Leadership Principles for Church Leaders from “We Were Soldiers”

Posted: November 20, 2010 in Leadership

You don’t often think when watching a movie, “I wonder what leadership principles I can learn?”  But last night I was watching the movie “We Were Soldiers,” which stars Mel Gibson and is about the first ever Helicopter “Calvary.”  I found myself pausing the movie multiple times to write in my journal leadership principles.  Most of them came from Mel Gibson’s character Lt. Col. Hal Moore, the leader of the 7th Calvary.  Here are just a few of the principles I wrote down:

  1. Leaders Go First and Get Done Last – Moore is addressing his officers and he tells them in order to inspire and lead their men they, as officers, must be the first ones to go where “the metal meets the meat!”  Also, as Moore is addressing the entire platoon before leaving for Vietnam he gives a speech promising, “I will be the first one to step foot onto the battle field and the last one to step foot off of the battle field.  I will leave no man behind.  Dead or alive…we will all come home.”  Who wouldn’t be willing to follow a leader who leads like this?
  2. Replace Yourself – Moore has all of his men learn the job of the man above him in rank and teach his job to the man below him in rank because in battle if a leader is killed someone else must immediately be able to step into their position.
  3. Take Care of Your People – Moore tells his officers “Take care of your men and teach them to take care of each other because when the battle starts – each other is all we’re gonna have!”

These are principles that can be applied to any leadership position but especially in the church.  Andy Wood, Lead Pastor at South Bay, challenged our church’s volunteer leaders this past month with the principle of leaders sacrificing first for God’s Kingdom.  Matthew 20:20-28 records an interaction with Jesus and his disciples about who will be able to sit by his right side in heaven.  Jesus closes out his interaction by saying, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus set an example for us as a servant leader.  He was willing to go first, sacrifice, and serve others.  We as leaders in the church must follow his example by becoming servant leaders, and realizing that by our willingness to go first and sacrifice we are able to lead others to sacrifice for God’s Kingdom.  You can’t take others where you haven’t been, and you don’t reproduce in people what you know but who you are!

That last two principles also apply in the church.  First, we must always be raising up new leaders in order to continue to reach more people with the Gospel.  Our ability to replace and reproduce ourselves will drastically affect the level of impact that we can have. Also, for the long term success of our church we must be replacing ourselves by training others because there will always come a day when we will no longer be present, whether God calls us to serve somewhere else or calls us home to heaven.  Our long term success and true results of our leadership will be measured by those who take the reins after us!

Second, as a leader in the church we must always be taking care of our people because they will take care of others based on our example! If you read Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul tells us to put on the armor of God because we’re at war.  Not against “flesh and blood” but against “the rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world.”  As Moore told his troops “when the battle starts – each other is all we’re gonna have,” we must realize the importance of us leading those in our churches to come together in unity and love for one another to accomplish the mission of reaching people with the life changing message of Jesus.  If we don’t model this and ingrain it in our people then we are setting our church up for division, strife, hurt, splits, failure, distractions from God’s mission, and ultimately, disgracing the name of Jesus by giving people the opportunity to blaspheme his name because of our actions.  We’re at war and we don’t need friendly fire in our churches!


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