A few thoughts about leadership
So it maybe no surprise to you that of late I have been thinking a lot about leadership. I’m trying to work out what godly leadership looks like in practice. And whilst I have a long way to go, I’ve reached a fairly basic and obvious conclusion. I won’t get any prizes for it though. It’s this. The only example of true,right and good leadership in all of history is the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
There you have it. I’ve hardly considered all of the matter but there it is. That is our starting point and that will be our conclusion. But I hear you cry! But how does that help us!? Surely there must be more!? Well yes, and don’t call me Shirley! There is more to say because the Lord Jesus Christ is our one true forever King. The man God appointed who is God incarnate. Human leaders are a biblical thing in the church and amongst the people of God. So what does the Bible have to say about them.
This is going to be a long study for me and I’ll seek to write my thoughts down as I go, and share some of them. Right now I have a few musings to share that will form my initial avenues of thought and study.
Firstly, I am reminded a little bit of 1 and 2 Samuel and then into Israel’s history of Kings. They were, in a very real sense, looking for a leader. Desperately seeking a leader. The book of Judges sets the scene for this search. When Israel has a judge, a man appointed by God as their leader, then salvation comes and there is a time of peace and prosperity for God’s people. When the judge dies, they fall back into sin and eventually succumb to their enemies and then the cycle repeats. They are desperate. And all through the book of 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings there is this unanswered question hanging over the people of God as they suffer the consequences of their sinful, human leadership.
I am reminded of this because that is how I feel. And that I know the dangers of basing our exegesis and application of the Bible on how we feel. But here we are. We are desperate and crying out for a godly leader. And that leader will only ever be the Lord Jesus. We have that pesky over realised eschatology thing if we are expecting this from our church leaders.
So here are my scattered thoughts at this stage.
First, we expect too much. Our leaders are human and they are sinners. We call them shepherds but actually they are sheep just like us. The true shepherd and the one who fulfils all our longings and needs is Jesus Christ. We would do well to remember this. And if you are a church leader, then it is especially important that you remember that you are first and foremost of member of the flock you pastor.
Second, we expect too much and possibly the wrong things. Over the years I have seen expectations that borderline the whole issue of ‘wanting a king like the nations’. We want an entrepreneur, a CEO, a master strategist, a fantastic speaker, a visionary, someone who inspires us to be better. Alongside that we expect them to be an examplar of godliness, bravery and courage, humility, kindness, compassion, love, gentleness, hospitality, marriage, parenting, friendship. We expect them to know everyone, know their struggles, their gifts, know how we serve, what the challenges are. We expect them to visit us, and everyone else, we want a person respected within the community, who is sound in doctrine and crystal clear. Maybe we expect too much. Maybe some of those expectations should not be on the list.
Third, what’s in a name? Terminology matters. In the circles of Christianity I have been in, leadership is a big idea. We talk about a church leader rather than a minister. I find that interesting. Minister pretty much means servant. Don’t you find it interesting that we have started talking about leaders rather than servants? Don’t you find it interesting that alongside this we have issues with domineering leadership, manipulation, bullying and control? Don’t you find it interesting that alongside the massive departure from Christianity, that our culture has experienced over my lifetime and before that, that we still expect the same levels of ‘fruitfulness’? The same results. It’s a bit like asking them to make the same number of bricks but without straw. I find it interesting. I find it very interesting that over the years we seem to have moved away from the old pastor/theologian model towards a pastor/entrepreneur model and now I hear more talk of the Senior minister of churches being too busy leading and strategizing and planning to engage in much pastoral work. Are we moving away from even pastor/entrepreneur towards straight entrepreneur? “We don’t care if he’s a pastor, what we need is a strong leader”??
So, a lot of questions and only one answer right now. The Lord Jesus Christ is our King. And do you know what I am thankful for right now? That he knows what makes a good leader and that he IS the good shepherd. Ultimately, we are safe in his care, safe under his leadership forever. We will scramble around for all our lives trying to figure out leadership. We will get close to getting it right, then we will drift away again. A friend once opened a talk “Beware the swinging pendulum”. And that’s what will happen here. As we grapple with these issues of leadership, we will overcompensate for the problems and create problems at the other end of this pendulum’s swing. But Jesus Christ is on the throne, wherever we are at in our search for the right kind of leaders. Ultimately, my aim is to look there and help others do the same, especially if they are leaders. I am convinced, that a man who leads well must first be well led and submit himself to the leadership of Christ. I am convinced that he must think of himself primarily as a saved sinner and a servant of Christ and his people before he thinks of himself as a leader. I am convinced that humility is therefore the key characteristic to look for in a human leader. Without that, I think we will go wrong. And just to clarify I mean actually humble, not being seen to be humble. But more on the difference between actually being righteous and being seen to be righteous later.