In the last few posts we’ve been discussing the idea of leadership. We’ve looked at leadership in general. We’ve looked at the difference between effective leadership and moral leadership – at least as we’ve defined it. We’ve determined that there are many different styles of leadership that can be both great and effective. And we’ve looked at how context plays a role in who ends up leading.
Today I want to look at what we might call Christian leadership. Really at the end of the day that should be our goal as believers if we want to lead. This is not as simple as “lead like Jesus” although obviously we want to look at Jesus who was without a doubt the greatest, most effective leader of all time. And He still is.
So what does it mean to be a Christian leader? How do we do it?
First, we need to actually be a Christian. We need to actually be following Jesus. We need to be submitted to Him. We need to stand for His truth. All of it, not just the parts that we like or that make it easy for us to lead. We can’t just take the parts that our particular culture likes and lead people to those. We have to stand for the whole truth as best we can.
We have to ourselves believe. We have to be grounded in Jesus and in the orthodoxy of the Christian faith. If I’m not a believer in Jesus and the truth about Him then I can’t be a true Christian leader. If I don’t believe in the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed for example, then I’m not a Christian in the truest sense of the word. If I don’t believe in the truth of the scriptures then I’m not a Christian leader.
Second, as with all leadership, I’m going to need followers. But specific to Christian leadership I’m going to need to love my followers. If I have all of the right beliefs but have not love, then I’m not a Christian leader. If I can get a huge following of people and teach them right things, then I may be a leader but I’m not a Christian one. If I’m not putting their needs ahead of my own, if I’m not willing to sacrifice for them out of love, then I’m not a Christian leader.
These first two are really, really important. I don’t want to lead people where I’m not willing to go. Now truth be told I can probably do that for a while, at least to an extent. But while that might look like leadership, it for sure is not Christian leadership.
Third, I need to be leading people towards Jesus. This means that everything I teach, everything I push them towards or ask them to do should be in attempt to lead them to Jesus. This means that I have to evangelize people who don’t yet follow Jesus. If they want to come with me (follow me) then eventually they have to follow Jesus.
Remember that one of the things about being a leader is that you have to be going somewhere. The second is that people have to be following you there. You can only lead a non believer so far if they aren’t willing to follow Jesus. That is if you yourself are submitted to Him.
It means leading people who know Jesus to grow in Jesus. It means challenging them when they sin, challenging anything that is not of Jesus. Again we have to do this ourselves in our own life. We have to constantly examine ourselves and what we are doing that might not be of the Kingdom.
We have to keep our identity in Christ at the front and lead others to do the same. We are not first a republican or democrat and also a Christian. We are not first an American and also a Christian. We are not first our ethnic background, economic background, or geographical background. We are not first our generational background. We are not first our gender, our marital status or any other status. I’m not first a married, white, middle class person who is a Christian. I’m a Christian who is. . . .
We have to be a follower of Jesus first even if it means that we ourselves will have less followers. In fact I would suggest that to follow Jesus first, by its very nature will mean less followers. At least in the immediate time.
The bottom line is that to be a true Christian leader is not to simply be a leader who is a Christian. It is instead to lead anyone who is willing to follow towards Jesus. When we compromise the gospel, our morality, or our beliefs then we cease to be leading people towards Jesus. If we don’t evangelize the non believer we are not leading them towards Jesus. If we don’t speak up when we see injustice then we are not leading towards Jesus. If we compromise the truth or our morals then we are not leading towards Jesus.
This is why to truly follow Jesus is to lose our life. It is why if we fail to do this we compromise our ability to lead anyone else towards Him.
Christian leadership then is following Jesus and leading others towards Him, regardless of consequences personal or otherwise. That’s the cross of true Christian leadership.