The Challenge of Leadership

Leadership is always an important issue in the family, the Church and every nation of the world. Every father and mother must understand that their parental role is one of considerable responsibility. Whether they planned it or not, or whether they like it or not, they are standard setters; others will follow them.

This applies to elders and ministers, along with managers and owners of companies, and political leaders. The standard you set is implicitly one that those you are responsible for, will assume is probably legitimate, and is one that they should safely follow.

It is a show of false modesty for a father or mother to say, “Well, I’m not a very important person.” You are important, because you will spend a significant portion of your adult years modelling a lifestyle to your children, and then perhaps your grandchildren. Saying, “I don’t model anything,” is not facing the facts; you may not deliberately do so, but it will just happen in the day to day affairs of home and family, as others observe your speech, attitudes and behaviour.

Evil leaders understand the importance of leadership. Abimelech said to his evil followers, “what you have seen me do, hurry and do likewise. All the people also cut down each one his branch and followed Abimelech … (Judges 9:48-49).

Leadership by example is God’s way. When Paul explained to Timothy the requirements of an overseer (see I Tim.3:1-7), implicit in his description is that the overseer is to be an example to those he leads, and Peter explicitly says that the elders are to be “examples to the flock” (I Pet.5:3).  Paul said, “the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil.4:6). He also said, “be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (I Cor.11:1).

Gideon was similar. He said to his three hundred men, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do” (Judges 7:17).

Because the modern world (and often the Church) has emphasised academic or intellectual qualifications of leadership, or it’s supposed “charisma,” and neglected the primary Biblical obligation of leaders to be people of character and integrity (see Ex.18:21-23), this has led to all manner of distortions and abuse. It was Spurgeon who wrote that

I have long, long ago given up estimating character by the amount of intelligence, for I sometimes find that the most intelligent are the best able to deceive me. How often in daily life we find that the most knowing are the most cunning, and the greatest scholars are the biggest rogues.

So, the important question is not whether we are leading or not. It is whether our life is reflective of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. How can we be confident about this?

Firstly, start with the really simple things. Paul talks about these in Phil.2:3-5:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…

You see, depth of leadership is essentially one of attitude; our attitude towards God, and then towards others. Is my attitude concerning God, one of obedience and complete dependence, or do I sometimes think that I can make it on my own?

In relation to others, do I see them as someone to consistently show love, care and service towards (see I Cor.13), or am I intent like Diotrephes (see III Jn.9) on showing everyone that I am the most pre-eminent person around? The reason Paul could confidently commend Timothy to the Philippians, was because he saw him as one “who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare” (Phil.2:20).

This is why it is always important to be developing in ourselves and those we are responsible for, a willing and joyful attitude in serving others. One preacher I heard thirty years ago, used to say that “all authority is given to serve.” Based on the life of Jesus Himself, I consider that to be a most accurate and profound comment. The greatest Leader of men, was also the greatest Servant. The Last Supper (Jn.13) certainly showed that.

So leadership is important, but strangely enough, it is actually dependent more than anything, on our attitude. As God by His Holy Spirit and His Word steadily refines our attitudes, we become better able to represent Him. And isn’t that a privilege we all should want to share in?

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