I think we can say factually that we are in a crisis of leadership in this country and the world. It is not just political government. Leadership is also suffering in education, business, city governments, families and in the Churches.
Today I want to take a practical look at this issue of leadership. It’s not so much a discussion of leadership principles but more about the whole concept of leadership, the nature of leadership.
First, I want to look at leadership from a worldly point of view. Starting with the world, leadership means the office or position of a leader. Straightforward. The action of leading a group of people or organization. Leadership plays into the role of the Church as well.
A leader is defined as someone that leads, someone ranked first, a person who has commanding authority or influence. Some of the synonyms are boss, chief, headman, master, notable. If you look at leadership from a worldly point of view, what emerges is a clear picture of power, position, and status.
An office or a position of power and status created by organizational structure does not automatically produce leadership. You can have a structure and you can have people in certain positions within that structure. That doesn’t mean that they are automatically leaders because they have a title, or they have a position.
Effective leadership must not be confined to the world’s concepts of power, position, or status. Those things are not necessarily wrong of themselves. It depends on the attitude of the people who are in those positions and have that status. It’s easy to be misused under the banner of leadership if you put that in place.
- Leaders must function at all levels of an organization
One issue that we face today is that people want leaders who will give them what they want. They want leaders to provide what they want to set things right without any personal requirement or involvement, any personal responsibility. We want leaders to set things straight. And there are people in the Church who want the ministry to set things straight without a lot of personal responsibility involved. This is not leadership from a godly point of view.
In conjunction with this we see from prophecy that decent, good people of character don’t want to be a part of a failing system. I couldn’t imagine somebody of good, strong, moral character wanting to be a part of our political system as it stands today. They don’t; so that’s another factor in this whole thing.
- Leadership is a personal responsibility regardless of power, position, or status
A person can have power, position and status and not be a leader. With leadership dispersed throughout a group, a leader will have responsibility with respect to the purpose of the group. Everybody has a responsibility to the purpose of the group.
We should note that leadership within the Church is not a spiritualized version of worldly leadership. Paul has an interesting mindset while in the midst of a fairly heavy problem with the Church in Corinth. The Church was dividing, and Paul was there as a leader to try and work with this situation.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1–5 ).
Paul approached this problem in a serious frame of mind. He didn’t go in with all the principles of worldly leadership in his folder and open it up and deal with the situation in Corinth. He looked to God. He looked to God’s Holy Spirit to lead him and guide him in what he was saying and doing. By his admission it wasn’t excellence of speech. He didn’t persuade them with the way he spoke. Paul is saying it’s not with excellence of speech. There’s something deeper involved — character. Something deep within. This is where he is coming from with this.
We shouldn’t take the worldly principles and try to make it fit a spiritual model. That really doesn’t produce very good fruit. Again, leaders must function at all levels. There are strengths and weaknesses in all of us but there is the same Spirit that’s working through our minds.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: “ (1 Corinthians 12:4–7). And again, leaders must function at all levels.
Too many people today want leaders to fix things for them without accepting personal responsibility. Within the Church I am talking about personal responsibility at all levels.
Continuing looking at this model: “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “’ have no need of you’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’
“No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:20-27).
Every part of the body that God has assembled is important. We are in the body where God has placed us, and we have a responsibility of leadership within the body in whatever area it is we find ourselves. Through the power of the Holy Spirit God can draw out those strengths that benefit all, everybody within the body.
This does not represent the usual human organization where personal ambition and ladder climbing are the norm. This is about the better functioning of the whole. True leadership focuses away from self. Away from power, position, and status. In God’s system, leaders are dispersed throughout all segments of the organization, individuals capable of taking leader-like actions to make their part of the system work.
A major spiritual principle of family-style governance would be that we all carry leadership responsibility, no matter who we are.
Another spiritual principle is that the “self” must be replaced (Galatians 2.20). That’s the lifelong task in which we are involved, and we must replace self with Christ and Christ’s mind. Christ said very plainly, “I did not come to be served. But I came to serve.”
Keeping Galatians 2:20 in mind, we read:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;” (Romans 12:1–6).
There are two great principles that we use to “renew our minds”. Our minds are empowered by Christ and the Holy Spirit, and they will first, love God with all our heart, all our being and all our mind. And secondly, we will be loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is another motivation for leadership action, loving our neighbor as ourselves.
These two points basically summarize godly leadership, the work of the Holy Spirit within each one of us. So in trying to define godly leadership, we see:
- A leader will be doing what is necessary for Christ to live His life in us.
That’s leadership, doing on a personal basis what we need to do to transform our mind and bring it into line with Jesus Christ. We will be engaged in our covenant obligations.
- A leader’s life will be a living sacrifice, thinking and acting on behalf of others before self.
There is a third characteristic that’s very important that we need to integrate. Matthew 18 is a mixture of worldly approach to leadership with the right approach:
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1–4). This is talking about humility.
In Matthew 20 there is a similar situation where they are mixing worldly concepts of leadership with what Christ is teaching:
“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”
“But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers.
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:20-28).
Christ made it very clear that godly leadership requires humility. And that humility is acquired through repentance. So humility plays into the two great principles: Self in relation to God, and Self in relation to other people. Human leadership often contains strong elements of pride and vanity – the elevation of self. We see that particularly in the political realm today. God states:
“Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5.).
God will take away leadership that caused the people to err: “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, And the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts Shall come upon everything proud and lofty, Upon everything lifted up— And it shall be brought low—” (Isaiah 2:11–12).
Humility through personal repentance and individual responsibility to serve the whole purpose of God is the platform upon which God will build leadership for His governing body in the future, in the government of the Kingdom of God when it rules over this earth.
God is training the replacement leadership for the world now through the body of Christ, through people who have been called to come to personal repentance and true humility, those who can learn the principles of the true nature of leadership, and who are willing and ready to serve and to give to humanity.