Chapter 6. The role of a senior officer

Two of the most powerful roles of a leader are serving as a mentor, or teacher, and as an encourager. A military senior leader often fulfills this role within the profession. It is equally important and productive in spiritual warfare. Paul was deliberately chosen and equipped by God to be a teacher, encourager and exhorter. Like Peter, Paul’s natural attributes served him in a powerful way. Before Damascus, Paul was driven to action. After Damascus, Paul was called to action. A look at the first two chapters of Paul’s second letter to Timothy reveals several distinct principles of how Paul saw the role of a leader, both secular and spiritual.

Paul’s principles from 2 Timothy 1

Leadership occurs in the context of relationships

  • 2 TIMOTHY 1:1-2. The key relationships here are God as Father, Christ as Lord, Paul’s relationship with Christ, and Paul’s teaching, mentoring relationship with his dear “son,” Timothy.
  • 2 TIMOTHY 1:3. These relationships are strengthened by a constant remembrance in prayer.
  • 2 TIMOTHY 1:4 They are marked by deep feelings–love for one another that is expressed in joy and in tears.
  • 2 TIMOTHY 1:5. They are strengthened by personal knowledge and understanding of each other’s faith.

A special spirit of boldness, and a recognition of God’s power, love and discipline, are required for leadership.

2 TIMOTHY 1:7. Boldness, power, and discipline are military words. How easy is it to be timid, weak or uncontrolled in the spiritual dimensions of your professional leadership? The leader cannot call a follower to go beyond where he himself has been 2 TIMOTHY 1:8. A key phrase here is “join with me.” A leader will not be effective in calling someone to a level of service or sacrifice beyond that at which he is serving. This is true also in a spiritual sense.

Leadership requires sacrifice

2 TIMOTHY 1:8,12. Paul identifies suffering as a real possibility for a Christian leader. This could be the choice to deny yourself by giving up time or by setting priorities that keep you from leisure pursuits that you enjoy. It may come from others in the form of jealousy, ridicule, or an attack from Satan. A leader and his family are exposed. Some Christians have been called by God to give up life itself in the service of His kingdom.

Entrust your leadership and life to Christ

2 TIMOTHY 1:12. God is your shield and strength. He is able to guard you, your family and those you lead until the battle is done. Those who live in this way will hear His greetings, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21).

Guard what God has entrusted to you–your leadership, rank, and position

2 TIMOTHY 1:14. Those who study and practice the art of war understand the concept of securing the resources available to a commander. We guard important capabilities to protect them, to counter a threat to them, or to prevent their misuse. We do not waste resources guarding something that is unimportant or that is not threatened. Paul’s admonition to Timothy to guard that which God has entrusted to him means that his call is important. It can be threatened; it can be misused. Seniority and leadership can become corrupt if they are not guarded well.

Paul’s principles from 2 Timothy 2

Leadership requires strength

2 TIMOTHY 2:1. It requires not the mere strength of our own might, but strength in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. If we examine the first chapter of Joshua and look at the special leadership instructions God gave to that military commander, we find the admonition to “be strong and courageous” three separate times (vss. 6,7,9). Then the people add this same expectation of Joshua as their leader (vs. 18). God knows humans need special strength and courage to be leaders for Him.

Select and teach reliable men and expect them to be productive

2 TIMOTHY 2:2. There are four generations of leaders in this verse: first Paul, who taught Timothy (leader generation two), who is to select and teach reliable and capable men (leader generation three), who will in turn teach others (leader generation four). In the military we understand this concept well. Some of the services call it “training the trainer.”

You should be involved in reproducing new spiritual generations. As a senior leader, you must be selective in choosing those whom you mentor, both professionally and spiritually. If some of the persons you choose don’t respond by becoming more faithful and capable, you should move on to others.

Leadership requires endurance

2 TIMOTHY 2:3. A soldier understands soldiering. It is a hard life at times, requiring sacrifice, hardship and perseverance. Who should understand soldiering for Christ Jesus better than someone like you, who serves in the military profession?

Be unentangled

2 TIMOTHY 2:4. What is it that entangles a leader, in either the professional military or in spiritual life? It is that which turns your focus away from the principal task of leading and distracts you with extraneous things. (A military deception plan seeks to accomplish this in the minds of the enemy commanders.) The world will set before you many other priorities. Some of them are good things in and of themselves. If they do not help you accomplish God’s purposes for you, however, they can lead you and those who follow you away from your true goal. Soon a confusion of commitments takes place, and a crisis arrives. You must set and sustain clear and concrete priorities, both professional and spiritual.

Compete according to the rules

2 TIMOTHY 2:5. You may strongly disagree with the written or unwritten rules of the groups to which you have made commitments. When this occurs, you should attempt within the institution to change those rules. If you cannot do so, you may face the decision of whether to remove yourself from leadership, or perhaps even from the institution.

In responding to such situations, you will be judged in two ways, on the basis of the facts and on the basis of perceptions. Even though a perception may be wrong, it appears as truth in the mind of the perceiver, until it is changed. A senior military officer clearly understands the professional implications of this principle.

Give credit where it is due

2 TIMOTHY 2:6.You may have worked for a senior, possibly a professing Christian, whose ego was so dominant that all organizational accomplishments were expressed as his or her personal achievements. It is so easy in senior positions to assume the credit due to others, professionally and spiritually. Credit and respect should be rendered properly.

Reflect on God’s word

2 TIMOTHY 2:7. Paul overlays all of his leadership teaching to Timothy by telling him to return repeatedly to these instructions, asking for insight from God. Senior military officers should operate on the basis of principle, not by a fixed formula. So it is with God’s instruction. Application of principles, given the pressures, complexities and responsibilities of senior leadership, requires prayerful reflection and petition for godly insight.

Leaders exist to serve others

2 TIMOTHY 2:10. The purpose of senior military leadership is to accomplish assigned missions by making subordinates successful, without seeking self-aggrandizement. The purpose of spiritual leadership is for “the sake of the elect, that they may obtain salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” The true value of professional and spiritual leadership will be judged by its effects upon the body being led.

Be instructive and constructive, not destructive

2 TIMOTHY 2:14-26. Let’s focus on three points Paul impresses on Timothy as he trains him to become a senior teacher and mentor:

  1. Quarreling and foolish arguments are counterproductive. Tearing down another person does nothing to build your credibility.
  2. Instruction and construction require more diligence and skill than destruction.
  3. God’s truth is the rule and guide for that which is to be taught and for how we are to relate to others.

We encourage you to cultivate the role of professional and spiritual teacher and encourager that is intentional, not merely passive or convenient.

Study questions

Might a Christian senior officer who is passive, private, and silent about his or her faith be perceived by juniors as being uninterested in spiritual things?

What choice have you made about being a spiritual as well as a professional mentor?

How, when and with whom will you cultivate a mentoring relationship?