The only way to exercise moral leadership in the work of the kingdom is through character that is exemplary and Christ-honoring. Without such character, we will not be able to gain the confidence of those we are seeking to reach with the gospel. Nor will we be able to build and keep the trust of those who have been entrusted to our care.
Trust is foundational to leadership and to effective witness in the world. We cannot fake trust. We must earn it. And we earn it and develop it through our imitation of Christ.
Just as the Lord of all creation chose to relinquish all of his power and glory for our sake and to come in complete humility in the form of a babe, so too are we called to follow in his footsteps. Although not all of us are called to positions of leadership, we are all called to follow Christ (Philippians 2:5). And like Christ who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but instead lowered himself and made himself nothing, we too are to take on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:7).
It is from Christ’s humility and obedience unto death that he is exalted to the highest place. It is from humility and obedience based on the love of the Father “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). This is the very heart of God and his vision for the redemption of all creation.
Before any of us can be leaders, we must first be followers. Before we are called to lead for the sake of the gospel, we are first called to serve. Indeed, to serve is to lead.
Before any of us can be leaders, we must first be followers.
It is impossible to overstate the fundamental importance of servant-leadership as incarnated in the life of Christ. This has occupied much of my thinking in the months following the Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering this past autumn. Looking at so many promising evangelical leaders of today and tomorrow, and reflecting upon the leaders of yesteryear, I realized that the greatest and most effective strides for the kingdom come not from ones with the best technologies, education or strategies. Rather, they came from the pure in heart who sought after the heart of God.
It is in the pursuit of the very heart of God, the heart of purity, abounding love, humility and obedience to his word, that as leaders we would not be led astray and enticed by the temptation of self-centeredness and self-glorification that exhibits itself in cults of personalities and other tragedies of moral failings. We must fix our eyes on the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and not upon ourselves. The Lausanne Covenant states, “Christ’s evangelists must humbly seek to empty themselves of all but their personal authenticity in order to become the servants of others…all for the glory of God.”
Brothers and sisters, in this new year let us resolve not to be self-serving, but God-serving; let us resolve to fix our eyes on Christ and become more like him in humility, obedience and servanthood. Let us serve others not so as to be served, but to seek after the heart of God, for the glory of God. Let us do this so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”