Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On Leadership

Someone once said that your mentor is the one you are reading. If that is the case, then I am enrolled in the J. Oswald Sanders school of Spiritual Leadership. I’ve read through the much-too-short first three chapters of the book and am excited to see what God is going to be doing through this time of training. Maybe soon I’ll be able to sit down with Spurgeon’s class.

The subject of leadership seems to be a slippery fish, and honestly, I am wary about jumping to register for every class, seminar or conference that pops up touching on the subject. Part of my hesitation is that given the sheer number of training possibilities that are out there, I am not convinced so many have it right—too many new methods, too many new approaches, too many new ideas. Also, I am convinced that people who continue to flock to these resources are not really learning anything at all but are looking for the quick-route to being successful leaders. I recently had lunch with an individual who is in the Veruca Salt school of leadership and development, the “I want it now” track. I was greatly concerned. Finally, I don’t believe there are principles of worldly leadership that cross over into Christian leadership—I don’t believe unregenerate men have any business teaching want-to-be spiritual leaders; or perhaps I should say that the other way around—Christian leaders have no business going to the world to learn how to be Christian leaders! This will become clear shortly.

Sanders plainly teaches that a Spiritual Leader (I would venture to say, a Biblical Leader) is one that is God-created and God-qualified. Spiritual or Biblical leadership is not office-occupying, but rather the discipline of seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Spiritual or Biblical leadership is not getting up above people and coaxing emulation of upward movement, but coming alongside and pointing the way to the Wicket Gate. Spiritual or Biblical Leadership is about righteousness in accordance with the Kingdom mandate, serving others, not being served.

If God is looking for people after His heart, then we will find leadership in those who look after God’s heart. The reason why biblical leaders are in short supply is because righteousness is in short supply. One the one hand, the world looks for leaders who are intellectual, personally forceful and enthusiastic; on the other hand, the biblical leader is authoritative, doing kingdom work in a God-mindful way; is spiritual and sacrificial. Under God’s guidance and authority to lead, the leader compels movement, modeling obedience and love for God. Worldly leaders (and those who train them) often are selling themselves while lining their pockets—leadership = materialism. Spiritual leaders serve, showing how strong God is.

I find it difficult to compare leaders in the business world with spiritual leaders, so we will consider a contrast. The general thrust of the business world has no room for servants in leadership, for the servant is the consumer. The servant leader, the true spiritual leader seeks no position for himself, but the growth and development of others. Look how Jesus turns upside down thinking aright:

But Jesus called them and said to them, You know that they who are accounted rulers over the nations exercise lordship over them. And their great ones exercise authority on them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever of you desires to become first, he shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

Worldly leaders prepare themselves. Biblical leaders prepare others, and here is no fast-track. God forgive our impatience.

Here’s a snapshot from God’s photo album of a spiritual leader:

Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; My Elect, in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit on Him; He shall bring out judgment to the nations. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He shall not break, and a smoking wick He shall not quench; He shall bring out judgment to truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged until He has set judgment in the earth; and the coasts shall wait for His Law.” (Isaiah 42:1-4)

In other words, God’s servant, a true spiritual leader, is one that is dependent (“Behold My Servant, whom I uphold”), approved (“in whom My soul delights”), is modest or non-flamboyant (“He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street”), is empathetic (“A bruised reed He shall not break, and a smoking wick He shall not quench”), optimistic (“He shall not fail nor be discouraged until He has set judgment in the earth”) and anointed (“I have put My Spirit on Him”). I would add to Sander’s interpretation, and I believe we can see God’s leaders bound to this, that a spiritual leader is one who is after God’s heart, His Kingdom, His righteousness.

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