When a church is selecting its leaders, it needs to look for spiritual leadership, not worldly leadership. The difference between the two is huge. It’s leading by sacrifice and service instead of by authority and power. It’s paramount. If we’re following the example of our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, this is a non-negotiable.
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” ~John 8:28
Jesus says, in other words, “When you see my dying, when you watch me willingly give up my life for others, you’ll know I am the promised Messiah, the Good Shepherd.” Jesus is always completely surrendered to God’s will. He is doing God’s will in God’s ways. The proof of that is in his willingness to humble himself, to make himself the least important person in the room. To die.
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” ~John 4:34
My food, my passion, the thing that sustains me, the thing that motivates me, what keeps me going, my everything – is to do God’s work in God’s ways. My Father sets my agenda and he alone determines how I conduct my ministry: with sacrifice and service and submission. That’s how a shepherd leads. Never by power. Never by authority. It’s spiritual, not worldly.
The mother of James and John tells Jesus to ordain them as rulers next to Jesus in the coming Kingdom. He asks if they can pay the price. She says they can. He knows they can’t. The other disciples are indignant. So Jesus gathers all twelve together and gives them a lesson in the differences between spiritual leadership and worldly leadership.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles (nations) lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life.” ~Matthew 20:25-28
Jesus is talking about government leaders and business boards and military commanders. The way they lead is not the way we lead. Good shepherds lead from the back of the line, never the front. They lead by washing feet and dying, never by dictating and demanding. No chain of command, no hierarchy, no flow charts. The biblical model of Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, turns all that upside down. It’s the exact opposite of the way the world leads.
We mess this up in the church sometimes when we select worldly leaders as our spiritual leaders. It doesn’t work. Our culture tells us to choose successful men which means men who make a lot of money and dress nicely and drive expensive cars and live in massive houses, men who are leaders in the community, influencers in politics, and members of the board. Don’t do it. That’s exactly the opposite of spiritual leadership.