Follow Richard on Twitter: @RichStearns
Book Info: Lead Like It Matters to God
Press Kit: Press-Kits

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

How to Nurture Female Leaders in Your Church with Kadi Cole
The Role of a Pastor As a Shepherd with Tom Nelson
Small Church, Big Impact with Karl Vaters

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[10:48] Our goal is to bring a Christian presence into these poverty-stricken communities and areas around the world. We're not just doing humanitarian work. We're kind of body, mind and soul where we care about the whole person. And our goal is to be ambassadors for the gospel. 

[13:24] Take your faith to work with you. Don't check it at the door on Monday morning and pick it up Friday night when you go home.

[13:49] A lot of people compartmentalize their faith, and they kind of put it in this compartment. They go to work on Monday morning like they're going to battle. And they put on the full armor of the world, not the full armor of God.

[14:24] As Christians, we should be entering these corporate and organizational cultures, and we should be change agents to make these institutions more pleasing to God.

[17:10] God never calls Christians to be successful. He calls them to be faithful to the values and the kingdom of God. You might be successful as a byproduct of that but that's not the goal.

[19:16] As followers of Christ, we are called to surrender our lives. When you pray that sinners prayer that we all know, it's a prayer of surrender, it's a prayer that says, Not my will, but Thy will.

[20:31] I was a corporate CEO, I was making a lot of money, I realized the American dream, I'd grown up poor. And I become the corporate CEO of a nationally known company. And here comes the Lord saying, quit your job, sell your house, turn in your corporate Jaguar, take a 75% pay cut, and move your family with five kids across the country to Seattle.

[22:43] You may be a pastor and think you've already surrendered. But surrender is a daily thing. You've got to surrender your church growth, you've got to surrender your church giving, you've got to surrender your sermons, and just say,” Lord, not my will, but Thy will. Help me stay faithful and be the kind of leader you want me to be.”

[26:07] All the success and wealth, God is not interested in any of that. He just wants to look at your heart and say, were you faithful? 

[27:36] I just think we have to remember what's important in God's economy because God could care less whether you're a CEO or whether your church is 20,000 or 200. I believe that some of the great heroes of the faith in our world today are pastors of tiny churches, that may be pastors of a flock of 100. People who had served faithfully for decades always tried to do the right thing that ministered in people's lives. I think they will be at the head of the line when we move into heaven. And some of those megachurches' pastors  may be at the back of the line

podcast transcript

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Richard Stearns (00:00):

God never calls Christians to be successful. He calls them to be faithful to the values and to the kingdom of God. And you might be successful as a byproduct of that, but that's not the goal. And so I wanted to reinforce the importance of values in our culture, not just in our Christian enclaves, but the importance of values in government, the importance of values in hospitals and schools and wherever we might work as Christians, our values should influence the world as opposed to vice versa.

Narrator (00:34):

Welcome to the modern church leader where you'll hear executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that true churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world in advance. The kingdom of God. Here's your host, Frank Barry.

Frank Barry (00:48):

Hey guys, Frank here from Tithe.ly with another episode of Modern Church Leader, excited to be here today. Actually very honored to do this interview. I am here with Richard Sterns, who is the former CEO of 20 years of World Vision. Richard man, it's great to have you today.

Richard Stearns (01:05):

Yeah, Frank, I've been looking forward to our conversation today, so thanks for having me on.

Frank Barry (01:09):

It's going to be fun. It's not often I get to sit down with a legend. 20 years at World Vision is pretty awesome.

Richard Stearns (01:18):

I don't know if I'm a legend, but thank you. Legend in my own mind, right?

Frank Barry (01:22):

That's right. That's in my own mind or in my wife, hopefully she thinks I'm a legend, but it stops there. But man, what a journey though, 20 years at World Vision. Most of these episodes I'd just love to hear a little bit of your story. So I'd love for you to share with us how you ended up where you're at today and what your time at World Vision was like and just your journey in life.

Richard Stearns (01:45):

You don't have enough time for the whole life journey, but sometimes I'll summarize it this way, especially when I'm talking to younger people that are thinking about their careers. But I have a degree in neurobiology from Cornell, which qualifies you to do nothing. And then I got an MBA at the Wharton School because I realized I need to find a job and business seemed like a good prospect. So graduated from Wharton, got married and then worked 23 years in the corporate world. I started at Gillette in Boston and then took a job when I was 25-

Frank Barry (02:21):

I used to shave back in the day.

