I shared yesterday how Jesus could be perceived according to certain leadership standards as having failed numerous times… In a Nazarene synagogue, Jesus initially astonishes his hearers with his teaching ability. But that brief approval is quickly followed by criticism, rejection and… an attempt to kill Jesus! With this kind of response from his audience, I don’t think Jesus would have passed the modern test of “successful” preaching or leadership, would he?
I’ve been reflecting on Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator… As we’ve seen, the book describes seven essential practices modeled by Jesus: attentiveness, seeking connection, asking questions, authenticity, storytelling, solitude, and defining success. As I’ve incorporated these practices into my own leadership, I have seen incredible fruit, but I’ve also faced many challenges that could be perceived as apparent failures.
The most powerful military regime, the most opulent estate, or the applause of a thousand admirers would not have even come close to the greatness of the Eternal Son—if Jesus only chose to reveal his heavenly reality. Instead, Jesus left them with a picture of success he wanted them to remember and emulate: the most powerful man to ever walk the planet removing his clothes, wrapping a towel around his waist, and washing the muck off of the disciples’ feet. True greatness looks like a lowly servant.
The disciples are found arguing about success in Luke’s story. Even though they don’t seem to be arguing specifically over money, Jesus warns his disciples about seeking power and position as a definition of success. Instead, he says to focus on humbly serving others as an act of being united with his work and ministry… We should find our joy not in our accomplishments for God but in our identity with God.
Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who purposefully engaged with solitude and silence as a pattern for his ministry and life. Today, we’ll consider how solitude isn’t meant to disengage us from daily life but to help us reengage in the work that God has set before us… Far from being disengaged, a purposeful engagement with God in solitude leads to a greater fruitfulness in our entire lives and in our service to the world.
In Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator, they highlight the fact that Jesus made time for solitude amidst the incredible demands of his ministry. “Jesus, of course, was well aware his presence and words were in demand. This is precisely why he traded an hour or two of sleep for time alone. For Jesus, solitude and quiet, reflection and prayer, were lifeblood” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 118).
Why do stories captivate kids so much? Here’s something to consider: Have adults somehow wrongly categorized storytelling as “kid stuff”? Isn’t it true that we never hear the local library advertising story time for adults? And yet storytelling continues to be a significant part of our lives as we read books, watch movies, stream Ted Talks, and follow our favorite Instagram influencers. Perhaps, in our work, we are storytellers by trade…
Jesus was committed to using various forms of storytelling during his three-year ministry. Storytelling is just as important today as it was for Jesus’s listeners… If we want to follow Jesus and be good storytellers, it means much more than being good verbal communicators. We have the opportunity to be good storytellers in our spoken, written, visual, and various digital communication media that we regularly use.
A child’s vulnerability is their inability to hide behind any kind of facade that can control others. But we adults learn quickly that we must hide our true selves in order to manage others, pursue our goals, and avoid things we fear. This refusal to be authentically vulnerable and insistence to put on the appearance of strength and control is what Jesus warns may ruin our relationship with God. As leaders, we know that this inclination to not be our true selves damages our relationships with others as well.
Jesus contrasts two very familiar first-century characters: a Pharisee and a tax-collector. Perhaps Jesus’s listeners wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Jesus challenge the smugness of the Pharisee, but to praise a tax-collector would certainly have been unexpected. Jesus raises up the value of a person’s honesty, sincerity, and straightforwardness when it comes to one’s relationship with God. And he implies that his true followers will embrace an authenticity that will be noticed by God and others.