Christ alone, the only focus
The roster of faithful, effective spiritual leaders is long. Many of the names are familiar to those who have studied the epoch of God's people or church history. Some are known by their familiarity to us, the mega-church leaders, the TV evangelists and teachers, the best-selling authors. Millions more have served in little known places beyond public attention, their only reward the respect and admiration of the people they served and the "well done good and faithful servant" spoken to them at the finish line. These leaders are remembered because Christ alone was the focus of their lives. Everything else was measured by their personal commitment to him.
There's a unique temptation for spiritual leaders today. It is occasioned through the vast and fast availability of information and the way our culture idolizes the trappings of success, however misleading they often are. In a time when church attendance is down, Christianity is no longer the norm, and organized religion is rather passe, this temptation is a delicious lure to those pastors, church staff professionals, and congregational leaders who are struggling in their kingdom assignment and desire more in their ministry service. It is---
To adopt a human leadership model because of apparent success.
With a passion for pastors and spiritual leaders in the various places of his calling ministry models are often a topic of discussion. In leadership coaching sessions I will normally comment, "Tell me about your leadership models". Well, you know that's a loaded question and the Halo effect usually overshadows their response. They want to answer in an acceptable way. After some prodding I just encourage them to answer one simple question: who has had the most profound influence on your leadership? What I most often receive is a catalog of the books that are reading or the most recent conferences they've attended. So, their spiritual leadership influences are what you'd expect, the leaders currently in vogue. The always shocking catch is that very seldom do these leaders identify Jesus as their primary leadership influence. No wonder 80-85% of our churches either plateaued or declining. You know what Jesus said: "...without me you can do nothing" (john 15:5). That is nada, nil, zip, zero.
The Apostle Paul is an interesting spiritual leadership study. Evidently he was schooled by one of the most prestigious Jewish rabbis, the venerable Gamaliel. He said this about himself---
I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city,
educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the
law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
Acts 22:3, ESV
After his glorious conversion he was coached by Ananias, encouraged and connected to the other Apostles by Barnabas, and had interesting interactions with Simon Peter. He could have claimed any number of them as a profound influence on his concepts of spiritual leadership and mission. But, don't forget how he defined the most prevalent tutor in his new life, the one that touched him and changed him. He wrote...
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
2 Corinthians 2:2, ESV
Later he added another layer to this total submission to Christ as his model for spiritual leadership. Again, he wrote---
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please
man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10, ESV
Paul seemed to equate his place as a servant of Christ with an exclusive commitment to Christ that freed him from the burden of pleasing other men. He had learned from them, many of them. They had obviously taught him much and brought him along as he grew spiritually and moved deeper into leadership of the church. But, he didn't seek to mimic or imitate them. Christ was his sole model of spiritual leadership.
The pressure to perform and succeed in ministry is intense in these unusual times. Our tendency under this stress is to copy a system that has obviously worked in another place. in doing so we cannot forget the model he has set for us, and the expectation that he is our only model for spiritual leadership. Jesus said it like this---
You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord
and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.
For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to
John 13:13-15, ESV
It's basic and obvious, Christ the model of Christian leadership. And, overlooked.