Who is qualified to lead,
From situation to circumstance?
Men and women devoid of greed,
Who waltz only to God’s dance.
The hope of humankind – Jesus Christ – is the sole example of leadership any Christian looks to. Sure, the apostle Paul, among others, and certainly our contemporaries, the mystics, the reformers, the patristics, etc, qualify as models to follow. But all Christian leaders have adopted Jesus as their sole model.
As a mentor myself, I understand we need mentoring. We need salient, observable, recent, and relatable examples of Christ’s work in a human being. If a mentor cannot present a reasonable imitation of Christ in their being they are not a Christian leader.
Too often we miss the essence of solid Christian leadership example, which is coincidentally built from the primer of good Christian character that we are all to allow God to nurture within us. If we have any glaring flaws of Christian character we are doomed as leaders and we build ‘the house of God’ in vain. So the renewing of our characters to the abounding of good virtue is our goal. We allow God to start and continue that refining work.
J. Oswald Sanders (1902–1992) wrote, in Spiritual Leadership (1967, 1980, 1994):
People without natural leadership skills do not become great leaders at the moment of conversion. Yet a review of the history of the church reveals that the Holy Spirit sometimes releases gifts and qualities that were dormant beforehand. When that happens, a leader is born.
A true Christian leader is less likely to be a charismatic ‘natural’ leader, and more likely to be ‘selected’ for leadership by the in-working of Holy Spirit. The gifts and qualities of the person anointed for a leadership role emerge as visible possibly only when the occasion arises. The best Christian leaders are reluctant, albeit diligent, leaders, who have a spirit for unity under God. Most of all, the Christian leader is dependable – they depend on God very steadfastly, which means they are likely to be extremely flexible, approachable, and pastorally-hearted.
It seems an unpopular phrase these days: servant leader. But the dependable Christian leader is servant of all. He or she can (and by example, often do) serve all without any second thought. But they are also discerning enough to know the will of God in their present situation. They rejoice with those rejoicing and they mourn with those mourning. Their pastoral flexibility adapts to the need of the time, without giving way to unnecessary sentiment, but such flexibility caters for and respects personal and interpersonal differences. Christian leadership celebrates diversity of many kinds.
And all this is likely to emerge in such a way as people might say, “I never saw leadership in him or her.” God loves to change things up. We ought to remember the biblical principle: God humbles those who exalt themselves and he exalts those who humble themselves for his sake.
Christian leadership is an irony. It’s about the glory of God through others, for others, by others, in order that others might see and partake of the Kingdom of God. Christian leadership is not about the leader at all.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.