I’ve had Romans 12:2 on my mind and heart a lot the last few weeks. In the first eleven chapters Paul is basically laying out theological truth after truth for the Roman Christians. He begins chapter with a transition of sorts. He is about to share how to live this out and what it might look like. But he starts with this in 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It’s the second part that has had my attention lately. The idea of not being conformed to this world. Not being conformed to this age. In other words not being transformed away from Jesus but towards him. Not following the fads, directions, lifestyles, or flow of the culture. Really, we shouldn’t be following anyone but Jesus. And we should be leading. We can test what is happening around us and lead with what is good. We should be leading others towards Jesus, at least whoever might follow.
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?
Think about the following short list of people who could be considered great leaders in history. People who were effective by my working definition of effective leadership: “An effective leader is someone who has followers and gets them, through his/her leadership, to accomplish something. The more followers they have and/or the greater the accomplishment; the more effective the leader.” Some of these are more moral than others but we’ll leave out the completely immoral examples. Here’s the list:
Martin Luther King Jr
Pope John Paul II
Joan of Arc
Now I could list a ton more people in every context. Religious, business, countries and causes. This is just a few that came to mind right away that I think most people would say had a huge impact. They had lots of followers and accomplished real change in their context.
Obviously most of us, or more accurately probably none of us, will be on any future list like this. But I think we can learn something here about leadership from these folks. What do they have in common? What made them effective leaders?
We’ve been spending some time in previous posts looking at the idea of leadership. Really what I’m trying to do is demystify the whole thing a bit. I think we have been told a lot of things about leadership that aren’t necessarily true. Last time we looked that the difference between being a moral leader and an effective one and how one really has nothing much to do with the other.
Today I want to talk about leadership style. When I asked my friends on social media about who great leaders were I got a huge variance in answers. I knew that I would because I have friends of all sorts of different backgrounds, ages and beliefs. The secondary question was this; What makes this person you chose a great leader? I got all kinds of answers. Here are a few:
I’m blessed to have a lot of different types of friends from different walks of life. Lately I’ve been asking some of them on social media questions about their opinions of leadership. It’s been really good to hear different perspectives on who people see as a great leader, who they think is an effective leader and what they think constitutes good measurements of effective leadership.
As I shared last time, I think we often seem to lump a lot of different things into the idea of leadership and because of that sort of overthink it. It’s not that any of these ideas are bad. I’m just not sure they are leadership in the purest form of the word. Also a lot of times they don’t really add up. We mention things that we think make a great leader but then we mention “great” leaders that frankly don’t exhibit many of those things. This is especially true when we list great world leaders.
A few weeks ago I was watching The Last Dance. This is the ten part documentary on the Chicago Bulls and the final of their six NBA Championship season. But really it’s more a documentary on Michael Jordan. And man is it good. I grew up on Magic, Bird and then Jordan and the Bulls.
It was interesting to learn more about the inner workings of the team and Jordan. A lot of the stories I’ve heard about but it’s different to hear it from them. Jordan was simply the greatest of all time. The thing that separates him to me was his drive. The guy hated losing. Absolutely hated it.
Jordan was singularly focused on the goal. And he brought others along with him. Jordan was a leader. But he wasn’t a “nice” guy. We’ve talked a lot about not being the nice guy here at the blog over the years. I’m not going to dive back into that today. Just go to the front page and search “nice”. What I want to talk about today is leadership.
Over the last three posts we’ve been talking about Servant Leading, what serving has to do with attraction, and the fact that in marriage the man is the head which has many responsibilities including loving (serving and leading would be a part of doing that well). You may want to read those before you dive in here.
Today I want to talk about as a single man, knowing the previous thoughts, how should that affect how you go about things in terms of dating and looking for a wife. There are at least two parts here: How we prepare ourselves and who we seek to marry.
In my last post I began talking about this idea of being a servant leader that we toss around in Christian circles. I’m not going to rehash all of that here. You might start by reading that post. Today I want to talk about the servant part and in another post I’ll talk about the leadership side.
I want to clarify a couple of things quickly. I’m not suggesting here that we shouldn’t serve people. Not at all. We often should. Again, Jesus served. He called us to serve others. What I’m suggesting that serving and leadership are not the same and our motive for serving matters.
Jesus did not serve in order to gain followers. He didn’t serve to earn relationships. The reason Jesus is the greatest servant is because he didn’t have to serve at all and yet chose to. Not only that, but He gave the ultimate service in dying for us. Jesus served His followers. But again He didn’t serve to get followers.
Full time ministry people typically read a lot. Now I’m not talking about seminary classes here, although those are great. What I’m talking about is the books we read beyond that.
Christian leaders around the world have embraced a whole lot of books that aren’t officially (or in some cases even remotely) “Christian”. I see people reading countless books on leadership, team building, good communication and business practices. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Good To Great for sure come to mind. As I was going through leadership stuff with my church, my pastor had me read The Starfish And The Spider. This was a book about decentralization of an organization. All good books. But not exactly theologically profound.
Do you know why all these Christian leaders read all these books? Because they are helpful. Duh.
Running a church or ministry has a business and organizational piece to it. We can wish it didn’t but it does. And while theological training can help with that, it’s not usually enough.
Now there’s some people reading this right now thinking, “Hey wait a minute. Isn’t this part of the problem with the Western Church today? Too much business?” Fair thought, but hear me out.