The Myth of Christian Leadership – Part 1

Image credit:

It has been a while since my last post (trying to post once a month!) and I was writing a blog series on leadership to post. I may still post it at a later date, but what dawned on me was that what I was writing was all fake. I had listed about ten different points on leadership, but they had all missed the point. Not that they weren’t (in my opinion) fantastic leadership pointers and tips, but they just didn’t feel right somehow. As this dawned on me, every time I heard the word leadership – I cringed. While not everyone may agree with me, I challenge you to hear me out.

The word leadership brings to mind a certain character or type of person in everyone’s mind. I’m sure you are picturing your perfect leader right now. Leaders can be great managers of people, they can be great encouragers, they can be great organisers, they can have great presence, and they can say great things. Many of the great leaders that come to mind may be CEO’s of big companies, managers of football teams, leaders of political parties, and the list goes on. Their achievements are hung on the walls of their elaborate offices and it is a joy to have them at charity functions and the like. We can become so attracted and attached to their wonderful aura of importance that we forget that they are a mere human like ourselves.

The myth of Christian leadership can lull us into the sense of having this importance and recognition as well. This is dangerous! Many pastors and ministry leaders have failed because their ministry rode on the back of their successes rather than the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the greatest example of a ‘leader’ that I know. After hearing this story, you may also want to change your mind about leadership.

Jesus was sitting at the dinner table with his disciples.
“Hey Jesus, can you pass down those snags?” said Simon Peter, with food in his mouth.
Jesus passed them down to him and as the disciples were still finishing off what they were eating, he rose from the table. He was aware that it was almost time for his stay on earth to come to an end and there was one more thing he wanted to do for his disciples. Jesus filled a bucket with water and threw a towel over his shoulder and returned with them to the sitting room. The disciples had already left the table, Andrew was just finishing off clearing the dishes.
Without words, Jesus began to wash the disciple’s feet. The disciples began questioning among themselves Jesus’ motives for doing this. This is why the rich had servants, this was no job for Jesus.
“Jesus, what are you doing?” Simon Peter asked. “I cannot let you wash my feet!”
“Peter, you don’t realise what I am doing, but you will understand later,” replied Jesus. “Unless I wash your feet, you will not be clean.”

John 13:1-17 (own paraphrase)

This was possibly one of the most servant-hearted actions recorded in the Bible. Jesus, the greatest example of a ‘leader’ that I know, is serving his disciples! When I continue to think about all of the other positions in a church that we would place under ‘leadership’, most of those positions should take this very function also.

I am a Worship Leader in my church. I often lead people into worship of God. Ok, call me a leader. BUT what I am really doing is serving, and here is why:

  • As a Worship Leader on Sunday, I am not only worshiping God, but I am also serving God by creating a space in which others can enter into worship of Him.
  • As a Worship Leader on Sunday, I am serving the congregation by listening to the Holy Spirit and shaping a place in which they can worship God.
  • As a Worship Leader on Sunday, I am serving the rest of the worship band by bringing them along the journey I have been on in preparation, in order that they can serve in their capacities.

This goes the same for a Pastor of a church. Do we call them leaders too? Yeah. I am not playing down the leadership capacity required to be a Pastor (hey – I’m studying to be one!) but check this out:

  • As a Pastor of a congregation, I am serving God with my abilities to shepherd the congregation into deeper relationship with God.
  • As a Pastor of a congregation, I am serving the congregation by making myself available for spiritual guidance in their walks with Christ.
  • As a Pastor of a congregation, I am serving God and the congregation by preaching and teaching from the Bible.

These are by no means exhaustive lists – but it starts you thinking doesn’t it? It would seem that these two roles that I have focussed on can be better explained in terms of serving than they can in terms of leading. If we think about ‘leading’ as serving, we can unleash our leadership potential to the next level. This can be applied in church leadership, but you would be surprised how well it works even in the workplace!

When we think about leading as serving, instead of…

  • Taking advantage of the people under our authority, think about how we can improve our relationship with them.
  • Just providing a task list, be available when someone needs help.
  • Thinking your time is too precious for just anyone to waste, adopt an open door policy.
  • Being a dictator and only allowing your ideas, ask for other people’s opinions.
  • Getting angry and throwing your weight around, discuss how a person may improve and how you can help them do that.

This list, again, is just a start. I sum this all up by a principle that I call DBAD. This stands for Don’t Be A Dropkick. Dropkick is Aussie slang for “loser”. Feel free to change it to a word that you are comfortable with. But when I think about leadership, I think DBAD. If I do this, am I being a dropkick? Yes? Well then maybe I won’t do that.

Look out for Part 2 – coming soon!

Update 18/11/15: Part 2 can be read here.

– Mike

What I’m Reading: The Book of Colossians, The Book of Revelation, Leading by Alex Ferguson

What I’m Listening to: Pocketful of Faith by Tim Hughes, Love of Cartography by sleepmakeswaves


Posted in:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *