Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, November 23, 2015


There are a lot of traits one might wish upon pastors and church leaders. Holiness, selflessness, humility… but I find that most of them embody such traits. They are good and Godly people.

So if there is one trait that I would wish upon pastors and church leaders around the world, it would be a trait that many do not already have or aspire to; a trait that I find strikingly absent.

I would wish them to become more aggressive.

If your mind instantly leaps to someone who starts fights or quarrels, that’s not where I’m going.

I mean aggressive in the best sense of the word. As Webster’s definition puts it, aggressive as in “ready or willing to take issue and engage in direct action; full of enterprise and initiative; bold and active; pushing.”

When I think of aggressive leaders, I think of,

…“make it happen” leaders,

…people who don’t immediately take “no” for “no,”

…catalysts for change,

…those who take charge in the heat of battle,

…upsetters of the status quo,


…rabid animals for growth,

…righteous anger,

…creators of action,


…someone who is “hungry,”

…top-of-the-line, competitive athletes for the Kingdom of God.

Speaking of athletes, it was said of Michael Jordan – arguably the greatest basketball player ever – that whenever he walked on the court, he was dangerous. There was an aggressive intensity to his game that was threatening to any opponent.

I have a framed, limited edition, signed print of Michael Jordan in my office. The picture of MJ is epic, and the signature is nice, but it has always been the words that have captured my attention:

“It is a rare person who comes along and raises the standards of excellence, who captures the hearts of many, and who inspires a group of individuals on to achieve the impossible.”

May that kind of aggression mark us all.

James Emery White

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.