Otherworldly Leadership

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

Luke 22:25

Many years ago, I was sitting in on a nominating committee meeting of my church. This committee was charged with the responsibility of nominating church leaders who would then be elected by the congregation. As we were discussing candidates for ruling elder, a member of the committee I’ll call Jim suggested that his friend Dan would be a good elder. I didn’t know Dan well, so I asked why Jim thought so. He proceeded to roll out a long list of Dan’s professional accomplishments, which were indeed impressive. There was no doubt that Dan was a strong business leader.

But I wanted to know more, because the qualities that made Dan successful in his career were not necessarily traits of Christian leaders. When I asked Jim if Dan had demonstrated spiritual leadership in any way, Jim got a little mad. He felt as if I were doubting his friend’s spirituality. But I pressed on, hoping that Jim would fill in the blanks. Finally, in an exasperated voice, he said, “Well, do you mean you want to know that he has taught kids in Sunday School for years? He has. And that he’s led a men’s small group? He has. And that he’s deeply committed to prayer. He is.” I said to Jim, “Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. And I am more than satisfied. Now I know that Dan is more than a great leader in the world. He’s also someone who knows how to follow Christ as a servant leader.”

As the disciples of Jesus argued about which of them would be the greatest, Jesus noted that they were reflecting the values of this world, in which greatness is measured by how much authority one has and how many people fawn all over you. “But among you,” Jesus said, “it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant” (22:26).

On Monday, I will reflect on what it means to be a leader who serves. For now, I simply want to highlight Jesus’ statement: “But among you it will be different” (22:26). He reminds us that his ways are not our ways, that God’s ways are not the ways of the world. If we are going to live in this world as citizens of the kingdom of God, we will adopt otherworldly values and become otherworldly leaders. We’ll learn what of this world is consistent with the kingdom of God and what ought to be left behind.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you think about leadership you have experienced and exercised, how do you see godly leadership as different from worldly leadership? What qualities of a successful leader in the world might be appropriate in the kingdom of God? What aspects of worldly leadership ought not to be welcome in the kingdom?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, today I’m thinking about your statement, “But among you it will be different.” It is so easy for me to think and act in worldly ways, even when I’m seeking to do the work of your kingdom. Forgive me.

Yet, as you know, Lord, it’s not always clear what aspects of the world we’re to leave behind and what aspects continue to reflect the goodness of your creation. When it comes to leadership at work, for example, there are plenty of secular gurus who would say that good leaders encourage those in their charge to flourish. Well, that seems very much like a kingdom value. But there are aspects of worldly leadership—like the “lord it over you” —part that are inconsistent with the kingdom. So, I ask that you give me wisdom to know how best to lead in a way that is otherworldly in all the right ways.

You make it clear, Lord, that we who lead are not to glory in our authority or to exercise it in a self-aggrandizing way. Help me, therefore, to lead with humility and a desire to serve others. Teach me more of what this means.

I pray in the name of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. Amen.