Interpersonal Leadership: Trust-Building
“Responsibility: Leading by Example and Performance” (SL#82)
By Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 7.2 - Trust-Building

1. Accept Your Responsibility for Trust-Building

2. Rediscover the Meaning of Responsibility for Us All

Now, let’s examine the meanings of “responsibility.” There is a common body of words and concepts used for “responsible” and “responsibility.” One way to move along toward developing a working understanding of the concept is to review the basics found in dictionaries and then apply these to ministry leadership. You may want to extend this learning exercise into your own life and leadership.

3. Study What the Scripture Teaches about Responsibility

The Bible is rich with examples of human responsibility, both of faithful performances and of failed attempts. In addition, instructions to the followers of Christ are replete with the language of responsibility. Jesus set the ultimate example of responsibility. From beginning to end, the life of Jesus was about responsibility. As a youth at the temple, He responded to Mary and Joseph as worried parents “that I must be about my Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49, KJV) At the close of His earthly journey, Jesus prayed with agony in the gardens “not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42, KJV) The following selected references apply primarily to those of us wanting to be responsible in the service of God:

Zondervan Commentary: This punishment seems too severe; the explanation of God's principle of judgment now clarifies matters. The servant in v. 47 may represent those who sin “with a high hand,” committing “presumptuous sins” (Num 15:30-31; Ps 19:13, RSV). If so, the servant who “does not know” (v. 48) sins “unwittingly” and has “hidden faults” (Num 15:27-29; Ps 19:12, RSV). In either case there is some definite personal responsibility and therefore judgment, because the servant should have made it his business to know his master's will. All have some knowledge of God (Rom 1:20), and God judges according to individual levels of responsibility (Rom 2:12-13). The closing statement (v. 48) would apply especially to the apostles and church leaders throughout the successive centuries.

4. Listen to the Wisdom of Others about Responsibility

“Nothing helps individuals more than to place responsibility upon them and to let them know that you trust them.”--Booker T. Washington

Most definitions of responsibility imply conformity with conventional expectations, conventional morality, or being deterred by considerations of known sanctions or consequences. . . . I prefer not to use the word responsibility to mean conformity to expectations (although a sensible person always does some of that). Rather I think of responsibility as beginning with a concern for self, to receive that inward growth that gives serenity of spirit without which someone cannot truly say, “I am free.” One moves, then, to a response to one’s environment, whatever it is, so as to make a pertinent force of one’s concern for one’s neighbor—as a member of a family, a work group, a community [or congregation], a world society. The outward and the inward are seen as parts of the same fabric. Responsible people have both. (from pp 292-93)

People are likely to become committed to a course of action when three conditions are present: when they experience a sense of choice about their decision, when their actions (choices) are made visible to others, and when their choices are difficult to back out of or revoke. . . . Once people have “signed up” for the project and put many hours into its success, they are unlikely to easily give up. Giving up implies an admission that they made a mistake and that their previous efforts were worthless.

What does it mean to experience a sense of choice? Essentially, it means that you feel personally responsible for the decision or action. It was your own choice, you were not forced. . . . Choice is the cement that binds one’s actions to the person, motivating individuals to accept the implications of their acts. It is the personal acceptance of responsibility for your actions. (from pp. 226-27)

First, to overcome the restraining forces of appetites and passions, I resolve to exercise self-discipline and self-denial.

Second, to overcome the restraining forces of pride and pretension, I resolve to work on character and competence.

Third, to overcome the restraining forces of unbridled aspiration and ambition, I resolve to dedicate my talents and resources to noble purposes and to provide service to others.

Application: As soldiers of Christ, it could be beneficial for us to think through our life and ministry, and then to develop Principles of Responsible Ministry Leadership.

5. Conclusion: Ten Leadership Responsibility Practices

Now in conclusion (too often an abused promise) let me offer a checklist of ten leadership practices as a guide for your own creative ownership of responsibility:

2.___ Model the role of trust-building through responsibility: Walk your talk; set an example. People notice responsible actions, and it tends to filter into the congregation.

3.___Share trust-building with team members and lay leaders: Give special attention to the core leadership; be a responsible leader and develop responsible servant leaders.

4.___Use the biblical concept of stewardship as your goal of responsible service: “It is required of stewards, that a person be found faithful.” “To whom much is given much is required.”

5.___Know your part of the congregation’s mission, your job and its assignment: Understand what you are expected to do, “sign off on it,” and consistently do it.

6.___ Do well what you are supposed to do and when you should do it: Responsibility is seen in actions and results, in kept promises and honored relationships.

7.___Care for others, about their rights and responsibilities: Take care of co-workers as they reach their goals: of church members in their healthy growth, and of those in minority positions to be accepted. To build trust, appeal to the heart of your people.

8.___Live responsibly by the majestic truth, “This is my Father’s world”: Serve as Christ’s follower in shared responsibility for global concerns of society, of environment, and of the generations to come.

9.___Learn responsible leadership from your failures and mistakes: Learn well your lessons from such stern teachers and make amends every way possible; but don’t whine, wallow in pity, or blame others. As a responsible person, move on to new challenges.

10.__Let a healthy sense of responsibility give you freedom and satisfaction: Set your own values and priorities; do not simply be restrained or constrained by external expectations, but by the inward awareness of accountability for your life to a loving God.

In closing: “Leadership is about striving for, it’s about anticipating, it’s about reaching, it’s almost a yearning, and creating a sense of opportunity.” --Will Rapp in Spiritual Leadership: 52 Ways to Build Trust, (p. 108)

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© 2008; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership