It’s not about me. I am not the one who gets the glory. It’s really about Jesus. These could be the words of Paul, as they describe his basic attitude as he seeks to serve Jesus and be God’s servant to the people to whom he was called. 2 Corinthians 4:5-18 give us a list of attitudes and phrases that suggest attitudes defining the Apostle Paul as a Christian leader.
Perhaps this is why Jesus never used the word “leader” when referring to his disciples. It seems that the conventional leadership values in his time were not those Jesus wanted to transfer to the future leaders of the church. Although the religious establishment of his day was perpetuating a system that seemed infinitely stronger and more permanent than what Jesus did, history has proven His model endures.
There are plenty of leadership ’models’ in the market today and a good number of these are Biblical. However, it appears that most of them have departed from the Jesus ’model’ of leadership (New Testament model).
Leading – Serving
One of the key values that distinguished Jesus’ way of leadership was his priority on the Kingdom potential of his followers. Furthermore, the weight of the Gospel writings indicates that Jesus spent very little of his time building an organization. Although he could have grown a huge congregation which might have protected him from the wrath of the political and religious leaders, Jesus opted to invest in just a few people – with the goal of reproducing his heart for the world in those who would carry the Gospel torch after he returned to the Father.
Most leaders of today desire to be successful. After all, how will an organization be effective in fulfilling its mission unless the leader is successful? Comparatively speaking, the leadership choice Jesus made and models is risky. Yet the rewards are truly everlasting. By building people for the world instead of his small gathering, the face of the nations changed forever. The two thousand year old assembly we call “the church” is the result of Jesus’ primary focus on transforming a few followers during his three years of ministry.
The message is profound for leaders who want to lead like Jesus. It distinguishes Jesus’ leadership from the utilitarian models that are discarded if they are not ‘successful.’ Those who lead Jesus’ way do so not because it is not the successful way to lead, but because it is the right way to lead.
The follower of Jesus is passionate about being like Him – knowing him, loving him, learning from him and leading like him.
Jesus also taught his disciples about the importance of serving sacrificially. Known are verses on giving a life for a friend, turning the other cheek, forgiving seven times seventy, loving our enemies, etc. One of the teachings speaking on the subject of sacrificial service was Jesus remarks about the Pharisees and publicans of the day in Matthew 6:1-5. Jesus rebuked their practices. Christian leaders of today should not act in a similar way nowadays.
Why would God choose Mary, a young inexperienced, unmarried peasant girl from a rural village, to be mother of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ? Mary answers this question in the opening lines of her song:-
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He has been mindful of the humble estate of His servant. – Luke 1:46-48
This theme continues right through the Bible and is brought home to us forcefully by James and Peter where they quote Proverbs 3:34:
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
In verses James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 it seems that God even picks a fight with those who are proud. Jesus not only taught this truth (Matthew 23:12) but he modeled this attitude for all to see (Philippians 2:5-11).
The only description Jesus makes of himself is in Matthew 11:29: I am humble and gentle. And he tells us to learn from him.
The New Testament repeatedly teaches the servanthood theme, that Christ likeness is servanthood, that leadership is best displayed in servanthood. True servanthood is not reluctantly squeezed out of us but flows from a place of maturity and stability that ends the internal war that tempts so many towards achieving greatness. Fractured spirituality lies at the heart of this and leaders around the world are observed, grasping and wielding unchecked power and a quest for personal greatness. Fractured spirituality has to do with knowing what the word of God says but seemingly being unable to live in its truth to the place of health and peace. Part of the answer is to help humankind through, apart from anything else, healthy modelling from leaders.
Healthy leaders will be found amongst those who are discovering in the very depths of their hearts and lives, that once you have become a son or daughter of the King of Kings, the quest for significance is ended, there is no ‘up’ or promotion from there and that this place is given….by grace alone!