Leadership in the kingdom of God is much like a rafting trip. It’s the big-picture view that will keep us moving forward, facing the rapids of opposition or sinful pride or our own nagging sense of inadequacy. Without perspective, we may not be able to get down that river well–or guide and shepherd others.
We are living in a time when it’s particularly hard to get a perspective on leading God’s people in a way Jesus would recognize. The clamor is for big numbers and quick results. Offering a cup of cold water to the least of these does not build a reputation for success, not in this current climate. The pressure is to be the hero, the strong leader who won’t take “no,” or the guy who’s the boss.
Where is our faith in the power of the Gospel, rather than sheer human effort?
Much like my Grand Canyon trip, we can begin this journey of being a leader–a Christian leader– with the best of intentions and high ideals, but this does not sustain. When the going gets rough, we will feel swamped, and the tendency is to do what comes naturally: dominate and control, go with the flow of what other leaders around us do. We will strive to be the hero, the focus of people’s attention, and the leader of a vibrant ministry organization or church.
“Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross…” the write of Hebrews said. In other words, this big-picture view of eternity with the Father and hearing Him say, “Well done,” was the motivation and the prize. Even for Christ. Some people call this an “eternal perspective.” It’s not unlike that beautiful big-picture view of the Grand Canyon that kept me paddling and hiking up a canyon wall. The reality that we will stand before Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, shapes our perspective on what it means to lead as Christ led.
Before I became a Christ follower, the idea of leading–and leading well–captivated me. As a manager I was trained to think in terms of an even wider variety of accomplishments. In the military I learned to measure success by position. But when I read the life of Jesus and began to follow Him, God turned many of those ideas upside down.