Richard Stearns (02:23):

Yeah. So did I. I shaved for the 40 plus years of my career and when I retired, I said, I'm done. I'm done with the shaving every day. So anyways worked for Gillette then went to Parker Brothers Games when I was 25. And I was at the beginning of the video game revolution at Parker Brothers back when electronic games were just debuting. And so I was at the right place at the right time. And when I was 33, I became CEO of Parker Brothers and I always laugh my wife called me business boy, because I was still so young and all my, the vice presidents were all in their mid fifties and I was 33. Later on in my career I became CEO of Lennox China, the Fine China and Crystal tableware company in New Jersey.

Frank Barry (03:13):

That's a big jump.

Richard Stearns (03:14):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (03:14):

Video game.

Richard Stearns (03:15):

Yeah. Started with shaving cream, and then toys and games and then Fine China and Crystal. So obviously I had the perfect resume to lead World Vision, which is an organization that helps the poor internationally. And in 1998, I won't tell the whole story but essentially I got a call from a head hunter who was representing World Vision. They were doing a search for their US president. And after explaining carefully that I was not qualified, not interested not available, the head hunter basically said, "Are you willing to be open to God's will for your life?" Which hit me right between the eyes, like a two by four, that what he was really saying is what's your faith all about Rich? If this is God's will for your life, would you be open to it? Or are you just going to plug your ears and turn away?

Richard Stearns (04:10):

And so I grudgingly said, "I don't think this is God's will for my life. But I tell you what, if you fly to Philadelphia where I lived, I'll meet you for dinner and we'll see what happens. But I think you're wasting your time because this is not a good idea." Anyways, he did, we had about a four hour conversation that night and he convinced me to at least throw my hat in the ring, which I did grudgingly. But then I thought, Frank, no board of directors in their right mind is going to hire a person that has never been to Africa and knows nothing about poverty, has no theological training, no seminary degree in a Christian organization, has never done fundraising in an organization that has to raise $3 million a day, 365 days a year.

Richard Stearns (05:01):

I just thought, this is a safe thing because I can throw my hat in the ring and God's not going to pull my hat out of the ring. He's not going to pick me, but I can be the guy that says, "All right, Lord, I was available. And I told you I was available and you picked somebody else. I'm good with that and I'll just go back to my cushy corporate job." To my utter amazement, the board chose me to be the next CEO of World Vision. It's a much longer story than that. But I ended up quitting my job, my wife and I had to sell our dream house. We had five kids and we had bought a 200 year old farmhouse in Pennsylvania on five acres.

Richard Stearns (05:44):

And it was kind of the idyllic setting to raise our kids. And so we just sold our house, put it on the market. I turned in my corporate Jaguar to my company car to Lennox and moved my whole family to Seattle and spent the next 20 years logging three Millionaire Miles and visiting about 65 different countries and helping the poor in the name of Jesus, which was the great privilege of my life in retrospect. I didn't really want the job when it first came my way, but it turned out to be the greatest adventure of my life.

Frank Barry (06:17):

Yeah. Just because I could probably sit here and just since I have you, I can ask you questions, but we'll keep it short. Do you have a World Vision story, like a trip you went on or something you saw that just has stuck with you the whole time?

Richard Stearns (06:32):

Well, there's so many of them but actually my very first trip, I left Lennox in June. And in August, about 60 days later, I was at ground zero of the AIDS pandemic in Uganda. And again it was 1998, AIDS was ravaging Africa and the culture shock from going from a luxury goods company, a boardroom, driving a Jaguar to work and to end up in the jungles of Uganda in the middle of the AIDS pandemic, it just blew my mind and I call it my baptism into the work of World Vision. And I realize like, Dorothy, I'm not in Kansas anymore. But it was like a punch in the gut to meet these orphaned kids who had lost both of their parents and were literally living alone in a thatched hut, having to fend for themselves to feed themselves.

Richard Stearns (07:25):

I met a 13 year old boy who had two brothers that were nine and 11 and he was the man of the house now at 13. And he had to take care of his brothers. There were no adults in his life. Now World Vision was in that community and they were trying to help the orphans of AIDS, but it really was a baptism into most of us don't get to see abject desperate poverty. And I had certainly never seen it in my career. And so it was just a profound experience that changed me forever. And AIDS became the theme issue of my first five years at World Vision when I really led the organization to really tackle the AIDS pandemic and to bring the American evangelical church into this course even though at that time AIDS was a taboo subject. It was a disease of the gay community.

Richard Stearns (08:26):

Most Christians wanted nothing to do with it. Some Christians were saying it was God's punishment on sinners and here's World Vision, I remember my marketing guy said, "Don't go there Rich, because we're a G-rated ministry and this is an R-rated issue." And I listened to all the advice at World Vision as the new guy. And I said, you know what? We're going there. We're going there because if we don't do it and we have a front row seat to what this is doing to families and children and countries in Africa, God help us as a ministry, what good are we, if we're not willing to help the truly least of these in our world. And so we tackled that. Anyways, that was my start at World Vision. So that story sticks with me.

Frank Barry (09:12):

That's incredible. I'm sure seeing it up close is life changing.

Richard Stearns (09:15):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (09:18):

How does World Vision partner with the local church? Because I'm not sure if everyone knows where that connection is or how it looks, but you referenced it a little bit.

Richard Stearns (09:28):

Yeah. You've got to look, in the field countries where we're working like Kenya, South Sudan and some of the toughest places in the world, we always reach out to the local churches in the communities in which we work. We're working on poverty and things like clean water and nutrition and infant care and education, microfinance loans. We have a full range of interventions that we work with poor communities, but we always try to work alongside and partner with the local churches that are there if they're interested in working with us.

Richard Stearns (10:13):

We don't work exclusively through churches because we've learned if you work through one church, you might alienate the other three churches that might be in the area, if you work with only churches, you might alienate the Muslims who live there as well, or the non-church people. So we try to have a balance of working with the community leaders and even some government leaders in local government, as well as local churches who sometimes become partners in different ways and can volunteer in different ways. But our goal is to bring a Christian presence into these poverty stricken communities and areas around the world. We're in about a hundred countries. And to do it in the name of Christ so that we're not just doing humanitarian work, we're kind of body, mind, and soul. We care about the whole person and our goal is to be ambassadors for the gospel.

Richard Stearns (11:17):

And then in the United States, we're always looking for churches to partner with us in reaching out to the poor. Because if your church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you can either go it alone and say, "I'm going to try to help people in Kenya." Or you can say, "World Vision's been doing this for 70 years, they've got staff on the ground, they've got vehicles , they've got methodologies, they've got experience, we could partner with them." And our dollars would go a lot further if we partner with a professional organization who shares our Christian values, but also knows how to get this done.

Frank Barry (11:57):

Yeah. That's cool. Thanks for sharing that. I know that's not necessarily the theme here. During that journey, you learned a lot, you led a lot of different things being CEO of three different organizations is pretty awesome and not something that many folks get to do. The book, and I actually don't know when you published it. I know it's not too far back, but Lead Like it Matters to God talking about leadership in the, for just your everyday Christian, but even for pastors and church leaders. I'd love to jump into that a little bit.

Richard Stearns (12:32):

Sure.

Frank Barry (12:33):

Just talk about why you wrote that one. Why'd you write a book on leadership. There's lots of them out there.

Richard Stearns (12:39):

I have it right here on my bookshelf. I keep it handy. But I wrote this book, I've been a Christian leader in secular world, so I know what it's like to be out in the marketplace, the dog-eat-dog world, that we talk about the rat race, whatever people like to call it. So I understand the pressures and the cultures of corporations and Fortune 500 companies and all of that. And I wanted Christians who work in those workplaces to, I wanted to encourage them to take their Christian values, to work with them. In other words, take your faith to work with you. Don't check it at the door on Monday morning and pick it up Friday night when you go home.

Richard Stearns (13:31):

Because a lot of Christians today feel like, if people in my workplace know I'm one of these evangelical Christians or born again Christians, I'm going to be the odd man out or the odd woman out and people are going to think I'm weird and it's not going to fit into this culture. So I think a lot of people compartmentalize their faith and they put it in this compartment. They go to work on Monday morning, like they're going to battle. And they put on the full armor of the world, not the full armor of God, necessarily. And they adapt to that culture that they're working in and culture is very influential. And so the culture you work within, if you're not careful, it starts to shape you and shape your values and your behaviors as well.

Richard Stearns (14:19):

Whereas as Christians, I feel like we should be out there shaping the values of cultures. We should be entering these corporate cultures, these organizational cultures and we should be change agents to make these institutions more pleasing to God. Because if we're Christ's ambassadors in these places and it could be a hospital or school or a university or a corporation, it could be government service, but we can be ambassadors for Christ in that place if we take our faith to work.

Richard Stearns (14:51):

And I don't mean sharing the gospel with every person at every cubicle, but just living out our Christian values often in hostile cultures where, we will be the odd person out, but you hope you're the odd person out that your coworkers say, "That Frank, I don't understand his religion, but I got to hand it to him. He's a man of integrity. He's a man that cares about his coworkers. He lives his values out and he's consistent with them and he's a person of great integrity and I respect him."

