The notion of leadership fascinates the human psyche. We eagerly tune in to the royal wedding of a foreign country, dive deep into histories of Kings and Queens, feverishly study the foundation of our own governments and gravitate often toward books, movies, and other forms of media that feature heroes rising into some role of leadership.
I think it’s built into us, this desire to find and follow a righteous leader—stamped into our hearts and minds as God’s own creation, made to follow Him and His Son. Yet so many will never find a leader worth following in this life; the concept of ruling or leading in power, as a construct forged by human hands, often attracts the wrong kind of people. And even those who enter into leadership with the best intentions and purest hearts many times don’t remain that way.
We see that in the world around us; we see it in fiction; and we see it scripturally, with men like Saul, Solomon, and several kings of Judah and Israel, who began their reigns in humility to God only to become more interested in serving their own desires and agendas as time went on.
Leadership is no cakewalk, for the ones in power to remain pure and for the people under their leadership to help keep them accountable. This is why God urges us to pray for those in power and authority—because their actions have a direct effect on the people they lead.
This subject is forefront in the minds of many Americans at the time of writing this article, as our next presidential election looms on the horizon. As I watch opinions and rhetoric fly from every side, I find myself deep in thought and question.
Are we holding our leaders as accountable as we should? Do we view them in a healthy way? Do we see paladins in ivory towers set to make our lives and world better? Do we consider them servants of the people or our betters sent to pave the way for us? Are we right in our view of what leadership is and should be? Is it a God-view, or have we slowly fallen prey to the construct of human hands that invariably places leaders on a pedestal?
And for those of us who are in leadership positions—do we lead the way Jesus commanded? Do we model the servant-leader to the world? Or do we fall prey to the same system of title and power?
Where are we leading? Where are we being led?
What is Leadership?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines leadership as “the office or position of a leader; a person who has commanding authority or influence.”
While leadership is often looked at as one in power marching along while others follow, telling them what to do and when and how to do it, the biblical model of leadership as laid out in the Epistles and commanded of saints is far different. God tells us that we should be “servant-leaders”—that those who are guiding the flock would also be among them, dirtying hands, doing hard work, washing the feet of their disciples. This is not the common modern structure where we hero-worship the successful ones who have “made it” to the upper echelons where wealth, status, and title are finally achieved; as one Christian minister put it, “Strength is made for service.” Leadership is intended to be a position from which people better and better serve their fellow humans.
Leadership requires sacrifice, humility, discipline, intuition, courage, strength, perseverance, trust, and much more. It is not a position for the faint of heart or simply those who think it would look good on their resume. Leaders are the most in the public eye; a leader’s behavior as a recognized representative of Christ could make or break both an unbeliever’s acceptance of the Gospel and a saint’s willingness to continue serving in the Body.
This is just a part of the reason God calls leaders within the Church to such a high standard. For many, it is truly a matter of life or death.
What Does the Bible Say About Leadership?
Titus 1:7 – For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.
Hebrews 13:7 – Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Romans 12:8 – The one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness
How Can I Be a Leader?
Scripturally, we lead by serving. The subject of service was covered in the previous blog, “What’s In A Word? – SERVICE” – that the act of service is a huge part of why Jesus was sent. This model was as foreign to the world at Jesus’s time as it can be to ours, because it contradicts the prevalent secular view of leaders as the savvy and singular elites.
If you have a vision for leadership, here are some important steps to take:
- Examine Yourself. Make sure your desire for leadership is pure and in line with God’s purposes. Leadership coveted for the sake of the title, accolades, paycheck, or power is bereft of blessing and doomed to disaster. Sometimes we don’t even fully realize that what we want out of a role is impure, but God knows our innermost workings and can reveal to us the place where our impurities rise to the surface.
- Humble Yourself: Prepare your heart for service, not style. Get ready to get your hands dirty. Leading in the footsteps of Jesus means getting down in the dust with the worst of the worst, embracing the unembraceable, serving in ways that may be privately exhausting and publicly unpopular. Remember, Jesus washed feet and faced persecution right and left. This an indispensable aspect of leadership…we can expect no better from the world when we are leading.
- Prepare Yourself: Scripture warns us that leaders are held to a higher standard; this is true in both this age, ideally, and in the one to come. Besides that, when one is in a position of spiritual leadership they have an ever bigger target on their back from the enemy, who of course wants those leading the flock to be distracted. You need to be ready to deflect those fiery darts, ensuring your life and household are above reproach before you step into a position of leading others in a life of service to Christ.
This can all seem pretty daunting, but know this: leadership is as profoundly rewarding as it is difficult. The Church desperately needs leaders who are pure-hearted, humble, and prepared. If you feel God is calling you to a position of leadership, trust that He already has plans and purpose in place to provide for and protect you. Don’t be afraid to step into that calling—like Esther, perhaps you’ve been called to your position of influence for such a time as this!
Do you have a calling for leadership in your life? If so, what steps can you take today toward moving into this area where God wants you to serve?