As a child, I remember playing the game, “Follow the Leader.” If you were lucky enough to be the leader then you would have the power to control all of the actions of those behind you. Much like Simon Says, if they didn’t follow the leader then they were out of the game. That’s fine for a childhood game, but there seems to be an obsession with leadership in Christian circles these days. From sermons to books to whole ministries dedicated to the subject, it’s like it’s the most important thing in Christendom.
I remembered a conversation from a couple of years ago where someone implied that I was not a leader because people weren’t following me. So, I guess, it’s official. I am not a leader. Not in the worldly sense of the word, anyway. I don’t have a ton of friends on Facebook, and people don’t flock to me in real life either. But then I thought, “You know, if Kingdom leadership was measured by how many people are following you then Jesus wasn’t a very good leader, was He?”
Many people followed Jesus only insofar as they were getting something from Him. But the minute He gave them a hard message, they pretty much abandoned (His leader) ship. Even the twelve disciples weren’t always wholeheartedly following Him. And we know that at least one of them betrayed Jesus and all the rest of the disciples fled when the heat was turned up during the time of the cross. I guess true leadership isn’t measured by how many people are following you, after all.
Personally, I think the Church is missing the whole point when we major on the subject of leadership. In truth, we weren’t called to be leaders, we were called to be servants. As usual, we can find out what not to do by how Jesus’ disciples behaved. “An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest.” (Luke 9:46) Jesus had a beautiful way of turning the world’s definition of things upside down. His response elevated the worthy attitude of children and validated the least among us as the greatest. If you want to be the greatest, you’ve already got a problem, but if you are willing to be least by serving, then you will automatically be great in God’s Kingdom.
So, you may be saying, “See, Jesus preached leadership through serving. Jesus preached servant-leadership.” Did He? Consider Luke 9:26: “If anyone wishes to follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” While Jesus did mention servant leadership, it was in response to the pride expressed by those who wanted to lead. Other than leading people to Him, I don’t recall even Jesus being hyper focused on leadership. I think Jesus preached that we should follow Him and not worry about if anyone is following us or not. Case in point, John 21:22. Peter had just asked what would happen to John. Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until I return, what is that to you? You follow Me!” You see how strong that last line is? YOU FOLLOW ME!
Leadership is important, but it is certainly not the goal of our Christian lives.
What if good leadership is actually a side effect of following Jesus rather than the goal?
I proudly admit that I’m not a leader, and humbly confess that I am a whole hearted follower of Jesus with the very satisfying side effect of incidentally leading some people to Him.
Yup. I think that’s a more accurate assessment of leadership for the Church.
So, my Christian sisters and brothers, perhaps we should stop trying to be leaders and start following THE LEADER, JESUS.
Thanks so much for reading!
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