I think at our heart, most of us who are in positions of leadership and influence should be somewhat reluctant to hold such power or authority. I do not see this reluctance as a sign of weakness, but as a sign that we understand there is something greater than any of this and we struggle with the possibilities every day that we may be living our lives according to our own needs and aspirations rather than those of, in my case, God’s intentions and hopes for my life.
At its base I believe that this is a confident and bold humility that we must all have if we are going to inspire, lead, influence and otherwise make a difference in the world.
Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about the realities of influence, authority and leadership in my own life and ministry. What does it mean to have influence? How are we to be good stewards of whatever power, authority and influence that we may have? How do we not forsake such things or take our power for granted? How do we ensure that we are following God’s hopes and not our own ambition?
What does God want me, us to do in the world?
Sure, we pray to God, we listen to community, we sit and listen.
And sometimes, the random word crosses my sight and there is a glimpse of something profound. This for me takes place when I listen to my children point out the obvious, when great preachers bring scripture to life, when dear friends call things for what they are and often through the brilliance that often comes from script writers on TV or in the Movies.
Rarely do my inspirations come from military commanders. Nothing against those who have chosen to serve in the way, just has not been my normal place of discerning.
And then this quote is brought to my attention from General Eric Shinseki, the retired general just chosen by President-elect Obama to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary when he spoke of leadership and the dangers of arrogance and mistrust . . .
As I have traveled the church, talked with pastors, supervised interns, etc. there is one common denominator that runs throughout for folks that I would want to lead me, be my pastor and or have influence in the world. Each has the natural ability to hold this great gift of power, authority and influence while first and foremost genuinely loving the folks whom they wish to lead. This nuanced dance is not always be reciprocated or appreciated, but that makes such love that much more profound.
Philippians 2:5-8 (TNIV)
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
This kind of humility, this kind of love, this kind of commitment to God is ultimately demanded of all of us for we all have influence, power and authority somewhere in our lives. We do not wield power in order to gain wealth, power or influence, but because of God’s presence in our lives, we have no other choice but to use our voices well. I think God has meaningful and influential plans for us all as long as we remember to whose glory we offer ourselves.
The dangers if we do not remain humble in our own wielding of influence, power and authority are too great to ignore the nudging from God to rethink how we lead. Not only can our influence, lived poorly, lead to spiritual destruction, communal devastation and loss of life, the subversive nature of arrogance sneaks up on us before we know it and we become caught in a web of justifications, excuses and judgment that does not bring honor to God, but only solidifies the power and influence that we started out hoping to use so well.
This is the nature of sin and arrogance, our survival at the expense of the other. Intentional or not, this is sinful and must be confronted at ever instance as individuals and community.
So I struggle to remain humble but bold in my own leadership, knowing that if I ever think it is about me, I have forgotten and disappointed God. For all of you I wish this same kind of tension in your own life, for I firmly believe that tension is God saying to each if us, “I am here.”
Thanks be to God.