Thursday, January 12, 2012

Serve to Lead

In his commentary The Early Christians Letters for Everyone, N. T. Wright provides a wonderful insight on what it means to be a servant leader.  His comment is based on these verses:

“I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it's like to be a leader, in on Christ's sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.”  (1 Peter 5:1-3, The Message)

Wright points out that such leadership is not based on knowledge but practice.  He says, “I would rather belong to a group or a fellowship where the ‘leader’ had no idea about ‘leadership,’ but was out-and-out committed to God and to the gospel, than one where the person in charge had done three or four courses on ‘leadership’ but found it left little time for studying scripture and for praying.”

The point is that real leadership comes out of the practices of one’s life—both internal and external.  The best leader doesn’t think so much about what to do but who he or she is becoming in relation to God.  This requires taking the time to gain the eternal perspective, patience, and insight provided by spiritual practices. As a result, the leader is prepared to do what is necessary to serve others.  The “doing” comes out of the “being.” 

In the course I teach for Central Seminary entitled “Formation for Christian Ministry,” we probably spend more time on spiritual practices than on the techniques of being a minister.  We learn about spiritual disciplines, keep a journal, and learn to reflect on where our stories intersect with the story of God.  We also do some personality inventories that help us to understand our natural tendencies in work, communication, and interaction with others, but I hope we always interpret the resulting insights through the lens of what it means to be a fully committed follower of Christ.  As we know who we are in relation to God, we become people God can use.   I agree with Wright (and Peter) that this is the path to true leadership.

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