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Archive for the ‘Servant Leadership’ Category

Ephesians 6 on children and parents

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Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Recently a businessman was telling me that he finds Christian organisations are the worst at paying his invoices. Another said that Christian employees tended to be lazy and produce poorer quality work. And then still another chipped in that he would never again work in a Christian organisation because of the culture of mediocrity and dysfunctional relationships. That’s obviously only anecdotal evidence. I know many wonderful exceptions to those generalisations. But if there is some truth there, what is the root problem? Well we’re all sinners. But surely Christian organisations should be the best places to work in and work with, the best employers with the best employees?

In a great article (here), Graham Hooper, notes that most talks and books on ‘being a Christian in the workplace’ tend to focus on ethics, evangelism or excellence:

  • Ethics: “don’t fiddle your expense accounts and tax returns and don’t steal pencils form the office”
  • Evangelism: “how to turn a chance encounter at the photocopier into a conversation about Jesus”
  • Excellence: “be the very best accountant/advertise/architect you can be”

While all three are hugely important he points out something more fundamental is often neglected – relationships. In particular, Ephesians 6:5-9 (and the parallel passage in Colossians 3:22-4:1) emphasises vertical and horizontal relationships:

  • The vertical relationship – The employee’s primary relationship is with the Lord Jesus. He is a “servant of Christ” (v5). It’s an immensely privileged position (servant of the Lord) and a very humbling one (servant of the Lord). And in exactly the same way the employer is also a slave of Jesus (v9). The gospel levels us all out. It doesn’t matter where we are in the company hierarchy, how long our job title is, we are all simply fellow servants of Christ whose job every day is to do his will, with a passion for him, seeking to please him who loved us and gave himself up for us.
  • The horizontal relationship – Ephesians is amazing here – we are to serve others as if those others are Christ! (v5,7) My service of Christ and service of others are not separate things they are one – I serve Christ through serving my boss as I would Christ. And – even more amazingly – it’s true of the boss as well – “do the same to them” (v9) i.e. do good to your slaves and employees, serve them, as if you were serving the Lord and not men. A servant leader. How radical would that have sounded 2000 years ago? And how radical now? How would our workplaces be different if we were serving each other as if we were serving Christ?

This is what God is concerned about in the workplace – relationships. As Hooper says:

I’ve found that building relationships with people is often the biggest test for the Christian. Relationships at work raise many challenges for us: how we exercise authority; how we respond to authority; how we handle conflict. In these areas our professed faith is tested every day. But, every time we face a work situation where we seek to respond in a way that honours the name of Jesus, then our work is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. In becoming an act of service to the Lord himself, it becomes something of eternal significance, part of our worship of God and not ‘in vain’.

And He is at work in us. As our commitment to do our work for the Lord is tested, so we learn to rely on God and so we grow. At work we have to deal with long hours, pressure, difficult people, difficult customers, failure when things don’t turn out well. It is in the pressure cooker of work, in the rough and tumble of life, that God moulds us into the people he wants us to be.

It is out of this ‘rough and tumble’, out of the and messiness of relationships, out of the fusion of vertical and horizontal, eternal and mundane, that the fruit of ethics, evangelism and excellence comes.

You can listen to Graham Hoopers’ talks for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity here.

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Some dates for the diary and prayers…

RTB ad (1) 2014

We’re excited that for the first time, the Raising the Bar preaching and leadership conference will be happening in Kisumu as well as Nairobi. Another new feature will be that RTB 2014 will be a residential 72 hour intensive. We feel we’re being led more and more towards a fellowship model – a community hungry to keep growing and learning, a band of brothers who can encourage one another and sharpen one another in keeping the main thing the main thing and preaching Christ from all the Scriptures.

On the idea of ‘raising the bar’ see here.

If you’re in Kenya (or East Africa) and interested in joining us contact us here.

