Sunday, September 28, 2008

Go Lead

What makes a leader? That' might be a fairly important question. There's tons and tons of books written about it, books by former presidents and football coaches and businessmen and preachers and everyone else. To be a leader, you need to fit a certain blueprint. You have to be motivating, organized, visionary, influential, eloquent, and on and on. Some people are leaders, and some people aren't. If you're not a leader, you're a follower. If you're a follower, your job is to follow that leader. If you're a leader, your job is to lead the followers. We look at some people and think, "Now there's a natural leader," and so we admire and respect that person and generally try to do what we think they want us to do, because as followers, we need to follow them.

What makes a Christian leader? Does a Christian leader need the same qualities as a leader in general? Should the church fit in with the whole leader/follower model? I've been thinking a little bit lately about how leadership pans out in Christianity. The first thing that needs to be considered is what qualities a leader should have, because they're not all the same as what we think to be "leadership-material" in the secular world. Leaders in the world need to be ambitious and confident with a fair amount of charisma. But I think the most important things for a Christian leader are obedience, service, and humility.

The leaders we see in the Bible aren't always that special. Half the time, they don't even have much of a desire to be leaders (Moses, Gideon). But then God tells them to do something, and they do it. They at times put up a fuss I guess, but they're obedient nontheless. God uses them because of it. He doesn't use them because of their awesome leadership skills. He just uses them because they're available and they do what he says. And I think that's what Christian leadership is about. It's not always about being a good speaker or singer or delegator or video tech or whatever. It's about doing what God tells us to do, like loving people and loving him and telling people about him and not being jerks.

Over and over again in the gospels, the disciples argue about which one of them is the greatest (which of them is the best leader). So what does Jesus say? He doesn't say, "Duh, Peter is the best leader because he's outspoken and people do what he says." He doesn't say, "Matthew is the best leader because he can handle money really well." He says, "If you want to be a leader, you have to put yourself last and serve people" (Mk. 9:35). Leadership isn't directing people in what to do. It's buying food for people, picking them up when they're car breaks down, giving them an ear when they need someone to listen.

And then there's humility. Way too often in Christianity, we equate leadership with a formal position. If I'm a minister or a deacon or a small group leader or an RA, I'm a leader. If I'm not one of these things, I'm not. And what it seems like is that we've taken the business model from the secular world and transposed it onto the church. Businesses have a manager, with people under him, with people under them. It's the whole leader/follower thing. (Granted, there is a level of authority given to some in the church, like elders.) So if I'm in a position of leadership, I think it's my duty to lead the followers, and if I'm a follower, I just follow and don't think I have any responsibility to lead.

So what we've done is based whether or not someone is a leader by what title they have. And I don't know that God is much into titles. I don't think God wants a select few to be leaders while everyone else is a mindless follower. I think we're all supposed to lead, to a point. Can we really believe that God doesn't not want everyone in the church to be spiritually mature; that he wants some people to keep taking in but not giving anything out spiritually? The Bible says we're a chosen people, a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9) We're all called upon to minister to others. To serve. To lead.

So if you're in a position of leadership, don't get too high on yourself. Don't think that everyone needs to come listen to you on your microphone as you tell them how to act. But use the position to serve and love. Don't look on everyone else as your peons. And if you're not in a position of leadership, still look for ways to lead and minister. Don't use it as a cop-out to keep on in immaturity. Look for how you can help others with their walks and guide them close to Christ, to build them up. I'm not so sure that our visual should be a "leader" building up the spiritual lives of everyone else, but all of use building one another up. None of us are really all that much better than anyone else, I think.

If you're a leader, lead. Obey, serve, and be humble. If you're not a leader, lead anyway. Obey, serve, and be humble. I can't imagine that God wants any of us to act too differently.

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