Climbing Down the Ladder

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I was recently drawn by my friend Peter’s (@failingtofollow) question on twitter; “Genuine question: have we got a church so obsessed with growing leaders it forgets that first we need to be followers?” The accidental twitter pun aside, I was drawn by the question. A few of my other friends joined in a short discussion, Mark (@farkinator) and Dave (@idiotgrace), both sharing 140 character commentary on national and international church priorities. It seems we all agree, that we, the national church, are indeed a movement that speaks way more about position, authority and leaders than perhaps previous generations did.

I have sat in many christian conferences and witnessed people being called forward to be ‘the next big thing in worship’ (an actual quote) or ‘the next Billy Graham.’ We gather people on Alpha Courses (a great tool for evangelism) and ask God to release his gifts onto people, then we adopt titles for ourselves out of those gifts; prophet, pastor, evangelist etc. Again, these are genuine gifts of God, but they are much more gifts (as in present) for the church from their Father, than for the one who carries it to the church to use as a means of identity formation.

Now don’t misunderstand, I believe in great leadership, I believe those who are called to voted into or who have drifted into positions of leadership should work hard to be the best they can be. They should work hard on how they communicate vision and on how to lead people in that vision. They should even read books about management and communication. Of course they should, without good leaders we will not really move forward.

I however, don’t think that Jesus was as focussed on leadership development as we are. I think Jesus cared more about character development. Growing compassion, kindness and humility in his disciples were of greater priority to Jesus than vision casting, time management and gift recognition. Jesus was growing servants who learnt to lead by following the one who laid himself down for them. When Jesus speaks of leadership he speaks of giving up authority and power, he speaks of submission and repeatedly uses the word slave to describe those who would be like him.

Let me say it again, I think we need great leaders. However, I don’t know that some of our desire to see the leadership principles of great writers like Jim Collins and Steven Covey running through the church is the best way to go. These men are both great leaders in their fields, but neither are suggest that giving up your rights and laying your life down for others are the keys to great leadership. Yet those are two things that Jesus says are basic principles of the Christian life.

The faith we claim is foolish, it is upside down and backwards. Jesus says, ‘want to be first? Then be servant to everyone else.’ The Kingdom of God doesn’t run like the world runs. It is entirely opposite; a servant is first and king is last. The greatest and the least are redefined by the gospel. We are not to seek to climb a ladder of influence and position unless we are climbing down to serve one another.

In the words of one of my three twitter friends (tweeps?) ‘I wonder when we shall see global servantship conferences?’ If you’re on twitter the three of them are worth following, definitely in a twitter way, maybe even as leaders. 

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