• Jerry Starling

  • Search by Category

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 554 other followers

  • Pages

  • Blog Stats

    • 425,398 hits
  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Kevin on QUESTION: Who Was Pharaoh Duri…
    Jerry Starling on QUESTION: Where Does the Bible…
    Lenin Dorsey on QUESTION: Where Does the Bible…
    Matthews Bantsijang on SERMON: How to Stand Firm
    Abraham Uke on QUESTION: What Sin Does Not Le…
  • Top Posts

  • September 2009
    S M T W T F S
    « Aug   Oct »
     12345
    6789101112
    13141516171819
    20212223242526
    27282930  
  • Archives

CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP (1) INTRODUCTION


My grandfather, Oscar Starling, was a quiet, simple man. As a teenager, he took out a homestead in South Florida. He worked as a commercial fisherman on Lake Okeechobee and farmed his small acreage – until floods forced him to abandon the homestead with his young family. Later, he worked in any way he could – and was competent in several diverse fields. Fisherman, horticulturist, builder. That is the way I described him at his funeral. Though he had a rough competence in each of these areas, he was far down the ladder of success in the eyes of the world. Yet, when he died, hundreds came to pay their respect.

Why did those who knew him respect and honor this man so deeply? I doubt he went beyond the sixth grade in formal education – but he was educated in the practical matters of life and in dealing with people. Like Peter, he was not only a fisherman, but also a fisher of men. Like Paul, he both planted and watered while God gave the increase. He was not only a builder of houses – but also of churches. More than a half-dozen churches in Central Florida owe much to his quiet efforts. Literally scores of people lived (and still live) fuller, more satisfying lives because of the influence of this humble man.

Who is a leader? To whom do you look for guidance when you face a challenging situation? Who inspires you to lift your eyes to goals worthy of your life? Where do you find courage to accept life as it is without losing the vision of life as it should be?

Christian answers to these questions will obviously focus on Jesus. Yet, few (if a of us can answer without reference to other people. Often these others are quiet and unassuming – like my grandfather. They would not call themselves leaders at all. Their leadership consists of simply following Jesus and showing others how to follow him.

Leadership is often misunderstood. We tend to think of it in terms of who stands out front and directs others in what to do. In reality it is just those who influence others. While many leaders do have a public role, most probably do not.

Every disciple of Jesus is a Christian leader. This is true because Jesus lives in his disciples. When others see Jesus in you they are encouraged to follow him. This is in keeping with Paul’s plea, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Not everyone is in the public eye, but everyone is in someone’s eye – and there he is a leader.

A NEGATIVE EXAMPLE. . . .

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. – Luke 22:24-30

As Jesus’ chosen disciples saw the time of his kingdom coming nearer, they began to jockey for position in it. Even at this time of sacred significance to us (the Last Supper) they were arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. That they were acting like that at such a time is incomprehensible to us. That is, we cannot understand it until we remember that the disciples were mere men with ambitions and prejudices similar to our own. When we look at them closely, we see ourselves – so, if we do not understand why they did what they did, it simply may be that we do not understand our own motivations either.

Christian Leadership Is Not Position

They did not understand leadership in the kingdom at all. They were looking for a position. The text speaks of a “dispute” which arose among them. The word translated “dispute” means “love of strife, eagerness to contend” (Thayer). It refers to habitual rivalry and describes those more concerned to beat someone else than to be the best they can be themselves. These disciples focused more on each other than on the Lord or his kingdom! Peter and Andrew were more concerned with surpassing James and John than they were with being more like Jesus.

Their concern was over “which of them was considered to be the greatest.” They were like Diotrephes, who (John wrote) “loves to be first” (3 John 9). He loved preeminence so much he refused to have anything to do with the apostle. He tried to destroy John’s good name and rejected any who listened to John. When John saw Diotrephes, did he remember the time he and James asked Jesus if they could sit at his left and right hands in his kingdom? (Mark 10:35-45) As a young man John was kin to Diotrephes! There are still many of his tribe today.

Christian Leadership Is Not Controlling Others

In responding to the disciples’ contentiousness Jesus drew a contrast between his leadership and that of the world. What arrogance the kings Gentile exhibit! They “lord” it over their subjects. Then they have the gall to act as if they are doing a favor to those under them, calling themselves “Benefactors.” We see similar attitudes in politics today. Virtually every politician falls all over himself to tell us how fortunate we are to have him representing our interests and looking out for us. Then they cannot believe that the people who confront them in Town Hall Meetings are for real, that these ordinary people with no formal organization stand up and say, “Enough already!” Sadly, many religious and spiritual leaders are also like this – as are many family leaders.