Richard Stearns (15:27):

And that might lead to a conversation that somebody's going through marital problems and they walk into your office and say, "Hey, can I confide in you about something?" And I found that those often led to conversations about spiritual matters and life. And so the book was written to encourage Christians in the workplace to take God to work with them, literally to be ambassadors for Christ in the workplace. But also to lift up our values. I mean, Frank, if you look around our culture, maybe I'll start with the church. How many church leader failures have we seen in the last few years? How many ministry leader failures have we seen? Sex scandals within the church, money scandals within the church. You step outside the church and you've got the Me Too movement.

Richard Stearns (16:12):

You've got corporate scandals, like the opioid pandemic and the role that big pharma companies played in fueling this pandemic. You have cheating scandals like the Houston Astros in 2018 or '19, cheating to win the World Series. And the scandals that we see, it's really a failure of our values. So as you know, Lead Like it Matters to God, my new book, the subtitle is Values-Driven Leadership in a Success-Driven World. We live in the success, obsessed culture, we're watching the Olympics and we can't believe that we don't have all the gold medals.

Frank Barry (16:51):

I know, right. I'm not going to lie. When last night I saw the medal count and I was a little shocked.

Richard Stearns (16:57):

We want success. We want to win. It's deeply in our American culture, success. As Mother Teresa once said, God never called her to be successful. He called her to be faithful. And God never calls Christians to be successful. He calls them to be faithful to the values and to the kingdom of God. And you might be successful as a byproduct of that, but that's not the goal. I wanted to reinforce the importance of values in our culture, not just in our Christian enclaves, but the importance of values in government, importance of values in hospitals and schools and wherever we might work as Christians, our values should influence the world as opposed to vice versa.

Frank Barry (17:46):

Yeah. I couldn't agree more and love it and I know that there's a lot in it. It's a meaty book and you've got like 17 principles in there, which we probably don't have time to cover all of them. But if you were to pick the top two or three core principles that you wrote about, what would they be?

Richard Stearns (18:10):

The book is structured with, it's about values driven leadership. What does it mean to be a values-driven leader, as opposed to a success or outcomes driven leader? And I list 17 qualities of what I think Christian leaders should embody these qualities. And there are things like humility, integrity, love, listening, work life balance, encouragement, surrender, sacrifice. Those kinds of things should be the hallmarks of any Christian, but certainly a Christian leader. If I had to pick one, actually the first two are surrender and sacrifice in my book, surrender and sacrifice. My wife said to me, "Do you think anybody wants to read a leadership book that starts out with surrender and sacrifice? Maybe you should start with celebrity and wealth or something."

Richard Stearns (19:07):

Because people aren't reading a leadership book so they can become less successful. But I put them first because as followers of Christ, we are called to surrender our lives. When you pray that sinner's prayer, that we all know it's a prayer of surrender. It's a prayer that says not my will, but thy will. But when you get right down to it, most of us don't surrender everything all at once on that day. Surrender is a lifelong process where there's certain things we like to keep away from surrender. And it could be our politics. We don't want to surrender our politics to Jesus. We don't want to render our money to Jesus. We want to do with our money what we please, we don't want to tie their or give the way that we might see the Bible calling us to do.

Richard Stearns (20:02):

And career is another thing that, "Let me manage my career Lord and I'll render unto you things that are of God, but let me work with Caesar over here for a while too." So I think surrender is just very important. You and I talked before the call about when I came to World Vision in 1998, and God was really asking me to surrender. I was a corporate CEO, I was making a lot of money. I had realized the American dream, I'd grown up poor and I'd become this corporate CEO of a nationally known company. And here comes the Lord saying, "Quit your job, sell your house, turn in your corporate Jaguar, take a 75% pay cut and move your family with five kids all the way across the country to Seattle to do a job that you had no idea how to do, in a field that you had no experience in or knowledge of global poverty and Rich, trust me for the outcome."

Richard Stearns (21:11):

I'm no spiritual hero. This was no here I am Lord, send me moment. I was like, Moses, "Lord, send someone else to do it, please. I am the wrong guy. I'll write bigger checks to World Vision. Don't make me go. Don't make me do it. I don't want to go see poor people. I don't want to go to refugee camps. I don't want to go to famine zones and see starving children. And I don't want to take a 75% pay cut and lose my corporate career. Surely there's someone more qualified?" Moses said, "How about Aaron? My friend, Aaron here, maybe he could do it." And so that was me at that moment. And what I really heard God saying is, "I want you to surrender everything." I call it my rich young ruler moment where the rich young ruler was asked to surrender everything.

Richard Stearns (22:01):

Jesus said to him, "You lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor and come and follow me and then you'll have treasure in heaven." And of course the Bible tells us that he went away very sad because he had great wealth. In other words, he couldn't do it. And that was my rich young ruler movement and in the end, I didn't want to end up like that young man who walked away very sad. So with great trepidation, I said yes, and it was the greatest 20 year adventure of my life to work at World Vision and the privilege that God gave me to be part of that.

