Power and the pursuit of power is the accepted norm of many leaders.
But should it be?
After Paul’s conversion, he did not just reject the ordinary comforts and expectations of the life of one in a position of leadership. “But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ” (1st Corinthians 9:12 NIV). On the contrary, Paul walked away from nearly all that related to his previous life, including his notions of leadership.
He left behind a pharisaical vision of leadership based on privilege, public perception, advantage, and status to pursue a new direction life that imitated Christ.
We know, the tendency of leaders is to seek benefits for themselves, not reject them. But, Paul understood something many Christian leaders seem not to realize. He realized that Christian leaders must model their leadership after Christ alone.
And what did Jesus model for us? “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant being made in human likeness” (Phil 2:6-7 NIV).
Jesus gave up the advantages of being equal with God and instead chose the role of servant and savior, leading to a humiliating, ignominious, crushing death on a cross. This position, Jesus accepted for himself, and those who would lead in his name should consider the implications of such a commission especially as it speaks to their use of power.
Many Christian leaders are quick to pursue the trappings and advantages of leadership because they see it being modeled back to them from the leaders the world admires.
The world desires strength.
The world applauds numeric success.
The world idolizes massive influence and notoriety.
The world esteems status.
The world demands deference and respect.
The world respects power and advantage.
The world admires servitude over service.
That is not the way of Jesus. That is not the way of a leader who chose the Cross.
A Christian leader’s strength is found dependence, not in advantage or power.
Some leaders lead out of their abundance and others out of the poverty. One leads out of their power while other leads out of dependence.
Christian leadership is a call to take up the disadvantages of life represented by the Cross—even shame, defeat, rejection, and death—for the sake of the world, just a Christ did. ~ P. Richard Choi
The paradigm of power changed at the Cross. Human weakness would now be a conduit for human power. Christian leaders must embrace this model. It is in their weakness–the rejection of advantages and power–that they are strong in Christ.
Paul’s model of leadership was the same that Jesus used to bring salvation to world—humiliation, suffering, hardship, and death. This knowledge is why Paul could write, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10 NIV)
Christian leaders need the power of Jesus’ resurrection in their leadership. But that can only be accomplished through participation in Jesus sufferings—becoming like Jesus in death.
When power is pursued, it will be constantly pursued. When advantage is sought, it will be sought again and again.
Our vision of leadership power and leadership advantage must die. Jesus’ life must form the life of a Christian leader. Not only does our leadership depend on it, so does our maturity in the life of Jesus.
Let us remind ourselves again and again that, “He must become greater; I must become less.”