And for a little taster of RTB from earlier this year…

And for the trailer for this year…

 

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RCLucas

Dick Lucas has this extraordinary way of putting things in such a straightforward, brotherly, commonsensical way that it’s only when you later think over what might have at first seemed almost a throwaway remark that you realise that it represents the tip of an iceberg of research and wisdom, that, if taken seriously, has devastating force. E.g.:

Training for Christian leadership is probably a false trail; Jesus taught his intimate disciples to Serve, and thereby they became the apostles we know. (emphasis original, Foreword to Dear Friends, 2013, p9)

The world is very keen on leadership training. How to manage, how to get noticed, how to get to the top, how to handle conflict to your advantage. Every week LinkedIn sends me a seductive digest of ‘life hacks’, ‘the 5 things Donald Trump doesn’t do, ‘the 3 boardroom secrets that nobody knows’ etc. etc. And in the Church we can copy that – slightly Christianize it with a few verses scattered around – but basically it’s the same stuff – ‘the 5 strategic steps to 360 degree perpendicular church growth leadership’. Because we still, at the end of the day, a) think that the world has all the best answers and b) deep down have an unreformed view of leadership – we still think of leadership as an attractive prospect of being at the top with the power and the impressive title and lots of people running around at our beck and call.

At the iServe induction workshop we returned to Matthew 20:20-28 and asked:

  • How does the mother understand the Kingdom? Do we hear that understanding of the kingdom in our churches sometimes?
  • Why were the ten other disciples indignant?
  • What is the normal pattern of leadership among ‘the Gentiles’? How are status, power and position linked? How do we see this today in politics, in the corporate world, in the church, in the family?
  • What is so radical about what Jesus says about leadership in the kingdom? What has happened to status, power and position?
  • What sort of God do we have in Jesus?
  • How is Jesus both our salvation and our example? Why do we need both?

Jesus turns everything upside down and then shakes it – destroying all our categories, all the connections we make between identity, authority and position. Gentile leadership models are given no place in his Church. “It shall not be so among you.” A theology of glory and an economy of power is replaced by a theology of the Cross and an economy of service.

Harrison has pointed out before how even the term “servant leadership” can become just another tool in the Gentile leadership toolbox. From at least the 1970s even the secular corporate world has realised that servant leadership works but, although some have tried to keep a pure focus on servanthood (and hopefully in another post we can interact with Robert Greenleaf’s work on servant leadership), often it has become simply another management strategy; another means to an end. So we are aspiring leaders first and servants as an optional pragmatic second.

A biblical servant leader, in contrast, has the servant bit in bold type not the leader bit. The core identity is ‘servant’ – like all God’s people. Like God himself in fact (amazingly). ‘Servant’ does not qualify ‘leader’, rather ‘leader’ qualifies ‘servant’. And the way to train in servant leadership is (to come back to Dick Lucas and to Matt. 20) not to aim at leadership but at service.

Even the Son of man came… to serve

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On the subject… iServe Africa is still seeking funds to purchase some land on which to establish a Leadership Centre (maybe we should call it a ‘Service Centre’ (but that sounds like the place you’d return a faulty appliance or have a car repaired)). Time is running out for this appeal so if you have a heart for seeing fresh graduates and others trained in the gospel, gospel ministry and biblical servant leadership please contact the office to find out how you can partner with the project. And here’s a video about it:

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In 2 Chronicles 26 at the last First Priority prayer meeting we saw King Uzziah’s reign go through a very clear trajectory:

Slide1

It had been exactly the same with his father Amaziah (2 Chron. 25) and his father Joash (2 Chron. 22-24). A wonderful rise and then a terrible fall. Throughout history it’s been the shape of world empires and nations, of companies and organisations, sadly of churches and revivals, and of countless politicians and personalities. Why?

Surely the deep answer is that it’s the shape of Adam. The first word of the book(s) of Chronicles signals that search for a second Adam –  the one who will reverse the fall, bring blessing, crush evil, restore all things. And in Uzziah it looks like we may have found him: restorer (v2), crusher of evil (v6, 11-15), a great ‘name’ and spreading dominion (v8, 15 cf. Gen. 12:2; 15:18), the builder of Jerusalem (v9), a gardener (v10). But then, like Adam he breaks faith (v16), enters into a living death (v19 cf. Num. 12:12), and is separated from God’s presence (v21).

This is the pattern of Adam and it happens again and again at every level of society because we are all born in Adam. My real problem is not that I have an ‘Uzziah’ in my life (e.g. pride) that I need to kill. The problem is that I am Uzziah – I’m born in the man of death and decay and I deserve to die eternally.

