How would you define “leadership?” Leadership must be an important subject when you consider all the books and articles that have been written about it. There are 66 TED talks specifically devoted to one form of leadership or another. Leadership must be important. Yet, we live in a culture that seems to thrive on criticizing or attacking leaders. It doesn’t matter what area a person is a leader in, he, or she, is doing something wrong. She, or he, did enough right on the way up that they became a leader, but now…. Ultimately it comes down to a question of leadership styles. In politics, do enough people approve of a leader’s style of leadership? In business, does the leader accomplish what she, or he, is supposed to accomplish? In education, is the school, or are the schools, performing at an acceptable level on standardized tests. The ultimate test in leadership is whether or not the tasks are accomplished.
There are different leadership styles that will accomplish those tasks. Leadership is designed to motivate others to help get things done. Churches have those same questions and the pastoral leadership will reflect the priorities of the church: evangelism, discipleship, missions, ministry, and pastoral care are all functions that the churches carry out in varying degrees depending on the needs of the church and the desires of the congregation. As Paul deals with his leadership responsibility to the Corinthian Church, he tells them the most important leadership quality for a church leader. That quality still applies to leaders today. “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
One of the most important qualities for any leader is choosing the right kind of person to follow. If you ask any successful leader in any area of leadership who inspired them, they’ll be able to tell you the people they follow. They may talk about the books that their mentor wrote, or personal experiences that they had with that leader, but they will tell you who it is that shaped their leadership style. The Corinthian Church had split into different factions based on who the people decided their leader was. Paul reminded them that they were all supposed to be united under Christ, and in this section of his letter, he makes a bold statement that they should follow his example, because he’s following Christ.
We waffle when it comes to talking about this kind of leadership. We remind people that we aren’t perfect, but they should follow Jesus. We apologize for imperfect leaders in the church but remind people that our model is Jesus and that if they’ll follow Jesus, life will be great. Paul put a spiritual target on his back and was willing to commit himself to being an example of one who follows Jesus. What happens when people say things like Paul? They make mistakes and are accused of hypocrisy. They’re accused of having an overly large ego for thinking that they can be an example. Their every weakness and flaw is magnified by those who follow them and especially by those who don’t. That’s why so many of us are afraid to use these words of Paul. So, today I say, with some fear and trepidation, “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” Will I make mistakes? Yes. Correct me gently…or harshly if needed. Will you see my flaws and weaknesses? Of course. The example of Jesus that I’m trying to follow when I see flaws and weakness in others is the one that showed grace and mercy, and I ask the same from you. The truth is, that when I make this commitment to say follow me as I follow the example of Christ, I’m asking you to make that same commitment. Be an example of Jesus Christ to all around you. Let others know that they ought to be able to see Jesus in you, because you’re following my example as I follow the example of Christ. Let’s go on this journey together and change the world.
O Lord, it’s frightening to make this commitment. Mold me to be a great follower of You, so that I can lead others to follow You also.