Friday, 26 February 2016

On Leadership

We’re not in charge of how you live out the faith, looking over your shoulders, suspiciously critical. We’re partners, working alongside you, joyfully expectant. I know that you stand by your own faith, not by ours. 2 Cor 1:24 (Msg)

I love this reworking of Paul's words in The Message, it paraphrases this: "Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm." 2 Cor 1:24

This is Paul's leadership style and it is clear from the scriptures that this ought to be the leadership style of the New Testament leader.

It makes me think of the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-24:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother,’c and ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ ”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

This is Jesus living out an example of the truth, which is that a godly leader leads by example, speaks the truth always, but leaves the transformation in the hands of God.

This is in direct opposition to the general rule of leadership in the world.  Worldly leadership lords it over people. Worldly leadership says, "I'm the boss! I'm the boss!". Worldly leadership drives people rather than leads by example.

Also, note that Jesus doesn't use any motivational techniques, He doesn't use flattery or promises, He doesn't try to coerce, cajole or demand that the young man comply, nor does he chase after him with threats or promises when the man walks away.  Jesus leaves it in the hands of God.  Which is funny in a way, because Jesus is God, and so He could have quite easily zapped that man there and then with some kind of mind-control influence thing. But He didn't, because Jesus did it the right way...always.  So He is therefore always our example of how to deal with a thing.

If most of us are honest with ourselves, what Jesus did was very hard.  When we speak our words of advice it is very difficult when people just ignore them, disagree with them or walk away from us unchanged. But Jesus wasn't a busy-body.  I am guilty of this though.  I think I see a problem, I believe I have the solution (with scriptures to back it up of course!! *smug*) and get gosh-darned annoyed if no-one seems interested! Ha, but that's where humility, gentleness and trusting God comes in.  And Jesus had all those in spades (Matt 11:29).

The disciples learned a few hard lessons along the way.  Thinking amusedly of James and John wanting to call down fire down on a village because the people there wouldn't receive Jesus, "Reject you Lord?  Nuke them all!" - and getting a rebuke from Jesus, "That's not the way we do it lads". Then them wanting to be top-dogs amongst the disciples and getting a gentle admonition from Jesus followed by an amazing teaching on true godly leadership. (Matthew tells us in ch. 20 that they got their mum to ask hahhahahaha - awesome...beware of church people wanting to 'big up' their kids in the church LOL).  Anyway....it is clear that after the cross and the baptism of the Holy Spirit they followed Jesus' example of leadership.

We can see it in Acts 1:1-7 :


In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Firstly, here we have the Twelve working as a group, it seems that the general rule of New Testament leadership is one of group work, not some top-down hierarchy.

Secondly, the Twelve ask the church to decide.  They don't decide.  They don't say, "Make some suggestions and we'll think about it." They trust the Holy Spirit to guide the church - because, durrr, everyone who belongs to Christ has the Spirit of Christ (if they truly belong to Him).  They live out the truth from 1 Tim 2:5: "There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus".

Thirdly, once the church has decided, the Twelve lay hands, bless them and leave them to get on with it.  They don't micromanage.

And you know what, the church grew!  That's what happens when you leave the Holy Spirit to guide, change lives, bring wisdom...you know, all the stuff our tiny brains can't cope with when left to ourselves.  Because funnily enough, the Holy Spirit sees the big picture.

So, to sum up, we can see that a godly leader
  • Will not make himself 'in charge' of your faith;
  • Will work with you;
  • Will speak the truth and trust God to change your heart;
  • Will not cajole, flatter or pressure you into anything;
  • Will trust you and the wider church to listen to the Holy Spirit and make decisions;
  • Will let them get on with it - i.e. not micromanage;
  • Will not lord it over people; 
  • Will lead by example.
There are a whole host of other things I could write about leadership, but this is just what I was thinking about today.  It's easy to write about, harder to live out.  But by the grace of God we all walk.  Leaders make mistakes, we all do.  But leaders can also damage lives and even destroy churches.  It's a tricky position to be in.  That's why when we have even a tiny bit of influence over someone's life we need to follow Jesus' example.

I'll leave you with these scriptures:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." Mark 10:42-44

"For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." Matt 23:12

"not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock." 1 Pet 5:3 

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