In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:5-8]
One of my future books is going to be on leadership. I’ve already started to write it. It’s tentatively titled; “Leader Sheep; Leading From a Posture of Submission in Ministry, Business and Life”. Last night I began meditating on this passage from Philippians and what it means from the perspective of leadership the way Jesus modeled.
Over the years I’ve read a lot of books on leadership. What I have found is that while many of them will pay lip service to things like generosity, grace and humility, at the end of the day the overwhelming majority give the impression that leadership is the domain of the macho-man (almost all of the authors are men) who takes no prisoners and unapologetically grabs leadership opportunities by the horns.
As a Christ Follower I find this approach to be unacceptable, unspiritual and downright unbiblical. Time and time again throughout scripture we find examples of “natural leaders” being shunned by God in favor of misfits, outsiders and even a few outlaws. God tends to use some of the most unworthy and incapable people as leaders.
Because leadership is never really about the leaders. It’s about the goal that has been set before them. It’s about the outcome, the people, the process and most of all from a Christ following perspective it’s about God.
That passage from Philippians shows us that the way Jesus led his people was through service, even if anyone had the right to lead with bravado and power it was him. Earlier the Apostle Paul tells his readers to live a life that is worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made even when faced with persecution.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,.. [Philippians 1:27-29].
So how do we live our lives and lead in our ministries and businesses in a manner “worthy of the gospel”?
We serve. But we more than just serve in the way you would expect. Secular service is done with the expectation of a reward. Service sector businesses expect to be paid for their services and ultimately make a profit. Jesus taught us to serve with no such expectation. In fact he expected and ultimately received death in response to his service.
I am not suggesting that Christians in leadership should expect to die or that Christians in business shouldn’t expect to make money. But we need to change our understanding of what it means to lead in submission to God. We may never receive any recognition for our service and that’s okay. It’s not about us any way. All the leadership books and popular psychology on the subject of success miss that one key element. As Rick Warren so famously put it in the opening phrase of his book The Purpose Driven Life – “It’s not about you!”
Even Jesus had to learn to be submissive and give up on a traditional notion of success in order to be effective. Are you worthy of that kind of responsibility? Can you lead without expectation of any reward ? Are you a servant leader? Are you a Leader Sheep?