Leadership? Yeah right! More like power. Why are we as Christians so obsessed with leadership? Everyone wants to be the king of their little empire – nobody wants to be the subjects. Walk into any Christian bookstore across the nation, you will find loads of books, tapes, dvds, and seminar posters on the topic of leadership. This very column fits the description. Believe it or not, there is even a leadership Bible. Whatever happened to the followers, servanthood, and Jesus’ revelation of the “greatest being the least” etc.? Maybe we as Christian leaders need to re-think what the traditional/modern view of church leadership is.
We need leadership in the church – that is not the question. The real question is asked when it is realized that we are not the same generation of our parents…our worldview and mindset is radically different. The future is changing so rapidly. To quote a line U2, “We are on a journey and have all packed our bags for a place none of us have been” – so we’re not even sure the direction. Our world has changed. So must the church and its leadership. Welcome to a new time…the beginnings of a different kind of leadership. Leadership that is practical, relational, decentralized, fresh and changing, servant based, and (continues to be) lead by God’s spirit. This is not revolutionary in thought but possibly is a lost practice that gets buried with our busyness.
Here are some Biblical and apparently effective steps to leadership:
-Be a chicken and thresh wheat in a winepress while waiting for a celestial being to offer advice.
- Build a giant boat in the middle of nowhere; try to round up all the animals on the earth to put inside of it, get stupid drunk afterwards.
- Get a job as a shepherd when you’re 40, do that for 40 years. Experience some kind of mystical conversation with a burning bush.
- Kill a giant with a sling shot.
- Be completely obnoxious. Sleep by a fire of dung and cook your food on it, wear a bondage device and claim it has spiritual overtones.
- Run from positions of leadership – such as being made king – as often as possible.
- Tell your friends riddles and then be executed by the government.
It seems as though the current model of successful church leadership was not always the case – perhaps it has come about out of the American dream work ethic that has altered our version of Christianity. Historically, “the church” has done well by focusing on spiritual disciplines - things like sacrifice, integrity, and the mystery of God’s presence and voice. While these are mentioned in current leadership models, I’m not sure they are fully understood by the majority of leaders whose success is based on how quickly their goals are met. I believe God has called us to faithfulness before leadership.
Throughout the Bible, God has seemed to play favorites to those in the less/weaker positions to raise them to leadership. In my mind, this is both perplexing as well as it is encouraging. These Biblical models of leadership are not perfect leaders – they often are not very slick, usually short tempered, and the least likely. What they do have is authentic actions and mindsets…this means that at times they/we may be broken. We are indeed called to be examples of a “higher standard” yet the reality is that we still struggle and life situations can completely consume us.
My thought then is this: maybe it is time that we put down the megaphone of control and pick up a walking stick and join the journey of those we are leading. Beyond your call as a person to be close to God; your call to leadership is to be faithful, honest, and authentic. This transition for some of us as megaphone wielding leaders to traveler might be extremely hard; for others it may be a welcomed change in order to stretch our legs and fine tune our walking sticks. Being a part of the journey allows us to love people for real….and be loved in return. It allows us to make steps in the “wrong” direction or let other’s pass quickly by you as they journey in the same direction. What we do is not who we are. Who we are, my sense of worth and life fulfillment comes from my destination and the travelers I can help on the way. Maybe this is real leadership.