When you think about business, political and church leaders, what comes immediately to mind? Is is humility? Is it service? Is it integrity?
The Harvard Business Review, describes today’s world as being in a leadership crises: “People clamor for direction, while you are faced with a way forward that isn’t at all obvious. Twists and turns are the only certainty” (link).
John MacArthur has written: “The world is crying out for leaders–great heroic, noble, trustworthy leaders. We need leaders at every level of social order–from political leaders in the international realm to spiritual leaders in the church and the family” (The Book on Leadership, 4).
Where can this desperate need be answered? There are hundreds and hundreds of books on leadership available today. Many of them aptly define the problems we face. But if any of them actually provided the solution, people would not be having this discussion any longer.
Yet, there is one book that has stood the test of time. It has proved adept at navigating leaders through many crises, over several millennia in all sorts of cultures and circumstances. That book is the Bible.
Christians have an almost unprecedented opportunity to step into the vacuum and show the world what leadership looks like once again. I say “almost” unprecedented, because our modern time is so much like the era at the end of the Classical period, as the Roman Empire collapsed. Virtually no moral or ethical standards were universal, and leaders of integrity nearly impossible to find.
In that dark hour, not a few key individuals, but the church as a whole stepped into the gap and became the leading governance, education, technology and social force in the European world for the next thousand years.
Unfortunately, as that church became more and more like the world, its influence began to wane, and corruption nearly overwhelmed it. With moral crises after moral crises, and political chaos, no one knew what would happen to Europe. The reformation leadership represented a return to the world shaking power of biblical leadership.
It was the Reformers, who set the political and educational and economic climates for the north and west of Europe. Once again however, society is in trouble, the church has fallen from being a leader to a fringe movement that follows nearly every leadership fad that comes along. The opportunity and the time is ripe for the church once again be the innovative voice of leadership direction for the world.
But to get there, the church must grasp what true leadership really is. No person, is inherently “worthy” of leadership. Nor are we as humans capable of truly bearing the burdens of power. The maxim: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is based upon this recognized fact. It is here, at this very weakness that Christianity provides the scope and hope to recovery leadership integrity.
Christians recognize human sinfulness: “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We have in us a principle of selfishness and pettiness that inhibits our ability to lead. Christian leadership resultantly comes from a position of humility. We recognize that we are not capable of leading on our own strength.
Above and beyond leadership, the most important issue of every persons life is the state of our relationship to God. Isaiah 59:2 reminds us: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God”. The Lord Jesus came to “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
To have our sins forgiven, we must put our trust (faith) in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour. He is Saviour in that since the just penalty for rebellion against our Creator and King is death (Romans 3:23), he came “so that by God’s grace He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9) and thus appease God’s wrath for all who hope and trust in him (John 3:36).
He is Lord, in that he is God, our Creator. He knows our every weakness. He knows our strengths. He knows our struggles and he wrote the “Owners manual” on our lives. By virtue of his being the Creator, he has an absolute claim on us. By virtue of his ongoing kindness and love and grace, caring for our needs comprehensively “he gives us life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25), and so deserves our love and loyalty in return. His right to be obeyed, and his worthiness of loyalty and love, make him the perfect Lord, and only absolute leader.
Every Christian is therefore a follower of Christ. Every Christian is beholden to him as both Lord and Saviour and thus humbled before the Lord our God our Maker: “Mankind, He has told you what is good / and what it is the Lord requires of you: / to act justly, / to love faithfulness, / and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
The Christian lives to serve God. God commands us to serve our fellow man and to “do good to all people” (Galatians 6:10). To maintain our relationship with God, a Christian leader must be “above reproach”, faithful in marriage, “self- controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, …not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy” (cf. 1 Timothy 3). While these qualifications speak directly to leadership qualifications in the Church. The New Testament shows that these are the leaderships exemplification of the expectations for Christians in general.
At the foundation of Christian leadership is (1) humility before God, (2) an attitude of service toward our fellow man, and (3) personal integrity. Humility, service and integrity, set the Christian leader apart from the crowd and it is these three things that the world so desperately cries out for in leadership today. When the Church as a whole exhibits this, when millions of people in our society become known for humility, service and integrity, they will become the guiding light of our national conscience. Christians may not “control the White House” in a political sense, but they will control the heart of the nations, and the nation and its leaders reflect one another.
Christian leadership does not call for position, but for influence. Influence does not require power or position. Sometimes those in power are helpless to act in a crises, and those who seem helpless influence millions. I love the illustration of this given in Acts 27. There the Apostle Paul is a prisoner on a Roman ship. The ships Captain, and the Military Officers aboard are overwhelmed when the worst happens. But the lowly prisoner is able to motivate the entire crew, and to save the lives of all through his surprising influence, rooted in humility, service and integrity.
This kind of leadership is rooted in the gospel. So if we truly desire to have a lasting impact and influence on our culture, our most pressing and urgent task is the evangelization of our society (and of the world). Ironically, as the Church has turned up the volume on social action and politics, her obsession with relevance, had led to the loss of cultural possession. Our post-christian culture is leaving the church behind. History demonstrates (think the Evangelical Awakening in England and America in the 18th century) that when the Church has been obsessed with the gospel, she becomes through her influence possessed of the place we continually yearn for in world affairs.