Monday, December 05, 2005

Christian Leadership

Saturday night at the FORGE intensive I shared on leadership from a Christian perspective. Though my presentation included video, and images, I will try to in some way convey what I spoke about.

My first thoughts were about the need for leadership in the church. Well really in the world, we hear it in every enterprise and endeavour. "We need leaders". "Leaders are the need of the day". "The pressing need of our time is good leadership". It is constantly pointed out that we are in a leadership drought. But what is it that we consider a leader. I showed some film clips. Braveheart, Malcom X, Return of the King. We looked at leadership as portrayed in these movies. We want men, (maybe grudgingly women too), that can inspire us, that can motivate us, that can cause us to rise up against all odds, and fight the good fight. We long for Aragorns, with their good looks, powerful presence, and brilliant tactics. They can eloquently call us to the future, pointing clearly towards a triumphant vision, a dream, a fulfillment. And is it any surprise we find ourselves lacking in leaders? Who can fill that roll? "Not many, if any, I don't know anybody"- scribe

But Jesus talked about, and showed us a different view of leadership. Jesus told us that the way the worlds leaders rule over people should not be our way, and that in Christ's kingdom, the leader should be the servant of all.

I of course had three points:

The world wants visionary leaders, leaders that paint a picture of the greater future, and then inspire us to fight everything to get there. Funny Jesus didn't seem so visionary at times. "they will hate you as they hated me" "They will persecute you and kill you" "you will be cast out and despised" "I send you out as lambs among wolves". Not very inspiring there Jesus!!! But Jesus was a visionary leader, He gave us a vision of who we are. In this Malcolm X was a better example than Martin Luther King jr. We find people saying the strangest things about Malcolm X, I didn't agree with him at all, but I sure loved him. How does that work? Well Malcolm X gave the african American men and women a vision of themselves. They were not slaves, ghetto dwellers, criminals, they were sons and daughters of kings and princes, they were a noble, strong, powerful people. Jesus did this. He wasn't concerned with retaking Jerusalem, He was concerned with sons and daughters of God, realizing their place in the kingdom. He gave us a vision of who we really were, and a vision of who God really is. The loving father anxiously awaiting our return. If we want to be leaders in Christ mold, we must follow Him in this.

Point two, the world leaders are charismatic. They lead by force of personality and often manipulation. But Jesus calls us to lead by service. "He who would be great among you should be the servant of all" Jesus illustrates this point over and over again, but sees this as so central to His future church, he takes His last moment to show the disciples just how important this is, by taking off his outer clothes, wrapping himself in a towel, and doing the lowest of the servant duties, washing His disciples feet. He kneels before them, and removes the dirt and grime from their journeys. Even of the one that will betray Him. In a world where leadership is such a strong, royal type of thing, we must remember this example set by Jesus. And I would challenge us to resist the temptation to make this example null and void by saying to ourselves, "the best way I can serve others is to be the strong leader they need". This type of misinterpretation in nothing short of blasphemy. I would be known by the way I serve rather than the way I preach, write, or even evangelize. Heaven knows this is not my nature, but it is CHrists nature, and He who dwells in me, is about the long, slow, torturous task of shedding the flesh.

Lastly, the leaders of this world lead by positional, and powerful authority, but a leader in the mold of Jesus, leads by spiritual authority. Too often we get these mixed up, and power, is always authoritative. We cannot accept that just because someone is powerful, and holds a position in the church that the authority they wield is spiritual authority. And I would say often it is not. Spiritual authority comes from one place, and this may be contentious, and controversial, but I would say spiritual authority only comes when one is willing to give up ones own life, and even salvation, for those they are leading. We see this in Gandhi, we see this in Martin Luther King jr, the early church fathers. But we see this very clearly in two of the most magnificent leaders in the bible, Moses and Paul. Moses pleads with God, in the midst of Israels debauchery, and idolatry, Lord, do not destroy this people, infact I would that you would destroy me, and save them. Paul expresses similiarly, If I could by giving up my own salvation, secure the salvation of my brothers and sisters of Israel I would do so. It is only from this that we see true spiritual authority. Jesus, ofcourse showed us the way. Giving up His life for us, and even taking our sin upon Him and being forsaken. He was willing to give up everything for the sake of those he served. Again we are reminded, he who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life, for Christ's sake finds it.

As leaders we are called to give a vision of God, and of ourselves, to serve with abandon, and to lay down our own life for those we are given to. Then and only then are we imitators of Jesus, and if we are not imitators of Jesus, though we may be leaders, powerful, inspirational, charismatic and succesful, we will not be Christian leaders, but merely leaders that happen to be going to heaven.

the rev


Kitty Cheng said...

That's so true. Only servant leadership is true Christian leadership.

Rebecca said...

Hey Rev, I'd add another - the church really needs ministers who are humble but confident and not defensive, people who can take criticism rather than either fall apart of retreat into arrogance, people who do not feel that the communities they lead are their territories.

john jensen said...

I agree Bec, that is what Raquel touched on a bit in her talk. One thing we don't need is more insecure leaders.

the rev