One of the most powerful memories I have of the Army involves standing in a chow line with other officers waiting for our enlisted soldiers to get their food. The reason we stood in line rather than going ahead of our soldiers directly related to the 3 M’s of leadership taught to us in our officer basic courses. Our cadre taught us to lead with these three priorities: my mission, my men, myself.
If you think about it, these 3 M’s apply to leading as a Christ follower as well. Whatever your role in the Kingdom, applying the 3 M’s to your leadership will help you develop more Christ-like and Kingdom-focused leadership.
How do these 3 M’s from the Army apply to church leadership?
1. My mission
Lead with the accomplishment of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission as your first priority. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbor. The most loving thing we can do for our neighbor is to share the gospel with him/her. As Christian leaders, lead others by example to love God and make disciples. As soldiers of Christ, be willing to give up your lives for this two-pronged mission. Imagine what our churches would become if we had Christ followers living out this first priority of Kingdom leadership.
2. My men
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 ESVOur first priority of mission, leads to the second priority—people. In his letter to the church in Philippi, the apostle Paul encouraged the believers there to humble themselves before one another and to consider the interests of others superior to their own.(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV) Our love for others should lead us to minister to and make disciples of the people around us. We begin with our family members, then the members of our churches, and, finally, the people in our community, state, and around the world. We should look to their spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. They are directly related to our first priority and its accomplishment—the mission.
In the above encouragement to the Philippians, Paul did not tell them to neglect their own needs, but to make them subservient to the needs of others. It is imperative that we care for ourselves spiritually by spending time daily in the Word of God and prayer. We need to care for ourselves physically so that we will have the health and energy to accomplish the first two M’s. We need to engage with our gospel communities in accountability and discipleship relationships, discipling others and being discipled. By taking care of ourselves in this way, we can take care of others.
I saw the positive impact that implementing the 3 M’s had upon my soldiers as I led them as a battalion chaplain. I am convinced that the application of these three leadership priorities within the church will help grow stronger leaders and stronger churches to the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.
Dr. Tim McKnight is Assistant Professor of Missions and Youth Ministry at Anderson University. He has over 21 years of experience in ministry, serving churches in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina. He served in youth ministry for 12 years and in the pastorate for 9 years. In addition, Dr. McKnight served as an infantry chaplain in the U.S. Army, deploying on Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom in 2001. He holds a BS in Criminal Justice from Bluefield College, and a M.Div. and PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His primary field of study for the Ph.D. was in evangelism, with additional studies in missions and church history. He has also co-founded Carolina Family Planning Centers and founded Twin Vision Consultants, a church consultation team that helps congregations become healthy and growing churches. He has also served as a disaster relief chaplain in multiple settings in recent years, including in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina.