Leadership in today’s world is not easy. In fact, it is fraught with dangers, political and social landmines everywhere. The role of a leader in the Kingdom of God is one of serving, not always leading from the front, sometimes from the back or the side or even carrying those we are called to lead. Sometimes people don’t want to be led or feel they are better at it by themselves. Sometimes those we lead resist to the point of conflict.
When I was training to be a Water Safety Instructor, the first thing they taught us was not how to rescue, but how to escape from being drowned by those you are called to rescue. This seemed weird to me until I was in a situation that was design to show what can happen when people are so afraid they will do anything to be safe. They will sometimes try and climb on top of you pushing you down deeper so they can reach the surface. The outcome is that you both die.
Leaders have to deal with people who are afraid, who feel hopeless – people who are struggling in their lives for safety and security. They often go about it in very unhealthy ways. Leaders in the church are confronted with these situations more and more often.
God’s Word calls leaders in the Kingdom of God to be shepherds. Jesus is often times referred to as the “Good Shepherd”. Following the model that Jesus sets as a shepherd a leader, we find three essential attributes:
1. Leaders are compassionate. They care for the wellbeing of those they lead and do not abandon those who fall behind.
2. Leaders are relational. They speak with those they lead they get to know them. They walk with them in their faith journey.
3. Leaders are faithful. They trust the God who has called them into leadership. They are committed the people, even to the point of personal sacrifice.
By the way, the lifeguard model doesn’t just end with you escaping from the one who is trying to drown you. You are called to re-approach. You come at the situation from another angle and try to alleviate their fear. This isn’t always simple or quick. They might be going down for the last time and it is then that you can bring them to safety and life.
The point being, whether you are a leader in the Kingdom of God or a lifeguard, you stay, you commit - even at the risk to yourself. You live out your calling for the sake of the other. You lead by serving.
In this world full of pitfalls and tripwires for leaders, we are still called to follow the ultimate leader, the Good Shepherds of us all. As the song from “Sister Act” goes: “I will follow you, wherever you may go!” Jesus is the way, for both leaders and followers in other words, “disciples”.