Leadership and Faith
As an effective leader, it is important that you know and understand who you are and what you believe. What are your values? In whom do you place your faith? If you are clear about who you are and who you trust, then you can without fear and with hope, lead with courage.
Christ-centered leaders possess hope for a better future. They believe that God has created them and gifted them to lead, not for themselves but for others. They possess the ability to recognize and develop the potential of the people entrusted to them. And even when they have seasons of doubt, when they question themselves, their identity, and the people around them, they keep their focus upon the One who has called them to leadership.
Courageous leaders know when to step out trusting who God created them to be. They are vulnerable and trustworthy, as well as compassionate and dependable. And even when they have their doubts, they keep their focus as a leader.
Let’s look at a story that gives us a clue to the fundamental focus of Christ-centered leaders.
Read Luke 9:18-20
Once when Jesus was praying by himself, the disciples joined him, and he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others that one of the ancient prophets has come back to life.” He asked them, “And what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ sent from God.” Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell this to anyone.
In the Gospel according to Luke, we see Jesus praying at particular points in his life and ministry. It was his pattern to engage in ministry and then retreat to a lonely place. It was his way of staying focused on the work God had for him to do.
In this story, he has been off by himself praying. Then he approaches his followers and asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
This story is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew, the confession is “You are the Christ, Son of the living God.” In Mark, it is “You are the Messiah” or “the Christ.” In both Mark and Matthew, Jesus begins to talk of his death and has a conversation with Simon Peter which leads to Jesus rebuking him.
The focus is different in Luke. In Luke, Jesus talks of his death, but there is no conversation and no rebuke. Luke is interested in alerting us to the importance of the confession. “Once while Jesus was praying by himself” is a clue to its importance. Neither Mark nor Matthew mentions prayer.
Jesus has been ministering in Galilee. The crowds have been following him as he has been helping people, teaching lessons, preaching sermons, healing people, and exorcising demons. He reaches the point where he asks, “What is the public opinion?” “What do people say?” Is he asking to discover how effective his ministry has been? What impression has he put across? How is he viewed in public?
The disciples answer, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others…one of the ancient prophets…” The public opinion is, like John the Baptist, Elijah, an ancient prophet, Jesus is the forerunner of the Messiah, the Christ. The crowds who have followed Jesus, who have been benefactors of his ministry, do not think of him as the Messiah but as one getting everyone ready for the Messiah.
So, Jesus then asks, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter responds, “The Christ sent from God.”
What does it mean to say, “Jesus is the Christ?”
We don’t know what Simon Peter was thinking. But we do know this, when Jesus began to talk about his death, Simon Peter and the others did not relate to a suffering and dying Jesus to the Messiah. They took it as being a contradiction of who and what they understood the Messiah to be and do. If he is crucified, hanging on the cross with criminals, can he be the Messiah?
How is he going to be like Moses and lead us out of the wilderness? How is he going to be like David and be our king? The images of the Messiah were many: a great teacher, a great prophet, a great king, or a leader. We don’t know what Simon Peter meant, but Jesus knows that Simon Peter did not understand. So, Jesus tells Simon Peter and the others to be quiet about it. “He gave them strict orders not to tell this to anyone.” Why?
Wherever There is Misery…
The popular understanding of the day was that wherever the Messiah was there would be no misery. That is what the Messiah does, gets you out of the troubles you face. So, wherever the Messiah is, there is no misery. The truth is, wherever there is misery, there is the Messiah. See the difference?
Jesus is not the one who gets you out of difficulty. He is the one who sends you into difficulty. Wherever there is misery, there is the Messiah. Here is a clue to Christ-centered leadership. To be a Christ-centered leader means you follow Jesus into the community and into the problems of the community.
The question is “Is Jesus the one you expect to get you out of trouble? Or is Jesus the one who sends you into places of trouble?
Take Up Your Cross Daily
Maybe this will help. Jesus, in his teaching, says, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.” This teaching is found in Mark and Matthew as well, but Luke adds the word “daily.” He is reinterpreting the teaching for his own context.
In both Mark and Luke, the cost of discipleship is the same: your whole life. But in Mark, written just after Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome, where Christians had been killed and Simon Peter himself had been crucified, “taking up one’s cross” was understood literally as the cost of discipleship.
For Luke, there is no direct persecution. By adding “daily” to “take up your cross,” Luke is saying the cost of discipleship is not seen in one dramatic act. The cost of discipleship is experienced in simple acts of service, care, and compassion as each situation presents itself. Christ-centered leaders are not called to positions of power but to postures of service.
So, faith in the risen Christ keeps you focused as you lead into and through conflict, misery, and pain.
Until you know who you are and who you trust you will not be the leader needed for this time. Your faith in the risen Christ makes a significant difference in your leadership. It is experienced in your relationships and interaction with others. It is experienced in your trustworthiness, compassion, stability, and hope.
Leadership is About People
Leadership is about people. It is about influencing and impacting lives in a positive way. To be an effective leader, you need to have a genuine desire to serve others, along with the ability to model and prioritize the needs of others before yourself. In whatever leadership capacity you serve, the needs and well-being of the people entrusted to you are your greatest concern.
Compassionate and responsible leaders put people first above their own selfish ambitions and desires. They love and care for others with the same love and care they have received in and through Jesus. How you treat people is a reflection of your leadership.
Leadership is Relational
Leadership is about relationships. Take time to know the people entrusted to you. Make time and effort to care for people, to know what matters to them, and be present with them. It is in and through relationships that you discover the potential of others and assist in helping that potential be fully realized.
The scripture points out that Jesus reverses our expectations of who and what the Messiah should be. Your faith in Jesus reverses the conventional understanding of who you are and who you trust as a leader. Maybe it is time to stop looking for the perfect approach to leadership and begin to develop the relationships that reveal who you trust to direct your living and leadership.
Your confession is more than words. It is how you live and lead in relationship with the people entrusted to your care.
Lead with Authenticity
Leadership is about authenticity. Courageous leaders are honest, transparent, and truthful with their people. It does not mean you tell everything you know, but it does mean knowing when to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure. Such action might make you feel vulnerable, but the strength is in your truthfulness.
Stable and hope-filled leaders live consistent lives. You walk the talk. What you know and believe on the inside is lived out on the outside. It does not take people long to experience the values and convictions of a leader.
So, live an integrated life. The same one whether you are in a board meeting with church members, or at home with your family. If you are a follower of Jesus, then Jesus directs your leadership regardless of the context. It is your faith in Jesus that keeps you accountable.
Lead with Purpose
Leadership is about purpose. Effective leaders know they are created to lead within the context they are leading. It is living into who they are that brings peace, joy, and fulfillment. Because you know you are being who God created you to be, you know that everything is not measured through immediate and tangible outcomes. You know that you must work patiently behind the scenes, laying the foundation for people to live to their potential.
Because your relationship with God is real, you fix your eyes on eternal things that matter, the lives of people. This is the ultimate purpose of your leadership.
Leaders are Generous
Leadership is about being generous. Everyone is a work in progress. Effective leaders seek support and encouragement along their leadership journey. They recognize that leadership development does not happen at a single training event, or by reading leadership blogs. They understand that it takes a community of faith to assist good leaders in becoming great leaders. For most of us it takes a lifetime.
Your faith in the risen Christ makes a significant difference in your leadership. Who you are is how you lead.
Give God thanks for the people you met today. Faith in God through Jesus is important to your leadership. How did you live out your faith? How did you encourage others to live their faith? Who is helping you grow in faith? Ask God to give you the power to love others as God has loved you. What will you do differently tomorrow as a leader? Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.
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