Five months ago, Thomas Friedman wrote a column in the New York Times where he was talking about the state of politics in Washington DC and the nature of the presidential election we are in now. He said that the nonstop fighting between our two political parties has left many Americans feeling like the children of two permanently divorcing parents. He said that the country is starved to see its two major parties do big hard things together again.
As a nation, we are in a time of transition. We are facing big issues. And we are in need of strong, capable, effective leadership. Many people have expressed their frustration at the lack of leadership we are receiving. We seem to be missing big opportunities to change, to address complex issues, and to discover desperately needed answers.
What is leadership? Leadership is making things happen. Effective leadership is making the right things happen. Effective Christian leadership is being used by the Holy Spirit to help make God’s thing happen. Many people fail to see themselves as leaders when they really are. Sometimes we think that we have to be in an official leadership position in order to be a leader. This is not true. There are many people in official leadership positions who do not provide leadership. And there are many people who are not in official leadership positions who actually provide a great deal of leadership. Leadership is not about a position. It is about influence. If you are in a relationship, a marriage, a family, a school, a church, a business, or a non-profit – if you are in any group of people, you can provide leadership. Even if you don’t have an official position or title.
In The Missional Leader by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk, they state that “missional leadership is about cultivating an environment within which the people of God in a particular location may thrive.” They write that “leadership is about cultivating an environment that innovates and releases the missional imagination present among a community of God’s people.” This picture is the leader as gardener. A leader is someone who plants seeds, waters them, puts fertilizer in the soil, and makes sure the young plants get the sun and nutrients they need in order to grow. A gardener cannot force a seed to grow, but a gardener to do many things to create the right soil or the right environment so that the seed has the best chance to grow.
A leader is someone who encourages growth. A leader is someone who seeks to inspire a new imagination – encouraging people to dream, to think outside the box, and to take wise risks. A leader does not seek to control people, hold them down, or hold them back. A leader is not someone who shames people, puts them down, or makes fun of them in front of their colleagues. A Christian leader is someone who seeks to create a culture and a climate where people feel the unconditional love of God, where people are supported through their struggles, and where people are encouraged to fail as they develop their spiritual gifts and talents.
This is what we do when we seek to provide leadership in the church. No human being can force a church to grow. What we can do is lead like gardeners – planting and watering and nurturing and trying to create the right conditions, the right soil, and the right environment so those seeds can grow.
One of the great leaders we see in the Bible is Moses. For Israel, Abraham was like their George Washington. He was the father of their country. Moses was like their Abraham Lincoln. He ended their slavery and led them to freedom. He led during one of the most challenging seasons in their nation’s history. He led them through a very tenuous forty year exodus through the wilderness until they were finally ready to enter into the Promised Land. When we read the book of Exodus, we can see the important leadership skills that were exhibited by Moses. Moses is one of the key models we have for what a great leader looks like. When we study his life, we can see how we can become better leaders. We can see how we can vote for better leaders.
The leadership skills we are looking for in our world today can be found in the Bible. Every one of us can be a person of influence. Every one of us can have a positive impact on the people around us. Every one of us can be a leader.