A key of true leadership starts with being a disciple.
[Gary Petty] With all the presidential debates going on as we have different candidates running for President of the United States, everybody’s talking about leadership and people are trying to explain why their particular brand of leadership, their ideas, should make them the perfect person to be the most powerful leader on the earth. Now, leadership is a very interesting concept. Abraham Lincoln is known as a great leader in U.S. history. It wasn’t always that way. In the Black Hawk Wars, he was elected to be the captain of his company. And he was out drilling one day, but he couldn’t remember all of the commands. They marched up to a fence, so he said, “Okay, disband and then reform on the other side of the fence”. Well, with their scalps at stake, they lost confidence then. He was actually voted out of being the captain of the company. Abraham Lincoln had to go through a long, hard period of time in his life to learn how to be a leader. It wasn’t something he just – he had abilities, but to learn actually how to do it took a long, hard process.
Let’s talk about Christian leadership for a minute. John Maxwell, the famous sort of leadership guru of the last fifteen, twenty years, he said, “Leadership is one simple concept – it’s influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Leadership is influencing others. Now, we’ve all seen people – maybe we’ve worked for somebody who was a leader in our company, a manager, who had a position but did not exert a lot of influence. We’ve all been – we’ve seen it in families, or we’ve all been part of a business or a team, or maybe a congregation in which some of the greatest leaders weren’t the people that were in positions, but they were people who influenced others, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, for negative. Influence – that is the core of real leadership.
So when we talk about Christian leadership, what are we talking about? Well, the important word here is “Christian”. How do we define “Christian leadership”? And it starts with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. You see, the purpose of Christian leadership is to help others become disciples of Jesus Christ – not to become the leader of people, but to lead them to something. And so, to be a leader, a Christian leader, you first have to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, which means that you have to be not only a follower, but the word “disciple” in Greek means to be an imitator. We have to imitate Jesus Christ. If you want to be a Christian leader and you think, Well, I have to get some kind of position, step back a minute. Now learn to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Learn to follow Him. As the apostle Paul said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ”. He understood what Christian leadership was all about.
You know, the famous Scottish philosopher and writer Thomas Carlyle once received a letter from a young man, and here’s what he said: “Mr. Carlyle, I wish to be a teacher. Will you teach me the secret of successful teaching?” And here’s what Carlyle wrote back: “Be what you would want your pupils to be. All other teaching is unblessed.” That is the core of Christian leadership. Be what you want others to be, as disciples of Jesus Christ, and you will naturally begin to influence them. You will naturally begin to be a leader. Whether you have the opportunity to have position or not is material.
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