I always thought and hoped that I possessed the spiritual gift of leadership. I wanted to galvanize people, move them toward the common goal of Christ-likeness, and steward cultures of radical love for our brothers, sisters, and enemies alike. I thought that on this journey we are all on together, my place was in front of some other group of people, and that I would be able to show them the way to hope and healing in Jesus. I wanted to be able to confidently say, as Paul did, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” At some point, I came to understand leadership as a sign of spiritual maturity to be pursued by all Christians. After all, so many paths that I could envision for myself, noble as they may be, had inherent language of leadership.

Lead Minister
Spiritual Leader of the Family
Resilient Leader

So, leadership is an honorable thing to strive for, right? What the Holy Spirit is teaching me is that the ideas of leadership that float through our culture, both secularly and within the Church, have actually been subconsciously appealing to my lesser angels. What I longed for, in Jesus’ name, was authority, influence, and power. I wanted to be in the room where it happens. I wanted people to want to listen to me. However good my motives were and are, I’m coming to learn that this isn’t a path I’m called to, and I fear that is the case for many—though not all—of the well-intentioned folks who pursue it.

What I’ve come to realize is that many biblical instances that align with my vision of leadership are actually painted in a fairly negative light. Look at Israel, who literally begged Yahweh for someone to be in a leadership position over them as king. Yahweh had some strong words about that, insisting that asking for a king was a rejection of him as their king. He gave them what they wanted, and by all accounts, it was a complete disaster.

Even in the New Testament, when the Israelites were living under the oppression of Rome, the disciples of Jesus did not want a leader who was meek and gentle. They wanted a conquering hero to restore the nation of Israel. In this case, Jesus did not give them what they wanted. Not in the way they desired, at least.

I’m not trying to make the point that leadership or the pursuit of leadership is bad. Leadership IS a spiritual gift. Paul says as much. But Scripture wastes no time teaching us how to be leaders that possess all the characteristics we’ve come to associate with it: charismatic, compelling, efficient, capable, dynamic, beloved.

Instead, Scripture takes the definition of leadership that we see in the world around us and calls us to its virtual opposite. It paints a picture of leadership that, according to Isaiah 53, is unimpressive by the world’s standards. It’s one that champions humility over charisma, being kind over being compelling, servanthood over efficiency, sacrifice over capability, simplicity over dynamism, loving others over being loved by others. All of us are called to this countercultural brand of leadership.

Thankfully, this isn’t just conceptual but embodied in the person of Jesus, which is summarized beautifully by Paul in Philippians 2.

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:5-11 NLT

So let us be like King Jesus, who lived out this upside-down model of leadership from the beginning of his time on earth to the end.

He is a leader who made his entry into the world in the most helpless and unassuming way we could possibly imagine.

He is a leader who wasn’t worried about the optics of talking to a woman of ill repute and empowering her to testify about the good news of Salvation.

He is a leader who washed the feet of the man he knew would betray him, setting in motion the final stages of his journey to the cross.

He is a leader who did not exploit the power structures of the time to get his way.

He is a leader who allowed people to strike him without retaliation or retribution.

He is a leader who willingly died the death void of dignity that we all deserved.

Because of this, not in spite of it, he is a leader worth following.

Brad Warren

Brad is a part of our Christ’s Church family and serves as the Church Relations Manager at one of our Impact Partners, Christ In Youth.

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