A quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi comes to my mind this morning.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
This statement should be viewed as an überchallenge to church leaders and to those they lead.
The challenge to leaders is to avoid getting so fixed on our own agenda that we become insensitive to those we lead. We can also become too aggressive in promoting our “vision” of how the church should be organized. We can be so focused on results that we do inadvertent damage to those we lead.
The challenge to those of us who are being lead is to avoid getting frustrated by our church leaders. We should remember that Jesus is the ultimate leader who will build “his church” (Matt 16:18). Our challenge is to exercise trust in Christ which results in submission to the leaders that he has put in place.
Jesus submitted himself to the leaders of his day even though they were misguided and corrupt. He spoke truth to them, but he also submitted to them. After the fact, we know that this was all part of God’s plan to bring salvation through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. But still, he worked within the system.
I often demonstrate a lack of faith in Christ by struggling to submit in the way that Jesus did. Can I work within a structure that I perceive to be less than optimal, perhaps even under a leader who drives an agenda that I do not fully understand or do not fully agree with?
Jesus did it. And this morning it strikes me that I should also be willing to follow Jesus’ example.
Think about it, our leaders are human. They struggle with the same pride and insecurity that we struggle with. They are made of the same stuff that we are. And keep in mind that it is likely that we would not do any better if the roles were reversed.
The temptation as followers is to use the same tactics that we disapprove of in our leaders. We threaten to leave for another church (with equally flawed leaders) or we work with a coalition of those who think like us to manipulate the leader(s) into our way of thinking.
Remember what Jesus told us about the log and speck (Matt. 7:3). If I threaten or manipulate, I ignore the log in my own eye while pointing out the speck in the leader’s eye.
I offer two challenges:
- Leaders need to compare their leadership style to Jesus’ leadership style. Jesus never manipulated or threatened his followers. Neither did he force his followers into particular behavior. He simply spoke the truth, loved them when they failed, and served them even when they were not understanding what he was trying to teach them. Jesus understood that the mind cannot go where the heart is not prepared to go. Threats and manipulation only bring short term, external change.
- Followers need to understand that all church structures and church leaders will have inconsistencies and problems. There is no pool of perfect people from which to draw our leaders. They are flawed like we are and they are in need of Grace. There is no perfect church structure because there are no perfect people to populate the org chart.
The bottom line is that we all (leaders and followers) need to look first to Jesus and be guided by him. If we are guided into a particular church by Jesus, we can then serve Jesus in that church no matter what may happen with the leadership.
If we take our eyes off of Jesus and focus on our leader(s), we will always be disappointed and disgruntled.