Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.
Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Leadership has been on my mind a lot lately. Not because I am seeking any particular position of leadership. I’ll leave the selection and appointment of that in GOD’s hands if that is something He has in my future. And not because of any of the political battles raging wild since last year’s election season. That also is in GOD’s hands. No, my current concern with leadership is far more personal involving learning discernment in who is actually ready to handle the mantle of leader in my life and graciously putting away the pushy ambitions of those who aspire to such a position but are not actually ready for the responsibility.
It occurred to me that the roots of caution where leadership is concerned go far back before my current situation. Mind you, I have every respect for truly Godly leaders who speak life giving encouragement and correction into my life, but I have learned to be very careful in granting someone this right. Probably because I have seen far too much abuse by self-proclaimed “leaders” who mistake contentious and quarrelsome bossiness and tyrannical control and manipulation for real leadership.
The church I attended until I was 10 years old when my dad’s job transferred him across the state, went nuclear and dissolved about a year or so after we moved away due to serious corruption in the leadership. I heard all the horror stories from the “refugees” who would come visit my parents and talk when they forgot that little pitchers have big ears. Anyone who thinks that a child wouldn’t understand or perceive hidden wrongs perpetrated by wolves in sheep’s clothing, don’t be so sure. I didn’t know all the specifics of what went on behind the scenes and some I didn’t know even as an adult until the last 10 years or so when I started noticing some lingering attitudinal patterns among those who came out of that disaster even decades later and began questioning my mom for more details to better understand how the failure of leadership affected a whole generation in that town. None of it was truly surprising because even as a child I would watch and listen and get this sense that something wasn’t quite right. But when you are young, it isn’t quite the thing to tell adults they are wrong, especially in a culture where questioning was not encouraged. So hearing the details just confirmed and vindicated all those hidden childhood wonderings and doubts that all was actually as it seemed.
Then there were numerous authority figures who repeatedly drummed in the idea that something was wrong with me in the name of “constructive criticism.” If only I dressed right, had the right hairstyle or makeup, prayed more, believed more, was “more friendly” (read: outgoing, social butterfly, not so bookish and quiet), or conformed to whatever their current idea of perfection happened to be, then all my “problems” (as they perceived them anyway) would go away. I never truly bought into their narrative of me, maybe because I already knew on some level from the first debacle above, that my perception of reality was more accurate than what many people wanted me to believe. But fending it off was and is exhausting. I know who and Whose I am and that only what He says about me is of any consequence in the grand scheme of things. So anyone who starts to sound like a self-righteous critic without actually getting to know me and establishing creds is automatically disqualified as a leader in my life.
Can’t leave out the college kids who formed their own little clique of religious “leadership” and used it to pass judgment on and exclude anyone who they decided didn’t make the hyper-spiritual cut. Or those who let me into their group but only so far, keeping me at the fringes, as the saying goes, “damning with faint praise” or superficial kindness and uncalled for pity just to assuage their consciences of being so “accepting” and “inclusive” while actually stiff arming me from actually being part of their social life or fellowship as an equal.
By the time I graduated, I was so sick of the whole thing that I made the fatal error of running the other way, determined to show them I could do it my own way. In the process, I forgot to wait for GOD’s timing and to check up on the leadership qualities of those I let into my life. BIG MISTAKE!! 22 years later — that went nuclear in the worst possible ways. He never was ready for leadership but I turned a blind eye and convinced myself that GOD wasn’t watching, that things would turn out OK anyway just so I could prove everyone wrong about me. Needless to say, it wasn’t and now I am doubly meticulous about vetting anyone who I think even hypothetically might possibly be wanting to be in a leadership position in my life at some future point.
This is not meant to proclaim some kind of victimhood and beg for pity because above all else, I despise pity and false kindness meant for show or as a backward way of showing that someone actually doesn’t care and just wants me to go away where their inaction and lack of caring doesn’t make them feel guilty. I am only abbreviating my experiences with misplaced and misused leadership to illustrate the point that dictatorial control, manipulative mind games, using guilt and criticism to break someone down until they conform to your desires, and self-righteous arrogance only serve to destroy any leader creds you may think you have.
My pastor talked about the idea of headship when we went through Ephesians:
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…
Paul is talking about husbands and wives here but the principle he elaborates can be applied to anyone who expects to have a leadership role over anyone else. My pastor described how many people misinterpret these verses to mean that the husband gets to have some kind of tyrannical, bossy, pugnacious control over the wife. This is pointedly contrary to the heart of GOD. What he pointed out was that, as the centurion pointed out in Matthew 8, having authority comes from being under authority. So the one who wishes to lead, whether it be a husband, father, a ministry leader or someone who wants to lead his or her employees in a Godly manner, must first be under GOD’s authority. If that relationship is out of whack, then any attempt at leadership will be out of sync with GOD’s will and heart because there is no grant of authority from the Highest Authority. As Jesus pointed out in Matthew 20, the one who wishes to wield authority must first serve those he or she wishes to lead. That’s true leader creds!
So if you are someone looking to exercise leadership over anyone, husbands and wives, parents and children, ministry leaders and congregation, or manager and employees, start with finding ways to serve, edify, and encourage those you wish to lead rather than following the example of the worldly minded leaders Jesus called out in this passage for lording it over their constituents. When your true heart is to love and sacrifice your own self-interest for them and let GOD take care of your own needs, then you are a leader after GOD’s own heart, worthy of my trust. Until then, GOD wants a word with you about your spiritual health and I will wait until He is done shaping, molding, and transforming you into a truly Godly leader.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12