True Leaders Are Teachable

Lists can be remarkably instructive and challenging, especially when they appear in articles that address matters relating to Christian living and Christian leadership. The Bible is big on lists. There are lists of things to avoid, lists of things to do, and lists of leadership qualities (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1; 1 Pet. 5). There are lists concerning the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19–21) and lists of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). We can learn much from lists of ideas, attributes, warnings, and commands as they help us to know how God would have us live—both as followers and as leaders. As we are led by him, empowered by him, and seek to honor him, we will want to pay close attention to such lists.

I’ve been a Christian for 53 years and in vocational Christian ministry for 45 years. During this time I’ve given a great deal of thought to the content of all the many lists in Scripture. And I’ve come to the measured conclusion that, when it comes to the indispensable qualities for being a leader in the body of Christ and in life in general, there’s one characteristic that perhaps should be placed at the top: teachability.

Becoming a Lifelong Learner

To be teachable means that you have the mind-set of a lifelong learner. You’re consistently open to learning from anyone at any time on any topic. There’s no way to escape the fact that being teachable is foundational to spiritual growth and character development in all areas of our walk with the Lord.

I’ve met Christians advanced in age who are still teachable, and I’ve met young Christians who are not. I’m personally acquainted with some extremely humble leaders, but I’ve also crossed paths with some arrogant leaders who have a hard time listening to anyone but themselves.

Shortly after I was married, I began to memorize Proverbs 13:10 in the King James: “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” Due to my poor handwriting, my wife, Susan, thought the P was a B and asked why the Bible would say only by “bride” cometh contention! We both had a good laugh. Here’s the same passage in the ESV: “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”

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