I recently was asked to go to three nursing homes to share some songs and devotions with the elderly. This was a new, exciting and stretching experience for me, and as I thought and prayed that God would take His message to His people and pondered what to prepare, I tried to think of what would be relevant, then went to bed trusting God would come through, like always.
The next day started off in a bit of a frantic panic of wrestling between two options of what I should prepare or bring. The first option was a devotional in which I got off a free devotional site, and the second, an unprepared summary devotional of the sermon I had just preached on trials from Job.
After some contemplation, prayer and asking my wife, I decided to go for the latter, since I had been becoming more aware of the reality that God does work first in the heart of the preacher, by His grace, before He does His faithful work in the heart of His congregation.
More and more I was becoming aware that real, physical and challenging heart-change had to start in my heart, first, and that people wanted to hear real things that Pastors and teachers were going through in their own personal walk with Christ. This meant I had to be willing to walk through the same heart change, I would then be preaching.
As ironic as it all is, and even though I was becoming increasingly aware that heart change needed to happen in my heart first, I still felt a certain type of responsibility, like I needed to do something or help God’s people, like I needed to teach them something and go there to help them, not me.
After I preached the message the Lord prepared, I challenged myself to shake hands and converse with every person, meanwhile still thinking, I had to brighten their day and help, somehow. I found it very challenging, mainly, because I didn’t know what to say or what to do and I was confronted with the reality of how weak we are without Christ asking myself: How do you help people in such pain, loss, decline of health, people who are elderly and senile.
Once, I left, and pondered this question of how to be a good leader who helps, this certain weight and realization swept over me like a dark thunder cloud revealing the ugliness in my heart and I realized, I didn’t need to do anything. God was using me as an instrument, changing me, through serving them, and I left that building a changed man realizing how much work I have to do and how much God still wants to work on my heart, as I learn to lead.
Isn’t it funny that worldly leadership screams from the rooftop that we must do everything, be great, be Kings of knowledge, be revolutionary and be powerful leaders of change: authoritative, innovative, creative, cutting-edge and on the leading end of all the latest and greatest trends, experts knowing all the leadership jargon, and we must have the latest and greatest training, so we can lead people more effectively and pull them up on the stage with us empowering them to be as great, as we are.
In contrast, let’s look at Ephesians 3:8-9: “7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace, given me, through the working of His power. 8 though I am less than the least of all of the saints, this grace was given me: to preach to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of christ 9 and to illuminate for everyone the stewardship of this mystery, which for ages past was hidden in God, who created all things”
Paul’s view on christian leadership, inspired by the hand of God, is basically saying we need to become powerless servants who are inadequate in ourselves and who see people as greater than us. We are only endorsed or promoted to leadership by the gift of God, not in our own ability or greatness. We lead by God’s power, not ours, and we are called to steward communicating the mystery of this grace and power that has been undeservingly given to us who are sinners.
If you think about it, that’s a different brand of leadership than the world promotes. Paul is basically saying we need to be powerless servants totally surrendered to the power and grace of God, servants who see people as greater than ourselves and who do God’s work (not our own, because He saved us and wants to help others through us).
When we really catch the counter-cultural vision for Biblical leadership, Pastoral leadership or ministerial leadership of any kind, we eventually grow into the realization and reality that it has nothing to do with us, and we realize we really can’t do any great works. We have no power, and our primary purpose isn’t really to teach people, at all. We are God’s instruments, and as He shows us more, God uses us to communicate what He’s graciously done in us to others.
When we flip the spiritual switch from secular leadership to Biblical leader, the principles become night and day and we learn to surrender to God’s design and learn to rest in God’s power and his ability to lead through us.
As we make the paradigm shift, suddenly, our mindset towards leadership shifts and we realize we aren’t put in leadership to be powerful human-led leaders who teach and impart incredible human knowledge or revolutionary information to people less than us.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite –we are put there to surrender and allow God to teach us about His new mercies and grace every day while allowing Him to do His incredible work in us and as we do that, we become a primer for the congregation to learn through our willingness to submit to learning.
As we submit ourselves to God, we become the leader, only because we submitted ourselves to learn, and as we learn, God imparts wisdom. He gives us a message, and as faithful stewards of His message, by His grace, we create a safe environment for others to learn with us and we relay the message God has imparted to a surrendered, sincere and teachable heart –a heart that isn’t focused on being in authority over people or making them powerful like us, because we aren’t powerful, at all.
In the end, leadership has nothing to do with us. We are simply powerless instruments surrendered to His design and God wants to shape us and our hearts, as leaders, just as much as He wants to shape the people we accept the call to “lead”.
Have you made humble steps toward making the spiritual shift? Have you caught the otherworldly vision for counter-cultural and Biblical leadership? I’m still a work in progress, and I’m guessing you are, too.