John 1: 32-34 (MsgB)
John clinched his witness with this: “I watched the Spirit, like a dove flying down out of the sky, making Himself at home in Him. I repeat, I know nothing about Him except this: The One who authorized me to baptize with water told me, ‘The One on whom you see the Spirit come down and stay, this One will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ That’s exactly what I saw happen, and I’m telling you, there’s no question about it: This is the Son of God.”
In my 12-session blog series (2012), To Lead or Not To Lead?, I shared a list I call the Twenty Top Qualifiers for Successful Christian Leadership. I assembled this list from doing a fairly extensive search through many of the latest and greatest ‘how-to’ books on successful Christian leadership in America. My list of twenty top qualifiers looks like this:
Successful church leadership must be: Committed, Competent, Confident, Courageous, Decisive, Effective Communicator, Entrepreneur, Excellent Character, Excellent Listener, Excellent Negotiator, Goal Setter, Helps Others Succeed, Inspiring Motivator, Life-Long Learner, Positive Attitude, Problem Solver, Risk Taker, Self-Aware, Team Builder, and Visionary.
Impressive stuff, huh? Who wouldn’t want to attend a church where the senior pastor and all the staff emanated these successful leadership qualities?
But, let me break some news to you. While my list of Twenty Top Qualifiers for Successful Christian Leadership might look impressive to many, let me suggest to you that many of these words we so commonly associate in American Christianity with ‘successful church leadership’ are not words the New Testament uses in defining the work of ministry for those who were called in the first century! In truth, while the words ‘leader’, ‘leadership’ and ‘lead’ are some of the most common themes found in American Christianity today, these same words are fairly foreign to the New Testament texts when describing the jobs you or I might be called to when serving God’s people!
As I see it, John’s gospel is very clear from the beginning. From God’s point of view, there is only one Leader worth following. John the Baptist clearly points Him out to his followers and we would do well to listen carefully to John’s words again today.
“There’s no question about it: This is the Son of God.”
And just as John, the mover and shaker of God’s Kingdom ministry prior to Jesus’ arrival on the scene, had to defer his leadership title and role to Jesus, so we as Christian ‘leaders’ need to continually defer our titles and roles as ‘leaders’ to this same Christ John the Baptist defers to. As John states elsewhere in John’s Gospel, “I must decrease in order for Him, the Christ, to increase.”
Let me be clear. In our world filled with drive and ambition, there is no room in God’s Kingdom economy for those of us who feel this burning need to be seen as ‘the successful leader’. That job is already filled with the Son of God, so why do we feel the need to step into that position? Could it be that our pride and ambition combined with a corporate mindset has pushed many of us into realms of leadership that are exclusively designed only for Jesus? Could it be that John’s gospel is designed in such a way that long before Jesus calls any men and women to Himself, He is appointed by God, the Father, and identified by John the Baptist as the ‘designated driver’ for the Church?
After studying carefully the New Testament texts that use Greek words common to our English words ‘leader’, ‘lead’ or ‘leadership’, I’m convinced that our friends in the New Testament would be greatly troubled with a lot of the words found in my list of Twenty Top Qualifiers for Successful Christian Leadership, especially when those words are applied more to us versus to Christ. In truth, I’m guessing if one of the first-century writers ran across my list (see below), they would naturally assume I was talking about leadership qualities given by God the Father to Jesus of Nazareth alone.
My prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the only Leader on earth who truly qualifies as being: Committed, Competent, Confident, Courageous, Decisive, Effective Communicator, Entrepreneur, Excellent Character, Excellent Listener, Excellent Negotiator, Goal Setter, Helps Others Succeed, Inspiring Motivator, Life-Long Learner, Positive Attitude, Problem Solver, Risk Taker, Self-Aware, Team Builder, and Visionary. Everyone and everything else in ‘leadership’ is less. Like John the Baptist, I submit to Your supreme prominence of Leader while deferring my ‘leadership’ role to You, the one and only Son of God. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I taken words from this list of Twenty Top Qualifiers for Successful Christian Leadership and tried to force-fit myself into these descriptions? Am I trying to ‘lead’ in ways that are actually overstepping my boundaries with the one and only Son of God? In what ways do I need to ‘decrease’ like John the Baptist’ so that Jesus might ‘increase’ in His leadership role with the people I serve?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
Click here to go onto the next blog in the series.