In an effort to keep growing and learning, an effort to become a better pastor/shepherd, I’ve started reading a book a month on leadership. It’s amazing how many offerings there are. It’s almost impossible to decide where to start. Amid the myriad books I have in my pile, and among all the articles and devotionals I’ve read, there seems a common theme: a desire to lead like Jesus led. Clearly, Jesus is the ultimate leader and it’s no wonder that even non-Christian authors will at least reference him when expounding the topic. Everyone wants to break down Jesus’ leadership style and principles in a way that we are compelled to take up the mantle and lead like Jesus. I haven’t found one yet that explores how our ultimate Leader was so impactful because he was also the ultimate Follower.
Jesus said of himself, “I do nothing on my own. I do only what I see my Father doing.” In John 17 he describes a unity with the Father that is seamless, where every move of Jesus, and every word spoken is in perfect step and harmony with the Father. And then he prays that his disciples would know that same kind of unity with each other and with God. Amazing! Jesus, being in his very nature God, subjected himself to the “first person” of the godhead as a son submits to a father (Hebrews 1:5, Psalm 2:7, Acts 13:33). Then he clothes himself in our flesh and lives for us an example of surrender, submission, obedience, and blessing. He shows us that the most impactful life is a surrendered life — a life that follows God for the glory of God.
Paul, another great “Christian leader” seemed to understand this and admonished the people of God to “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul knew that no leadership principles were going to build the kingdom and grow God’s church. He knew that eloquent words and lofty speeches could never win a heart to Christ. He knew that God saves, and that Jesus is the only way to God. So rather than put himself on a pedestal and gain followers for himself, he admonished people to follow him only as he follows Christ. He desired a deeper fellowship with Christ even at the expense of all his worldly pedegree (Philippians 3:3-11). I believe we, as pastors and leaders, must take the same mindset. It is less about gaining followers for myself, less about building a church that is successful by my standards, and less about me feeling at all useful. It is all about bringing people to Jesus; it is his glory, his purpose, and his work. We are here to guide, teach, and direct but only in so much as to lead people to Jesus, for their good and his glory. We need to work ourselves out of a job, so to speak, by getting people to be able to walk on their own and lead others to do the same. It seems to me that may be called “discipleship.”