Christ Centered Leadership
Apr 06, 2009 by Alex Mekonnen | 14 Comments
When it comes to people who have influenced and impacted our lives, we all have heroes and heroines in our society-sports legends, politicians, scientists, successful business people, missionaries, pastors, theologians and the like. So long as it is compatible with the teachings of the Scripture, there is nothing wrong with drawing principles, values and ethos from people we would like to emulate. There are many who can be good examples for hard work, dedication, commitment, sacrificial service, focus, time management and incredible achievements. Christian leaders can use resources of books, people and culture to enhance the quality and effectiveness of their leadership. The problem comes when we allow local heroes and heroines to overshadow Christ and we succumb to the values of this world more than the kingdom of God. When we preach about eternity and get consumed with temporal issues and needs, when we let other literature judge the Scripture and we embrace the secular message by neglecting the spiritual, then our leadership cannot be Christ-centered.
If we think of it, both our salvation and our call to ministry are initiated by God and given to us through the grace available to mankind because of the work of Jesus Christ. "For it is by grace you have been saved, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:8-10). Who we are in Christ and what we do in his name is all by the grace of God "so that no one can boast." Whether it is us or our legends and heroes, no one can boast and say, "It is me, I did it!" What is there that we haven't received? "For in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). If we had to pay a nickel (5 cents) per minute for the oxygen we breathe, how many of us could afford to live in this world? Let alone for the water, sunshine, trees, oceans and mountains that are making the earth a habitable place. Writing about the supremacy of Christ, the apostle Paul said; "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:16-17). Who else can we make the center of our leadership but Jesus Christ? He is the reason for our being, the source of our salvation, a guide in the time of uncertainty, a wonderful counselor, a teacher and a mentor during our service. He is the one who calls and empowers people for Christian leadership.
But what does it mean to make Christ the center of our leadership? Different people with different theological persuasions can have different opinions. For me, it means the following:
1. He is the only man who claims to be God and demonstrated his claim with divine authority. I believe him and follow his command with no reservation. I worship him, not as a god among many gods, but as the God who was there before the creation of the world and as the one to come to judge the world.
2. He is the only way for eternal salvation. Since I believe his claims are true and absolute, I will proclaim him as the only light for those in the darkness of sin. There is no shortcut, alternative or human device that can reconcile people with God. In other words, I'm not inclusivist. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
3. He lived an exemplary life while he was on this earth, both in word and deed. As a Christian leader, I uphold him as my ultimate example and my final authority. Like our Savior, a Christian leader is expected to live what he teaches and preaches. Often, we don't fail in articulating a statement of faith but in applying it in a real and challenging life situation.
4. Since his teachings are true and without error and his values are unquestionable, Christian leaders need to joyfully embrace, teach and preach the biblical truth as the grace of God enables them. In his school of leadership, the least are the greatest, servants are masters, poor are rich, last are first, those who give save, those who horde lose. Love, reconciliation, forgiveness, integrity, humility, blameless character and sacrificial service are marks of his disciples and the leaders who exercise spiritual authority to bring others to Christian maturity. The rules of the game for Christian leaders are different because the One we serve and worship is unique and different.
5. God has given us a mind to think. He expects us to use it to the best of our ability as we lead others. Outlining our thoughts, clear communication, deep teaching and preaching are expected from Christian leaders. However, reason should not be the prominent and determining factor of our leadership activities. Since the finite can't fully comprehend the infinite, faith should have a significant place in a Christian leader. Without faith we can't please God.
6. A leader is a worker in God's vineyard. Therefore, the agendas, goals, objectives and principles of our leadership should have a spiritual tone and value. Our motives, passion and actions should reflect that of the Lord's, not simply our own.
7. A Christian leader is not always popular. There is a cross to bear, a price to pay, and it can be hard to go through rejection, loneliness, suffering and failure without knowing the One who called us to serve him and completely trust him to heal, to provide and to sustain us in the time of difficulty. Paul writes, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). In the midst of the storm of life, Christ can be a formidable anchor for a leader.
8. To fully enjoy the spiritual blessings of being a Christian leader, one has to seriously consider the spiritual disciplines that draw us to the Lord, such as prayer, fasting, reading the Scripture and an open attitude toward spiritual gifts.
I could have listed many other points, but for the sake of an additional and final issue I want to address let me turn your attention to Christ. I've tried to explain what I mean by "Christ-Centered Leadership." Nowadays, it is also important to ask, which Christ? Which Christ must we put at the center of our leadership? The Christ who promised health and wealth and who always keeps his followers from sickness and poverty? The Christ Gandhi told Hindus to seriously study and give him a place in Hinduism? The Christ the Koran teaches? The Christ in European Protestant thought that Collin Brown addressed in his book (1985)? The Christ the humanist portrays, and the philosophers describe as an abstract construct dangling in the air? Or, the Christ who is revealed through the Scripture that the prophets and the apostles preached? I hope you have sensed my line of thought and conviction by now and my answer should be obvious to you. At the risk of being considered foolish, the Christ the apostles preached should be the center of our leadership (1 Cor. 1:18-25). "The word 'Christian' today is more of soporific than a slogan. So much-too much-is Christian" (Küng 1984:119). Christ is no longer the chief cornerstone of our faith, but just one of the blocks among many other gods and thinkers who are helping us to build the system of our belief. To be philanthropic, relevant, modern, enlightened, humanist and democratic, the Christ we know in the gospels is sacrificed on the altar of Reason. The popular Christ in the world today is the tolerant and inclusive one, even if the issues contradict his being and teaching. Unequivocally Hans Küng concurs: "according to the earliest testimony and that of tradition as a whole, the special feature of Christianity again is this Jesus himself who is constantly and freshly known and acknowledged as Christ. Here to there is a countertest: none of the evolutionary or revolutionary humanisms, however much they may occasionally respect him as a man even set him up as an example, would regard him as ultimately decisive, definitive and archetypal for man in all dimensions. The special feature, the most fundamental characteristic of Christianity is that it considers this Jesus as ultimately decisive, definitive, archetypal, for man's relations with God, with his fellowman, with society: in the curtailed human formula, as "Jesus Christ."
From both perspective the conclusion emerges that, if Christianity seeks to become relevant, freshly relevant, to men in the world religions, to the modern humanists, it will certainly not be simply by saying later what others said first, by doing later what others did first. Such a parrot-like Christianity does not become relevant to the humanisms. In this way it becomes, irrelevant, superfluous...Hence Christianity can ultimately be and become relevant only by activating-as always, in theory and practice-the memory of Jesus as ultimately archetypal: of Jesus the Christ and not only as one of the archetypal men" (1984:123-124). If you put this Christ at the center of your leadership your self-image, your concept of success and failure, your place in the church and the kingdom of God, will have a healthy and balanced biblical perspective. Your Christian maturity is guaranteed and the possibility of achieving the goals and dreams God has put in your heart is high.