What I need is the true King whom Isaiah saw the year Uzziah died (Isa. 6); the second Adam who would bring in a new Eden (Isa. 11). What was the shape of his life? Look at Isaiah 52:13-53:12:

Slide2

Instead of a meteoric rise and a terrible fall, this King starts in exalted glory, descends to take human flesh, descends to a humiliating execution and then is exalted to the throne above all thrones (Phil. 2; John 13).

That is the shape of our salvation. That is what absorbs and reverses the shape of our Adamic curse. And it is also the shape of those who are in Christ Jesus. It is the shape of servant leadership. A few of the OT greats were clearly conformed to this U-shape – e.g. Joseph, Job, Daniel. And it is for us to whom Paul says: “have this mind” (Phil. 2:5).

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An old question: Why does 1 Samuel 8 seem to be very negative about the idea of a king while Deuteronomy 17 seems to be fine about it and Judges seems to think the big problem is the lack of a king?

A friend helped me see recently that it’s not about having a king or not it’s about what sort of king. It’s very similar to (and connected to) the issue I keep banging on about on this blog that it’s not so much “Do you believe in God?” but “What sort of God do you believe in?”

You get two types of king in Deuteronomy 17:14-20: a) A king who is on the same level as his brothers, whose chief work is to daily read the Law so that he would fear God, keep and do the Law, and not be proud; and b) A king who accumulates stuff (“multiply for himself” x3) and sends the people back to Egypt.

The people in 1 Sam. 8 want a king like the kings of the nations around. Samuel explains what that sort of king is going to be like: v11-18 – he will be a taker (“he will take” x6) who will make himself and his aggrandisement the big project (“his” x9), basically enslaving you until you cry out like you did in Egypt (v17-18). But the people don’t care – there’s a sense in which that’s exactly what they want. They want a Big Man.

The LORD God says in choosing the world’s Big Man model of leadership they are rejecting him as king (v7). They are doing what they’ve always done, “forsaking me and serving other gods” (v8). Notice the connection between choice of deity and choice of king. The LORD God is not a Big Man-type leader. He isn’t a taker, he’s the giver. He isn’t an oppressor, he’s the liberator. He doesn’t make people serve his power agenda, he stoops to serve. But the Israelites (like we all naturally do in our perversity) want cruel tyrannical Big-Boss-In-The-Sky gods.

And the LORD says, that rejection of the true servant God and turning to tyrannical idols is now being played out at the human level: “so they are also doing to you (Samuel)” (v8). Samuel is the good leader of Deut. 17 – governing Israel by the Word and prayer (e.g. 1 Sam. 7 & 12). He is the servant leader who can say to the people, “What have I taken? Whom have I oppressed?” (1 Sam. 12).

What we need is what we don’t naturally want – The Servant King who perfectly fulfils the patterns of the Law and the Prophets: our Elder Brother who gives himself, who serves us, who sets us free. And second, we need servant leaders like Him – who are Word-driven, loving, obedient, serving, humble.

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According to Mark Toth of the global HR group Manpower:

What’s the absolute #1 leadership trait in the history of the universe?

The correct answer is . . . humility.

That may seem 100% counter-intuitive when you picture today’s stereotypical CEO. But according to various workplace gurus (including Jim Collins and the research team behind the landmark business book Good to Great, as well as recent studies published in the Academy of Management Journal and Organization Science), it’s true.

Leaders who are truly (1) servant-hearted, (2) able to put others and the organization first and (3) willing to listen with humility to other points of view are the ones that people will follow. Thus, if you want to win in today’s hyper-competitive world of work you should (1) hire, promote and retain people who fit that description and (2) strive to fit it yourself.

So, I humbly suggest that you ask yourself this question today: Do others see humility in me? If you want to be a truly great leader, the answer should be a resounding “YES.”

(article here)

Funny how the world sometimes catches up:

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people (Daniel 4:17)

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:44-45)

Christ Jesus… being in very nature God… humbled himself (Phil. 2:5-8)

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What if servant leadership flows from the nature of God and his mission…

Solomon tells it like it is:

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.   (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9)

Extractive model

That’s the default leadership position for the world. The Ancient Egyptians used it, the Roman Empire, the British Empire. You could call it the extractive model. If I’m the king in this system I just want to get as much profit as I can from the land over which I rule. So I divide and conquer. I put officials under me with layers of officials under them with the job of getting as much as possible out of the powerless peasants who farm the land. In this system the arrow is basically upward – resources, revenue, respect all goes upward. What goes down are orders and domination.

