Challenge Central: a CBC devotional
by: Pastor Lars Janssen
Take a moment and list the first five names that come to mind when you think of a leader. Now consider how many of those names were politicians, heads of organizations, or authoritative figures. Every name on my list fell into one of those categories. Now that’s not necessarily wrong, but such a narrow definition of leadership is why we Christians often run into trouble when we become leaders. This can be true when we lead at work, in the church, and in our families.
Paul addresses leadership in each of these areas throughout the book of Ephesians. In Ephesians 6:9, workplace leaders are reminded that they are masters serving The Master. In Ephesians 4:12, church leaders are framed as having been given to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Perhaps most misunderstood is Paul’s description of leadership in the family in Ephesians 5:23, “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church.”
The common thread in all of these leadership statements is the leader’s relationship to The Master or Christ’s body or Christ himself. The leader is led by Jesus. The leader leads for Jesus’ purposes. The leader leads as a reflection of Jesus. So Paul is reminding leaders to follow Jesus, join in his mission, and reflect his leadership. There isn’t even a whisper of being the boss. Each instance places leaders in a subordinate position to Jesus—led by Jesus, leading for Jesus, leading like Jesus. But how did Jesus lead? How did Jesus explain leadership?
We are not left to wonder about this. In Mark 10:35-41, two of Jesus’ disciples (James and John) ask him to promise them authoritative leadership roles in his coming kingdom: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” In verses 42-45, our beloved Jesus gently uses the moment to teach true leadership:
“And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But 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 slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”
What does it mean to lead under Jesus, to lead for Jesus’ purposes, and to lead as Jesus leads? It means being the best employer because Jesus is the best Master. It means contributing actively and creatively to the good of Jesus’ church because that is what Jesus does. It means lovingly laying myself down for my wife just like Jesus did for the church. Leaders aren’t bosses, they are first-servers—those who move first to follow Jesus on his mission in his way.
The loudest most persistent people are not the leaders Paul is talking about in Ephesians or the leaders Jesus describes in Mark 10. Jesus’ leaders—at work, at church, and at home—are first-servers.