16 Oct The Christian Leader
The sight of Mussolini strutting to and from in his gaudy uniform delighted multitudes of Italians in the 1930’s, even though millions of other Europeans and Americans waved him aside with a laugh and a shrug.
Viewed from the eminence of 1961, a film of Rider standing at the head of thousands of Nazi youths in uniform, banners flying, makes us think of him as a vain, egotistical man, ruthlessly seeking power and demented by his lust for Jewish scapegoats. But to the millions of Germans smarting under the defeat and humiliation of the first World war, Hitler was Der Fuhrer (The Leader), the Saviour of Germany. Just as Mussolini appealed to the Italians and was thus acceptable as their leader, so Hitler appealed to the Germans and was acceptable as leader to a significant number of them!
What about Christian leadership? Is it different from leadership in other realms of life? •
I believe that one of the great dangers confronting Christians today is the idea that because a man is a Christian, and a leader in the industrial or political or educational world, he is of necessity also a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ. This does not agree with principles laid down in the Scriptures. Indeed, many of the qualities looked for in leaders in these areas of life seem to be a hindrance if found in the life of a Christian leader. The truth is that just as Mussolini needs to meet with the approval of a significant number of his countrymen to be acceptable, one who would be a leader in the Christian realm must be approved.
But his approval must come from God. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” (II Timothy 2: 15).
Scattered throughout the Bible are many pointers to the kind of man a Christian must be if he is to meet with God’s approval. Only to the degree in which he has His approval is he really, a leader. He may occupy important positions in various organizations associated with Christian activities, and fellow Christians may look up to him as a leader, but if he fails to be “approved unto God” he is only a figurehead.
God uses men. Men like committees. God likes men. Is this an over-simplification? A glance at Church history will show that almost without exception the great advances from Pentecost to the present have come not from Church councils but from men whose hearts have been filled with zeal.
It is symptomatic of the spiritually fuzzy Christian thinking today that many tend to be suspicious of any really zealous. Christian. They do not seem to remember that it was said of Jesus Christ, “ The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (Psalm 69: 9). Perhaps it takes more spiritual insight than is prevalent in most “Christian circles” to day, to discern between an egocentric man, working under the cloak of “Christian service,” and a Christocentric man, constrained by the love of Christ to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.
We need not be afraid, of being, outstanding in the spiritual realm so long as our position is consistent with Scriptural principles of Christian leadership. Small minds and limited vision of God lead to a tame, carefully balanced way of life, where nothing great is achieved because nothing great is attempted. ‘But “the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” How much better this is than the collective security of a largely anonymous group that seeks to carry out through committee action the highly personalized work of campus evangelism.
Does this conjure up visions of the Christian leader as a lone wolf stalking around on Avis own?, Here is the genius of the Christian faith: the true Christian leader will always be prepared to walk the lonely path, misunderstood and misinterpreted, wrongly judged and often condemned as a visionary (or worse), and yet he will always welcome fellowship and co-operation—not co-operation from others, but cooperation with others.
Paul the apostle is an excellent example of this. If we follow his progress through the book of Acts and his letters, we see that at times he seems to be a strong, aggressive personality, possessed of one great consuming passion. He is prepared to be ruthless with all opposition, to the ministry he has received (as in Acts 13:8:12), and he does not spare even his colleagues when he feels that their actions may compromise the success of their combined endeavours (as in Acts 15: 36-41 and Galatians 2:11-14). On the other hand, Paul’s letters reveal the heart of a man whose greatest joy seems to come when he is in fellowship with ‘other Christians. His prayer life was dominated by the desire to see others developing into Christian maturity, and their lives becoming spiritually effective. His prison letters are full of references to his companions in whom. he delights. (Note, for instance, the last chapter of the Colossian letter.)
Christian leadership is founded on likeness to Jesus Christ. The more you study His character the more you will be impressed that the qualities. required in a Christian leader are different from the accepted concerts of leadership in our day. Jesus’ well-known words to the Jews about that great Jewish leader, John the Baptist, bear. repeating: “what went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.” John was different from the political and religious leaders of his day. Not for him the soft clothing and luxurious living that people associated with leadership. Life in a hard, cruel wilderness, painfully simple flood, lack of reliance upon the accouterments of “success” in his day: these were the marks of this man. His words were like his behaviour, straightforward,’ uncomplicated, unconcerned with the consequences to himself once he was assured that what he spoke was from God. Such a man was regarded by the Lord Jesus Christ as a leader.
The picture we have of Christ Himself is also of vital importance to us. He was “a. man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He was “the servant,” Qf whom God said, “lie shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in, the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall be not quench.” When the Samaritans rejected Him because He had “steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,” two of His disciples suggested fire from heaven as a way of dealing with them. But His way was different. Quietly He accepted the rebuff and “ they went to another village.” Is this the world’s idea of leadership? With the numberless telecasts of the comings and goings of today’s national leaders with their pomp and show, and often their exhibitions and tantrums in public places, compare Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, riding in., the foal of an ass, or His washing the dirty feet of the disciples. including Judas.
An old Welsh saying goes like this: Bid ben Bib bont (He who would be chief must be the bridge over which others trample). This is the secret of spiritual leadership. It means willingness to be a door mat, to be least, to be one who serves. Such men have hidden springs of strength so that in the moment of crisis they can set their face as a flint to go to their Jerusalem. Nothing can dissuade them. They will always say “Get thee behind me” When the easy way out offered them. They have nothing to lose; even their will of God is now their means of sustenance for every day. In order to face opposing pressure with still greater pressure, they have let go their own little scheming ways, then cleverness, their personality, foibles-and they have laid hold on one who is mighty. They have prayed the prayer of renunciation and have thereafter adopted it as the attitude of their life. This bridges them into conformity with the Captain of their Salvation “Who, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.” The man who aspires to Christian leadership must first learn to pray and live like this:
My will is not my own
Till Thou has made it Thine;
If it would reach a monarch’s throne.
It must its crown resign;
It only stands unbent,
Amid the clashing strife
When on Thy bosom it has leant
And found in Thee its life.
Reprinted from Evangelical Student March-June 1962.