Updated: Jul 18, 2018
Do you remember your first job? I do. It was at an East Coast store chain called the Christmas Tree Shop. It sold seasonal decorations and household items. I was in charge of the health and beauty section. No, I do not know why a store called the Christmas Tree Shop had a health and beauty section. But it paid minimum wage, and that was good enough for seventeen-year-old me.
Through the years I would have many jobs. Some part-time, others full-time. Some would be for the summer, others would be for years. Parking attendant. Writing center tutor. Lavender farm laborer. “Sandwich Artist.” You name it. I’ve done it.
During my time at these jobs I noticed a persistent theme. It didn’t matter how fun or miserable the work was. The boss made all the difference. If you had a great boss, it didn’t matter if you were slaving away in the hot sun all day. You felt respected and valued. The boss made the work bearable—sometimes even enjoyable.
On the flip side. A terrible boss could ruin a great job—even a potential dream job. Know the feeling? You have the best intentions, you’re excited about the work, but after a few weeks of scolding and rude behavior you dread walking through the door each day. Leadership impacts everything.
Who's A Leader?
Leadership shapes families, communities, and workplaces. Leaders impact all of us. But what we don’t realize is that we also impact others through our leadership. "Who, me?" You may ask. Many don’t see themselves as leaders. Some are quiet, others timid. Doesn't matter. We all have a sphere of influence. It may be a group as large as a corporate workforce or as small as a marriage. Not only that, but God has called us to lead others. This is what God said through Paul in his letter to Titus. “[Older men] are to teach the younger men… likewise older women are to teach the younger women.” Everyone’s a leader. But are you a good one?
Our culture has built an entire industry on leadership. Publishers print hundreds of leadership books every year. Motivational speakers draw thousands with the promise to help them “win friends and influence people.” But what does biblical leadership look like? When Paul sent Titus to strengthen the young church on the island of Crete, the first order he gave him was to establish biblical leaders. Titus 1:5-9 gives a beautiful snapshot of God’s portrait of a leader. Check it out. The description lists sixteen traits, but I believe they can all be summed up in the following phrase.
Leadership loves God for who He is and others despite who they are.
Biblical leadership, whether as a spouse, parent, HOA officer, or regional manager, means loving God so much that you seek to be like him. As a teenager, my athletic hero was Peyton Manning. I loved the way he played. As a result when I would play touch football with my friends I tried to throw the football just the way Peyton did. The same should be true of biblical leaders. Do you love God to such a degree that you emulate His qualities? On the other hand, do you love others even if they’re the exact opposite of what you admire. It could be a bitter spouse. An arrogant co-worker. Doesn’t matter. Leadership shows love to people despite who they are because Jesus showed love to us despite who we are. I have seen both good and bad leadership take place in my life. You have too. Here are my stories.
The first story took place during my second year of college. I was part of a team of other Christians involved in a year-long ministry project. For an entire week we underwent training. Our leader meant well, but early on it became obvious that he was only interested in befriending and winning the approval of a boisterous few. One evening we sat down for a meeting, and at the end he called for questions. One female co-worker--shy, but so sweet and loving, raised her hand. Our leader had barely spoken a word to her the entire week, and we could see the apathy on his face as he called on her. She asked a question that was honest but self-detrimental. It was the exact question many of us were wondering but were too proud to ask. In the back the boisterous group openly laughed at her, mocking her question. It was terrible. I turned my head to look at our leader and I’ll never forget his reaction. He looked at the group in the back, snorted, gave a rushed non-answer to the girl, and moved on. The poor woman sunk into her seat in defeat, the heat from her cheeks radiated throughout the room. She had so much talent--and a heart of gold. Our team needed her. But after a few months she quit, convinced of her inability for the job.
The second story is very similar. It took place a few years later on a missions trip. This team had men and women from all ages. On this trip I remember a younger man who had mentioned to others his fear of the upcoming week, and his sincere conviction he was not up to the task. Others had made a couple comments earlier about the appropriateness of him being in this particular role. Not everyone was happy, and the troubled guy felt the dissatisfaction weighing on his shoulders.
Before the week started, a similar training meeting took place. Our leader went through all the information we needed and at the end gave us an encouraging speech. He said we would all fail in some points. He said some of us would mess up, and how things would not go our way. And before he could continue, a voice sarcastically broke from the back. “Sorry [young man’s name], that means you.” The entire room froze. The poor guy hung his head. He knew the voice was right. But at that same moment the leader pointed a finger at the older man and said, “He is in this role because we know he can do it. I want him here.” It was short but powerful. I remember that the young guy ended up having a great week. He admitted that mistakes occurred, but he pushed through. All because of his leader.
It’s incredible the impact leaders have on us. It's also a sober reminder of how our leadership impacts others, even if we don’t realize it. The leader from the first story probably never realized the effect he had on that young woman. Likewise, the leader from the second story probably doesn't even remember the exchange.
In order to grow, show what you know. That’s what it means to thrive as a growing believer and as a growing church. To do that, Christians must embrace biblical leadership by loving God for who He is and loving others despite who they are. The young man in that second story? He was in a season where he was considering whether pastoral ministry was for him. That young man was me. The choices we make impact others in ways we never realize. Let’s make sure those choices reflect the characteristics of God, even to those who are not like God at all.
Resting in Him,