Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:16 ESV
We all have gifts. And I’ve written about this before. Each of us is called to use the gifts God has given to us. We are to use them to equip, to build up, and to grow one another up. Yet one Sunday as I listened to my pastor use Ephesians 4 to teach about leadership in the church, God brought me back to a lesson He taught me a few years ago regarding leadership: a leader must lead like Jesus.
Well, duh, you may be thinking. Of course a leader should lead like Jesus. What church leader wouldn’t want to lead like Jesus? Yet I’m not referring solely to church leaders. We are all leaders in some capacity-whether that be at home, at work, or at church. Many times we are leaders in multiple situations.
But regardless our place of leadership, if we are truly honest with ourselves, do we lead like Jesus? Do we really serve? Do we really use wisdom in assessing situations? Do we really meet people right where they are? Or do we get stuck in a rut of human limitations and expectations? Do we assume a leader must be an extrovert who is great at giving direction and delivering motivational speeches? Do we picture a leader large and in charge and unphased by the comments of others?
Sure, some leaders have these qualities. But God does not pigeonhole a leader’s qualities to one personality type. A leader may be an introvert by nature, or a leader may shy away from the limelight. A leader in God’s eyes will “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” In other words, a leader who leads like Jesus becomes more like Jesus in everything he says and does.
If we pay attention to the passage above, a leader in God’s eyes is the one who leads people to God. A leader helps the young in faith to mature. A leader leads by example and bears fruit in the form of producing other leaders. A leader leads to growth.
Several years ago, I took a personality test that categorized temperaments into four categories: lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver. A person who is a “lion” by nature, is often the one “in charge”–the one who usually gets his way. The “otter” is the one who goes with the flow and does not appear to be phased by much. The “golden retriever” loves to please people and avoid conflict. The”beaver” wants things just so and done in an orderly fashion. (Find more information here
I tested as a golden retriever with beaver qualities as well. Yet even though these characteristics are my natural inclinations, if I am to lead like Jesus, I should day by day move closer to exhibiting all of them. For that’s what Jesus did.
To lead like Jesus is to be in such close relationship with the Father that we act and do because the Father tells us to, even if this goes against our natural inclinations. Jesus was a lion when he needed to be and a golden retriever when he needed to be. He was introverted when necessary and extroverted when necessary. He knew His identity as God’s Son and lived His life as God told him to. I’m sure as a human he had natural tendencies, but those tendencies didn’t necessarily define him. Yes, I know my natural tendencies lean toward introspection and feeling, but knowing this does not mean I am this forever. In fact, to put myself in such a box is to limit God. I need to be adaptable as God leads. The key here is AS GOD LEADS. For a long time I’ve adapted as I feel people would want me to, but God is teaching me that I need to be adaptable as HE leads. I need to know who I am in Him and be secure in that, but I must also be secure in knowing when He wants me to be something different for His glory. If God calls me to speak out and do something outside my comfort zone, then I want to be close enough to Him to hear His voice and then obey.
For instance, there is a lion in me that at times I’ve been fearful of letting people see. Yet my desire is to get over that fear and be the lion I need to be when I need to be it. If God wants to have me, a golden retriever/beaver by nature, act like a lion for a bit, then get ready to hear me roar. 🙂
I still remember standing in the high school library in 2001 watching the twin towers on fire and about to collapse. While watching the terror unfold, a student standing beside me made a comment as we watched people jumping out of the buildings. I don’t remember what he said, but I just remember his attitude was one of thinking it was like a video game. He was extremely flippant and disrespectful in his remarks. So I responded. I cannot remember what I said back to him, but I do remember it was pointed and “out of character” for me. And I remember the librarian looking at me with shock. She commented later that “She didn’t know I had that in me.” Sure, I’m not one to boldly confront someone , but back in 2001 in a school library a usually quiet puppy dog needed to roar like a lion, so she did. And that student learned his lesson. 🙂
So now, sixteen years later, my desire remains: I long to be more like Jesus. I want to say and to do what needs to be said and done, regardless of what others may think. I must trust God speaks to me just like He speaks to others. So if He speaks, I must obey, even if this means going out of my comfort zone.
I don’t want to come to the end my life on earth only knowing and only acting upon my natural tendencies. I want to leave this earth not only knowing I am a daughter of the King, but also knowing I acted like it. God loves me, and although He created me with natural inclinations, I want to be intimate enough with Him to step out and be like Jesus…whatever He may call me to do.
A few years ago I walked through a very difficult journey. It was through this journey God taught me many life changing lessons. Below is an excerpt of an email I sent to a friend during this journey. I believe it expresses the importance of following in the steps of our Lord. For to lead like Jesus is to follow in His steps.
If He wants me to be part of the preschool ministry, then I want to remain intimate enough with Him that I will hear His voice tell me so and to keep me in check so I know when enough is enough. If He wants me to do something completely different, then I want to be intimate enough with Him to be able to hear His voice say, “This is the way, walk in it.” He’s called me to serve, so I know He’ll equip me to serve wherever that is and whenever that is. It is His voice l want to obey. Just because I have had a tendency to work too much in the past, I do not have to let it define me for the rest of my life. And if God wants this introvert to step up and out, then I pray I do so for His glory and with confidence. I don’t want to end this life hearing “Wow, she knew herself well…definitely a golden retriever.” I want to hear, “Wow, she really knew Jesus…she did whatever He asked of her.” To really know Jesus is to be who He wants me to be when He wants me to be it, regardless of what my natural tendency may be.
My friend, whatever your natural tendencies may be today, I encourage you to listen for God’s still small voice leading you in the direction you should go. Whether you are by nature an otter, a lion, or like me, know you are not “stuck” in that role. Honestly, to just stay who we are and pass things off as “oh, that’s just the way I am” is being the opposite of becoming more like Jesus. God desires a leader with a heart like his. So regardless of your natural inclinations today, know that if you are His, you have the qualities of a leader. All you need to do is follow in His steps.