If you’re a leader, you’re in charge – of something. What you do with that authority matters. A pastor and friend of mine nearly wrecked his ministry right out of seminary because he didn’t know how to handle his influence. It was his first church, a small one in northern California, and he wanted to see change fast. He didn’t understand that being at the top doesn’t mean there is no one you are accountable to. When you know you answer to someone, or many, you lead differently.
Most people like to be in charge, at least in charge of the things they care about. Whether it’s your kids being in charge of their room, you leading a church, or anyone getting their food the way they want it in a restaurant. People do want some control.
Different people want differing amounts of control, but nonetheless we all want to have a say. However, no one wants to be controlled. In fact, no one likes to be told what to do. Good leaders don’t typically “tell” people what to do. But they do take charge. Being in charge seems like a clear topic, but when it comes to drawing the line between what is too much control and what is too little, the line is often blurry.
(Note: Control is different than controlling. No one is drawn toward a controlling person.)
Because the line is subjective and therefore blurry, I often remind myself that God is in control and I’m not. Colossians 1:15-18 is one of my best reminders.
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Reflect on these three thoughts from the text in Colossians. They are helpful to me and may be helpful to you as well.
Supremacy demands submission
If Jesus is sovereign, then it’s settled. He is absolute authority. I may be in charge but I’m not in control. Jesus has ultimate power and authority. If I will choose to acknowledge God’s authority and submit my will to Him, only then do I begin to earn the right for others to follow me.
Supremacy is simple
The idea of supremacy is simple to understand, but not easy to live. Supremacy demands submission and submission requires obedience. It’s a fine line, but I think it is possible to submit, but not obey. Kids can submit to their parents, but not obey them. It’s like our legal system. The law is the law, but there is a lot of “wiggle room” for interpretation. However, when God calls me to obey, that’s it. Either He’s in charge or I am. It’s just that simple. (But not easy.) If it’s difficult for you to obey God, it may be difficult for others to follow you.
Supremacy is less about being supreme, and more about redemption
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Philippians Ch. 2 helps make this clear. The supremacy of Christ is without question, but He modeled it by submission and for the purpose of redemption. That changes everything. Any authority I’ve been given is not for my benefit, but for His purpose. Because the authority was never mine, or yours, in the first place, but was given to us (by God and man), we must steward that authority not wield it. We must hold it loosely in open hands, not grasp it as if it belongs to us.
Three trademarks of a leader who submits to the supremacy of Christ:
1) A Humble Heart
Pride resists submission to any form of supremacy. The very nature of pride contradicts humility and leads to conflict. The proud heart resists following any authority, and followers resist the proud heart of the leader. Relationships are guaranteed to break down in both directions.
The humble heart is open, teachable, and not overly sensitive. The humble leader can receive constructive criticism and not become defensive. The humble leader points to God and others for the successes.
2) A Servant Heart
Jesus modeled the ultimate servant heart in giving his life. You and I will not likely be required to give our actual lives, but are called to give ourselves away for the good of others. Putting others first is against human nature, but in perfect alignment with our new creation. (II Corinthians 5:17)
Demonstrating a servant heart doesn’t mean you don’t take charge and lead. It’s more about how you take charge and lead. That is, you lead with love, and genuinely care about the best interests of those whom God has placed within the realm of your spiritual responsibility.
3) A Joyful Heart
The joy of the Lord is our strength and it’s also oxygen for those who follow our leadership. Leadership requires intensity, but no one likes an intense person. Even more problematic is a leader who is moody. With an intense leader, though that is not ideal, at least everyone knows where they stand. With a moody leader, however, the people walk on egg shells never knowing who or what they will get that day.
Joy is packaged in a light heart. A leader with a joyful heart forgives quickly, believes the best and naturally extends grace. A joyful leader smiles often and laughs much.
So, you’ve been given some authority to lead. That’s good. The question is how will you handle it?