Do you think of Jesus as a leader?
In his legendary work Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders makes a fascinating point about Jesus as a leader from the Old Testament.
Yes, the Old Treatment.
In the book of Isaiah, we learn about the attitudes and inner motives of the anticipated Messiah — the Messiah, of course, being Jesus.
Jesus as a leader
From this one chapter, Sanders gives six leadership lessons you can take away from the leadership of Jesus:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold” (Isaiah 42:1).
Jesus fulfilled the prophecy by emptying himself of divine prerogative (“made himself nothing,” Philippians 2:7). He surrendered the privileges of His-God nature and became dependent on his heavenly Father. He became in all ways like a human being. What a staggering paradox. As we become “empty” of self and dependent on God, the Holy Spirit will use you.
Lesson to learn: Rid yourself of independence and seek to grow in dependence on God.
“My chosen one in whom I delight” (Isaiah 42:1).
God took great delight in his servant Jesus. On at least two occasions, God declared that delight audibly (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). And that delight was reciprocal.
Lesson to learn: Seek not to lead for approval, but from approval — the approval that you already have in Christ.
“He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets” (Isaiah 42:2).
Neither strident nor flamboyant, God’s servant conducts a ministry that appears almost self-effacing. What a contrast to the arrogant self-advertising of so many leaders today, both in and out of the church.
On this very point the devil tempted Jesus, urging him to attempt a headline-grabbing leap from the rooftop of the temple (Matthew 4:5). But Jesus did not seek headlines and did not fall to the plot.
So quiet and unobtrusive is the great Servant’s work that many today doubt his very existence. Jesus exemplifies the description of God found later in Isaiah: “Truly you are a God who hides himself” (Isaiah 45:15).
This quality seems to be shared among all the host of heaven. Even the picture given to us of the cherubim — God’s angel servants — use four of their six wings to conceal their faces and feet. They are too content with hidden service (Isaiah 6:2).
Lesson to learn: Watch your heart for selfish ambition, and seek to promote Christ, not yourself.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3).
The Lord’s servant is sympathetic with the weak, mercifully understanding toward those who err. How often do people who fail wear the trademarks of fellow pilgrims? But the real servant does not trample on the weak and failing. He mends bruises and fans the weak spirit into a flame. Those who follow his steps will never walk over people.
Lesson to learn: Pray God will help you to become more emphatic for the broken and hurting.
“He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth” (Isaiah 42:4).
Pessimism and leadership are at opposite ends of life’s attitudes. Hope and optimism are essential qualities for the servant of God who battles with the powers of darkness over the souls of men and women. God’s ideal Servant is optimistic until every part of God’s work is done.
Lesson to learn: John Stott says, “Discouragement is the preoccupation of the devil.” Fight the scorn of pessimism with the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).
“I will put my Spirit on him” (Isaiah 42:1).
None of these leadership qualities — dependence, approval, modesty, empathy, or optimism — are sufficient for the task. Without the touch of the Supernatural, these qualities are dry as dust.
Are we greater than our Lord? Can we do effective ministry without the Spirit of God working through us at every step? God offers us the same anointing.
Lesson to learn: Pray that God the Holy Spirit will anoint your life, your ministry, and your leadership.
Leadership develops daily, not in a day, says John Maxwell. So grow. Read secular books. Subscribe to blogs. Ask your pastors questions. Listen to your favorite leaders regularly. But remember: When it comes to leadership, there’s no better person to learn from than the man Christ Jesus.
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