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Leadership – Lessons from Jesus


Though there is much we can learn from the leaders of this present world (Luke 16:8), it is important the Christian leader look to Jesus Christ as his primary source for leadership training.  Jesus has much more to say on the subject of leadership than we can cover in this little post, however I will point to one particular scene in which we see Jesus training his disciples in the principles of Kingdom Leadership.  Can you see them now, as they walk into the upper room, remove their outer cloaks, and sit near the Passover table?

1. Willing to do the Unpleasant Task

Feet are nasty!  Sandal-clad, callused-covered, mud-encrusted feet that had recent interaction with camel excrement are simply disgusting.  This is why a slave, of lowest degree, would greet each guest at the door with a basin of water and a towel.  The servant would wash the feet.  In John 13 we see the disciples had secured a room for feasting but not a servant for washing.  Perhaps they assumed one of the lesser disciples would recognize his position and get the job done.  Unfortunately, no one did.  And there they sat, the entire meal, stubbornly unwilling to take on the role of servant.

Jesus, fully aware of his regal lineage and authoritative power, rose from the table, secured a towel and basin, knelt before his disciples, and washed their feet.  This example of Servant Leadership has haunted the minds of Christian leaders for thousands of years.  Being willing to take on the most unpleasant tasks is an essential trait for those who are committed to Christ-like ministry.

2. Seeing Leadership Differently

After this grand demonstration of Kingdom Leadership the dinner conversation continued.  Of all the conversations the disciples had, discussion of future greatness was among their favorite.  In Luke 22 we see that the conversation became heated and the tension was thick.  Moments after Jesus washed the feet of the disciples they were now arguing about who would be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus then patiently explained that the kingdoms of the world operate solely on the basis of inherited titles, positional authority, and self-serving power.  Jesus wanted his followers to look at his example of servant leadership and reject the broken example of worldly leadership.  Included in the philosophy of worldly leadership one will find betrayals, manipulations, assassinations, backbiting, gossip, and personal ambition.  Jesus explained that his kingdom worked differently.

On recent Sunday afternoon I went to lunch with the General Manager of a local Lifetime Fitness Athletic Club.  This guy has 350 employees for whom he is responsible.  “What’s it like having all of those people work for you?” I asked with grand naivety.  He replied without a hint of condescension, “I see myself as working for them.”

3. Several Examples of “Kingdom Leadership”

Though Jesus gives us the greatest example of this kind of leadership I believe we can see his leadership style reflected in the lives of those who call Him Lord.  We see it in the husband who, though preoccupied with work, intentionally puts down his phone and serves his wife through household chores.  We see it in the mother who, though exhausted with busy schedules, willingly sits at the bedside of a coughing child.  We see it in the manager who, though technically could live as an authoritarian, passionately serves those who call her boss.  We see it in the small group leader who, though busy with life, compassionately spend time in prayer, counsel, and visitation with those under their pastoral care.

Why do you think Jesus’ view on leadership is so drastically different from that of the secular world?  In what ways has western views of leadership been positively affected by the truths of Jesus?  Do you see it a wrong to gain insight from leaders who are not overtly Christian?

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1 Comment

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    Leon Stevens
    April 3, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    A great reminder to all church leaders that sometimes we must also be servants. To serve is to lead the way Christ did. This philosophy can confuse a non-believer, because in the secular world a leader needs to show power and serving could be seen as a weakness. That being said, I have seen many examples of a non-believer showing the Christian trait of servitude in order to gain respect from the people he leads. Christian leaders can certainly take note of some of these folks Just because someone hasn’t yet accepted Christ doesn’t mean they don’t know how to lead in a Christ-like manner.

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