5 Questions to Exercise Leadership and Initiative
- M. D. House www.mdhouselive.com
- 2022 21 Apr
As obedient and dedicated members of the body of Christ, we perform the functions of our respective, sometimes shifting, places within that body (see 1 Corinthians 12), supporting an organism that is “fitly framed together” (Ephesians 2:21) to achieve the work directed by our ultimate leader—Christ himself. But the Lord doesn’t view us as unthinking cogs in a machine, so we all have opportunities to exercise leadership and initiative in his kingdom through a myriad of expressions of his love.
Why Doesn’t Christ Tell Us Exactly What to Do?
He could, most assuredly. But how would that help us? I recently heard a professor from a religious school (my own alma mater!) utter a suprising statement, perhaps without fully realizing what it meant. He said that if we could somehow achieve perfect equity in society, without the changing of hearts—that is, without people becoming new creatures in Christ—the Lord would be okay with that.
Yikes, no. That was exactly Lucifer’s plan, which stood in perfect opposition to the Father’s plan. Satan wanted to “save” us all and accrue all glory and power to himself, and he proposed to do that under a system of extreme micromanagement in which our agency would be essentially eliminated. We know how systems following that template have fared throughout the history of the world. They engender poverty, extreme class differences, godlessness, and an astonishing level of corruption, abuse, and violence. Without exception. Forced “virtue” isn’t virtue at all, and brings us nowhere near the Lord and his kingdom.
We’ve recently witnessed another example of the non-effectiveness of systems that consolidate decision-making at the top: the Russian army. Most “experts” believed Russia would conquer Ukraine in a matter of a few days. There are several reasons they were wrong, but one of the key factors was the lack of leadership ability and flexibility at the operational level. Lower-level Russian commanders have neither the training nor the permission to make the tactical decisions required to meet shifting battlefield conditions.
What Was the Purpose of the Last Supper?
We don’t yet understand all the reasons, but we know that:
- Jesus obeyed the statutes and judgments of the Law of Moses and therefore kept the feast of the Passover
- Jesus needed to instruct his apostles (and likely others, including the women who would have been present) on what was about to happen and what would come next; one of those instructions involved the ordinance of the sacrament, another the powerful meaning of being a servant-leader
- Jesus loved his disciples dearly, and wished to spend precious time with them before they had to carry on without his constant physical presence
The best leaders sincerely care for those they lead. Not only does it naturally show, but these leaders actively demonstrate their genuine consideration, making sure it is felt. Christ continued his careful and caring instruction of the Twelve Apostles and others—surely including many of the women who would also form the backbone of the leadership of his church—after his resurrection, for at least forty days (Acts 1:3). On at least one occasion, he was seen by more than five hundred people (1 Cor. 15:6), and they weren’t just having a spot of tea.
What Do Gifts of the Spirit Have to Do With Leadership?
As recorded in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul taught that each member of the body of Christ is important, even necessary, to the proper functioning of the Church, which is made up of families, which are in turn comprised of individuals. Christ loves us individually, and his sacrifice pertains to us at that level. But he meets us not only as a son or daughter of God, but as families and communities, striving together to follow his teachings and utilize the talents he has given us.
Paul encouraged us to develop and exercise spiritual gifts, as the Spirit grants them to us. We can’t always tell what gifts we should seek, but as we pray, study, serve, and exercise faith in persistent action, our path is revealed and our minds open up to the incredible possibilities our active participation in the Lord’s kingdom brings. We help each other—leading, following, and persuading in the Savior’s way.
If, on the other hand, we discover a gift, or a talent, and seek to hide it away—to “keep it safe”—we have become salt that has lost its savor, and are unprofitable servants. (see Matthew 5:13 and Matthew 25:24-30) God understands if you are naturally introverted, but if you trust him, he can help you employ your talents in amazingly effective and appropriate ways.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Humble Lamb
Does Christ Seem Too Bold or Harsh Sometimes?
Christ’s love is perfect, and he didn’t come to Earth to pamper and spoil us to heaven, because such an approach completely ignores our potential and blunts our ability to feel true joy. Intellectually, most of us understand that concept, but we focus so much on the “softer” expressions of compassion that we end up doing more harm than good sometimes.
If you understand that Jesus was perfect, then you know that his overturning of the money-changing tables in the temple (which he did at least twice!) had valuable and loving purpose. He didn’t “lose it” or miscalculate. He made a clear point in standing for truth and righteousness, and he didn’t fear angering the ruling class. He wasn’t “going along to get along.”
U.S. Ranger Regiment Chaplain John McDougall recently lamented our loss of understanding regarding Jesus’s mission and how to replicate it on our scale. In Jesus Was an Airborne Ranger, he said: “We have lost the man-on-a-mission intensity that drove Jesus to the cross. A boy-band Jesus will never change the brokenness in our world. And if you and I follow that kind of Jesus, neither will we.” (p.8)
“We must stop thinking of our churches as fortresses, built to protect holy occupants from evil beyond the walls. Instead, we need to see churches as forward operating bases (FOBs)—temporary havens in a hostile place where recruits can train and veterans can heal, always with the intent of going back outside the wire!” (p.101)
“The Enemy, like a skilled sniper, is picking us off one by one—our friends, our neighbors, even our own families. We can’t hide in bunkers any longer. We need to follow the Warrior Christ and engage in the fight. Don’t cower in a bunker. Don’t hide in a fortress. God has made you for so much more! He has called you to “close with and destroy” the evil that plagues you, your family, and the world. This is the mission you were made for! What do you have to lose?” (p.198, and see Matthew 16:25—For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.)
A God who doesn’t give us stiff trials and require us to do hard things using our own initiative is the functional equivalent of a god who doesn’t care about us and can’t be bothered to spend the time and effort to teach us. Some modern “scholars” might decry personal responsibility, accountability, and expectations of achievement to be “unfair,” but they are following the philosophy of Satan, not of our loving Heavenly Father and our Savior, who champion our true progress.
Is Honesty Really the Best Policy?
We don’t tell little children everything. God doesn’t tell us everything. But he doesn’t lie to us, either. A popular mantra for “getting good things done” is BAMN—By Any Means Necessary. Legions of so-called “leaders” (in the corporate world, with which I’m familiar, and elsewhere) crow this slogan with great, blustering pride. They’re our saviors, and they’re here to make sure we’re saved, whether we understand/accept it or not. But BAMN is not an eternal principle of love and progress, and never will be.
To the Tweve, the Lord said “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) They (and he, of course) were well aware of how brutally dishonest and forgiving the world could be (see Ephesians 6:12), but the Lord asked them to be bold, intelligent, and aware, not scheming, conniving, and dissembling. The Lord’s mission revolves around Truth, and any dishonest efforts to do his work will undoubtedly fail, because they are inimical to his purpose.
When Jesus first saw Nathanael (Bartholomew), he said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47) Jesus was looking for honest, dedicated people to lead his flock, and he does the same thing today. He doesn’t need to lie, cheat, or steal to accomplish his work, and neither do his true servants.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/LoveTheWind
M.D. HOUSE is the author of The Barabbas Legacy, as well as the first two volumes in The Barabbas Trilogy, I Was Called Barabbas and Pillars of Barabbas. He also authored the science-fiction novel, Patriot Star. Before beginning his second career as a writer, he worked for twenty-five years in the world of corporate finance, strategic planning, and business development. Now, Michael lives in Utah with his wife, where he spends his time writing and enjoying his children and grandchildren. Learn more about Michael and his work at www.mdhouselive.com.