What Church Leaders Can Learn from Jesus about Leadership? For many of you this might be a very difficult question to answer as you are not taught that extensively about the Leadership qualities of Christ.
Most of you might view Christ exclusively as a Savior and not as a Leader whose Leadership skill deserve to be imitated. However, when we examine the life of Christ on earth, we could find that He had excellent leadership qualities that are worth emulating and, in this article, I am going to discuss some of them.
It is common nowadays to hear from the pulpits about the importance of being a good Church Leader and many preachers often list out the strategies and ways to become one.
However, these strategies and methods are just based on worldly thinking and practices and they produce leaders who lead the House of God in a worldly manner and the result is – we have a church that pleases the world and displeases God.
Moreover, the Leaders that today’s pulpits consider as role models are people who never imitate Christ in their roles as Church Leaders. The characteristics that they display are that of the leaders of the worldly organizations and not that of Christ.
Though they represent Christ in their whole career; they never imitate Him as a Leader. If they had done so; today’s church would have looked a lot more different from what they are now. Not only that, the church would not have been facing the enormous problems that it faces now. Instead, the church would have been like a city that was built on a hill.
Well, here, before I begin discussing the main points, I would like to raise a couple of interesting questions:
Why today’s church leaders are afraid of presenting Christ as a role model for those who are aspiring to be the Church Leaders of tomorrow?
Why the contemporary Church Leaders are afraid of discussing the leadership qualities or the leading strategies of Christ?
It is because – they don’t want to lose their power, positions, wealth and fame that they have acquired while being Leaders.
Once they imitate Christ as their role model, then, they have to give up the disproportionate amount of power and authority that they possess in their congregations. And also, they have to give up their million-dollar worth mansions and expensive Mercedes Benzes that they have bought for themselves using their church funds.
In addition, they also have to give up their five and six figure salaries and benefits. Because, Christ, as a Leader, did not take a dime from His Ministry for His personal use nor did He collect millions from the people for preaching the Gospel. Christ, received nothing in return for preaching the Gospel to the masses; instead, for the sake of the Gospel He gave away everything that He possessed.
Here, you might argue – a worker deserves His wages – yes, I do agree with what you are saying. But, remember – A worker deserves only the wages – nothing more than that – A worker neither deserve a multi-million Dollar Mansion or an expensive Mercedes Benz as a remuneration for preaching the Gospel.
Saints; when Christ received five loaves and two fish from someone in the crowd; He multiplied them and fed the very same crowd; He did not take home even a piece from them.
You just imagine what a contemporary Church Leader would do if he receives a million-dollar donation from someone. How much of that money would he spend to meet the needs of his own congregation? How much of that money will he use to feed the poor? How much of that money will he use to take care of those who are sick and homeless in his neighborhood?
Saints; as far as leadership is concerned; Christ, by His own life, set an excellent example for the contemporary Church Leaders to imitate.
Nevertheless, they are not willing to imitate Christ because they fear that – once they imitate Him, then, they have to strip themselves of many things that they love and admire in this world.
Saints; Christ intended the churches to be places where wounds are bound and healed but instead, they have become places where people get wounded. The ones who are called to bind the wounds themselves are wounding many.
Anyway, I don’t want to keep on talking about these issues. Instead, let us, next, examine some of the most exemplary characteristics of Christ’s Leadership.
1. Jesus led His sheep with a Shepherd’s Heart.
Yes, Jesus led His sheep with a shepherd’s heart. So, here you might wonder what kind of heart a genuine shepherd might possess.
Well, a shepherd’s heart is always filled with genuine love for his sheep. He cares for his sheep more than he cares for himself and he will be willing to lay down his life for the sheep.
A shepherd would feed his sheep only with good food; he leads them to green pastures. A genuine shepherd would warn his sheep when they are about to face danger and he will steer them away from places that are dangerous.
1The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures,he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23, 1-3)
A true shepherd won’t hesitate to leave the ninety-nine and go in search of the one that is missing.
3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. (Luke 15, 3-6)
A true shepherd knows each one of his sheep by its name.
A true shepherd carries the young ones in his arms and leads gently those that have young.
Saints what I have written above are some of the most outstanding characteristics of a good shepherd and Jesus truly possessed all of them. He loved His sheep and laid down his life to save them.
He knew each one of His sheep by name and they followed Him. He was kind and gentle to the broken-hearted and He fed His sheep with nourishing food. He was willing to leave the ninety-nine and go in search of the one missing. He genuinely cared for His sheep.
But what about the shepherds that you and I are familiar with in the contemporary Christian world? Do they have any of the characteristics of a genuine shepherd described above? No, majority of them do not have any of the above characteristics of a good shepherd.
The shepherds that we find in the contemporary churches work like hired hands and many of them are not genuinely concerned about their sheep. They feed their sheep with junk and lead them on the broad way that leads to eternal destruction.
They do not care for the sick or bind up the wounded nor do they go in search of the ones that are missing. Above all, they care about themselves more than their sheep.
