The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus (Philippians 1 verse 9) appears throughout scripture equipping and empowering people for service. There are three things I have noticed in particular about the Holy Spirit that speak to me about leadership and what it should look like. However, these three things kind of buck what is the received wisdom about who can lead and, to some extent, what leadership is.
These are just my reflections, but I feel pretty convinced we have some things wrong when we think about leading others and what that looks like, if we are not modelling our leadership behaviour on what the Holy Spirit does . . . .
1. The Holy Spirit empowers nobodies. People who are broken, people who are the least are used powerfully by the Holy Spirit, people who are prone to depression, fits of rage, people who in and of themselves – until they have an encounter with the Holy Spirit – appear to be achieving nothing : it is these that He uses.
This is not some biblical equivalent of my low sense of worth (i.e. I feel as if I am a nobody), this is not just people who had a downer on themselves but were really just not having the right perspective. Gideon is a good example of someone who was powerless and was actually a nobody in everyone’s eyes not just his own. David didn’t even make the line up when Samuel was looking to anoint the next King of Israel (think about that, you ever been picked last for something because nobody wants you in their team? David wasn’t even on the pitch).
Here is the point.
What is my criteria?
Do I only empower people who are already “on the way”, “showing potential”, those I have (in my infinite wisdom) “discerned” have leadership skills? Or, do I listen to the whisper of the Spirit? “Empower Him . . . . “, “Give her a chance”, “Notice that person over there”.
Heart matters, but, it is not the preserve of some elite band of leaders – and, according to the Holy Spirit, it matters more than all the other stuff we might see in someone. As God said to Samuel, (who didn’t get it), “Man looks at the outward appearance, I look at the heart.” What are we looking at when we determine to raise people up, give them a shot, equip them and empower them.
2. The Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus. This is a clear to me from scripture. This is what the Holy Spirit wants to do, as I started with, He is the Spirit of Jesus. Bringing and bestowing gifts (that were all manifest in Jesus’ ministry) and growing fruit in our lives as we “live by the Spirit” that reflect Jesus’ character. There is nothing self seeking in the Godhead. Jesus is only doing what He sees the Father doing, and wants to bring glory to the Father, The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus (see John 16 for the beauty of this relationship). So, our enabler, our empowering presence, the Spirit that gives us life is not in it to make a name for Himself. The Spirit is not working for his own glory!
When we raise others up and equip them for ministry and leadership – are we simply looking for a “mini ME”? Do we get frustrated if they are different from us? do we get frustrated if those we develop and lead have skills that take their leadership in a different direction to the one WE (again, in our infinite wisdom) had mapped out for them?
Do we get insecure if we notice that they are BETTER at stuff than we are? Maybe we have been generous and in some kind of patronizing way we have given someone “a go”, only to discover they are AWESOME – but, rather than feel thrilled, we start to get defensive and think about ourselves?
This is not leadership! We aren’t creating clones (or at least we should not be), we should be nurturing growth – yes, but we are not the ones bringing about the real stuff of leadership and ministry – God is at work! He isn’t in the business of making those we invest in like us, lets not get into a wrestling match with God about what kind of leaders those we raise up are going to become – who do we think we are?
3. The Holy Spirit is for Everyone. This one is the biggest challenge (I think) for how we understand what leadership is and what it is for. In the Church we don’t so much talk about “five fold ministry” (pastors, evangelists, teachers etc) we catch all of that stuff up into this thing called a “leader”.
Leadership is mostly mentioned in the New Testament with reference to what the Holy Spirit is doing. Let me say that again, it is mostly what the Holy Spirit is doing. Leadership is rarely mentioned with reference to what people are doing, even the apostles. We are to be “led” by the Spirit.
Well, hang on a minute – surely that is a challenge to my leadership? What about all the leaders in the Church? Yes, what about them – what exactly are they all for? Rarely mentioned in scripture, but it seems as if we mention nothing else . . . we have leadership courses for everything, and programs to help people to “become” leaders. We even confuse different roles withing the church and just call everything a “leader” (so, people who have been ordained to the priesthood join this crowd of people we just call “leaders” and rather than being priests are “church leaders”).
Leadership though, is not something for everyone – so if you don’t get selected, someone doesn’t appoint you, you aren’t “noticed” . . . you just get on with whatever you do that isn’t leadership.
However, at Pentecost something crazy began. The Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh. The promise, for you and for your children . . . (Joel’s prophecy), oh, and by the way – children there means “child” not “next generation of adults”, when children receive the Holy Spirit it is not a junior or baby version. It is the Holy Spirit. IF, the work of the Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus, if the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in each believer, what can we NOT DO!
Yet, it often seems that our “leadership” is about creating more people who will be leaders like us, rather than like the Holy Spirit, which is about empowering everyone! We still, it seems to me, have leadership teams in churches that do most of the work, we cannot get people to volunteer to help with stuff, the same few do everything.
We are missing the whole point – and again, it is probably because, in the Church we have latched on to a worldly understanding of leadership and this replaces everything biblical about what the church could or should look like. Ephesians 4 is pretty clear about the need to build up the people for works of service, everyone being built up and equipped. EVERYONE, not the few.
Does our leadership focus on the few or the many? Do we limit leadership? Do we even grasp what it is?
The Holy Spirit, equipping the believers to serve, to live and to love . . . well, surely that needs to be managed by us? By leaders? Maybe that is the crux of the problem. The focus of our leadership being what we are doing as “leaders” our own actions (and whether we are being followed), instead of being led by the Spirit ourselves and discovering, TOGETHER, all that God, by His Spirit, might have for us.
The purpose of every believer is to lead, to lead others by example as we point to Christ, as each of us are transformed by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
What does this mean for your leadership?
What does this look like in your children’s ministry?
What does this look like in your youth ministry?
What does this look like in your church?
What does this look like among the children and young people themselves as they begin to lead in the areas God has gifted them?