Richard Stearns (22:38):

So, surrender is the first value. And if you're listening to this podcast, you may be a pastor and think you've already surrendered, but surrender is a daily thing. You've got to surrender your church growth, you've got to surrender your church giving, you've got to surrender your sermons and just say, "Lord, not my will, but thy will and use me. I just want to be faithful and help me to stay faithful and help me to be the leader you want me to be."

Frank Barry (23:11):

Right. And then sacrifice, you said is the next one. I'm also wondering, it's interesting with, how do you help Christians have that mentality in work? Because this isn't for everyone, this is a gross over simplification in generality. But most people in their careers are trying to continually grow in their position, in their compensation, in their title and all these kind of things. It's just how the work world is structured and you want to make more money and have a better title and have more responsibility and all these kinds of things. But being surrendered and sacrificial, and also having those things close to the front of mind from your career growth perspective can be hard. Balancing those two things, I don't think you mean surrender and sacrifice means don't be motivated, but certainly they also can interact with each other in an odd way, or be hard for people to figure out.

Richard Stearns (24:17):

Well, you know I [crosstalk 00:24:19].

Frank Barry (24:18):

You know, around that.

Richard Stearns (24:19):

Yeah. I mentioned that Mother Teresa quote, and it was at a time when she was asked if she didn't feel like a failure because Calcutta had more poverty than it had before she started. And there was no way she could be successful in eradicating poverty in Calcutta. And that's when she said to the man, it was a US Senator actually, she said, "My dear Senator, God did not call me to be successful. He called me to be faithful." And so that story led me to imagine, I think we all imagine someday standing before God and God's giving an accounting for our life. He's looking at our life and we want to hear those words well done, good and faithful servant.

Frank Barry (24:59):

Yep.

Richard Stearns (25:00):

And I realized that as I stand before the Lord, he's not going to be impressed that I was the CEO of Parker Brothers Games when I was 33, he's not going to be impressed that I was CEO of Lennox China. He's not even going to be impressed that I was CEO of World Vision and tripled the revenue when I was there. What he's going to ask about is, "What kind of ambassador were you for me? How did you treat the people that I entrusted to your leadership? Your coworkers, your subordinate workers.

Richard Stearns (25:32):

Did you care about their lives or did you use them to get ahead personally? Did you use other people to become successful? Did you chase after success as opposed to faithfulness? Because the things that will impress God are none of the things that will impress the people around us. The people around us are impressed with the biggest church, the fastest growing church, the young executive that becomes a CEO, the mansion that they live in, all the trappings of success and wealth, and yet God is not interested in any of that.

Richard Stearns (26:12):

He just wants to look at your heart and say, "Were you faithful?" Now, if you're faithful and you're diligent, we should be diligent as Christians in any work that we do. We should be diligent. In fact, there's a whole chapter in my book on excellence. Because we need to work with excellence. And if we work with excellence and we lead with these values, integrity, humility, compassion, it's probably pretty likely that we'll be successful as a byproduct. Because the people who work for us, everybody loves a boss that has those characteristics.

Richard Stearns (26:44):

Who of us don't want to work for a leader that embodies all of these wonderful attributes and characteristics? We've all had terrible, I've had horrible bosses in my career, manipulative merky [inaudible 00:27:00] bosses that it was all about them and I've had some great bosses that really cared about me and my career and were helpful to me. And if you live long enough and work in enough places, you'll experience both. Good, the bad and the ugly.

Richard Stearns (27:16):

So I just think we have to remember what's important in God's economy. Because God could care less whether you're a CEO or frankly, this is a bold statement. God could care less whether your church is 20,000 or 200 people. I really believe that some of the great heroes of the faith in our world today are pastors of tiny churches that maybe pastor a flock of a hundred we know that the average church size in America, somewhere around a 100, 125, something like that. People had served faithfully for decades that always tried to do the right thing that ministered into people's lives. I think they're going to be at the head of the line when we move into heaven. And some of those megachurch pastors maybe at the back of the line.

Frank Barry (28:05):

I mean the whole, like the first will be last, last will be first. Something like that. It's like, it's all flipped.

Richard Stearns (28:13):

I can guarantee you it'll be mostly names you've never heard of that get the accolades from the Lord, because they were faithful and they didn't chase after success for the wrong reasons. It's great to chase after some growth for your church, for the right reasons, because you want to lead people to Christ and you want to make disciples who will go out and make more disciples. And you want people to lead a deeper life with a relationship with God. Those are all the right motivations, but to do it for prestige or to have the biggest podcast, even Frank-

Frank Barry (28:54):

A long way off.

