LEADERSHIP. What is the essence of true, biblical leadership?
“Walt Kallestad talks about leadership in the sense of influence, asserting that such virtues as love, grace, and an affirming spirit are more powerful tools than authority and command.” (Review on Amazon.com)
Robert Schuller calls it “A fresh perspective from an outstanding leader!” Lyle Schaller says, “For those who agree that leadership is the key to the future, this is the book they should read and heed.” And Bill Hybels adds, “This book will make a significant contribution to leaders who practice its principles.” Discover how to become a more effective leader by following Kallestad’s ten principles of Christian leadership. The book’s concise, motivational message, easy- to-read format, and entertaining cartoons get to the heart of what Christian leadership is all about. (augsburgfortress.org) Holy cow, can it really be 24 years since Walt, my pastor, asked me to help him write this book? It was the first of five I was blessed beyond words to work on with him, and literally the answer to a prayer I’d prayed one morning as I dropped my younger son off at the bus for Kindergarten,”Lord, you know I want to write, but I have no way to get into publishing. I’m nobody. Show me a way to use what you put in me!” Two weeks later, sitting in Walt’s office getting the next quarter’s sermon titles to pass out to the Message Research Team, Walt paused and said, “You and I think a lot alike. You’ve never wanted to write, have you?”
This post is not to pat myself on the back, no way, no how. Rather, it’s about God’s perspective on leadership. One thing I’ve always believed is that leadership means being a servant of others, not a lord or boss over others, not a controller of others, not top person on the totem pole, but a servant of those you work with, and yes, where the buck frequently stops. As such, it’s a role or responsibility demanding integrity, good judgment, and teamwork ethic regarding others as equally important and essential to accomplishing the group goal.
I’ve never sought to be the leader of anything, but sometimes I’ve been voted in or asked to lead, which was the case with the Message Research Team. The coordinator had moved, and the pastors needed someone to get the message topics and hand them out to the other volunteers on the team; thus I became coordinator of the team by being asked, not by seeking out acclaim. I saw myself pretty much as a funnel, not a “commander,” and that suited me just fine.
Walt created acronym for the word “LEADERSHIP” with one chapter filling out each thought:
Envision the Future Exceptionally
Discipline with Determination (as in be disciplined, not mete out discipline)
Energize Others Enthusiastically
Nowhere in the book did Walt suggest cracking the whip, making sure everybody knew YOU were the boss, seeking your own way and will and imposing it on others, or expecting to be continually affirmed and validated unquestioningly by everyone else. The model we as Christians ought to take – without question – for leadership is our Lord Jesus. Jesus made his authority over blindness, deafness, lameness, leprosy, winds, waves, and even death VERY clear, and he was King of Kings before he came to Earth, while he was here, and is today and always, and yet he told his disciples:
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 25-27 ESV
Yes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 ESV
And “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:8
And yet as Paul wrote to the Philippians:
“In his very nature he was God. Jesus was equal with God. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of that fact. Instead, he made himself nothing. He did this by taking on the nature of a servant. He was made just like human beings. He appeared as a man. He was humble and obeyed God completely. He did this even though it led to his death. Even worse, he died on a cross!” Philipians 2: 5-8 NIRV
Again, Jesus modeled a life of loving, sacrificial service to show us what true leadership is.
The greatest among you shall be your servant.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.”
The well-known Psalm that even non-Christians have probably heard and know the first lines by heart gives a word picture of true leadership: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me. You prepare.a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
A shepherd is a leader, but he leads in order to protect and help his sheep grow in health, safely, free from danger and lack of what they need. When threat comes from lions or bears, the shepherd risks his own life for his sheep – he doesn’t consider his sheep expendable and use his sheep as a shield to protect his own life!
That doesn’t seem to leave much room for,”Hey, listen up! I’m the boss, and you’ll respect me just because I’m the boss and do as I say, because you are here for ME” in Christian leadership. Honestly, does anyone, whether in Christian work or secular work, enjoy working for someone who has an attitude of entitlement? I’ve experienced that, and I’m guessing you have too, and it doesn’t make getting up for work every morning a delightful, positive, hopeful prospect.
In the 13 years I worked as a substitute teacher, often the first question children in classes asked me was, “Are you a nice sub or a mean sub?” I replied that it depended upon them, but of course my true attitude was that I was there to serve those children, follow the lesson plans of the absent teacher as closely as I could (if I even could find plans to follow) and give the children a positive day of real learning, attending to their needs, answering their questions, helping them with difficulties, and hopefully adding some fun to help install in them a love of learning. Yes, I was the”boss” of the classroom that day, but that meant I was there to serve those students, not myself. I heard about subs who would come into the classroom, tell the students, “read this, do that,” put their feet up on the desk and read the newspaper, and act miffed when a student asked a question.
Even, especially, in families, dictatorial expectations and attitudes of entitlement have no place. Yes, the military is an exception, where people’s lives depend on executing orders from above without discussion, but our families and our relationships and churches and even our workplaces aren’t meant to be regiments, but teams led, or more appropriately shepherded, by servant-hearted, Jesus-modeling leaders who truly know and follow Jesus’ words:
” You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you.…” John 13:13-15
The full text of Paul’s admonition and encouragement to the Philippians shows that servant-hearted leadership is not without value in God’s sight:
Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves. None of you should look out just for your own good. Each of you should also look out for the good of others.
As you deal with one another, you should think and act as Jesus did.
In his very nature he was God.
Jesus was equal with God. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of that fact.
Instead, he made himself nothing.
He did this by taking on the nature of a servant.
He was made just like human beings.
He appeared as a man.
He was humble and obeyed God completely.
He did this even though it led to his death.
Even worse, he died on a cross!
So God lifted him up to the highest place.
God gave him the name that is above every name.
When the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone will kneel down to worship him.
Everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will kneel down to worship him. Philippians 2: 3-10 Berean Study Bible
I hope, then, I’ve been on track in seeing any leadership position I’ve been “elevated to” as actually lowering myself to serve the people who were doing the job with me, counting on me to keep people informed, picking up the slack when someone couldn’t fulfill their role.
Honestly, I’ve always preferred to be just a team member,and I’m VERY glad to see myself as simply a team member and collaborator, that is, co-labor-ator , in God’sKingdom work that he calls each of us to join our leader and head,Jesus,in pursuing on Earth so His Kingdom CAN come, and His will BE done on Earth as it is in Heaven. I do remember learning The Great Commission in my college fellowship Campus Crusade days, and I’ve never regarded it as”optional” or “not my job” for me as a Holy Spirit-filled for a reason follower of Jesus:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV
Yes, you matter, no matter what your gifting or calling, and yes, in some way, then, you are a leader. to the person who needs to see Jesus in you.
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 ESV
I think both Jesu sand Paul would add, “Now live like a LEADER and the servant of all.”
No, I don’t get any royalties from the book,so I can freely encourage you to buy a copy and let me know if any part of it speaks to you. It was Walt’s idea and vision, me filling in details, and enormously cognizant, yea verily fearful with reverential fear and a bit of “What was I thinking?” stark terror, of my responsibility to Christ as I was writing. All I can say these many years later is thank you, Walt, for trusting me, thank you to the guy who moved us to Community Church of Joy, and thank you, Jesus, for hearing and answering my prayer and entrusting me with a bit of your work to do. (Please hear my prayers for him, too)
A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, sometimesI’ve wanted to be a leader,sometimes I’vewished peoplewould see my capabilities, BUT I know you know how you made me,who you made me,and what purposes you mademefor.So GodAlmighty, loving Father, please show me where I fit in the Body of Christ and give me the courage to walk out your purposes for me with the same attitude Jesus had: that of a gladly serving servant. Give me an attitude adjustment if and where I need it, and I know when you do, it will be out of your Father love for me. Holy Spirit, I’m listening ___________________________________________________ In Jesus’ name, amen!