How often have you read or heard me say, “Who you are is how you lead”? This past week I realized I have done a lot of writing about the characteristics of leaders but have not focused on the foundation of Christ-centered leadership. It has been implied, but not specific. Over the next several weeks, I want to be more focused and specific on what it means to be a Christ-centered leader.
The very foundation of Christ-centered leadership is, of course, Jesus. But what does it mean to be a leader who is a follower of Jesus? Let’s look at some distinguishing characteristics of Christ-centered leaders.
As much as I want to begin with having the heart, mind, and work of Jesus, I want to save the best to last. So, let’s start with some distinguishing characteristics of the first followers of Jesus as found in The Acts of the Apostles.
Read Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Look at the words, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” The apostles were the first to teach, preach, and live the good news of Jesus. The question is, “What is the good news?” Part of the answer can be found in the New Testament gospels. For example:
Good News to Matthew
In the gospel according to Matthew, the good news is “God sent Jesus to teach us how to live a holy life.” The word “holy” in the scripture means to be “different” or “separated” as in being different from others. God is a different God. To be daughters and sons of God, we are to live as God created us to live. God sent Jesus to teach us how to live differently. To live life the way God created us to live life.
The way Jesus says it is “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Jesus said these words in the context of developing relationships with people. The word perfect is used as “complete” or “whole.” You and I are complete and whole, or holy as God is complete, whole, or holy in the way we love others. God sent Jesus to teach us how to live as we have been created to live in relationship with people we encounter each day.
So, when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24). Holiness is seen in everyday relationships. But not only in your everyday relationships…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44). Holiness is seen in the way you relate to and love your enemies.
Relationships are so important that you are to be a person of integrity even in your speech. “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you: Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, no;’ anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-36). Holiness is seen in your integrity.
But that is not all, your holiness is seen in your forgiveness of others. Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if my brother or sister sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22). Holiness is seen in the grace to forgive as many times as it takes.
God sent Jesus to teach us how to live with one another.
Good News in Mark
In the gospel according to Mark, the good news is that “God sent Jesus to oppose the evil, pain, and suffering of the world. “Jesus and his followers went into Capernaum. Immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and started teaching. The people were amazed by his teaching, for he was teaching them with authority, not like the legal experts. Suddenly, there in the synagogue, a person with an evil spirit screamed, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.’”
“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” The unclean spirit shook him and screamed, then it came out. (Mark 1:21-26)
Through Mark’s story, Jesus faces the suffering and pain people are facing and he restores them to health and wholeness. Whether it be the demons in the synagogue or leprosy. When someone suffered leprosy, the person was separated from family, community, work, worship, everything that was meaningful. When Jesus healed a person with leprosy, he not only restored them to physical health, but he healed relationships broken by isolation, alienation, and separation as well.
God sent Jesus to face what separates us from God and from one another and overcomes it. Jesus gives us hope with new life and direction.
Good News in Luke
In the gospel according to Luke, Jesus is the one who helps us get through the barriers of theology, race, nation, and gender. The angel who came to Mary came with good news saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). And the angel who came to the shepherds came with good news, “Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior…” (Luke 2:10-11) “And when Jesus started his ministry he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Throughout Luke’s story, people are liberated because someone shared God’s love and acceptance with them. Saul of Tarsus, the Ethiopian Eunuch, Cornelius, the Roman centurion, Simon Peter, and others. In each encounter, someone shared the good news of Jesus, the Risen Christ, and shared the love and acceptance of Jesus.
The good news for Luke is living and loving in such a way that the barriers are overcome, and new relationships are established.
Good News in John
In the gospel according to John, if you have seen Jesus, you have seen God. Jesus says, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:19) And says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). For John, the good news is in Jesus you see the truth of God.
Throughout John’s story, John shows Jesus feeding, healing, caring, serving, and dying. He shows that in Jesus we see who God is. Philip says, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” Just show us God. And Jesus responds by saying, “Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?”
The good news for John is seeing who God is in Jesus. The work of God’s love is seen in the way Jesus loves. And then Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21). By being followers of Jesus, you love as God has loved you.
The early followers of Jesus “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” So, one of the characteristics of Christ-centered leaders is to teach, preach, and live the good news of Jesus.
O God thank you for the good news of your love and acceptance in Jesus and for the good news I can read and hear in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. By your grace, give me the faith to trust your good news so that I may become the person of love and acceptance you have created me to be. Give me the faith to trust you more. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Give God thanks for the people you encountered today. Where did you experience good news? How did you respond? In whom did you meet Jesus? Give God thanks for relationships restored and strengthened. Give God thanks for the grace to face the suffering and pain you experienced. Give God thanks for the presence and power to overcome the barriers that have separated you from others. Give God thanks for the opportunities you had to become more who God has created you to be.
Next week we will look at the characteristics of community. I’m glad you and I are together on this journey of following Jesus. As you learn and grow keep in mind, who you are is how you lead.