How a Steward Leader Leads During Crisis

I’m live blogging at the Christian Leadership Alliance (CLA) Outcomes Conference in Dallas, TX.  The theme of the Outcomes Conference is “Perspectives.” Perspectives are about where we as Christian leaders and organizations have journeyed together these past 40 years, where we are today, and God’s plan for the future.

Scott Rodin leads an organization called The Steward’s Journey where it’s mission is “to equip and inspire God’s people to be free and joyful stewards of life.” Here is a summary of his insightful talk on stewardship leadership in the crucible of crisis. 

Steward Leader Theology: Here are seven marks of a steward leader…

  • Steward leaders understand that their lives are not their own.
  • Steward leaders seek intimacy with God as their highest calling.
  • Steward leaders are secure in their identities in Jesus Christ.
  • Steward leaders see those with whom they lead as fellow pilgrims.
  • Steward leaders regard all resources as gifts from God.
  • Steward leaders recognize the spiritual battle they are in.
  • Steward leaders have learned that victory starts with surrender

Leadership in Times of Crisis Three Temptations

1. The Temptation to Redefine Success

2. The Temptation of Control

3. The Temptation of Identity

1. Redefining Success

  • “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-4)
  • Don’t doubt in the darkness what was revealed in the light
  • Steward leaders define success in terms of faithfulness
  • Reject the temptation to seek after any other definition
  • In times of crisis, this definition requires greater trust, reliance, patience and focus
  • All other definitions will drive us further from God and toward ourselves to meet our need
    • Alleviate pain (treat symptoms)
    • Appease enemies (ducking the problem)
    • Vent anger or disappointment (self-satisfaction)
    • Bury the problem (denial and deflection)
    • Justify otherwise unacceptable decisions – Board crisis example: “Yes, but in this case…”

Three Keys for the Steward Leader

1. Spirit-empowered vision to see the crisis in the context of God’s definition of success

2. Emboldened passion to be faithful above all else and follow regardless of the cost

3. Freedom to steward the crisis that results in infectious peace, steady and calm

2. Grasping Control

  • Temptation of the immediate fix
  • Numbers 20: 1-12
  • Miss what God is doing by focusing all our effort on what we are doing (or need to do)
  • Overlook the spiritual lesson in pursuit of the practical solution (seminary case)
  • In crisis we forget or ignore what we relied upon in times of calm: God’s will, God’s role and God’s way:
    • Miss God’s will when we pursue our own solutions without listening to God for guidance
    • Limit God’s role when we believe it is all up to us and become functional Deists as a result
    • Lose God’s way when our entire focus is on our way of solving the problem
  • Three Keys for the Steward Leader
    • Lead to victory through greater surrender; this is the time to listen more, wait more and trust more when everyone wants immediate solutions
    • Renew commitment to three steps: know God’s will, acknowledge God’s role and move forward in God’s way
    • Lead in freedom to relinquish control when everyone around you wants you to ‘take charge’

3. Identity

“The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” Isaiah 50:5-7

Temptation to relocate the source of our identity

  • Let it be shaped by people and events rather than by God alone
  • We become caretakers of our reputation
  • Fight attacks on our pride and competence
  • React against accusations
  • Injured by a lack of trust people have in us

Owner leaders MUST succeed because their personhood, their self image is tied to their job Steward leaders are set free to steward their work and trust God as their sole source of identity As a result: Owner leaders absorb praise and deflect criticism Steward leaders deflect praise and absorb criticism

Three Keys for the Steward Leader

  1. Surrender reputation to God, focus on faithfulness and let Him be the caretaker
  2. Freedom to set aside personal doubt and believe God’s ability to do all things through us
  3. Freedom not to tie our identity to our role or the challenges of the situation and to lead our people and organizations to the same freedom


The steward leader is best prepared to face crisis and overcome these three temptations.

  • The steward leader is set free to seek faithfulness as the definition of success
  • The steward leader is set free to let God be in control and proceed with God’s guidance
  • The steward leader is free to let God be the source of their identify and the caretaker of their reputation