17 Nov 2013 by Jason Law CM –
Recently, on the 4th and 5th of November 2013, the Global Leadership Summit was held in Agape Gospel Assembly Church, Seremban. The GLS was started by Bill Hybels in 1992 because he saw a vision of a world transformed by courageous and influential leaders with Christian values.
The fourth session in this Malaysian leg of the conference was delivered by Pastor Chris Brown, who is one of the senior pastors of North Coast Church in Vista, California. This church is the Evangelical Free denomination’s largest church in the world, with over 9,500 in weekend attendance. It has a notable organizational structure, with a total of 4 senior pastors. This is especially notable because it has a bearing on Pastor Chris' experience, which he translated into the message given to church leaders all over the world, including Malaysia.
Pastor Chris is a big, jovial man somewhat like a gentler version of the Ghost of Christmas Present from Charles Dickens’ ‘The Christmas Carol’, and has an infectious enthusiasm and narrative-driven presentation. Through his message, headed ‘Right Title… Wrong Kingdom’, Malaysian Christians and leaders learnt about the biblical concept and perspective of leadership as exemplified by Christ, and how it is different from many of those in the secular world. The call of his message was taken from Mark 10:42-45.
42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Right Title, Wrong Kingdom
Pastor Chris opened his message by stating a common perception of leadership, and turning it into a question. He pointed out that at the heart of many leaderships, there is this concern of “who is the greatest”. Many leaders fight to survive in an intensely competitive world by acting in defense when they perceive danger, often at the expense of other people. The question is what happens to God’s intended plan for Leadership in such a world? Often, this places our leadership completely off track and distracts us from our Kingdom work. We, and the world along with us, become self-focused instead of God-focused.
Pastor Chris shared two examples from the Bible to illustrate this. The first example is taken from the life of King Saul and his relation with David. When King Saul first encountered David in the battle against Goliath and his enemy, he did what a great leader would do. He saw the hope and vast potential in the young man for the kingdom of Israel, and he grabbed hold of this vision. He not only instantly sent men to find out more about David (1 Samuel 17:55-58) but also took the young man into his household (1 Samuel 18:2). Saul passed this first test exceedingly well.
1 Samuel 17:55-58
55 As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?”
Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.”
56 The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.”
57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.
58 “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him.
David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”
1 Samuel 18:2
From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family.
Sadly, it was not long after this that Saul grew resentful of David. In the same chapter of the Bible that he hired David, Saul heard the people of Israel celebrate the successes of David, and the fear and jealousy set in: ‘What more can he get but the kingdom?’ This is the greatest tragedy of Saul’s life; that he never trusted in anything beyond himself. What could have led to Israel becoming a great nation, with a strong king and an extremely gifted general alongside him, instead became years of a wasted life and heartbreak for Israel.
This story is contrasted with the story found in Genesis of Joseph in Pharoah’s household. Because the Pharoah recognized the God-given direction in Joseph’s life, and wisely acted accordingly by promoting Joseph to a vizier, the kingdom of Egypt prospered and was strong even in a time of famine that affected all the other surrounding kingdoms (Genesis 41:37-57; focal point v38-40). Both King Saul and the Pharoah had the title and role of leadership. What set them apart is their different focus on the concept of a Kingdom.
38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
Call For Servanthood Leadership
Pastor Chris shared that Christian leaders need to ask the question ‘I have the title but who has the Kingdom?’. This question will help us remain cognizant of the fact that everything we have is not ours; they belong to the Lord. There is nothing wrong with desire, but in order for our organization to prosper in a God-intended way, there is a certain example we need to follow. As Christians, the best example we can follow is that of Jesus.
Jesus Himself showed us, through His life, the type of leadership Christian leaders should emulate in Mark 10:42-25. This is a call not about ‘greatness’, it’s about servanthood. In verses 43-44, Jesus repeats the call for servanthood twice. This is an indication of emphasis. Many times we have seen the incisiveness of this call even throughout history. Many leaders that we admire today, whether they’re Christian or not, have this call of servanthood upon their lives. Some examples are Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and many great patriots both in our nation such as Tunku Abdul Rahman, as well as of other nations.
Jesus also pointed out that even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to give His life as a ransom for many. The greatest example we can see of a servanthood leadership is the time when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet even when He knew that most of them would fall into weakness and desert Him (John 13:1-17).
43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Pastor Chris also shared that what makes great, godly leaders is the ability of sharing leadership. It no longer becomes about our vision but God’s. We learn how to build up talented followers, and direct them to greatness, all for the glory of God. And with the proper direction, these followers will go on to build disciples of their own, which will continue to contribute to the expansion of the Kingdom of God. When we follow Jesus, it flips the world.
A result of this is we gain the ability to recognize sin as sin. There is a different focus, and everything we do will be done in the consciousness of God. It no longer becomes about us. It now matters not who carries the leadership or message. What matters more is that the message gets preached, and preached well.
In the process, we also wrestle with our own pride and ego, not towards building bigger churches or companies, but better ones, not in a materialistic sense, but in a Kingdom-building sense. When we face times of difficulty, we will have the serenity and courage to share the responsibility with others. The Church no longer becomes about hierarchy, but rather environment-changers and life-transformers, and about making a difference in the world. And everything becomes not about being the ‘top’ leader, but in growing towards Christ-likeness. Our calling as Christians has to trump the culture that is around us.
Pastor Chris' challenge to us as leaders in churches and organizations all around the world, including in our own nation, is to not let the great things of leadership distract us from the God things of leadership. He encouraged us to take the concept of shared leadership into consideration. Regardless of our organizations’ formal leadership structure, leadership can be shared. The session ended with group discussions focused on this challenge and three main questions to consider:
- Do we have a room in our chariots for a David or Joseph?
- When forced to choose, do you expand God’s kingdom or your reputation?
- What difference is the Holy Spirit making in the way you currently lead? If a non-believer with your same skillset and gifts had your job, would it look any different?
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
1 Corinthians 14:26
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
References for pictures