Richard Stearns (28:58):

Yeah. If the goal of your podcast is to minister to pastors and church leaders, that's a wonderful aspiration. If the goal is to make more ad revenue or whatever. You might make more ad revenue if you get it out of your podcast, but if that's your goal you've got the wrong goal I think. Anyway. So that's what the book is about.

Frank Barry (29:23):

I love that. There's one I want to touch on real quick. And I know we don't have time to talk about all of them, but they are fascinating to dig into, but you mentioned humility. And you didn't mention that one first necessarily, but I think humility, it's huge to be a humble person, but also to be striving to be excellent and achieve some level of balancing. I think all of these are maybe not all of them, but some of them are maybe hard to do both. Give us some examples of what humility looks like in the workforce and how that shows up in our culture.

Richard Stearns (30:04):

I start that chapter with a quote from Rick Warren. And I don't think Rick was the first one to say it, but I think he said it in one of his books that, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's thinking of yourself less." And if you think about that for a moment, it's pretty profound because we often have an image of the humbled and the meek as not very confident, not very capable, just, I can't do that. Or, I could never do this. Real humility is you don't need to deny your gifts and talents that God gave you. You may be a brilliant vocalist or musician, you might be a brilliant scientist and you shouldn't deny your skill and your ability and your giftedness because God gave you those things. He gave you those gifts.

Richard Stearns (30:59):

So humility is not thinking less of your giftedness, but it's thinking of yourself less. It's thinking about your priorities, things that benefit you, your celebrity, your bank account, the way people adulate you and put you on a pedestal. We all know that this can go to our heads. It can really go to our heads and it starts corrupting us as people, when we're out for more clicks on Twitter and more attendance at our church and more great reviews on our book that we just wrote and those kinds of things.

Richard Stearns (31:41):

So what does it look like in the workplace? Have you ever worked with somebody or worked for somebody that he or she knows all the answers. You don't know anything. They know all the answers because they wouldn't be your boss if they didn't know all the answers and they're arrogant and they cut off other people, they don't listen to the people around them. You can maybe think of some political leaders like that. And whereas a humble leader realizes that everybody around this conference room table is a person made in the image of God with unique giftedness, unique life experiences and if I could just listen to them, I would learn so much from the people around this table. Oh, but I'm the boss, I'm the leader.

Richard Stearns (32:29):

So a humble leader surrounds himself with very gifted people and then he listens to them or she listens to them. He or she brings out the giftedness in those people and brings it to the problems that they're trying to solve or the issues they're trying to deal with. And I say this about a humble leader, a humble leader is less concerned about their personal success and they're more concerned about the success of those around them. So that's a real twist that instead of how do I become the next CEO? How do I help the people entrusted to me to realize their God given potential? How can I help them realize their dreams and their hopes.

Richard Stearns (33:15):

In the book I talk, you're more like an orchestra conductor because the orchestra conductor is trying to bring the beautiful music out of the musicians, trying to help the musicians be the best that they can be. And if the musicians become the best they can be, then the leader can bask in the glory of, look what I've helped to achieve by bringing all these musicians together to accomplish something beautiful. And so that's what I think a humble leader looks like, they try to put other people first. They try to care about the people they work with. They surround themselves with smart people and they take their advice they listen to their advice. And they let those people hold them accountable and they let those people, they give permission to disagree and to challenge the leader's ideas. So those are just a few snapshots.

Frank Barry (34:12):

Yeah. I love it. So Lead Like it Matters to God, you were kind enough to give us a little promo code. So for anybody that wants to go buy the book, they can go to the website. I didn't see it listed, but is there a website for the book?

Richard Stearns (34:28):

It's available wherever books are sold.

Frank Barry (34:30):

Okay. So they can just search for Lead Like it Matters to God.

Richard Stearns (34:33):

But I think the promo code, you might have to go to the IV Press, it's InterVarsity Press website. I'm not sure, but-

Frank Barry (34:42):

Yeah, I think it is.

Richard Stearns (34:43):

You can buy it there.

Frank Barry (34:43):

So go to intervarsitypress.com, use the promo code MCL22. So like 2022, MCL22, and you can get 30% off the book. So we definitely want folks listening to go check it out. But before we end, I want to wrap up just with a few rapid fire questions, hopefully easy ones.

Richard Stearns (35:02):

All right.

Frank Barry (35:03):

Sound good?

Richard Stearns (35:04):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (35:05):

So who's a person that you've been most influenced by in your life and why?

