A few years ago, I was conducting a leadership-training program at a local church. The pastor of this church was steadfastly committed to developing the men and women of the congregation for leading in and outside the church. This group of Christ followers was committed to transformation–of the people who called that place their church home, as well as, of the surrounding community. Clearly this church, like other churches, needed committed people to lead transformative ministry.
What was distinct about this pastor, however, was that, unlike many pastors, he already saw the members of his congregation as leaders—not just members, but leaders! Time and again, he declared to them, “if you are not leading here in this church, you should be leading somewhere.” With those words he gave a charge to the people of this congregation that they should take their standing as disciples serious enough to lead or influence people around them. In this simple statement were four critical elements of leadership that are vital lessons for each of us.
As a disciple or follower of Christ, your identity is based on being in Christ. Your leadership identity, then, must likewise be based in your identification in and with Christ. Who you are is a dynamic mixture of follower and leader. Jesus used many metaphors to describe the identity of those who followed Him, two of which are recorded in the fifth chapter of Matthew. Jesus said his followers are “salt of the earth” (vs 13) and “the light of the world” (vs 14). Salt and light are transforming agents that have a profound effect on the things with which they come into contact. Likewise, you are called to be transforming agents in the culture and your corner of the world. Did you catch that? You are called to be before you are called to do. You are called to be what the Lord has declared you to be, and not to act based on title or position. Take the words of Jesus to heart.
SHOULD BE–Leadership Expectation
Some wise person once said something along these lines: We live up to or down to the expectations set for us. If that is indeed the case, and I believe it is, then set your expectations for yourself high. Start with positive intentions, and then begin expecting positive outcomes from your actions. When you start expecting transformative outcomes from yourself, you will start behaving in transformative ways. And others will begin to see you as a transformer. Jesus hinted at this when in Mark 9:50, he went on to say, “have salt in yourself, and have peace with one another.” Or as the Message Bible gives the passage: Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.” You circumstances won’t be without conflict, trouble or injustice. But as a transforming leader, you can expect to work for peace, solutions and justice—because of who and whose you are and why you are where you are.
The word “leading” can be an adjective or a verb. As a verb it is an action word that entails moving people to another place; guiding others; providing direction. Each of us has been strategically placed to do our part in God’s overall plan. It is not a coincidence that you work where you work. Or live where you live. And it is not a coincidence that you have been put in that place to influence others for good. The most basic way you influence or lead others is by example—doing your work in excellence, handling conflict wisely and interacting with others maturely. Jesus used the salt metaphor on another occasion to impress upon his followers their purpose in society. In Luke 14:34, Jesus declares, “Salt is good.” You are good for your place of employment or service, so do good. You are good for your home, neighborhood and community–so do good. People around you will be blessed by your leading. You are positioned to be an example or witness for Christ.
You should be leading somewhere. Where? Right where you are, toward better things. Leading somewhere entails living with an eye ever toward God’s preferred future for your current context. Leading somewhere entails seeing opportunities in the present to change situations and circumstances for the better. Leading somewhere is helping people who can’t help themselves begin to get help so that they may eventually help themselves and others. Leading somewhere is solving critical problems of our day. Leading somewhere is caring for others. The Pastor I described above wanted his congregation to know that they may not have been leading in that particular church; but wherever they found themselves they were to lead with a vision of transformation in mind.
As you think about these four points, I want you to make them your own by doing four very specific things:
• Shift the way you see yourself. Begin to see yourself as a leader—a follower of Christ called to live as a disciple and agent of change in your particular context
• Expect to influence for good. You have good in you that can lead to doing good around you. Expect to make a difference, in your own way.
• Be purposeful in all your dealings. Remember who you are and why you really are where you are. Your presence indicates you have purpose.
• See the possibilities for change and transformation where you are. Pray about how you can make things better where you are.
You have skills, abilities, gifts and experiences that can be used to for the good of others. Think about it, you really should be leading somewhere! Isn’t it time you got started?