When you think of a leader, what comes to mind? Is it the boss who gets to tell people what to do? Is it the owner who has more rights and privileges than everyone else? Is it the dictator who manipulates others to his own advantage because he has more power? There are many ideas about leadership in the world today, but what does Christian leadership look like?
Some people have negative impressions of Christian leadership because of stories in the news about sexual abuse, financial scandals, or cults brain-washing followers. However, these exceptional cases don’t reflect what we learn in the Bible about Christian leadership. Christian leaders who abuse their followers have forgotten the apostle Paul’s warning to masters, reminding them to treat their servants fairly, “knowing that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with Him” (Ephesians 6:9).
Christ is the ultimate example
If we want to learn what Christian leadership should be, we must look to Jesus Christ. Christ is the ultimate example of what Christian leadership should be. What kind of a leader was Jesus? Jesus was a servant. He worked for the benefit of others, not Himself. Shortly before He was taken away to be crucified, He washed the feet of His disciples, a task normally assigned to the lowest servant in a household. Why did He do this? Jesus explained to His disciples, “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 you” (John 13:13-15).
Jesus taught that true leaders serve others, not manipulate others in order to feel powerful or get benefits. On another occasion, Jesus called His disciples to Himself and explained, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
Anyone who wants to follow Christ’s example of leadership must try to imitate Christ. He was just and merciful. He was fair and impartial. He was loving and holy. And He served His followers. His ultimate act of service was to die for the forgiveness of the sins of His people, rescuing them from the holy anger of God against their wickedness. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If the Lord Jesus gave up His life for us who are unworthy, then let all who are leaders work hard to serve those who are under them, for their joy and for the glory of God.