The extractive model is never going to create servant leaders. The officials are not there to serve the people under them, they are there to exert power over them and get as much tax revenue as possible from them. And the official is not even a true servant of the official above them or the king himself. In fact he hates his overlord as much as the peasant – he wants his job. So you see the nature of the king and the nature of his commission defines the sort of leader you get. If the king is raw power, sucking up resources into himself like a giant leech (as Mike Reeves puts it), then the leader under him will become like him.

But there is another model. Here’s Paul giving Titus a leadership 101:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness

Notice the ‘for’ – Paul is a servant of God and sent by Jesus Christ for a particular purpose – not to tax God’s people, not to tie burdens on God’s people, not to go on a power trip and lord it over God’s people – but for their sake – to build them up in the faith, to increase their joy in Christ, to set them free with the truth. Where does this come from? It comes straight out of the heart of God himself. He is no leech. He has always been a giving, blessing, gracious, outpouring God:

2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

Before he was a Creator or a Law-giver, God was a Lover and a Promiser. Before he made anything, let alone before he made us, and long before we’d done anything, God set his incredible love on us and promised us everything – New Creation, Glory, Joy, Christ Himself.

3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour… 7 For an overseer as God’s steward

Gospel modelYou see again how the nature of the king and the nature of his commission defines the sort of leader you get. This model is the opposite of the extractive model. The arrow is basically down. God’s nature is essentially Saviour (it says that four times in Titus). He’s not just raw power, he’s not just up there demanding glory and praise and money. He’s fundamentally an outpouring, out-going, saving God. And if you have a God like that, a servant king who says, “I love you, I’ve saved you, I’ve promised myself to you” – then you will want to serve, secure in His grace and love. And more than that, since he’s entrusted and commanded you to take His gospel to the world you are constituted as a servant twice over – you are a servant of the king who has given you the great commission and you are also a servant of the people to whom you must preach the gospel – you are not there to dominate or tax – you have a free gift for them that has been entrusted to you – it’s not yours it’s theirs – it’s like you are a motorcycle courier delivering their gift.

This is also why servant leadership and faithful Bible teaching are so closely linked. But that’s for another post…

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The fourth Raising the Bar conference will soon be here…

RTB 2013 flyer 1

Speakers for this year will include Greg Prior, Philip Sudell, Harrison Mungai, Sammy Gichanga, Mercy Ireri and myself. For a taste of last year’s conference see here. And for something on what we mean by ‘raising the bar’ see here. Register, spread the word, and pray that God would be pleased to use this conference for his glory and our good.

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Called to serveREVIEW: Patrick Muriithi Nyaga, Called to Serve: The Spirit of Sacrificial Servanthood, Integrity, 2009

For those like me who read slowly, this is an encouragingly short, easy-to-read book on a very important subject. There was much that was heart-warming, perceptive and rightly challenging in its 92 pages. The author is without doubt a model servant, devoted believer and wise pastor. In particular I will take away three very helpful points:

  1. An attitude of unworthiness. ‘When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants: we have done our duty.”’ (Luke 17:10) Muriithi explores this wonderfully: ‘Those who serve merely for what they will earn (special attention, status or pay) are “worthy” servants… They watch the clock and… clearly define where service starts and where it stops… A “worthy” servant is like a hired servant who will never sacrifice for the flock. When danger comes this shepherd runs away leaving the flock to die in the jaws of attacking wolves and lions. A servant who does not consider him or herself worthy of special consideration and honour is ready to sacrifice for the flock.’ (p. 20-22) ‘In ourselves we have nothing to make us feel worthy before God.’ (p. 85)
  2. Flexibility. ‘My pastor always told me, “Sir, never swallow a metal rod”. And, “Sir, always plan in pencil”’. (p. 39) This is a great point which could be easily supported from James 4:13-15 and illustrated from the life of Paul with his frequent changing of travel plans (e.g. Acts 16:6-8; Romans 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:15ff).
  3. Handling discouragement. Muriithi gives three very helpful guidelines on this: (i) Encourage yourself in the Lord (e.g. as David did – 1 Sam. 30:6); (ii) Know the Word of God (e.g. as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did); (iii) Focus on Jesus and not issues (John 3:14-15).

