If God wrote a leadership book, it would not bear much of a resemblance to the books on the market today. Here are some principles that I have noticed in successful leaders under God:
• Afflict them with hardship.
• Teach them humility and submission to others.
• Hide important parts of the future from them.
• Put them in situations beyond their qualifications.
• Remove them from key posts at crucial times without a plan for a replacement.
When I look at a list like this, I am struck by the wise and yet seemingly foolish ways of God. His ways run counter to our instincts and the wisdom of man that says:
• Protect leaders from difficulties beyond their job responsibilities.
• Give leaders control.
• Leaders must develop vision and have a clear picture of the future.
• Leaders must be carefully developed and trained, doing all things with excellence, never overextending themselves.
• Leaders are the ones who will lead you through the hard times, to lose them will cripple your organization.
This exercise is not a plea for a dichotomization of leadership into two spheres: one with training, one without or one with control, one without; etc. That would be ripe for oversimplification of the topic and a sarcastic dismissal, as some are prone to do.
Rather, this is a look at the complexity and difficulty associated with being God’s kind of leader. Surely you must train, but don’t be surprised when you’re in over your head or find yourself on the sidelines while your team scrambles to fill your place. It is surely beyond me why God operates this way at times, but it must have something to do with his sole claim to all of the glory. It is far too easy to attribute the success of a church or ministry to a charismatic leader and miss the place of God. And don’t get me wrong, the leader could get up on stage in a chicken suit, hop around, and squawk, “See, I am nothing, God has done all of this!” and people would then publish books about “Chicken Little Leadership,” praising the wisdom of the brilliant leader for his unorthodox methods.
We like to think that we have more power and influence than we really possess. We want to believe that man, woman, ourselves all have the potential to do great things without the help of God. And that seems to be why God’s leadership involves principles that run counter to everything we put together.
You would think that we have read the history books, prophets, Gospels, and epistles enough to recognize how God operates. How he picks the underdogs, exiles them, brings them opposition, and then sends them on missions that are more than impossible, sometimes with the encouragement of guaranteed failure.
As a former seminary student, I find that I have not adequately reckoned with the ramifications of being God’s kind of leader. I look to a man like Charles Spurgeon and think of myself delivering powerful sermons and involving myself in the life-changing work of God, but forget that he suffered from chronic headaches, sometimes leaving his bed only to preach and then return to it. I think of the powerful works of Paul, the miracles God worked through him, and the thousands who came to Christ through him, and I forget his eye affliction, 3 shipwrecks, 1 day on the open sea, homelessness, and imprisonment. Serving God is not glamorous business. It runs counter to our culture, may not bring fame, and will more likely be a heavy burden.
But if we can step into that place of nothingness, humility, and powerlessness, I truly believe that God will become more real, glorious, and powerful, bringing the only true joy and fulfillment that we could ever aim for in this life.