I started the new year writing about how God continues to restore us within the church with the help of our leaders, noting my new, additional role as an elder within this body. Having served as an elder for only four months, I am noticing a few things about myself and about leadership that I had not expected. First, I don’t think of myself as much of a leader (and it would not surprise me in the least to discover exactly how many folks would agree with me). My personality and experiences throughout life have always put me somewhere in the background; full disclosure: I’d rather work behind the scenes, helping others do great things, supporting “the team” to get the job done. Throughout my life, I have often been impressed with true leaders who demonstrate an understanding of servanthood, people who are not afraid or ashamed to get their hands dirty doing what needs to be done, people who lead by example. I think I’d rather be that kind of leader than the kind that needs to assert the authority of their role or to project an attitude of superiority or power.
However, the second thing I’ve learned in the past few months is how tempting it can be to do just that, to flex that authority or to wield it like a blunt object, whether to “get the job done” or to smack down resistance. For whatever reason, many people seem to like a powerful, authoritarian leader simply because they tend to get things done, that is, until they’re doing something “I/we” don’t like. We don’t mind a dictatorial steamroller leading the way, unless they’re rolling over us or what we like. However, if we can get them on our side or doing what we want, a little wreckage is the cost of doing business, right? I don’t want to be that kind of leader, either, but I am shocked how appealing it can be.
As I continue to preach and teach about God’s plan to restore sinful people to himself and how he has worked that plan and continues to accomplish that plan through Jesus, I am determined to focus on restoring leadership. I’m not referring merely to a process of reestablishing godly leadership but to a process of leadership that is restoring or restorative. This is the kind of leadership Jesus demonstrated in his own life, and it’s a good illustration of God’s plan and process of restoration through the Gospel.
At one point in Jesus’ ministry, he left a synagogue on the Sabbath and then healed a man who had a withered hand (Matthew 12:9-13). In doing this, Jesus found himself squaring off against the Pharisees, people who wielded their spiritual authority among the people like a weapon, and Matthew 12:14 says, “The Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.” Knowing who Jesus is – the Messiah, the Son of God – we know that Jesus had the power and authority to take these guys on and deal with them definitively, physically, emotionally, theologically, even eternally. Yet, Jesus didn’t flex his authority; instead, Matthew 12:15, 16 tell us, “Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him.” Even though Jesus had the power, authority, and right to judge and condemn the Pharisees, instead of wielding his power in that way, he just continued to do what he had been doing.
Matthew goes on to tell us that this was in fulfillment of what the prophet Isaiah had predicted the Messiah would be like, writing in Matthew 12:18-21:
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”
Jesus didn’t come to bust heads; he wouldn’t even break a bruised reed or snuff a smoldering candle. Jesus came to restore and to lead others toward restoration. As I consider this ongoing transition in my life as a leader and in our life as the church, please pray that I/we focus on restoring leadership.