Leadership, It Has Its Risks

 

Leadership is something that I think about, read about, and talk about a good bit. In fact, it’s something that I think I’ve been gifted with (Rom. 12:6-8) to some degree by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). God helped me to discover this gift of leadership by always putting me in situations where I was required to lead to one degree or another from the time I was saved at age 18. By His grace, I’ve found that I’m able to make tough decisions, decisions that some disagree with, and to be accountable for them. I actually enjoy the responsibility of taking a group of people from point A to point B along a journey of some kind. Leadership is the reason I often enjoy writing, or speaking, or mentoring.

But there are great risks for leaders. And I think the greatest risk, perhaps the root of all of the risk symptoms, is summed up best by one word – pride. God states very clearly in James that He “…opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) What is pride? It’s the desire to see ourselves honored above others, or in other words is the exact opposite of Jesus who humbled Himself to death on a cross for the redemption of sinful man to the ultimate glory of God. That’s humility, putting others before ourselves! This is the ultimate example of servant leadership, and it is so contrary to the nature of our flesh.

So with pride as the foundation of what we need to war against so that our leadership is a reflection of Christ, let’s discuss some practical challenges to biblical, consistent leadership.

1.  Submission to authority.
One of the great challenges I see every day in young and old(er) leaders in various settings is in submission to authority. You see, every leader first has to be a follower. Every leader, even Christ Himself, has an authority structure, and all authority is God’s authority (Rom. 13:1). So when looking at things through a biblical filter, we begin to realize that we answer to more than a man or a woman, but that our submission or resistance to our authority (pastor, teacher, boss, etc.) is actually our submission or resistance to God Himself. That changes one’s perspective in a HUGE way!

2.  Conflict avoidance.
As a society, we seem to hate conflict, even run from it in the opposite direction. To be a leader, you must be willing to have the hard conversation! I think the root of this problem can be traced to ideas that our culture values and that often seem to be without harm. Take the way we view rights for instance. We typically honor a person’s rights, within reason, right up until the point that they start to intrude upon another person’s. We’ve also applied this philosophy to systems of belief, and it sounds something like this: you believe what you want to believe, and I’ll believe what I want to believe.

We’ve even gone so far as a society as to say that each belief system, no matter how different, can both be true to the individual. It’s like saying 1 + 1 = 2, and 1 + 1= 3 can both be true, as long as you believe. And the next step is the really scary one, that if you disagree with someone’s conclusion or belief system, then you automatically become judgmental! It’s been said many times that the most well known verse in all of Scripture is Matthew 7:1 (“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”).  This represents a serious misunderstanding of the biblical context of judgment. Here’s the short version, since this is a blog after all. Judging really comes down to 2 things: hypocrisy and desiring that another be found guilty. It is not judging to exhort brothers and sisters in the faith to live according to biblical standards! And it is not judging to share Jesus with those who do not know the Gospel. That, my friends, is LOVE!  

3.  The “happy rule.”
I completely made this title up by the way, so let me clarify. One thing that drives me crazy as much as anything else is decision making based on what makes the most people…happy. As leaders, our decision making process should run through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, God’s desires and not our own. And just to be frank, often the right decision is the exact opposite of the one that will make the most people happy. And really, who is it that thinks they can make everyone happy anyway? My three children have different desires that would make each happy, how many desires would you have to meet to make everyone happy in your business, or church, or other organization? Bottom line, it can’t be done and shouldn’t be pursued even if it was possible (which it isn’t J).

4. Loose lips.
Was anyone else thinking they sink ships? But I digress. Ima (slang for “I will”) keep this one simple. Gossip is sin. Late night phone calls, facebook messages, and hushed hallway conversations regarding others not included in said conversations are rude, inappropriate, and ungodly. And my honest experience is that the ability to go straight to others to express your concerns can actually gain trust. 

As a youth pastor, I worked for three years under the authority of a pastor who had a very different theological foundation, leadership style, and personality than I did. Those things can be a recipe for disaster! I’m happy to say that at the end of my time at that church, although we still didn’t see eye to eye on many issues, we had developed a respect for one another, a trust. What did I do to foster that relationship? I showed him respect in simple ways such as asking for permission to do certain things rather than telling him what I was going to do. I walked into his office, closed the door, and expressed my concerns in our church, programming, and decision making in private. I respected his position of authority as established by God and for His purposes. And I did not participate in slandering him behind his back or power-grabbing.

If you are a leader, these are things you must practice in humility to truly be able to lead others. And make no mistake; the things I’ve mentioned in this post are neither comprehensive nor formulaic. There are no guarantees here that if you perform them you will be rewarded through your circumstances. I’ve seen others who have been unapologetically fired for being honest in the ways I’ve expressed here. But rest assured, the One who rewards is well aware of our integrity (or lack thereof) in situations like these and will repay accordingly. As leaders, let’s respond to our circumstances in integrity and let God be in charge of the results!

 


Ritchie Johnson
Director, Transform Student Ministries

 

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