1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV)
A Bible question I received last week reminded me of a message series that I have wanted to do for a long time. Leadership is a subject near and dear to my heart not only because Godly leadership is such a rarity today but because it has been such a big part of my life. As a former drill sergeant, a Bible teacher, and a manager or owner of several businesses through the years, I have not only experienced the life of leadership but have seen firsthand how desperately more Godly leaders are needed.
You might be tempted to think these lessons are not for you if you are not in some position of authority, supervising other people, or in some way the leader of a group. That could not be farther from the truth. Every person in their own way leads to some degree or another whether they realize it or not. Regardless, the character traits, skills, and Godly attributes of the leader make every person a better individual. Even if you do not consider yourself to be a “leader” (you are though, you just may not realize it), knowing and understanding about leadership will help you be a better follower (we are all followers, too, even the “leaders” follow someone), and help you to support the leaders around you and help cultivate the potential leaders you come in contact with.
It would be a mistake to tune out this series of lessons thinking is only going to apply to those in an official leadership positions. Again, everyone in different ways and at different times will fulfill the role of leader or be a part of the making of leaders.
Most Christian teaching on leadership that I have seen focuses on a person or situation in the Bible and draws out the leadership lesson from the passages. Of course, there have been many insightful books and sermons preached on leadership. Leadership is found all through Scripture and the principles of it are displayed or discussed from cover to cover although it is not necessarily labeled “leadership.” Rather than focusing on one person in the Bible, I am going to approach leadership by giving you a list of principles and characteristics, followed by some things the Bible has to say about them.
My goal is that when the series of lessons is concluded, you will have a list of leadership principles that you can understand and apply practically to your life. Those who are in more traditional leadership roles like pastors, business owners, managers ,and teachers will be able to apply the principles in their official capacity. Everyone else, whether you are leading a family, the unofficial leader of friends, the mentor or parent of a growing leader, or any number of other roles can equally benefit from leadership principles.
There are a lot of books and resources already available concerning leadership. Much of it is worldly, even a great deal that is labeled “Christian.” I will approach the subject strictly from what I believe God would have a leader to be even if it goes against the currently accepted worldly professional idea of leadership. As with any topic that deals with living life, I am afraid the world has MUCH more influence on Christianity than Christians have had on the world. Generally speaking, much like counseling, materialism, or market-driven “church,” the Church has embraced the world’s proclamations about leadership rather than delivering God’s thoughts about leadership to a world that desperately needs them.
Much of today’s secular leadership principles are based on pragmatism (much of it cloaked in metaphysics). If it works, it must be right. As with all things about Christianity, pragmatism is not how we measure what God would have us to do. God has given us a written Word that flies in the face of what the world teaches most of the time. It is no different with the subject of leadership.
So, if you are looking for or afraid this may turn out to be just another rehash of Carnegie — Zigler — Covey — Robbins — Peterson — Schuller, I will go ahead let you know know that it is not. Where those men agree with God, I agree with them. Where they diverge from God and follow the path of humanism, pop psychology, or “self-ism,” without apology I will disagree with them – no matter how many professional, successful leaders write me and say “who are YOU????”.
Godly Leadership: imitating Christ while
others follow you and become more like Christ.
Here is what I plan to discuss in this series of messages: What is leadership? Who does it apply to? What are some of the characteristics of Godly leadership? Finally, I’ll end with a list of practical applications that you can put to use on a daily basis.
What Is Leadership?
- A Godly leader is primarily someone who imitates Christ so that those who follow will become more like Christ. If I had to sum up leadership, that would be it. 1 Corinthians 11:1
- A leader is someone who will choose right, act right, think right, and seek what is right so that others may follow them to what is right. Luke 6:39
- A leader is someone who will purposefully cultivate Godly character in their own life in order to instill it into the lives of those whom they lead. Ephesians 4:24
- A leader is someone who understands that most of the world, and even most Christians, are headed in the wrong direction. A leader is someone who is headed in the right direction, towards God, and does their best not only to turn others from the wrong direction, but continue to show them the right path over the long term. 2 Timothy 3:2
- Leadership is having the courage to seek out and obey God and show others how to do the same in a world where very few seek God. Matthew 7:13
- Leadership is leading people toward what is important in life rather than what is temporal, fleeting ,and materialistic. Matthew 6:20
Of course there are techniques, skills, and systems that leaders can use and should learn; but, leadership, in my opinion, is primarily more about character, courage, and Godliness. Give me a person with conviction and integrity, and to varying degrees (depending on their God-given gifts), they can be taught to be a leader. Give me a self-serving, worldly person and though they possess the highest degree of natural leadership skill, they will never amount to anything more than someone who is climbing the ladder of worldly success while others pay the price for their ascent.
Who Does Leadership Apply To?
Every person is a leader in some way even if it is to simply lead their own life towards God. In a real sense, you lead yourself. However, more than that, most everyone actually leads someone else.
It is the rare case of a person who never in any sense leads another person whether it is a parent leading a child, a mentor mentoring, a manager leading a subordinate, a teacher leading a student, or a friend leading a friend. Whether you realize it or not, you are a leader. If you have ever given advice, direction, or instruction, you are a leader. If you have ever taught a class, led a Bible study, or counseled someone, you are a leader. If you have ever had anyone look to you as their example, you are a leader. If another person has ever observed your life and formed an opinion about how they should act as a Christian, then you are a leader.
Granted, I believe there is a specific manifestation of the gift of leadership that God gives to certain people. Not all people are “official” leaders or have that gift. In fact, I would go so far as to say there are far too many self-proclaimed leaders that God has NOT called or gifted to lead in the official public sense.
There is the general sense of leadership in that each person has influence over one or more people in their life. That is leadership. More specifically, God gives certain people the gift and mission in life to actively and more broadly lead groups of people whether as a manager, a mentor, a teacher, or as someone who has great influence over others’ lives. It is a mistake to think that only people in official leadership positions are leaders; in fact, almost every single person is a leader to some degree and should understand the responsibility of leadership.
To those whom God has called specifically to the official role of leadership, the principles and characteristics we will discover are simply learned, practiced, applied, and taught to a greater degree, to a larger number of people perhaps in an official capacity.
Whether you feel like God has called you to a public position of leadership; whether you are simply a leader within your family or group of friends; or if you are an example that a few people in your world look to, it is important to understand the effect you have as a leader, the influence that you have as leader, and the responsibility that you have as a leader.
Godly leadership, while overlapping with a few of the common leadership qualities and skills that we often hear in business leadership training, is primarily a matter of spirit, character, and truth.
I’ll close the introduction to the series by stating again what I believe the essence of true Godly leadership is: a leader imitating Christ so that those who follow them may become more Christ-like. It does not matter if it is parenting, mentoring, counseling, management, or simply being someone who is an example to another person – it is all considered leadership. Tomorrow we will begin to look at the characteristics of a Godly leader.
A leader imitates Christ so that those who follow them will become more Christ-like.
Lord God, Help us to realize that we are all leaders in some way and so we should all imitate Christ so others can imitate us. Help those of us who have been called to a public ministry of leadership to be Godly leaders of men, full of character and integrity, seeking Your design for leadership instead of the world’s. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: We desperately need true Godly leaders today. The Church has once again been mesmerized with the worldly way of doing things, and has embraced materialistic and humanistic ideas about leadership. We are at a time where Christians need to turn back to God’s Word and find out what He has to say about leadership even if it flies in the face of the world’s declarations.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?