the leadership lesson (singular) of Jesus

I spent some time yesterday researching the subjects of Jesus and leadership. Frankly, after some time, it actually started to upset me, both emotionally and physically. If you are a mature believer who suspects Christians no longer know how to read their Bibles, look no further than the subject of Jesus and leadership. It provides virtually limitless examples of theology based on “what the Bible means to me,” and “here’s how to take Bible verses and make them fit what you want to say.” The sheer quantity of this… crap is overwhelming. (To be clear, I’m referring to the attempt to force business enterprise management principles from Christ’s life.)

The old adage, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” comes to mind. When we’re convinced that “Leadership” is The Answer to Everything, it’s surprisingly easy to justify. We simply take all Jesus’ teaching on serving and apply it to leadership. For example, one blogger I found said, “Jesus knew that the most important thing about being a leader, was serving the people you are called to lead.” This is completely nonsensical. It’s like saying, “the most important thing about being in front of someone is to be behind the person you’re in front of.” We’ve just become so accustomed to hearing this meaningless jargon that we begin to think it true because of sheer repetition.

Why do you think this is happening? Well, here are some possible reasons:

Leadership: popular
Serving: unpopular

Leadership: admired
Serving: often unnoticed

Leadership: valued in today’s culture
Serving: counter-cultural

Leadership: requires leaders
Serving: anyone can do it

Leadership: measured by what we achieve
Serving: measured by what we give up

Jesus said he came to serve (Mark 10), said the greatest person in Kingdom economy was a servant (Matthew 23) and after washing the disciples’ feet said, “I have given you an example to follow” (John 13:14). This isn’t secret code for becoming a more influential leader. This is God with all his power, in human form, demonstrating how to give up power and be a servant and instructing us to do likewise. That is his leadership lesson. Give it up. Lay it down. Serve.

4 thoughts on “the leadership lesson (singular) of Jesus

  1. I don’t think the concepts of leadership and servanthood are mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, too many Christians use the cloak of servanthood to build up their credibility until they find positions where they can give orders and lord it over others. This is what Paul essentially calls “eyeservice” (Ephesians 6:5-6). Joseph became a leader principally because of God’s grace, secondarily because he was a humble, faithful, obedient servant. Even as a leader, he served Egypt and the world in order to save them from famine.


  2. Your example of “the most important thing about being in front of someone is to be behind the person you’re in front of” gave me the funniest thought. I just kept seeing these 2 guys trying to get behind each other as they walked along…very funny. Good post.


  3. Great post, Jan.

    Is The Great Omission the only Dallas Willard book you’ve read? I think you’d enjoy The Divine Conspiracy, too. My wife is reading Renovation of the Heart. The three books form a nice trilogy.

    Does what you’re thinking these days make more difficult to serve in church staff culture or easier? I’m just curious. You don’t have to answer me here. You can email me if you have time. Like I said… just curious.


    1. I actually read The Divine Conspiracy first… a GREAT book. (Why don’t we recognize Jesus as the smartest man who ever lived!?)

      I’ve been thinking I should probably write a post clarifying my own position. I’m not totally against leadership… just that it seems to get elevated as more important than the other gifts. I completely respect leadership around me, and I’m fortunate to be at a church where leadership really focuses on pointing people to God. Our Executive Pastor (my boss) and I constantly get into discussions about this… he’s loaned me 15 or so books from his leadership library. 🙂

      My biggest issue is with those who try to contrive Jesus as a leader/manager/CEO. It just smacks of remaking God in our own image, to me. It’s just like the disciples who wanted him to be a military leader. We want him to be who we think he should be, because what he’s clearly teaching doesn’t seem like it could possibly work. Same today as 2000 years ago I guess…


Comments are closed.