The church has been spellbound by the leadership myth for the last twenty years. We’ve all come to believe that everything rises and falls on leadership. Consequently, most of the books that most of our pastors are reading – particularly in very large church settings – are about how to be a better leader.
That’s not entirely bad.
Pastors, for better or for worse, are leaders. And, one of the major setbacks of churches in the early 20th C was poor leadership. So, it’s probably fair to say that a certain amount of leadership development is required in order to pastor well.
Personally, I have read over 200 books on leadership. I have read almost all of the top-this or top-that books on all those top-lists. I have followed blogs and articles. Sometimes, I think I could teach more on leadership than I could on most of the books in the Bible.
And there’s the problem.
At key points, leadership philosophy and Biblical wisdom diverge…and most of us don’t know when that happens.
Take King Solomon, for example, who is almost universally held up as an example of biblical leadership. He was wise, by all accounts he ruled well, and he wrote much of the poetry in the First Testament.
But, I’m not convinced that he was as great a leader, nor as great a follower of YHWH as we’ve been lead to believe.
• Solomon weakened his dynasty to the degree that after his death the kingdom was split in two
• Solomon disobeyed God and made treaties and alliances with his former enemies
• Solomon disobeyed God and took his wife’s gods to be his own, leveling himself in apostasy
• Solomon neglected justice in favor of military expansion – something God had spoken strictly about before
Anyway, my point is not to defame Solomon, simply to point out that most of our material on the “Leadership Secrets of King Solomon” conveniently neglect his failures.
Just as most of our books on “Jesus, the Leader” focus on the concept of “Servant Leadership”, but ignore what servant leadership really means.
Servant leadership isn’t about teambuilding, consensus, profit sharing, or good human resources departments.
Servant leadership isn’t about listening before speaking, or seeking to understand before you beg to be understood, or beginning with the end in mind.
Servant leadership is about death.
Leadership is martyrdom. You lead to bear witness. You die to yourself, to your preferences, to your greed, and to your pride.
So that others can live.
So that others can be made whole, can be healthy, and can have fullness.
Solomon, for all his successes and exploits, was nobody’s servant. Good King Wenceslas, however, and Good King Jesus, additionally, were.
Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would heal the world, bringing salvation to all the nations on Earth. Jesus suffered for his mission to bring healing. He was murdered, illegally and unjustly, for being the Great Physician.
He died so we could live.
That is servant leadership.
Leadership is not rooted in position or privilege, it is rooted in pain. People will follow someone who is passionate to a flaw, who is devoted beyond good sense, and who is willing to be the first to bleed.
That’s the most attractive thing, to me, about Good King Wenceslas: he bled. He walked barefoot in the snow, he worked in the fields alongside his people, he forsook his sexual privileges, he emptied his own pockets, and he gave himself to his land.
And it has inspired no shortage of followership – Wenceslas has become a saint, has his own Christmas Carol, inspired Pope Pious to imitate his humility, and has a collection of hagiographies.
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Whoever wants to keep his life must lose it.