Leadership and power go together. Most people think of power as the control that high-level leaders exert from their positions. But power extends beyond the formal authority that comes from a position or title.
As a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to influence people by the power given to you by God. As you live in the responsibility of power, you have the opportunity to discover and develop the potential of people to live and to lead by that same power. You influence people, not by control or micromanaging, but by giving your power and influence away. To be an effective and courageous leader, you learn to use your power to empower others.
The source of your strength grows out of this power. As it shapes your values, character, and faith, you become more aware of the people God gives you to love and to lead. You begin to recognize Jesus as the source of your power and you want to share what you are receiving with the people around you.
So, as a follower of Jesus, a Christ-centered leader, you have the power to communicate beyond the barriers that separate people from one another. You have the power to strategize how the people entrusted to you will not only experience this power but live by the power in everyday situations and circumstances.
So, how does this power work? What does this power mean for you as a leader?
Let’s use our practice of “read, reflect, respond, and return” to explore how this power works in different situations and circumstances.
Read Luke 9:49-50
49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”
Read Luke 18:15-17
15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16 But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
Jesus told his disciples when they were asking if the time had come to restore power to Israel, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
From Luke’s perspective, you have the power to communicate, to be a witness of God’s love, the love you have experienced in and through Jesus, starting with family and friends, moving to neighbors and colleagues, and then moving to strangers and even enemies.
The Power to Communicate Across Barriers
You have the power to communicate across the barriers that keep people from being who God created them to be. Look at the scripture from Luke 9:49-50.
The disciples have just returned from a mission trip. Jesus had sent them out in pairs, and they are now returning to tell the stories of their experiences. So, John tells of his experience. “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not one of us.” John could not see that God’s work is sometimes done by those we consider outsiders, those who we have decided “don’t belong.”
What? They encountered someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name and they tried to stop him. Why? Was it because he did not believe what they believed? Didn’t have the depth of their theology? Didn’t have their philosophy of mission? Was more progressive? More traditional? Was the person not a part of their group?
Was this the beginning of sectarian denominationalism? There are only 33,000 plus denominations, all claiming to follow Jesus. Was it the first attempt?
Here is a clue to the power God has given you to lead. Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” The person was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. The focus was on Jesus. The disciples changed the focus. They shifted from Jesus to their mission. The person was not one of them, so they tried to stop him.
The Power to Keep Jesus as the Focus of Our Mission
You have the power to keep Jesus at the center of the mission. When you keep Jesus at the center, you are not looking for what separates people, but for what holds people together. “If he is not against you, he is for you.” As a Jesus follower, you have the power to witness across barriers of theology, philosophy, differing opinions, and preconceived prejudices. You must decide if this is the kind of power you want. Who you are is how you lead.
You have the power to communicate across the barriers that keep people from being who God created them to be. Look at the scripture from Luke 18:15-17.
Jesus is teaching, healing, and caring for people. A group of mothers bring their babies to be blessed by the rabbi, Jesus. The disciples, who have been given the responsibility to meet and greet the people, tell the mothers that Jesus is busy. He doesn’t have time to bless babies. The scripture doesn’t say that specifically, but when I read the words, “they sternly ordered them not to do it” that is what comes to mind. The disciples had decided that those who have nothing to contribute were not worth Jesus’ time.
What? The people closest to Jesus are turning away parents with infants. Why? Is it because they are not candidates for ministry? It is because they are not a revenue resource. What power and influence do children have anyway? So, his nearest and dearest say Jesus is too busy to mess with those who are not going to contribute to the movement.
Was this the beginning of leadership seniority? We all know that children are not candidates for ministry and don’t contribute to the ministry of the church. Does this mean that you only have time for those who have influence and power? Who has earned the right to be blessed by Jesus anyway? Can you afford to receive people into membership who are going to cost us more than they bring in?
The Power to Lead
Here is a clue to the power God has given you to lead. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” The parents are bringing their children to Jesus. The focus is on Jesus. The disciples changed the focus. They shift from Jesus to their understanding of the movement. The children could not contribute. So, those closest to Jesus missed the point of Jesus and turned the parents and children away.
You have the power to keep Jesus at the center of the mission. When you keep Jesus at the center, you are not looking for people based on their financial capacity or what influence they might have in the community. Both are good and both are needed, but neither is the focus of following Jesus. As a Jesus follower, you have the power to witness across barriers of influence, economics, and misconceived power, and to identify the presence and power of God in the people God sends your way every day. You must decide if this is the kind of power you want. Who you are is how you lead.
God’s love and acceptance are not based on whether someone is a part of your group, thinks the way you think, believes what you believe, or even seeks the same transformation you seek. God’s love and acceptance are offered to all people, and each person and group of people, will respond in the faith given to them by God’s grace.
God’s love and acceptance are not based upon human achievement. Even those who have little influence and have achieved nothing are welcomed, loved, and blessed by God.
Over this next week, be aware of the barriers that separate people from one another. Be aware of the people who have influence and the people who do not.
How will you lead in situations where there are differences of opinion, differences in what people believe, and differences of race, culture, and gender? You have received the power to witness beyond the barriers of differences. How will you lead with Jesus being your focus?
How will you lead in situations where people of influence and position overlook and do not include people of little influence and power? You have received the power to witness beyond the barriers of political, economic, and social barriers? How will you speak up to communicate the love and acceptance of God so all receive God’s blessing? How will you lead with the words of Jesus, “Let the children come to me, and do not stop them…,” as the focus of your leadership?
This week be intentional in your decisions to be the leader God has gifted and empowered you to be. You have received the power to witness to God’s love in Jesus, starting where you are with the people around you. As you reflect and respond to God’s call upon your life, decide if this is the kind of power you want. Who you are is how you lead.
Give God thanks for the people you met today.
- When did you catch yourself shifting the focus from Jesus to your wants and desires?
- Did you speak up when you had the opportunity to speak up on behalf of those who have little or no voice and who have little or no influence?
- How did you interact with the people God sent your way?
- What did you learn about yourself?
- Who is helping you remember that you are a child of God and that you have been empowered to love others as God has loved you?
- What will you do differently tomorrow?
Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.
O God, today I give you thanks for life and work. I pray for the power to be your witness starting where I am now. Remind me throughout the day of how you love me and how you have empowered me to love the people around me. I offer myself to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.