A few months ago I wrote a series of posts about leadership. I’m not going to link them here but if you type leadership in the search function they’ll come up. I mentioned that it is one of the most misunderstood and overcomplicated ideas that people talk about.
Lately I’ve had some people reach out to me asking how we as Christians can lead right now in our culture and who they might look to in Christian leadership. You might be thinking, “why are they asking you?” Haha! Fair question. But in actuality I’ve been thinking a lot about this question.
The reason I’ve been thinking about it is twofold. First, I think in terms of Western Christianity we are at a major turning point. It’s not THE turning point for all of Christianity in history or anything. But it’s for sure an important moment. Secondly is that as I watch across the landscape I see very little actual leadership. What I see is a lot posturing, reacting, and fear based “leadership”. I see a lot of people wanting to be liked, and either trying to hold onto something that is already gone or just changing “christianity” to fit secular leadership. Both are really bad. I mean just awful.
Along with this, I see a lot of passive aggressive statements as well as finger pointing, defensiveness and divisiveness. I see very little deep introspection, historical understanding, critical thought and humility. I see even less actual plans or direction.
I see a lot of people trying to make sure everyone knows what Christianity is not – as if somehow that will make people want to be one. But then maybe no one really cares if anyone becomes one. We seem to at least care a little if people leave. We don’t like when people leave because that means less money or less people in our pews or groups. Although we don’t seem to care that much about that either.
I’m going to offer a few posts over the coming weeks about what good leadership might look like. But today I want to offer a sort of opening volley.
I think it starts with us looking at ourselves. Aleksander Solzhenitzen writes in the Gulag Archipelago that:
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
The first battle is indeed within. We are all capable of evil. And to be fair we are all capable of good. But this is why, even setting Christianity aside for a minute, it’s good to read history as if we are the perpetrator . . . so that we don’t become the perpetrator now.
But as a Christian this is even more so. I should know my own capability to sin. This isn’t so that we dwell in our sin. But it reminds us of our need for Jesus, keeps us from self righteousness, and helps keep us from actually sinning.
It starts with dealing with the battle in my own heart. Am I doing that?
The next thing that we need to consider is the question, What am I really about?
We need to recognize that everyone, Christian or not, has a religious instinct. That is we all become religious about something. We worship something. Each age worships different things to be sure, but it’s there. Look right now at our culture. There is a push to get religion out of the forefront. I don’t mean that in a “whoa is me” we’re being persecuted way. It’s just a reality around us.
But that isn’t keeping people from being religious. Instead of being religious around a religion per se, we’ve become religious around cultural values. Politics, cultural issues, social identities and more. Those are the religions of the day. As Christians we should maybe ask ourselves what we are most about? What are we worshipping? What are we leading with? What dominates our thoughts, social media posts, and actions? What is most important?
I’m not advocating for some sort of disengagement from the culture here. I don’t think we should stay aloof from the realties and struggles around us. I’m not suggesting that we can’t or shouldn’t speak into these things. What I’m suggesting is that it shouldn’t be first. I’m suggesting that those things not be what we lead with.
What I’m asking is that we consider what actually is leading our thoughts, actions, and beliefs? Are we even on Christian mission? Do we care more about what our government does or what the church does? Do we care more about being on the “right side of history” (whatever that means this week) or being on God’s side? Are we shaping Christianity to fit our particular moral agenda or are we working to conform our agenda to fit God’s?
Are we trying to tell other Christians what to do when we aren’t actually doing anything to bring people to Jesus? Do we even care if anyone comes to follow Jesus? Have we ever made a disciple? Do we care if anyone becomes one?
Are we leading or just reacting to serve our own ideas and guard against our own fears and anxieties? Are we interested in His truth – all of it – or just our truth?
As I said, I’ll offer some ideas about what it looks like to lead. But for today two questions. 1. What is in your own heart? How is that battle going? and 2. Where would you be leading people if they followed you? Do you even know that answer?