“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
There is much waste in human activity – people scurrying around in confusion and agitation, saying things in fits of emotion that need not be said, doing things in fear and irritation that they must undo later on. Daily experiencing the Lordship of Christ brings intentionality, discipline, order, and purpose into our lives – God is not a God of disorder, but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33).
Yet a necessary quality of leaders is a bias toward action, an attitude that leans toward taking steps to resolve problems, address issues, and remedy hurts. Someone who can sit back and do nothing, when it is clear that there is much to be done, cannot in any sense be considered a leader. Character issues of humility, faith, patience, kindness, compassion – each of these must be embedded in the leader’s personality if he is to lead effectively for Christ – yet the individual who is so “patient” that he never acts is not patient at all – this is simply apathy.
Christ commanded the disciples to follow Him and this still is the greatest description of what it means to be a Christian – it means to follow the leading of His Spirit. Leadership in Christian circles means the God-given capacity and desire to help others follow Christ, to graciously and patiently but consistently and bravely to lead the way – serving as an example, encouraging, urging, yet still leading. There will be different ways that different leaders will address the issues they must deal with – some will tend toward a step-by-step approach and others will tend to wait for the opportune moment – but a pro-active bias must exist in the leader.
It is so easy to let this trait deform itself into arrogance, pride, and controlling others – lording it over them – that in Christian circles we play this down, de-emphasizing it. We know why we do this, because we have seen the damage that pride and envy do in churches and in lives – dangerous sins that we are often warned against. Yet we have sometimes, quite frankly, gone too far in doing so. Paul wrote words we hardly ever repeat, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). We would do well to remind ourselves of these words, that to lead others in the pursuit of the will of God is a blessed and noble task.
The Christian leader with a crucified heart, dead to self and the world, is God’s way of guiding His people. Christian leadership is democratic in nature – gracious, inclusive, encouraging – and those who lead are called to be servants. John Greenleaf in his tremendous book Servant Leadership, pointed out the importance of the leader being servant first and then leader. The servant-first leader is more willing to persevere when trials and set backs come, whereas the leader-first leader must have his way, and is more likely to give up and turn away.
Those who will lead must be biased toward actions – not putting off until tomorrow what is essential and necessary. They must learn the wisdom of delayed gratification, investing in the future through the right actions today. They must always be communicating the message of hope and direction for the people of God – they point the way through words and actions. They immediately address issues as they arise. They daily rise up early to meet the Lord in prayer and devotion to prepare for the challenges of the day. They believe that the God of order and peace will lead them to make a difference for Him and they go about their leadership humbly, diligently, confidently, joyfully, and graciously. They believe that the people they lead are capable of grasping the values and thinking that God will lay on the heart of His people. Though marked with patience, they are biased toward communication and even gracious confrontation when appropriate.
Like Christ, they are never in a hurry and yet never late. Their lives are ordered toward God, with Him on their throne, ruling with purpose, compassion, and peace.