Leaders are constantly tempted to focus on people higher up the food chain. Courting the influential and powerful seems like the best decision, since they are the ones who can provide the greatest benefit in return. Life’s funny, though, and it’s often the characters on the margins who end up changing our story the most. Growing up in the junkyard I knew a lot of . . . let’s call them “interesting” characters. So I can sorta understand Rahab, a resident of Jericho we read about in Joshua 2 and 6.
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?
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).
Jesus ate, he slept, and here we see, he worked. And though the word we translate “carpenter” could have meant a broader range of things back then, we know Jesus worked humbly and diligently with his hands. He learned his trade, refined his skills, and worked the daily and ordinary grind, like many of us.
Through the years, I have learned that some of what we call “failure” is really just growth, or transition, or a lesson being learned. It is the act of discovering something new about ourselves and the world, or entering in to a new season, or becoming more fully alive.
Jesus had a way of using questions to help people see better… Leaders become good at asking questions that help others see barriers in their lives and in their world. But leaders more importantly need to live a compelling life that forces people to ask the right kinds of questions, challenging assumptions and leading people to make choices for a better life revolving around Christ.
When a blind beggar cries out to Jesus for mercy, Jesus decides to ask the man what he wants. Isn’t it obvious? A blind beggar obviously needs to be healed! But Jesus respects the man by not assuming, but instead asking an empowering question that allows for the one in need to express his desire. Just this one observation of Jesus’s leadership speaks volumes to how we should engage with those we serve.
When you focus on a few, there are going to be some who are disappointed that they weren’t chosen. But good leadership isn’t driven by pleasing people… If we study Jesus’s leadership, we will see that his investment in a few key people was a core strategy for his short three-year ministry.
Why does [Jesus] leave when there is so much momentum in Capernaum? At the very start of Jesus’s ministry, he is disappointing followers by not doing what they want and not meeting legitimate needs… Apparently the greatest leader to ever walk planet Earth understood that fulfilling his calling perfectly would leave many people disappointed.
The purpose of leadership is to mobilize people and resources towards a determined goal. Transformational leadership, however, is about cultivating future leaders who can carry on the mission for generations to come. Transformational leaders look at their core group of followers and are able to discern the future leaders that lie within. This is what Jesus was doing when he called out the twelve disciples.