Leadership is all around us. From work-places to the home; the church to the community; friends to making new ones.
Today I will be filmed giving a 5 minute ‘top-tip’ for leadership which will be used at my denominations Leadership conference next month. Over the last couple of days I have been focusing on these words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
It is here as Jesus speaks to the crowd of people burdened and tired by a religious system of leadership which was legalistic, coercive and twisted by narcissistic pharisaism that he says, ‘Come to me I am not that kind of leader. I am different to anything you have ever experienced.’
This will be my script. This is what I think Leadership is. It comes from the Leader of all leaders: I am gentle and humble in heart.
When the Apostle Paul said goodbye to the Ephesian elders in a very moving farewell speech he said these words, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears …” (Acts 20:19)
In the culture of Paul’s day the word was always used disparagingly and often towards a slave. That attitude of the world threatens the Church even today. Being humble is obviously a trait we all believe in but it doesn’t get a huge mention and we never talk about it as something to aspire to. In fact if you were to say I am humble well that just proves you are not. But why is this so? I think we need more people in all spheres of society, in the Church and outside of it, who will stand up and say one of the hallmarks of their life, the axis of their worldview is that they are lowly in their thinking of themselves and they recognise the value of others above their own value. What’s the worst thing can happen? The response is ‘No you’re not, I can prove it.’ That will only serve the humble well as we work on being more like Christ. The humble will never fight over whether they are humble or not they will just try and be even more, for to be humble is to be like the Lord Jesus Christ.
To be humble is not to pride ourselves on our works. We also tell the stories of our failures. Paul was continually aware that he was a sinner, the persecutor of the church and of Jesus Christ, the least of the apostles etc.
Paul in his other writings from prison reminds us of how Jesus lowered himself, abased himself is a powerful word, made man, made flesh. We don’t fully realise the abasement of these words. We preach Christ crucified, we pray in our imagination to a human Jesus, a servant, the Son of Man. We carry those earthy, human images in our mind because that is true. Yet what is true is He is God!
I try to be true to the story of my life. We tend to hide our failings and talk of our successes. Our failings that are mentioned only put us in a good light as God brought good out of them. We are afraid of losing friends and fame if we mention when we had failed.
If we carry the cross in our hearts then why do we only speak of our exaltation? Of course I am not suggesting we create badges saying ‘I am humble’. But I do think when people ask us what has been the thing that has brought exaltation in your life we say it is because I became humble. (Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10) But also that I am working at being completely humble and that may take some time yet!
It’s a difficult word to translate apparently. Some translations have meekness. Paul’s use of the word is also used for the brokenness of a horse. Power that is under control. But the problem with that is the word power. How do we handle power? How do we control that?
I think where humility recognises the value of others above our own value; gentleness doesn’t even look at our own value and therefore there is no insistence about our rights in a situation.
Have you ever become cranky with someone? Of course we have. I love the word cranky but not the emotion. People do drive us crazy! Knowing how to keep one’s emotions under control is going towards being gentle.
One of the challenges of the leader is knowing how to be angry at the right time in the right way and for the right reason and that’s not easy at all! It is probably best not to try it for failure is ever before us.
How do we respond when hurt has come into our life? Bearing injuries without anger or revenge but with a forgiving spirit and truly believing that God has a purpose for this is the hallmark of being gentle.
The Amplified uses the word ‘unselfish’ to help us understand more of what it means. It is not to be impressed by the sense of one’s own importance because one thing you know, you are not that important.
This is my top-tip and what I aspire to.
It is the invitation from Jesus to follow Him who describes himself as gentle and humble in heart. May we all pursue these 2 leadership qualities.