Mady, our 7-year-old, and I were at the park district pool this summer. We stood next to the deep end, in the shadow of the high dive. I felt it was time for her to take the plunge. I told her all she had to do was walk off the board. I told her how much fun it would be. I told her I would be at the side of the pool, ready to jump in, if necessary. However, it wasn’t until I promised her Culver’s custard that she finally took the plunge.


Parenting is a special form of leadership. The position does hold authority. I have resorted a few times to the fabled “Because I am your father” line to attain action. But those are never my finest parenting moments. Apart from my positional leadership, I much prefer their behavior to be a result of the trust my kids have in me, love they have for me, or being convinced as a result of reasoning by me. My best parenting is persuasive leadership, from the relationship I’ve established with trust, love, and logic.


I think biblical leadership in the church is at its best from the platform of persuasion, too. A case can be made for positional leadership in the church. Paul mentions a couple of times the honor due leaders in the church. But positional leadership has a pretty short shelf-life. That’s why biblical leadership is rooted in persuasion, not an assigned title.


Hebrews 13:17 says “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” The word behind obey is the goddess of persuasion and seduction, Peitho. So there is not an idea here of blind submission or unquestioned compliance. Another way of stating that verse could be, “Yield to the persuasion of your leaders.” How are leaders to persuade people?


I would submit people are persuaded similar to the way a parent persuades a child. Good parents build trust, create a loving bond, and develop understanding by patient explanation. This parallels the Greek insight into communication. First, was ethos, the trust an audience had in a speaker because of their character or ethics. Second, was pathos, the emotional bond a speaker created because they believed what they were saying, thus the audience believed them. Third, was logos, the logic a speaker used to create understanding and convince the audience of what they are saying.


As a leader, are people yielding to your persuasion? Are you trustworthy? Do you really love people and have their best interest in mind? Have you taken the time to develop understanding, building arguments, and convincing them logically? If so, your leadership will get people to take the plunge off the high-dive into the deep end.


If all else fails, offer them custard.


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