It is not unusual for churches and campus ministries universities to talk about developing leaders.That emphasis on leadership has made me uncomfortable for a long time. Every time I hear or read about a groups’ goal to create leaders, I wonder- “If we are focused on creating leaders, where do the followers come from?”
Honestly, you and I both know not everyone is cut out to be a leader. Some of us become leaders only after years of following. Often if we are a leader, it is only in one area of life or in one place, or at one particular time. Some of us are never leaders. I find the emphasis on leadership in Christian organizations especially troubling. It often leaves people feeling that if they haven’t lead something significant they have failed Jesus. We create two (or more) levels of Christians. In the church we often use the term “servant leader” but frequently we end up with someone who is more leader than servant.
But Jesus didn’t seem to care too much about creating leaders.
” So Jesus called them [the disciples] and said to them. “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 see also Matt 20:26-28
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death-
even death on a cross. ” Phil 1:3-8
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities,but it is the same God who activate all of them in everyone….Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many…But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose…One the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those member of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another… ” I Cor 12 various verses
We could go on, but you get the idea. Developing leaders is not the primary activity of the church. Developing disciples, faithful followers of Jesus is.
It is difficult to imagine a world without leaders.In Genesis, all of human kind is created in the image of God. In the creation stories of other nations, only the ruler was the image bearer. God wanted Israel to be a nation of image bearers. Recall Israel did not have a king but had judges. Moses appointed several people to serve as judges. Then Israel, wanting to be like the other nations, begged for a king. God warned them that having a king, a leader would not work out well, but he gave them a king- and things didn’t work out well.
I suspect our emphasis on leadership is misplaced. Jesus didn’t have one apostle, he had 12. The body of Christ seems to be less hierarchical than we might like.
What would the church look like if we took this seriously? How might the world be different if we took this seriously? What does the kingdom of God look like? For me this is very difficult to imagine. And it is something I need to spend time imagining. What do you think?