Some crave to be leaders – for power, money and prestige. Some have power thrust upon them. Some rise to the occasion; and some are invited by a community or group to lead.
The world’s view of a leader is that he is the Boss, the Chief, or the Person in charge. Therefore he is vested with much authority and power.
But as disciples of Jesus, we are called to be servant leaders. (Mark 10:45) Jesus defines it very clearly – He calls us to shepherd the flock. (John 10:11-18, 21:16)
This is contrary to our conditioned thinking. Shepherding is a low-skill job that cannot even get a work permit in our society. How to picture a leader sheep herding? Conversely, how to imagine a shepherd capable of anything else?
In looking for leaders, it is natural to look for qualities traditionally associated with leadership – intelligence, toughness, determination, vision, and a high degree of emotional intelligence.
The prophet Samuel was probably mentally assessing the leadership attributes of Jesse’s sons (one of whom was to replace King Saul); and had to learn a lesson from God that “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. God had to work the hearts of Joseph and Moses for many years to humble them before they were ready for His use.
Joshua and Elisha submitted to the mentoring of Moses and Elijah respectively. Their hearts were in sync with their masters’ in serving God. Jesus disciples were broken-hearted and went back to their old trades when he died. Two left the group; and on their way to Emmaus encountered the resurrected Lord who set their hearts burning within (Luke 24:32). Similarly, Jesus warmed the cooling hearts of the rest of the disciples when He showed Himself to them after His resurrection. Finally, with their faith concretized, they went about obeying His commands.
For me, godly leadership starts with the heart – a heart that is after God’s own heart, and therefore ready to be moulded by Him. Of the many attributes of Christ-likeness – humility, submission and obedience (to God) are three distinctive traits of a servant leader called to shepherd God’s people.
A very well loved and respected priest was set to retire. To honour him, the congregation threw a grand farewell dinner for him. Many rose and paid tributes to him.
In his farewell speech, he said: “When you borrow a donkey to work the farm, it is sufficient to feed him a few pieces of carrot while it is working. When work is finished and you return the donkey to the owner you thank the owner for his generosity, it is not necessary to thank the donkey.”
By Shi Pau Soon, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 18&19 October 2014)