In fact, Prophet Ezekiel, in the following verses, depicts a clear picture of these types of shepherds that we find in the contemporary Christian world.
1The word of the Lord came to me: 2“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?
3You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. (Ezekiel, 34, 1-4).
2. Jesus Served His Sheep with a Servant’s Attitude.
Unlike the Church Leaders of today, Lord Jesus led His sheep with a servant’s attitude. Instead of ruling over those who were under His care, Jesus served them. He did not use His power or authority to lord it over His sheep.
Though Jesus had all the power and authority both in heaven and on earth, He did not exercise them to elevate himself above others. Jesus took care of His sheep according to the Heavenly rules; not according to the worldly rules.
Here you might wonder – what are the heavenly rules. Yes, heavenly rules are just opposite of the worldly rules. Those who are in authority in the worldly system consider themselves as people who should be served by those who are under them.
But according to the heavenly rules – those who are in authority should not be served but should serve those who are under them; those who are the leaders would behave like servants. See, what Jesus advices His disciples about being in Leadership positions.
25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20, 25-28)
Yes, in the Kingdom of Gentiles, the Leaders rule over those who are under them. They strictly impose their will and decisions up on their subjects without taking into consideration any of their desires and aspirations; without giving any thought for their choices or preferences. The rulers give orders and everyone is forced to follow those orders.
On the contrary, in the Kingdom of God, those who are in authority consider themselves as servants and they serve those who are under their authority. They never use their authority to lord it over those who are under their care.
Jesus, as a Leader, took care of His sheep according to the rules of His Heavenly Kingdom and he literally considered Himself as a Servant who came to serve. Also, He taught His disciples the importance of having a servant’s mindset. The following verses makes it very clear.
. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20, 26-28)
Yes, whoever wants to be great among the disciples of Christ should be the servant of all and whoever wants to be the number one should be the slave of all – yes, the slave of all!
Again, He says – As the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many, we too should serve others and be willing to sacrifice our lives for those who are under our care.
But, what about the Church Leaders in the contemporary Christian World? Do they serve with a Servant’s attitude? Do they think that they must be the slave of all;
No! they don’t serve with a Servant’s Mindset; instead, Like the rulers of the Gentiles, they lord it over those the God Almighty has put under their care. These Shepherds command everyone to serve them since they are in authority. Once they get a leadership position in the church, they change their mindset; the servants suddenly morph into Lords.
They begin to acquire the things that manifest their power and authority; the things that set apart them from those who are under their authority. As soon as they get Leadership positions, they buy bigger homes and more expensive cars. Just, like the gentiles, they too amass material wealth in order to show that they do not belong to the ordinary class.
Jesus said – “No Servant is greater than his Master” But these servants of Christ, through their authority and lifestyle, disproves what their Master has taught them.
Through their authoritarian attitude they unequivocally tell the world that “Servants can really be greater than their Master.” What an irony!
3. Jesus did not focus on Material Benefits.
Yes, Jesus did not focus on material benefits. He did not use His ministry as a means to gain wealth or fame. He did not take a million-dollar salary or move around in golden chariots like the kings and nobles of His day.
Instead, He went on foot from town to town and village to village. He ate what others offered free and spent the nights in lonely places. He did not own anything in this world. He never collected a dime from anyone for His personal use. He practised what he preached. He freely gave away everything he had, even His own life.
But what about the so-called contemporary servants of Christ? They live in million-dollar mansions and move around in expensive cars and private jets. They carry expensive designer bags and wear suits that cost thousands of dollars.
They live in luxury that many of the hard-working business men in the Wall Street cannot afford and the funny part is – They still call themselves “Servants of Christ” – Jesus said – “A servant is not greater than his Master. Saints, here, you judge – do these servants look like the Master that they claim to serve?
Again, let us take the example of Apostle Paul. He was from a wealthy family, a Roman Citizen by birth but He gave up everything in order to follow Christ. He considered material possessions as garbage and gave them away for the sake of gaining Christ.
7But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3, 7-8)
But, on the contrary, what is happening with the Servants of Christ in the contemporary Christian World? They, in the name of Christ, love everything that Apostle Paul considered as garbage. Most of these contemporary Church Leaders lost nothing for the sake of gaining Christ. Instead, they use their leadership roles in the churches to gain everything that are valuable and precious in the eyes of the world.
They began to follow Christ by loving Him with all their heart. But as time went on, as their ministries grew, they started loving the world more than Christ and their focus shifted from the promised heavenly treasures to the material wealth of this world. Now, they are counted among the rich and the powerful in the world. But What did Apostle Paul say about these servants? Read the verses below.
18For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. (Philippians 3, 18-19)
4. Jesus Did not love Power, Authority, Recognition or Fame.
Yes, Jesus did not love Power, Authority, Recognition or Fame while walking up on the face of this planet earth. He lived as a humble Servant who was hated and ridiculed by those who had power and authority in His days.