The word translated “lord it over” in Luke 22:25 is close kin to the word used in Acts 19:16 of evil spirits who “overpowered” the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:16). In 1 Peter 5:3 Peter used the same word Jesus used to state that elders are not to “lord it over” the flock. By this time, Peter has learned the lesson: true Christian leadership is not overpowering someone by sheer weight of authority. It is not merely exercising control over others.

Jesus condemned this “Gentile” concept of leadership in the strongest possible way. The world focuses on privileges of rank; Jesus focuses on responsibilities of leadership. The world looks for ways to control others; Jesus looks for ways to serve them. The world seeks positions of prominence to exalt itself; the disciple of Jesus humbles himself to be more like his savior.

. . .WITH SOME POSITIVE LESSONS

In describing what leaders ought to be, Jesus pointed to himself as the model. Christian leadership is to be patterned after Jesus’ example of leadership among his disciples.

Christian Leadership Is Service

“Who is the greater,” Jesus asked, “The one who is at the table or the one who serves?” To us, the obvious answer is that the diner is greater than the waiter. But wait! Who had taken the role of “servant” among them? It was Jesus himself! That very night Jesus had taken a towel and basin to wash the disciples’ feet. Then he said they should wash one another’s feet (John 13:3-14).

The greatest is not the one who has others bowing and scraping. Rather, the greatest is the one who serves. Greatness is not conferred as rank or position. It is gained through service freely given.

Christian Leadership Is Rewarding

Do Christian leaders receive blessings and benefits? Certainly they do! In this text Jesus promises three blessings to his disciples: 1) a kingdom conferred, 2) a fellowship enjoyed and 3) thrones given.

A Kingdom

But remember: the kingdom belongs to the “poor in spirit” who are “persecuted for righteousness sake” (Matthew 5:3, 10). We enter this kingdom by becoming humble as children (Matthew 18:3). Even Jesus entered Jerusalem “gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). He did not come as a conqueror, but as a savior.

A Fellowship

Our fellowship is with a body that was broken and blood that was poured out. We share in his suffering (see Philippians 3:10). If we would come after Jesus we must take up our cross just as he took his cross. We remember this when we eat and drink at the table of the Lord each Sunday. His body was broken that we might become His body, the church. Are we to assume that we are not to be broken as well? In fact, it is only as we come to him, broken and contrite, that we will be able to stand healed and whole. When we refuse to bend before him, we will fail. Christian leaders are those who themselves are broken – but are made whole by Jesus.

A Throne

The throne is a throne of responsibility – to judge or lead in justice and truth! The throne is given after the cross, not before. It is those crucified who are able to sit on the throne. Crucify the old selfish man so the new man can emerge! This new man is able to “discern what is best” (Philippians 1:10), and thus be effective as a judge in spiritual Israel.

Our Benefit

Where is the benefit in these? It is in sharing with Jesus in glorious kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). His fellowship is with the Father (1 John 1:3), and though the cross is involved, so is the resurrection. His throne – and ours – is eternal in the heavens.

Though the cost of being a servant-leader like Jesus is great, the rewards are greater. The dividends are both now and in eternity.

My grandfather had little of this world’s goods – but he was rich in righteousness, joy and peace. He suffered much, but lived with resurrection power. Was he a leader? He was a leader of the very best kind. He led by simply following Jesus. Let us all go and do likewise.

QUESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION

  1. Describe someone who has influenced you as a follower of Jesus.
  2. Why is Christian leadership not the reward for successful competition with others for position?
  3. Describe how competition for leadership leads to disaster in the church. In the home.
  4. Why is real Christian leadership not a matter of controlling the actions and thoughts of others?
  5. How can “Gentile” methods of leadership be exercised in the church? In the home?
  6. Is the principle of leadership in the home governed by the principle of leadership through service? Why? Give examples or illustrations?
  7. How does the servant-leader find greatness?
  8. How is the servant-leader the answer to the questions raised in the third paragraph of this article?

NEXT – 02 – Christ, Our Glorious Leader

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: