It seems to me that one of the big topics being taught at the moment is that of leadership. We have books on it, we have conferences on it, and it is being taught from pulpits across the world. The message appears to be that the goal is to get as far up the church organisational structure and that the best way to do that is to develop leadership skills. A measure of how good a Christian somebody is would correlate to their position in the church. It seems to me, however, that this teaching doesn’t really reflect the teaching of Christ Himself. Reading the gospels, I find Jesus spends very little time teaching about becoming a better leader, which you would think he would want to do given that he only had three years with the disciples before he was going to leave the church in their hands.
We don’t really see that in the teaching of Jesus though. What we do see him teaching about are topics like the Kingdom of Heaven, Sin and Hell; all topics that are generally ignored in today’s preaching. This is not to say that he didn’t touch on being a leader. When the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest, Jesus’ response was that “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) Not only did Jesus teach that we should aim to be the servant of all and to not seek our own glory but he lived it as well. Philippians 2:5-7 says “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” He also demonstrated it clearly in John 13 where he washed the disciples’ feet, the act of a humble servant.
Jesus reiterates this at the last supper in Luke 22:25-27 when, once again, the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest and he said “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” He clearly indicates that the desire to be at the top of the totem pole is a worldly pursuit and that it has no place among Christians. And yet, this is one of the predominant messages in the Church today that we should desire to be leaders.
The Christian message is – as demonstrated – the exact opposite to this. I’m reminded of a song by Lecrae called Background where he sings
“I had a dream that I was captain of my soul
I was master of my fate, lost control, and then I sank
So I don’t want to take the lead, ’cause I’m prone to make mistakes
All these folks who follow me, gon’ end up in the wrong place
So let me just shadow you, let me trace your lines
Matter of fact, just take my pen, here, you create my rhymes
‘Cause if I do this by myself, I’m scared that I’ll succeed
And no longer trust in you, ’cause I only trust in me
And see, that’s how you end up headed to destruction
Paving a road to nowhere, pour your life out for nothing
You pulled my card, I’m bluffing, You know what’s in my hand
Me, I just roll and trust you, You cause the dice to land
I’m in control of nothing, follow you at any cost
Some call it sovereign will, all I know is you the boss
Man, I’m so at ease, I’m so content
I’ll play the background, like it’s an instrument”
The desire for leadership is really a form of pride. We want to put ourselves out the front as those that people should look up to, admire and follow but we forget that we too are fallen sinners. The closest we can come is to say with the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ“. Even in our leadership and example we should be pointing ultimately to Christ. Let us not strive to be leaders but merely fellow beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.
This post comes from Ben Smith, who shares a deep conviction of Scripture as the infallible counsel of God, and that aided by the Holy Spirit we can arrive at a coherent understanding of what it teaches as a whole.