This week Trevor Lloyd speaks on “the longing of leadership”.
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willingMatt.23:37
Then Jesus told them, ‘This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
‘“I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered…”(Matthew 26:31)
… as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life(John 11:51-53)
The longing of Jesus is to gather his people together; the lament of Jesus was that the sheep would be scattered; the ultimate hope of Jesus is that the scattered would be gathered together and made one!
Jesus continues to seek to gather his people together to become one and one of the ways he does this is to raise up shepherds or leaders like himself with the same longing (see Eph.4:11-16).
In some ways, it is difficult to speak of leadership in our cultural moment. There are several reasons for this. There is a natural resistance to being led by another that comes from our fallen, independent self. But it is especially so in our time. There is a crisis of national and political leadership – over issues of honesty and integrity. There have also been many high-profile moral failures of Christian leaders impacting the church. And we will all have felt disappointed in leaders at times. These affect our confidence in leadership altogether. It has caused some to abandon the whole idea of leadership, suggesting it always inevitably leads to power plays or ego boosting.
Abandoning confidence in leaders and leadership is understandable but it is not helpful. Because leadership, which I define as influencing and helping people move together toward a common goal, is essential to the scattered being gathered together and becoming one. At least, that is true of leadership which is modeled on Jesus and rooted in his longing for unity.
There are many, many individualistic, independent charismatic Christians who think they are flowing with the Spirit when they are just drifting with the cultural tide – which drifts towards individualism and contributes to the people being scattered rather than gathered. To be truly countercultural, I suggest we adopt the posture of the apprentice and learn the spiritual benefits of being open to learning from and following the lead of others.
How can we work with, co-operate with and respond to leadership so that we can move forward together? Here are some pointers, and guidelines. They are not a formula, and they’re not exhaustive. They are simply some seed thoughts that the Spirit can help to germinate and grow:
- Honour and value leadership: recognise that Jesus gives the gift of leadership to his church to help it to grow. Overcome your resistance to it. Welcome and embrace it. Refuse the spirit of the age that is cynical and dismissive of leadership, that regards all leaders as power-hungry control freaks. Individual leaders may behave dishonourably, but we can still honour leadership.
- Recognise that leaders are fallen, flawed and limited – just like you: they will disappoint you at times, they will get things wrong, and they may behave badly at times. Extend grace without excusing or giving an easy pass. They’re not only flawed but limited – they can’t know everything, do everything, be everywhere, get everything right. It is not your job to judge them – God does that.
- Share honestly but hold things lightly: don’t go just mumbling in our tents when upset about something – speak to leaders, to those who can do something about it. Start with phrases like ‘can you help me understand why…’ Regarding decisions made by leaders, recognise that they have most likely prayed, researched, discussed, and prayed again – have you? And if you want your voice to carry weight, make sure you are on the pitch and not just in the stands.
- Recognise that what you see and are passionate about is only part of the whole picture: you might be concerned with one aspect of the whole but some leaders have to see all parts in the light of the whole and how each part fits together. Be mindful of that and help them to help you.
- Know that leadership is not all about who is standing at the front and on the platform: leading in worship and the ministry of the Word are very important. But they are not the be-all and end-all of leadership. There are leaders throughout the community who can help you. It is important that such leaders are aligned with the core leadership.
- Accept that within a leadership team, there are different strengths and gifts: not every leader is good or gifted at everything, and so draw on the leader that helps you most in the season that you are in and in the challenges that you face.
As we all learn to follow leaders who follow Christ, the hope that he longs for can be fulfilled – the scattered are gathered and become one.