Leadership appeals to most of us. We can’t help feeling an impulse to be in charge. We want to be the boss, the captain, the influencer.
Culture does much to stoke this desire. It pressures us to lead, whether by rising up the corporate ladder or increasing our following on social media. Indeed, leadership has become a culture unto itself! There are podcasts, conferences, even degrees about it. And it all presents leadership as something we can and should aspire toward.
This compulsion grips us as Christians too. We long to lead small groups, ministries, or even entire churches! And we add fuel to this desire by filling our hearts and minds with stories of famous Christians.
This rings true for me. I have strong “alpha” instincts. I tend to walk into a room and try to take control of the situation (sometimes to my wife’s annoyance!). I strove to be a godly leader during my time in ministry. Even now at my secular job, I feel the desire to move into management.
But is that a good thing? I’m not convinced everyone (including me) should try to lead. Leadership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And it’s certainly not for everyone! But that’s okay. Maybe we should stop trying to be leaders. Here’s why:
You Probably Aren’t a Leader
The Bible presents leadership as a unique spiritual gift. Paul says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is…to lead, do it diligently” (Romans 12:6-8). He lists leadership among several other gifts. By doing so, he implies not everyone is a leader.
Common sense tells us this as well. It just makes sense that there are more followers than leaders. Since this is so, which are you likely to be?
Not only that, but the essence of leadership is influence. And you can’t force influence. If people follow you, you’re a leader. If they don’t, you’re not. And there’s not much you can do about it.
You Don’t Want to Be a Leader
Leaders are held to a higher standard than followers. This is as true in the church as in the world. James warns, “Not many of you should become teachers…because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Those with influence are held accountable for how they use it.
This accountability is the reason leaders make great scapegoats. They’re held responsible anytime their church, business, or company fails. But when it does well, everyone else tries taking their credit! Do you want to be given all the blame but none of the praise?
It also means that when leaders fall, it’s usually public. Paul instructs, “Those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning” (1 Timothy 5:20). Leaders live in glass houses. This is especially true in our age of social media! Do you want your dirty laundry aired publicly?
Then there’s the simple fact that people don’t want to be led. The Bible compares us to sheep who go astray and turn our own way (Isaiah 53:6). This is true toward anyone who tries to lead us. We don’t like being told what to do!
Consider your own attitude toward your boss, pastor, the President, etc. Don’t you question their decisions? Don’t you think you could do their job better? Do you really want people thinking that way about you?
Get Better at Following
Not trying to lead might sound strange to you. For me, it feels unnatural and a little wrong. It’s a hard pill to swallow! What will we do if we stop trying to lead? What else is there?
Following. Instead of leading others, get better at following Jesus. Paul calls Him our “apostle and high priest” and the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2). In other words, He is our leader. Our time would be better spent following Him than trying to build our own following.
Set an Example
Even if you aren’t a leader, you do still have some influence. The Bible tells us to “set an example” for others (1 Timothy 4:12). At the very least, these include your spouse and children. We should set a godly example that inspires them to imitate us as we imitate Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Who knows? Maybe you are a leader! If the Lord calls you to lead and expands your influence, so be it. But even if He doesn’t, there are still people in your life who will benefit from your example.
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