He did not go after the fame or recognition of this world; He did not possess any of the symbols of worldly power or authority while living. His Power and Authority was not given by the world but by His Heavenly Father and His recognition came from heaven instead of the earth; He did what was pleasing to His heavenly Father.
Jesus, in His Ministry, did not establish any of the hierarchical administrative or organisational structures that we see today in the Christendom. When Jesus started His ministry, He chose just twelve disciples to work with Him and they were called the Apostles or the Called-out ones. Their task was to assist Christ in the Ministry and carry forward the work that He began.
However, before His ascension into Heaven, Christ entrusted His authority in the Ministry to Peter which He had spoken about to him while He was with the disciples. You might wonder what is the evidence for this. Yes, the following two verses support what I am talking about.
18And I tell you that you are Peter, b and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades c will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be d bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be e loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16, 18-19)
15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21, 15-17)
As you see, the above verses unequivocally prove that Peter had a very special place in the Heart of Christ and He considered him as the next in line to take care of His earthly Ministry after His departure from this world.
However, the whole Protestant world pretends to be ignorant about this fact. Instead, they mis-interpret the above verses in order to deny Peter this Christ-given authority.
But let me ask you – can these protestants over-turn an eternal decision that Christ had made under His Sovereign Authority regarding His Ministry on Earth?
So, Christ entrusted the responsibility of taking care of His sheep with Peter and this was the only authority that Christ created for the smooth functioning of His ministry. However, this authority was purely spiritual and it did not contain any of the worldly power structure that we are familiar within the church today.
The church of Christ began with the power structure that Christ created and later, when the Ministry expanded into areas outside Judea and Samaria, the disciples began to appoint Elders and Bishops in order to take care of the sheep in each area.
But these appointments were purely to oversee the spiritual matters of the believers and no money or material remuneration was involved.Each congregation was independent in nature and believers took care of each other and provided for the needs of those who could not support themselves.
Occasionally, when a certain congregation had material needs that it could not provide for, other congregations contributed materially to help them out. This was how the early church worked and no leaders, elders or overseers used their congregations to amass material wealth for themselves.
But what about the contemporary Church Leaders? Many of them have grown immensely rich by mis-appropriating the funds that believers contributed for meeting the needs of their respective congregations.
Moreover, many of today’s church leaders are after fame and recognition. In order to become famous, they preach a watered-down gospel that is appealing to the flesh and to the world. They are accepted, recognized and loved by the world because they talk like the world and live like the world. Many from the world flock to their churches as they don’t have to give up anything that belong to their flesh in order to be a Christian.
5. Jesus sacrificed everything He had for the well-being of His Flock.
Yes, Jesus sacrificed everything He had for the well-being of His flock. Jesus’ complete life was – a life of sacrifice. He did not withhold anything for himself or for His household. He sacrificed everything that He found worth sacrificing; including His own life.
During Christ’s public Ministry, His complete focus was on taking care of His sheep and expanding the Kingdom of God. He did not collect money from the public in order to buy a house or a chariot. He did not even own a mule which was the cheapest to own those days.
He walked from place to place and spent nights in lonely places. He desired nothing of this world except the souls that followed Him. He fed them, healed them and taught them the pure Word of God.
But what about His servants that we find among us in this 21st century? What have they sacrificed for the sake of their sheep? Nothing. Saints, please do not mis-understand me. I am not saying that there are no people who are living a life of sacrifice for the sake of their flock and the Kingdom of God.
Yes, definitely there are preachers and pastors even in this 21st century who have given up everything for the sake of their sheep. But they are a few and they are unknown to the Christian world. They live in slums, jungles and deserts. They don’t appear on mainstream Christian TV stations and You-tube Channels. They are known only in Heaven and it is the only source of support for them.
But this is not the case with many of the Western Church leaders; especially the Protestant ones. They run their ministries like private corporations and majority of the funds they collect in the name of Christ goes for taking care of their own wants.
Instead of they, themselves, sacrificing what they have for their sheep, they make their sheep sacrifice in order to meet the financial commitments of their Mega Ministries.
These Servants of Christ do not hesitate to plan annual Ministry budgets for millions of dollars while many of their own sheep sitting in their church pews thinking “where to find the next meal.” This is really sad; this needs to change.
What believers contribute for a congregation should go for meeting the needs of the people in that same congregation and the surplus, if there is any, for those congregations that are struggling financially. We don’t need Mega Offices and expensive church buildings to expand the Kingdom of God.
It is time that we begin to think about starting small congregations in the manner of 1st century church where everyone knew each other and cared for each other; where everyone lived in unity with one mind and one spirit.
In the Kingdom of God, a Leader can be a true Leader only by a life of sacrifice. A Leader becomes a true Leader only when he follows the footsteps of Christ; only when he leads his sheep the way Christ led His sheep.
9Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; 10who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness. 11Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, “Is not the Lord among us? (Micah 3, 9-11)