Leading From the Front

The modern American ideal for leadership is that leaders should be huddled away in a back room somewhere coming up with strategy and the big picture.  A look at the Bible shows a different view of leadership.  The men and women who stand out in the Bible are not the ones who are hidden away in the back rooms of Jerusalem.

A quick overview of the life of Jesus reveals that He was never working behind the scenes.  This does not mean that He was constantly looking to be in the news.  He often told those who received His ministry that they should say nothing about what they received.  At the same time, He was in the front everyday.  He was so in the front that when the religious leaders of His day decided to try to end the movement they cut off the head.

 

Jesus was out front, He was the one who held the public post.  He was not sitting in an out of the way place moving the pieces of the puzzle behind the scenes.  He was the piece of the puzzle that was being moved.

 

King David was the same way, when it was time for war he was at the front of the battle field.  The one time that caused the most trouble for David was when he did not lead the army into battle but relied on his generals to lead the battle.

 

God’s way is from the front.  Man’s way is from the back.  We look and determine that our leaders are too important, too smart, to be in the front.  As a result, we lose their most effective gift, the gift of inspired leadership.  It is impossible to truly inspire people in times of crisis or difficulty if we are not on the scene.

 

It is equally difficult to inspire and lead people if they cannot see that we have the same risk as they do.  This is why, in corporate America, we find so many people losing confidence in our larger companies.  CEOs are only willing to take the position of leadership if they are so compensated that they do not have any risk involved in their work.

 

Where is the leadership in a world without risk?  Where is the inspiration in a man or a woman who is not willing to bear the consequences of their own actions?  What became of the person who said, win, lose, or draw we are in this together?  Our fates are intertwined and we will share the reward, share the glory, and share the shame.

 

This is the type of leadership the church needs.  We do not need a leadership that refuses to take risks.  We do not need a leadership that is giving us the movement of the day, while at the same time not taking any person risk.

 

We need leadership that stands up in the midst of the battle and says, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that taunts the living God?”  We need leadership that looks across the pit and declares that we will find God’s way together. 

It is time we quit leading from the pulpit and started leading from the trench.  It is time we quit leading from the CD or DVD rack, or the book kiosk, and returned to leading from street level.

 

Instead of working ourselves to a place of such importance that we only have a ministry to the thousands we need to work ourselves down so that we minister to the lowest amongst us.   Jesus did not deal with the kings and rulers. He dealt with the commoners.  And this was in a time when the commoners were of even less value than they are today.

 

There was a popular phrase a few years ago, WWJD.  What Would Jesus Do was asked around the country.  The trouble is not the question; the question is a good question.  The problem is the answer we heard.  We no longer live in a society that understands who Jesus really was.  We no longer understand how much He values the lives of the least among us.  We no longer live in a world that understands how insignificant Jesus appeared to those who did not believe.

 

Jesus is a celebrity in our world today.  His picture is everywhere.  Everyone uses His name, either in praise, profanity, or indifference.  We see Him as someone to whom access would be limited or denied.  Like a modern celebrity, we see Jesus working to build His ministry from the rear, with flashes at the front so that He appears to be a man of stature.

 

We have become an appearance oriented society.  It does not matter if a person has any substance as long as he appears to have substance.  It does not matter what a person actually does as much as it matters what he appears to do.

 

When we translate that into leadership it shows just where we have fallen as a culture.  You do not have to have person moral convictions.  You only have to talk about the moral code that is expected.  You do not have to have any actual experience; you only have to appear to have experience.  You have to be able to read the script that has been prepared for you.  Like a modern day newscaster, you only have to be able to read a teleprompter.  As long as you stick to the script we will be able to believe you understand what you are talking about.

 

God’s world is so much bigger than that.  He wants to raise a generation of people who are real.  They do not have a false sense of maturity.  They do not have to fake their moral purity.  Look at the life of Jesus.  He did not hang out with the better people.  He was accused of being a drunkard.  He was scandalous because He hung out with prostitutes.  Everything about Jesus screamed “I am about reality.  I do not care what it looks like you are.  God judges the heart.  He is not concerned with appearances; He is concerned with the reality of who you are.”

 

We should be so out front with our leadership that, like Jesus, people are talking about us.  Jesus told us to be wary when all men speak well of us.  It is not our job to be liked by those around us.  It is our job to set the stage to bring a change to the world around us.  It is important that we live lives so real, so honest that people can come to us to let go of the lies of our culture.

 

There is nothing more inspiring than seeing your pastor leading from the front, not worrying about who is following—concerned only with making sure that the way is found.  This type of leadership cannot fail.

 

When we lead from the front no one can condemn us for not putting our money where out mouth is.  No one can condemn us for not having the courage of our convictions.  We should not spend our time convincing others to move out if we have not already moved out.

 

Our battle cry should be a cry, a shout, from the frontlines back.  It should question where our help us.  It should not be a cry from the background.  It should be a look back and a wave that beckons the faithful to catch up.

 

Our leadership should not be political leadership.  What we mean by that is our leadership should not be photo op leadership.  We have to have a depth to our leadership.  All too often we have seen leadership that is only concerned with itself.  It is leadership that is based on what you can do for me.  We need to be leaders who follow the example of Jesus.  He led to show us how to get to God.  We must lead so that others can see God.  It is not about us, it is about God.  Jesus was the way to God; we should be the way to Jesus who remains the way to God.

 

We can only do that with selfless leadership.  Leadership that does what is right regardless of the cost.  Leadership that dies to itself.  Leadership that says, “Not my will but Yours be done.”  Leadership that demands the best for others rather than for ourselves.  Leadership that does not work based on what is best for me, but what is best for those I am serving.

 

We have a vacuum of leadership in the Christian community right now.  Where are the men and the women who are not taking from the ministry?  Where are the men and women of God who are the least of these?  Where are the men and women of God who are only concerned with furthering His kingdom?  All too often our Christian leadership is the same as the leadership of the world; it is only serving to look good so that it can reap a benefit.

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C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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