Richard Stearns (35:11):

No question, my wife. My wife led me to Christ.

Frank Barry (35:16):

Love that. Mine too, by the way.

Richard Stearns (35:18):

Yeah. That's why God gave Adam a help meet, I think. But she led me to Christ. She's been the spiritual center of our family life. When I met her on a blind date, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. And she said, "I'm going to help the poor. God's called me to help the poor, I'm going to become an attorney and I'm going to help the poor with their legal problems." And I thought, oh, well. I was an atheist at the time and I thought, that's really a noble thing to aspire to. And she said, "What do you want to do?" And I said, I want to become a CEO and make a lot of money. And she said, "That's pathetic. That's a pathetic life goal."

Frank Barry (35:59):

Great first date.

Richard Stearns (36:00):

A year later, I was a Christian and there's a funny story, we got engaged two years later and she wanted to register for her China and Crystals and I said, "As long as there are children starving in the world, we're not going to have expensive China and Crystal." 25 years later, I'm the CEO of Lennox China. So God has a sense of humor, but Renee has been a tremendous influence on my life. And there's a famous movie with Jack Nicholson where he says to Helen Hunt, "You make me want to be a better man. That's the influence you have on me." So she's really been the person that's helped me be a better man and a better follower of Christ. No contest with who was most influential in my life.

Frank Barry (36:48):

I love that. Shout out to the wife. Her name is Renee?

Richard Stearns (36:53):

Renee.

Frank Barry (36:54):

That's awesome. Next one. Other than Lead Like it Matters to God, because of course everyone should go grab that. But what's the book that you've been most influenced by.

Richard Stearns (37:05):

I love to read Christian books. I don't have a theology degree, but I've read hundreds and hundreds of Christian books from N.T. Wright to C. S. Lewis. I'd probably have to go back to C.S. Lewis, probably the most influential author in my life. I've read most of his works, very influential in me becoming a Christian, not just mere Christianity, but miracles and the sci-fi trilogy, I read that he wrote and Narnia. But most of his work on apologetics, I just think are still brilliant and really influenced my life. John Stott is another person that influenced my life. I read his Basic Christianity in 1974 and it rocked my world as an atheist. So those both of them are long dead, but they had real influence on me.

Frank Barry (38:01):

Yeah. Love that. Last quick one. What's a podcast that you're currently listening to?

Richard Stearns (38:09):

My generation, we don't do a lot of podcasts. We don't understand podcasts. But I've listened a few times to the Holy Post with Skye Jethani and Phil Vischer. And I got to know Phil a little bit and I did a podcast with Skye Jethani and I think that what I like about their podcast is, it's very conversational. It's fun to listen to and they tackle some really tough issues. And I'm sure they get a little controversial sometimes. They'll sometimes offend some people in the audience but I think that's healthy sometimes to hear some other points of view. So I think there's a good about the Holy Post.

Frank Barry (38:52):

Yeah. Love that. Hey, you got one, even though it's not your generation's thing. I've had lots of folks on the show and it just, you'd be surprised. The folks that listen to podcasts and don't listen to podcasts and it almost seems like age doesn't really matter. It's just, sometimes you get hooked.

Richard Stearns (39:11):

Yeah.

Frank Barry (39:13):

Well Richard, this is great. Thanks so much for spending some time with us today.

Richard Stearns (39:16):

All right, Frank. Great to be on the program.

Frank Barry (39:18):

Yeah, absolutely. And for everyone watching, appreciate you guys. If you catch the recording, definitely give us a like on YouTube or subscribe to the channel, tell your friends about it. It's been a great episode and we'll catch you next week on another episode of Modern Church Leader. Bye-bye.

Narrator (39:33):

If you enjoyed this episode of the Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple Podcast or Spotify so you never miss an episode. And we'll see you again next week with another conversation here on the Modern Church Leader.

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What It Means to Be a Christian Leader with Richard Stearns

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What It Means to Be a Christian Leader with Richard Stearns

We hope that this episode has provided you with some new insights into becoming a more effective leader. Now is the time to be the change we wish to see in the world!

Show notes

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What It Means to Be a Christian Leader

The role of a Christian leader is both challenging and rewarding. Those in leadership positions are tasked with guiding others spiritually while upholding biblical principles. In order to be effective leaders, Christians must develop a servant’s heart and be willing to put the needs of others before their own.

It is more than just preaching the gospel or leading people in prayer. It’s about standing up for what you believe, even when unpopular. It’s about living your faith and values in everything you do, no matter the cost.

If you are a leader, you need to remember that people are influenced by your example, actions, and faith. Your impact grows stronger because of your commitment to God and your love for others. It requires daily surrender and sacrifice, but it’s worth it. The power of your words and actions will touch others and create a ripple effect that will ultimately last for generations.

