The last two posts we’ve been considering the Bible’s teaching about leadership. These considerations are different from worldly, secular exercises of leadership. It begins with the motivations of service, the knowledge of how to follow, and and the Christian attitude of humility. It goes on to lead from the front, lead by example, and finds ways to not just correct but to coax and encourage. But there’s more…
For example, Christian leadership self-sacrificially considers the needs of others weaker than itself, especially when mere human tastes, personal desires, and traditions are at stake. Worldly leadership tends to think only about itself and seldom thinks about how easily tripped-up, mixed-up, or overcome weaker folks might be—children, newer Christians, outsiders, or others without Biblical knowledge. Both 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 15 teach a kind of leadership that practices self-denial, when it comes to matters of opinion, in favor of the weaker brother. In these passages Paul called on more mature men (leaders) to refrain from what they wanted to do, eat meat or drink wine, if it caused a weaker brother to stumble. Jesus’ own life, of course, provides us with the perfect example of it—a life of self-sacrifice on behalf of those who were confused, tempted, fallen, and in need of grace and instruction. Christian leaders, in matters of opinion and judgment, consider the good of the weaker brethren.
Christian leadership teaches, corrects, and interacts (with great patience and instruction). Leadership, being the exercise of influence in the lives of others, naturally is a great deal about instruction—not just about letting the world watch me (as if I were the center of everyone’s attention). Worldly leadership merely commands imperially; it has no interest in changing the other person’s life for the better, but rather is interested in having the other person comply to his desires. Such “leadership” in the church doesn’t result in real change, only in getting one’s way. Christian leadership, however, uses the teachings of Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.””), correcting (the pointing out of what is being lived wrong and teaching of what is right—2 Tim. 3:16), and interaction (showing the other person how through example and “hands on” demonstrations). And Christian leadership does it with great patience—because, of course, nobody “gets it” the first time, or…sometimes not even the 100th time. Christian leaders actively instruct.
Christian leadership is willing to stand alone with God. One of the harsh realities of Christian or godly leadership is that there will be times in which the world (and sometimes even brethren) will disagree with the Lord about teachings/doctrine/truth. In such circumstances it is tempting to “go along to get along”, “go with the flow”, call it an opinion, and “follow the popular trend”. But the Lord’s kingdom has never been a democracy; it has always been a monarchy with leaders below the throne who are charged with carrying out the will of the King of kings. And sometimes that means standing alone. The prophets of the Old Testament often did, Jesus often did, and the apostles died for the unpopular truth about sin, righteousness, truth, and the way of salvation (Jesus and His cross). Christian leaders must, too.
Christian leadership isn’t easy, it isn’t intuitive, and it runs counter to what we have seen among most leaders in our lives—but it is critically important to the health and well being of the Lord’s church. In Jeremiah 23:1ff we find the LORD taking to task the foolish and selfish leaders of Israel (priests, princes, and prophets), whose actions had led Judah to its destruction—which helps us understand that God does hold leaders (of every variety) to account for his leadership. What kind of leader are you?