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Leading like Jesus

My friend, Josmar, shared that she took offense when someone told her that she is a leader. "I'm not a dictator!" she replied. We agreed that the word "leader" brings a variety of reactions, depending on your definition.

There is no greater example of a leader being a servant than Jesus. He washed the disciples' feet, took time to talk with the woman at the well, brought children close, touched the sick, and ultimately, offered himself on the cross.

Whether you are a parent seeking to raise godly kids, a high schooler trying to reach your friends for Christ, or a pastor whose heart's desire is to lead an effective church, we need to get our idea of leadership right. Or maybe you have been asked to serve in the church as a greeter, a small group leader, a board member, or some other small or great opportunity to give leadership. Jesus' examples demonstrate the combination of humility and commitment in true leadership.

You are enough and you have the gifts and skills to do whatever God is asking of you.

Second Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." While we can always benefit from more training, if God is asking you to do something, he knows you are ready. Say "yes" to him and let the Spirit help you. Sometimes the best training is on-the- job training. It doesn't hurt to be aware of your own limits. That can give you the wisdom to be patient and humble with those you are leading.

Listening is a big part of making healthy decisions.

Leaders make decisions. It's part of the role. Listening to God in prayer and listening to others helps you to make wiser decisions. Have you noticed that sometimes the greatest insights can come, not from the talkers, but from those who are wise to observe and listen? And don't just pay attention to the best connected. Those who are new to the context have "fresh eyes." James 1:19 reinforces this secret where we read, ". . . be quick to listen . . ."

God does not have favorites.

In the same way, leading like Jesus means realizing that every person we meet has value. We may be tempted to only give attention to those who can serve our agenda. Senior citizens, children, single parents, people with low incomes, less education, or, different ethnicities are examples of those we might unconsciously devalue in certain contexts. They will feel left out. We tend to relate more automatically to those who are similar to us and be less comfortable with those who are different. This requires awareness and prayer. But James 2:1 makes it clear: "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism."

Talk the walk.

St. Francis of Assisi, often remembered for teaching that we should preach by our deeds, was actually one of the most powerful of preachers. Now is the time to find balance. Without a verbal witness, we run the risk of appearing to be morally good people, but receiving the praise that only Jesus deserves. When we bring Jesus naturally into our conversations, we point people to him. I was talking to a youth pastor this week who said, "The more the world turns from God, the greater the hole grows within the hearts of our students. Young people are open to the gospel! We can't back down, but must press in and offer Jesus: the way, the truth, and life." 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."

The idea of being a leader can be intimidating to some and sought after by others. Servant leadership is truly an oxymoron. But that is where the Holy Spirit comes in. By his power, we can lead like Jesus!

Anita Eastlack is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship for The Wesleyan Church.

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