Leadership and Jesus
Today I met with my Christian Education leaders for the first of three ministry leadership development sessions I have planned for the year. I absolutely love these people. They are such a joy to be around. They encourage and inspire me, in ways they may never know, to be a better follower of Jesus and a pastor to His people.
For the first half of our meeting (we met today for two hours), we sang, prayed, ate, and fellowshipped. I also bought them Dave Kraft’s book, Mistakes Leaders Make, of which they read the first three chapters. I broke them up into their leadership teams and each ministry leader led their teams in reviewing and discussing each chapter.
For the second half, I reconvened them and spent about 45 minutes teaching on “Leadership and Jesus.” Here’s what I covered (I deleted the “Questions for Reflection” sections after each one so as to not make this post too long). I pray it will be helpful to you.
Leadership and Jesus
If our leadership – not to even mention our lives – is going to be faithful to and fruitful for God, we must follow God’s model of leadership. Here are five foundational characteristics that defined Jesus’ leadership when he was here on earth:
Jesus’ leadership was marked by prayerful communion with God the Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 9:18, 28; 11:1; John 17)
After successfully completing a major miraculous “project” of feeding 5,000+ people, Jesus goes up on a mountain by himself to pray (Matthew 14:22-23; Mark 6:45-46)
Feeling the weight of of his impending inexplicable and excruciating sin-bearing, wrath-absorbing sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus spent time in the garden of Gethsemane praying (Matthew 26:36-44; Mark 14:32-39; Luke 22:39-46)
Jesus prays all night before selecting 12 of his disciples to become Apostles (Luke 5:12-16)
Jesus prayed for Peter who would fail him by denying him (Luke 22:31-32)
We need not only to personally spend time in prayer, but we need to also model prayerfulness amongst our leadership teams. Our prayer times with each other need to be flavored with a sense of unhurried sincerity. This is not necessarily an appeal for you to pray long prayers. It has more to do with praying heartfelt prayers.
From the very outset of his life and ministry, Jesus was acutely aware of and fully dependent on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and guidance.
Jesus’ conception was supernaturally brought about by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35)
At Jesus’ baptism – the inauguration of his ministry – the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:16-17)
Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and was led by Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1)
Jesus casted out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28)
Jesus’ ministry was empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:17-19)
Everything about Jesus’ life and leadership was in sync with and informed by the Old Testament and soon-to-be-written New Testament.
Jesus lived his life according to the Old Testament. He perfectly fulfilled the Law of God. (Matthew 5:17)
Jesus used the Word (i.e., Old Testament) to successfully combat the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4:3-11)
Jesus endorsed John’s ministry before the crowd by quoting an Old Testament passage about him in Malachi 3:1 (Matthew 11:10)
Jesus referred to a passage in the book of Isaiah to describe the spiritual state of crowd and why he spoke to them in parables (Matthew 13:13-15)
Jesus committed the Scriptures to memory (Matt. 21:13, 16, 42; 22:29-32)
Jesus’ ministry was framed by the Scriptures (Luke 4:17-19)
The Gospel, i.e. his redemptive death on the cross for our sins and his resurrection from the dead, was central to and influenced Jesus’ ministry and leadership among the people. When you have a moment, just trace Jesus’ interactions with people throughout the Gospels. Here are just a few that I want to highlight:
How could God the Son, who became human, come into this sinful world and not condemn it? The Gospel (John 3:16-18)
How could the sinless Son of God offer forgiveness and accountability to a sinful woman who was caught in the act of adultery, instead of allowing her to be stoned to death according to the Law of Moses? The Gospel (John 8:1-11)
How could the righteous Son of God live among and even eat with unrighteous/self-righteous people, and not justifiably separate himself from us and leave us in spiritual darkness? The Gospel (Luke 7:36-39)
So too must the gospel be central to our lives and leadership. When it is, we and others will be able to tell because the culture or environment in our ministries and in our church at large will exude:
Grace – expressing undeserved loving kindness
Truth – embracing biblical standards and accountability
Forgiveness – erasing of intentional and unintentional sins and offenses committed
Repentance & Reconciliation – owning up to and turning from the sins committed against each other, & opening up our lives again and extending trust to the offender who has genuinely demonstrated fruits of repentance.
Love – doing good to others regardless of their actions towards us
Non-Judgmental – withholding prejudice and self-righteous judgment against others
Unity – realizing Jesus is the common denominator between us and accepting (i.e., not passing judgment or despising) each other and not fighting over personal opinions or preferences
How do we remain Gospel-centered? We must revel in it (1 Peter 1:3-6a) and remind ourselves of it (2 Timothy 2:8).
Jesus was clear on his mission, on his purpose for coming. He came to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). He was focused on the Father’s mission for his life, so much so that he would not allow people to derail him from it by accepting their attempt to make him an earthly king (John 6:15) or allow even one of his own disciples to dissuade him (Matthew 16:21-23).
Anything that we do as a church in general and as a department and ministry in particular should connect to and advance Jesus’ mission for us as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. If not, then we shouldn’t commit energy or resources to it.