I’m not a super experienced church leader. But for a while, I was well on my way to becoming one. I was in high school and I led my small group, led middle schoolers, mentored those younger in the faith, was on leadership teams, read leadership books, and went to leadership conferences frequently, As a freshman in college, I did the same thing on a different level. I started a college church group with a friend, led a bible study there, led leaders there, kicked leaders out of there, led some more, kept reading leadership books, then left that whole deal. I’ve played the church leadership game. It was fun.
I got all the comments that people want to hear too. “You’re a very strong leader.” “I have a lot of respect for you.” “You have so much leadership potential.” “A lot of people look up to you.” Blah blah blah. They were nice to hear. They were encouraging. But the more I read Scripture, the less I really saw about leadership. Not in terms of how it seemed described by others around me, church heads, and the many books I read on the topic.
It felt like people all thought that the same skill set for leading in the business world was the skill set needed for leading in the church. I had the skill set for leading in business environments, but that only works in the church if it is functions primarily a systematic organization. It worked for me. Uh oh. I became disenchanted with the whole deal, with the whole idea of leadership that I felt I had been taught.
The longer I live in this brief life, the less and less important the idea of leadership seems important to me. As far as the world of Jesus-followers is concerned, I don’t really think that we need more great leaders. I don’t think that’s the kind of revival we’re looking for. I don’t think we need more people who really want to have authority over others in order to help them, teach them, or guide them. The global church doesn’t need more initiators or people that really take charge. The gatherings of believers in the world do not need to spend more time focusing on potential future leaders to build the kingdom of God on earth.
Moses is a classic leadership example that I am going to use. A lot of leadership books have used the example of Moses. Then they go into a discussion of these different leadership characteristics he had and the way that he led and say things about the story that just don’t seem quite true, but fit into the book. I’d like to just stop at Moses.
Moses was a terrible candidate to be a leader. If he had sent me a resume to be the CEO of my company, I wouldn’t even have given him enough credit to send him a letter telling him he didn’t get the job. He wasn’t exactly good with people. To get revenge for a violent, but still normal and daily, action by an Egyptian, he killed him secretly. That was his strategy for helping. As a result, he made the Egyptians want to kill him and his people mock him and criticize him. I guess you could call him an initiator, but you could also call him a fool who wasn’t in control of his own actions. Then he goes off into the desert to hide. Bold and courageous Moses. He helped some hot women get some water (which is awesome), then defaulted to marrying one of them. Being the ambitious self starter that he is, after a long period of time we find that Moses’ career path is… to tend sheep for his father in law. He took life by the horns and wrestled it to the ground so he could live his dream. Then God calls him. And our self-confident leader Moses says he’ll go, sort of. As long as God lets Aaron do the speaking for him.
Do you see what I mean? For those involved in church leadership, is this the dude you would choose to lead hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children into the promised land? Does he have what you look for in young leadership to develop to be the future of the worldwide assemblies of believers in Jesus? Is Moses the guy of Maxwell, Stanley, Blanchard, or Hybels? Does he have the right qualities to be a leader in today’s church?
I love Moses. Moses is freaking amazing. He is, in so many ways, such a great model for our lives. But he is not a good model because of his many leadership qualities. I think he is a great model because of one leadership quality. Numbers 12: 3 “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone on the face of the earth.” We see this in his first direct interaction with God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt.” He’s no one. And he knows it. In his humility, he knows it. Through his honest humility, he develops a relationship with God where despite Moses’ weaknesses, lack of confidence, and incapacity, YHWH works through him to do amazing things. Moses was not a typical leader but that didn’t matter to God. Moses’ lack made no difference in his effectiveness. Because God’s Spirit gifted Moses with the ability to lead, Moses’ effectiveness at leadership could only limited by his pride, and he had less of it than anyone on earth.
I do not believe in developing leaders. I believe in developing people (which includes leaders). I believe in speaking the word of God to people to be humble, and in humility live in right relationship with God, and through humility receive God’s power. And if in one’s love for God and others, gifted by the Spirit of God, they find themselves called to be a leader let them lead and do so diligently. But if their gift is serving, then let them do so cheerfully. If it is prophecy, let them do so boldly. Let them all exercise their gifts out of humble love.
If a leader is leading because of their leadership qualities and desire to lead and not out of the empowering of the Holy Spirit brought about by the person’s humble relationship of love with Jesus, that’s a serious issue for our churches. God then is working through these persons misactions and misguided heart rather than through their humble obedience. And in their desire to lead and successful leading, the leader so often becomes deluded, believing that leadership is their honoring of God, is tantamount to obedience, their necessary path to being like Jesus, and it often comes at the expense of intimacy and humility. And others who are close to God are ignored by those positioned in some sort of spot of authority in the church because they lack leadership characteristics. There is a tendency to prop up quality business leaders in our church gatherings at the expense of the humble men and women that God would rather position there. Be wary.
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