In the book of  2 Corinthians, Paul talks about the many ways that Christian leaders can impact their communities. It’s because of their example that people follow Jesus Christ. They are not leaders who just show up, preach, pray, and expect to get attention. Instead, they are leaders who take their faith seriously and lead their lives in a way that helps others to follow Jesus. That's what it means to be a Christian leader.

Leadership is not a position of privilege but a position of responsibility. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the lives of others change and grow.

In this episode, we are so blessed to be joined by the CEO of World VISION, Richard Stearns. Richard believes Christian leaders are called to be different because their leadership serves as a testament to the reality of the gospel message.

“You may be a pastor and think you've already surrendered. But surrender is a daily thing. You've got to surrender your church growth, you've got to surrender your church giving, you've got to surrender your sermons, and just say, ‘Lord, not my will, but Thy will. Help me to stay faithful and be the kind of leader you want me to be.’”
-Richard Stearns

Richard Stearns is president emeritus of World Vision US, where he served as president for twenty years, traveling more than three million miles as an advocate for the world's poor. Before leading the Christian relief and development organization, he was a corporate CEO at Parker Brothers and Lenox. Stearns is the author of several books, including the best-selling, award-winning The Hole in Our Gospel. He also wrote Unfinished, God’s Love For You, He Walks Among Us & Lead Like It Matters to God.

We hope that this episode has provided you with some new insights into becoming a more effective leader. Now is the time to be the change we wish to see in the world!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • How to place Christ at the center of Christian leadership values
  • The challenge of surrendering your will to God
  • The importance of humility in leadership
  • Strategies for navigating secular or sacred spaces as a leader
  • The World Vision Organization's efforts in helping communities lift themselves out of poverty
  • Some insights from his book “Lead Like It Matters to God”--If you’d like a copy of this book along with its study guide, listen to this podcast and use the promo code "MCL22" to get a discount of 30% with free shipping through ivpress.com. Promo runs from June 7 to June 21, 2022
  • And so much more…

Resources Mentioned:

Know more about World Vision: worldvision.org
Richard’s Bio:: Richard Stearns
Follow Richard on Twitter: @RichStearns
Book Info: Lead Like It Matters to God
Press Kit: Press-Kits

Other Episodes You May be Interested In:

How to Nurture Female Leaders in Your Church with Kadi Cole
The Role of a Pastor As a Shepherd with Tom Nelson
Small Church, Big Impact with Karl Vaters

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[10:48] Our goal is to bring a Christian presence into these poverty-stricken communities and areas around the world. We're not just doing humanitarian work. We're kind of body, mind and soul where we care about the whole person. And our goal is to be ambassadors for the gospel. 

[13:24] Take your faith to work with you. Don't check it at the door on Monday morning and pick it up Friday night when you go home.

[13:49] A lot of people compartmentalize their faith, and they kind of put it in this compartment. They go to work on Monday morning like they're going to battle. And they put on the full armor of the world, not the full armor of God.

[14:24] As Christians, we should be entering these corporate and organizational cultures, and we should be change agents to make these institutions more pleasing to God.

[17:10] God never calls Christians to be successful. He calls them to be faithful to the values and the kingdom of God. You might be successful as a byproduct of that but that's not the goal.

[19:16] As followers of Christ, we are called to surrender our lives. When you pray that sinners prayer that we all know, it's a prayer of surrender, it's a prayer that says, Not my will, but Thy will.

[20:31] I was a corporate CEO, I was making a lot of money, I realized the American dream, I'd grown up poor. And I become the corporate CEO of a nationally known company. And here comes the Lord saying, quit your job, sell your house, turn in your corporate Jaguar, take a 75% pay cut, and move your family with five kids across the country to Seattle.

[22:43] You may be a pastor and think you've already surrendered. But surrender is a daily thing. You've got to surrender your church growth, you've got to surrender your church giving, you've got to surrender your sermons, and just say,” Lord, not my will, but Thy will. Help me stay faithful and be the kind of leader you want me to be.”

[26:07] All the success and wealth, God is not interested in any of that. He just wants to look at your heart and say, were you faithful? 

[27:36] I just think we have to remember what's important in God's economy because God could care less whether you're a CEO or whether your church is 20,000 or 200. I believe that some of the great heroes of the faith in our world today are pastors of tiny churches, that may be pastors of a flock of 100. People who had served faithfully for decades always tried to do the right thing that ministered in people's lives. I think they will be at the head of the line when we move into heaven. And some of those megachurches' pastors  may be at the back of the line

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