THOUGHTS ON CHRIST-LIKE LEADERSHIP
By Matt Phillips, 1999 (former Outdoors Club President)
A. Passion for Others, Selflessness, and Caring for Individual Needs - Matthew 14:12-23
B. Don't Try to do it all Yourself -
C. Priorities -
Mark 5:1-17 & Matthew 21:12-13
D. Servant's Heart -
Mark 10:45 & John 13:5
What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of leadership? Maybe a classroom with a professor leading a class or a conductor leading an orchestra? As Christians, leadership is a whole lot more than just that.
The best example of leadership is Jesus. Jesus exhibited several different styles of leadership. At times he would speak to multitudes of people, teaching them and caring for their needs. We also see him speaking to small groups and individuals, giving them the one-on-one attention they needed.
A. Passion for Others, Selflessness, and Caring for Individual Needs
One thing that runs through the entire account of Jesus' life is that he always took time to deal with individuals and their needs. Of particular interest to me is the feeding of the 5000 as recorded in Matthew 14. Jesus had just been told that John the Baptist had been beheaded, and he wanted to get away. (vs. 12-13) When he landed in his boat a large crowd was waiting for him at the shore. (v. 13) He could have explained what had happened and turned the people away, but instead he healed their sick and cared for them! (v. 14) He didn't just do this quickly so that he could go on his way, either. He spent the whole day with them. Jesus' disciples wanted to send the crowd away because it was getting dark and they hadn't eaten yet. (v. 15) But Jesus took the time to feed them before dismissing them. (vs. 16-21) He didn't have to do this. They could have left a few minutes earlier and got themselves something to eat, but Jesus showed so much compassion that he wanted to take care of their every need before sending them home. It was only after they had been cared for that Jesus left to spend some time alone. (v. 23) This account demonstrates the amazing passion for others and the selflessness of Christ. It also shows that he was serving individual needs even though he was dealing with a large group. This exemplifies the value of the individual even in a group setting.
We need to remember these characteristics as we attempt to mirror Christ in our leadership. Even though we may have desires for ourselves or even goals for the group, the individuals in the group are more important. Focus on serving people and caring for their needs, not just the group as a whole. Seek to get to know each person in the group and identify where they are struggling. The only way the group makes it to the end if each member of the group makes it to the end. Never sacrifice the needs of one individual "for the good of the group."
B. Don't Try to do it all Yourself
Even with all the power Jesus had he didn't try to do everything himself. In Matthew 10 the Bible records Jesus empowering his disciples to do his work. This was not at the end of his ministry. This was at the very beginning. As soon as he had gathered together all twelve he gave them the power to heal the sick and perform miracles in his name. This also taught the disciples how to carry on once Jesus had left them.
If the Son of God needed to give twelve people the authority to help him, we certainly need to ask for help! Assigning other people duties on a trip not only lightens your load, but gives them a part in the trip ands gives them a greater experience to carry home. People should leave an event with the feeling that they learned something and maybe even gained or sharpened a skill that may be useful to them later. It also allows them to try out a small role in leadership while there is a safety net under them if they mess up.
Jesus knew exactly what his priorities should be, and was not afraid to make people mad at him if their priorities weren't the same. In Mark 5, we see where a man possessed by many demons approached Jesus. (v. 2) Jesus cast the demons out into a herd of 2000 pigs. (v. 13) To us it would seem like that was well worth it: 2000 pigs die to save one man. But, I'm sure the owner of the pigs wasn't very impressed. His whole livelihood just ran down the hill and drown to save some crazy man that he could care less about. The people living in that town asked him to leave because of what he did. I'm sure Jesus knew that this would probably happen, but a man's life is much more important than another man's pigs.
Another example of Jesus' priorities is in Matthew 21. Jesus enters the temple to find it full of people trying to make money off of the people worshipping there. He overturns their tables and throws them out! (v. 12) He certainly wasn't concerned with making friends with everyone while quietly working on a compromise with the venders. He has his priorities set on God's standards, goes in and takes action to enforce those priorities.
We need to have this same sense of priorities. Even if everyone in the group disagrees with your decision, it is imperative that your priorities are correct. Hopefully none of us will face a situation like Jesus did where we have to choose between one man's job and another's future. You are likely to have to enforce priorities of safety over the group's desire for comfort. Don't be afraid to make people upset at you for doing what is right. This may be a surprising style of leadership to many people.
D. Servant's Heart
Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. (Mark 10:45) He was the perfect example of how to lead others by serving. He didn't hesitate to crawl on the floor to wash his disciples' feet, including Judas'. (John 13:5) He humbly became a servant to those he led, not putting himself on a pedestal better than them.
As leaders, we are never better than those we serve are. I once heard the saying, "you can't push a string, you can only pull it." This is very relevant to Christian leadership. We set the pace and the standard of the entire group. The rest of the group will look to our example and follow it. You can't stand sit down and tell everyone else what to do. You can show the group what needs to be done and give them encouragement to do it by doing it yourself. Otherwise, you are attempting to push the group not pull it with you. By doing this you not only demonstrate servanthood, but teach yourself humility at the same time.
So, what does all this mean? In order to be successful leaders we need to try our hardest to live up to Christ's example. We need to take time to get to know the members of the group we are going with and find out what they like, and what they struggle with. Then we need to give people responsibilities so that they have some ownership of the trip and something to take back with them other than sore muscles. We need to have clearly set priorities that we enforce, but do so with a very humble spirit, never unwilling to listen to others or do more than our share of the work.