Spiritual Leadership: Becoming Great
The Bible rarely uses the term/concept of “leader.” Not nearly as much in proportion to the way we throw the word around in the church today. The people of God had patriarchs, prophets, judges, kings, priests, and others who led them. But more often than not, these men and women were labeled “servants.”
Sanders, in chapter 3 of Spiritual Leadership, points out that Jesus’ use of “servant” was radical, turning the social order on its head. His call to service was not attractive. Texts such as Mark 10:42-45 and Galatians 5:13 hit the earliest Christians in the same way as they had James and John when Jesus originally spoke to them: They didn’t know what they were doing when they asked to sit at his right and his life in his kingdom.
Sanders says there are two principles of leadership we can gain from Jesus’ call to service. First, the sovereignty principle. “To sit at my right or left is not for me to grant” (Mark 10:40). Sanders writes, “God assigns places of spiritual ministry and leadership in His sovereign will.” In the church today, we are not elected or appointed by individuals, but by God.
Second, there is the suffering principle. “Can you drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38). Sadly, the disciples asserted they were able. Jesus makes it crystal clear that leadership in the kingdom means sacrifice and suffering. James was executed and John spent his final days in exile.
In Isaiah 42, we read about the attitudes and actions of the Messiah to come. Sanders says we find these six things:
1. Dependence. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold” (Isa. 42:1). Jesus emptied himself of divine rights and privileges and was upheld by God. Only in emptying can we learn what it means for God to uphold us in our endeavors.
2. Approval. “My chosen one in whom I delight” (Isa. 42:1). God declared his delight in Jesus at his baptism and transfiguration. Servant leaders today find their delight and acceptance in God, not in what they do or the people they do it for.
3. Modesty. “He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets” (Isa. 42:2). What a contrast to the Christian celebrities we have made with our subculture’s emphasis on those who lead us in worship, radio artists, preachers, televangelists, authors, conference speakers, etc. Jesus did not seek headlines, and neither should we.
4. Empathy. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isa. 42:3). Servants understand that their concern for the least of these is one of empathy, not sympathy. We have all been among “the least of these” at some point, and by the grace of God someone had empathy for us.
5. Optimism. “He will not falter or be discouraged until he establishes justice on the earth” (Isa. 42:4). Spiritual leadership and pessimism don’t go together. We have the hope of Christ in us.
6. Anointing. “I will put my spirit on him” (Isa. 42:1). Just as God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit, so we are anointed. The five characteristics above are not adequate alone.
What would you add? How does this change the way you lead your small group?