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JESUS STYLE LEADERSHIP


Over the last couple of decades, a new sense of urgency has developed in the church to rethink leadership. Christians (like John Maxwell) are now the leading voice in the international approach to leadership – because they are taking the life of Jesus, the best leader who ever lived as the source of their teaching.

I believe that it is essential for the health and growth of any church is a biblical view on leadership, a healthy practice of leadership and an environment where people can grow in leadership.


Power distance


I’m the pastor of an international church with people from every single continent represented. When I talk about the topic of ‘leadership’ I am well aware that we all have different experiences, approaches and opinions on this topic. For example, ‘power distance’.


A Dutch cultural researcher has created an index for Power Distance, measuring the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. The differences between different countries are enormous. Sometimes even neighboring countries have a completely different cultural approach to this.

The big question is: who is right? What is the right approach to people in positions of leadership?


I believe that what we always should be after – especially in an intercultural context like ours – is Kingdom Culture. We all view issues through our own cultural lenses, and we all need to learn how to see things through a biblical lens, going after a Kingdom Culture approach.


I believe that there is a biblical foundation for authority – the apostles for example were clearly giving an authority that others didn’t receive. Yet, the Bible also clearly indicates that one is not more important than the other. Think back of the examples of the Body of Christ used earlier in this series or texts saying that God doesn’t have favorites.


All in / under leadership


You and I, we are all both in and under leadership. For one, you are the leader of your own life. You get to make the decisions. And most of us are in some context in a leadership position – in your family, at work, in church or somewhere else. And for sure, we all are under leadership in some context. We have people set above us that get to decide on things that will influence our lives.


I believe that how we deal with the people that are set over us, under us and next to us, determines whether we will grow in leadership or not. God is testing each and everyone of us in multiple different context to see how we approach others, to determine if we would be fit to handle more responsibilities.


It starts with character

Healthy leadership starts with good character. Good character is like primer before painting a door frame. Primer makes sure that the top layer of paint attaches well and lasts long. Without a good primer, the top layer won’t endure and won’t attach well to the wood.


When it comes to leadership, someone’s skills and abilities may seem what their leadership is all about – but it is only the top layer. Without a good layer of primer (character) it won’t stick and it won’t last. Your skills will only take you as far as your character can carry them.


Your skills will only take you as far as your character can carry them.

This is how Paul instructs one of the leaders that he raised up to determine if someone would be fitting for a position of leadership in the churches he was set over to lead.


Titus 1:5-9 (NLT) 5 I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you. 6 An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don’t have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. 7 A church leader is a manager of God’s household, so he must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. 8 Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. 9 He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.


Paul’s instruction to Titus is to not first look at the person’s skills is organizing, leading, teaching or whatever he will be responsible for, but to first see if his character is anything like the character of Jesus.

Let’s move on. If we want to lead well, we also need to have the right approach in leadership. Therefore I want to give you four approaches to leadership – these are also approaches that I have adopted in my position as your church leader. Approaches I want to be measured by.


Servant Leadership


Where Jesus is radically different than any other leader in history is his complete commitment to servant leadership.


Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)

25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Jesus is turning the whole world upside down here. Because even though He was the Son of Man – a term used in the prophetic book of Daniel for the anointed one of God, the Eternal One – a position of authority, He says: I came not to be served but to serve.

A Christian approach to leadership never looks at how can I gain, defend or increase my leadership position – but always uses the position as a way to serve others.

A Christian approach to leadership never looks at how can I gain, defend or increase my leadership position – but always uses the position as a way to serve others.

It’s an upside down approach to hierarchy. Leaders are servants. They are not in it for themselves, but for others. Their aim is not to lift up themselves, but to lift others up.


Equipping Leadership


Jesus was also an equipping leader. This is very clear from the way that he took 12 men close to Himself for three years to train them up and send them out.

Jesus chose to dedicate much of his time to invest it in only a few, because He was an equipping leader.


Matthew 4:18-20 (NIV)

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.


Jesus calls these guys from something – to something. Come with me on a journey, and at the end of the journey you will be a different person.

In the same way, I believe that leaders are called to equip people to do the things that God is calling them to do.


Ephesians 4:7 (NKJV)

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.


This is not the saving grace, but an equipping grace. Grace to do a certain thing, or take responsibility over a certain area.


The word “measure” here in Greek is the word “metron” which is where we get the word “meter” from. This word is also translated as sphere, boundary or area of authority (for those who watch police series, you may be familiar with the term ‘jurisdiction’. Here’s how it’s used in another passage.


2 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you.


It is the job of a leader to help you to step into that area of authority – the measure of grace – and to help you to stay within it. For a long time I’ve understood this text as something limiting – be careful not to step outside of the grace given to you. But I’ve come to realize this is more of a calling than a warning. He says: go fill it! Own your zone!

Leaders are called to help you to step into all that God has for you. Peter, for example, was a fisherman, but Jesus equipped him to be a fisher of men.


Visionary Leadership


A common definition of ‘vision’ in the context of leadership is “a picture of a preferred future”. Somewhere you want to go. And leaders are people that are able to translate that vision from ‘me’ (this is where I want to go) to ‘we’ (this is where we want to go).

Jesus was a visionary leader. His vision was the Kingdom of God. He came to bring it and to spread it and so He was teaching and explaining it all the time, demonstrating it and helping others to work within it. It was a vision so big, it influenced everything He did.

Vision is also something that gives direction for the things that you are doing. It gives clarity.


In this way, I have also approached the last couple of Sundays as I’ve been telling you what I believe the Bible is teaching us about how to be a healthy church.

And so, Jesus also had a very clear vision of what He came to do, helping Him to say ‘yes’ to one thing and ‘no’ to another.


When Jesus went into the house of a corrupt tax collector – someone who sided with the Roman oppressors and was hated by the Jews – His vision gave him direction.


Luke 19:7-10 (NIV)

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


Multiplying Leadership


Lastly, I believe that good leadership is also multiplying leadership. Good leaders equip others to work at their level of leadership – or beyond. For this, let’s look at one of Paul’s writings.


2 Timothy 2:2 (NLT)

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

There are 4 generations of leadership in play in this one verse.


Paul (1) is writing to Timothy (2) instructing him to teach trustworthy people (3) who will be able to pass them on to others (4).


This is why everyone with a leadership role should look around and see who else they can help to develop as a leader.


Questions for Home Groups


Here are some questions for discussion in your home group:

  • What is your overall experience of leadership in a church context?

  • What stands out to you in Jesus approach to leadership?

  • What does your culture say about ‘power distance’? How is Jesus approach to leadership different?

  • What is your next step when it comes to leadership?

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