May 23 – Learning To Lead

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. (John 13:3-5)

Read: 2 Samuel 2:12-3:39, John 13:1-30, Psalm 119:1-16, Proverbs 15:29-30

Relate: “Who is the leader there?” One of my mentors asked me that question when I was being a bit stupid early on in my days out of college. I had recently moved down from Rochester to Binghamton NY. In part it was to kick start a college ministry group that in the past year had “grown” from over sixty down to about five. I had known and been friends with quite a few of the former members of the group but by the time I had arrived on campus they had all graduated and moved on. Those few that remained all thought they should be the ones in charge and resented this new stranger coming in from the outside to “fix things”. Add to this that I was barely a year or two older than any of them and not really that sure of myself and you can easily see how their five way power struggle turned into a six way power struggle with me thrown into the mix.

So I called up my mentor, the same guy who had asked me to go there in the first place, and unloaded on him how “nobody ever listens to me”. When I had started to wind down he asked me that question. “Who is the leader there?” I gave the obvious answer, “I am.” His next statement was probably one of the most profound things I have heard about leadership and it comes straight out of John 13. He said, “Then don’t try to lead. Try to serve, and it will become much easier for them to follow.” Mind blown. I think it wasn’t until that phone call that I truly began to lead that group.

React: Since that time I have had to remind myself of this truth over and over again. I have also had plenty of time since then to watch how others lead. I have noticed that the less secure someone is in who they are, the harder they try to assert whatever authority they think they have. Effective leaders rarely have to remind others who is in charge. Instead they are always looking for ways to serve, develop, and empower others. They don’t have to grasp for power. They don’t have to insist on titles. They simply serve, and people line up to follow them. The disciples were constantly bickering about who was the best or the greatest. Jesus knew He was the answer to this question. So He simply grabbed a towel and started washing. It wasn’t so much the physical act that we need to emulate, it was his ability to find a need and fill it. It was his heart that constantly sought to bring out the best in others that we need to learn. If we want to lead like Jesus, then we need to learn how to serve.


Dear God,
I am so glad that You are who You are. It would be so easy to force me into submission, I could never have the power to resist. It would be so easy to force everyone to believe and obey. But You didn’t do that. You didn’t give us what we deserve. You didn’t need to assert Your authority because it was never in doubt. Instead you grabbed a towel. Instead You clung to a cross. Now I am saved because of it. Help me to lead others just as You did. Give me the confidence to know who I am in You so that I never have to be stupid enough to grasp for my own power. Help me to be a servant.

18 thoughts on “May 23 – Learning To Lead

    • Even as I was writing I was thinking of times in the past few weeks where I wasn’t nearly the servant I should be. It is an easy concept to know… a much more difficult one to remember in the moment.

  1. Reblogged this on Citizen Tom and commented:
    Many in America believe we have a leadership crisis, but what we have is a followership crisis. We have forgotten how to be good followers. We have forgotten how to choose good leaders.

    What makes a good follower? A good follower is a good seeker of the Truth. A good follower tests what those who would lead him say and do. If a potential leader’s words are not in accord with his or her deeds, a good follower continues his search.

    Here in Beejai’s post we have an explanation of Christian leadership, an explanation given with example of Christ. If we want to learn how to follow the example of Christ, then we must choose leaders from among us who are worthy of imitation, men and women who lead by serving others.

  2. Finding the need that will catch all of a group is what seems the hardest thing to do. How do you focus on that in a group of people…particularly one in which people are strangers?

    • The disciples weren’t strangers to Jesus. They were people he had invested years of life into. Serving isn’t an agenda issue but rather a natural outflow of being more like Jesus. In my case, there wasn’t one need that covered everyone in that group, there were different ones for each student. You don’t sere so that you can lead, you serve because you love. And God will do the leading through you.

    • I agree with some of what you wrote, but it also sometimes only tells half the story. For example, in your answers to myth 1 and 7 you didn’t mention that good leaders are natural students. Because they are constantly studying and learning more, they will tend to know more than the average person. So it isn’t necessarily that they know everything and are highly educated so much as it is they are constantly learning more and educating themselves.

  3. Is there a record of Jesus ever acknowledging a mistake? That is a fundamental characteristic of a leader, as you want all followers to feel comfortable admitting a mistake, especially in lieu of trying to cover it up or blame someone else.

  4. You pointed out one of the issues I have with the giant “leadership seminars” which specifically feature secular leaders and worldly leadership principles. What does a lost person know about godly, biblical leadership? What can they know? Jesus’ teaching was explicit in the scripture; if you want to lead, you serve. If you want to be great, you humble yourself. Great post, my friend.

    • I don’t get your point. Are you saying effective leaders don’t know about good leadership because they lead businesses rather than churches?

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