My main worry about this book is that it is not a great example of faithful Bible handling. It usually quotes single verses on their own and, while sometimes the context is respected and the verses are handled well, very often this is not so. Sometimes it is a case of the wrong verse for the right point, other times the poor Scripture handling takes the argument off in an unhelpful direction. I’ll give three examples.

  1. Blessings. Chapter 3 is based on Exodus 23:25: “So you shall serve the Lord your God and He will bless your bread and water and I will take away sickness from among you”. Muriithi does qualify this a little, ‘I cannot say that a servant never falls sick’ but basically applies it directly to us, ‘God provides healing for his servants’ (p. 25). If we looked at the context of Exodus 23 we’d find this is for the Israelites who are in the wilderness being prepared for life in the Promised Land and particularly for the massive temptation that there will be to conform to the religious practices of the nations and bow down to their gods. The issue here is not so much idleness versus service but demon worship versus Yahweh worship. If they chose the latter, Yahweh promises the covenant blessings (cf. Lev. 26; Deut. 28): blessed food, no illness, no miscarriage, full life, enemies fleeing, and  specifically possession of the full dimensions of the Promised Land (Ex. 23:25-31). We’ve talked before about how we now have different, more wonderful New Covenant blessings, won for us in full by Jesus, secure and tasted now but only fully experienced in the New Creation. The thrust of Muriithi’s chapter is that a servant should look for this sort of divine ‘pay’ and not reward from earthly masters. But this seems to take us back into a covenant of works. Do we serve to get blessings or rather because we are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms? Do we serve as a hired servant to get paid or rather as a son secure in the embrace of the Father?
  2. Sacrifice. The central third of the book (p. 44-71) explores the idea of the servant as sacrifice (as in the subtitle of the book). It starts with Romans 12:1, surely a very important verse which does indeed connect service/worship and sacrifice. I’d have loved a careful unpacking of Romans 12:1 in the light of the whole letter and a look at the concrete examples of sacrificial service Paul gives in Romans 12-15. But instead the author launches into a lengthy elaboration of 5 aspects of sacrifice: (a) it must be chosen; (b) it must be set apart; (c) it must die; (d) it must be burnt; (e) it must be guarded. In each case examples are given from verses from all over the Bible, not necessarily from contexts involving servanthood or sacrifice. Did Paul have in mind all (or any) of these five aspects of sacrifice when he wrote about ‘living sacrifices’? If not then the whole thing becomes rather speculative and the concept of sacrificial servanthood starts to lose its biblical moorings. I was particularly worried when we got to the last couple of sub-points – burning and guarding. Burning is said to be essential: ‘A sacrifice… must be consumed at the altar for God to accept it’ (p. 60). The consuming fire is said to be the Holy Spirit. His burning is by way of (i) destroying sin, (ii) illumination/leading (fire = light), and (iii) motivation (fire = heat). The way to receive the Holy Spirit is to (i) already be born again (!?!); (ii) desire ‘it’; (iii) believe. (Notice the way we’re taking step after step away from Romans 12 here.) I don’t want to take on the theology of receiving the Spirit after conversion (a.k.a. second blessing, a.k.a. baptism in the Spirit) here but just want to observe that the implication of the argument is that a born again child of God could offer themselves as a living sacrifice and God would not accept the sacrifice because it has not been doused with the fire of a second-blessing spiritual experience (probably involving tongues). This directly contradicts Romans 3-8 and verses like 1 Peter 2:5 – our sacrifices are acceptable through Jesus Christ. When it comes to the last point ‘a sacrifice must be guarded’ the same objection could be made. Is it really possible that our living sacrifice could be stolen away from the altar by ‘vultures’ before God receives it? The text used to support the point – Genesis 15:11 is not even talking about a sacrifice but about a covenant-making ritual (see Jeremiah 34:18) and Abraham didn’t do a great job of guarding the carcases anyway – he fell asleep. Which is part of the point of Genesis 15, Abraham sleeps, God works; Abraham does nothing, God goes through the halved animals alone, taking all the responsibility for the covenant on himself. God is the sacrificial servant (as Paul is saying in Romans 3-4).
  3. Death. The author tells us, ‘For the fear of death make the following verses your remedy: “I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17); “You shall live to see the children of your children” (Psalm 128:6).’ (p. 76) There’s the obvious problem here of grasping hold of ‘promises’ without respecting the contexts of the Psalms (118 is explicitly applied in the NT to Jesus and 128 is rehearsing the Old Covenant blessings). But there’s a deeper problem. Surely the remedy for the fear of death is the death and resurrection of Jesus? He has tasted death for us to remove us from that slavery (Heb. 2:14-15). He has taken the sting. He is the resurrection and the life. Surely our comfort is not that we will not physically die tomorrow – we might and we certainly will one day – but that we are united to the one who has passed through death, we are hidden on high in His indestructible life, and we will one day be raised with an indestructible body like His in which to enjoy Him forever.

I guess the bigger point that comes out of each of these is – more Jesus please! He is the great sacrificial servant and I’d loved to have been given more of Him in these pages.

A couple of recommendations

For something helpful on Romans 12 read Vaughan Roberts, True Worship, chapter 2. And for something Christ-centred on cultivating a servant heart see CJ Mahaney’s, Humility.True worshipHumility Mahaney Any other recommendations? Better still, can someone write something on this topic – there’s plenty of room in the market for something really good on servant leadership, particularly for the East African context…

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When it comes to careers and organisations we instinctively think in terms of ladders. There is the ‘person at the top’ with all the power and control and the managers ‘below’ him’ and the workers ‘below’ them. Whether we would admit to it or not, most of us, deep down, have a ‘ranking’ of different jobs – cleaner, farmer, teacher, banker, doctor, lawyer, accountant – we put some as higher status, some as lower. Schools too are ranked from the least to the most desirable. The aim of the game seems to be to go to the ‘best’ school you can to get the ‘best’ job you can – i.e. highest earning, highest status – and then climb up the rungs of the career ladder from intern to CEO. It’s all vertical.

Over the last 15 years lot of people, not particularly form a Christian perspective, have been questioning this vertical mindset. If you Google “horizontal leadership” or “horizontal career development” you’ll see the vast amount that’s been written on this. It’s been recognised that leadership is not just about power and control and that companies work best when leaders put themselves on the same level as those they lead and ask for their input and feedback.  It’s been recognised that the single-minded focus on getting the highest status, highest paying, ‘top job’ ignores and wastes individual passions and aptitudes (you might not be very well suited to being a lawyer or have any interest in accounting but you might have a particular niche expertise) and is not well suited to the modern, out-sourcing, temporary-contract economic world.

Jesus was talking about horizontal leadership a long time ago:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees… love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;  they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:7-12)

There is no career ladder in the kingdom. The Father and the Son have the ‘top job’ and then there is the brotherhood of believers. As Harrison put it the other day, “You’re never going to be promoted to be God.” Does that mean there’s no leadership or teaching or instructing in the church? There is, but it is of a completely different order to Jesus’ authority and teaching of us. When we teach and lead one another it is horizontal. We are all depraved sinners and we are all justified 100% by Christ. At the foot of the Cross we are all on the same level. We lead as brothers encouraging brothers to follow Christ’s leadership. We teach as brothers pointing brothers to Jesus and his words. And those who are not doing the leading or the teaching are equally valuable members of the body. The mouth is not greater than the feet or the ear. The manual worker is of equal value to the office worker.

The problem is… our hearts. We love the place of honour. We love to be called ‘Teacher’. We love to exalt ourselves. We do want God’s job. While the management gurus may have something helpful to say on horizontal leadership and horizontal career development it often sounds like a clever, subtle way to exalt myself, to get people on board with my plan, to promote my personal brand. For genuinely horizontal leadership what we will need is our hearts to be humbled by the Cross; to be filled with joy in the God who is not raw power and control but who has come down to genuinely be one with us; so that we would have a sincere love for our brothers and compete not to climb the ladder but to go lower.

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