1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy Or high born. when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, Or God chose those who are low born. things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
This passage was highlighted by a devotional I am reading right now. They accompanied it with a powerful statement, “As Christian leaders, we know we serve with a limp. We accept our own brokenness and inability and are not ashamed of this, because basically, we are not trying to prove ourselves or build a reputation but to humbly follow Jesus and point people to him. Our influence is not about our desires, but God’s desires. We are recipients of God’s grace and are offering and demonstrating this grace to others. Our passion for grace pervades our leadership and allows God’s power to effectively work through us.”
I love this quote. This is what Christian leadership should look like but it is a bit aspirational. I often find that the realization and acceptance of our brokenness is missing. Many leaders don’t realize just how much they need Christ and many of those being led don’t approach their leaders with a heart of grace which leads to many conflicts and other challenges.
I was listening to the author Robert Greene talk yesterday about Napoleon in a number of different contexts at the Arete Live conference. I am generally familiar with Napoleon and his history as a French military and political leader but I didn’t know nearly as much about his rise and fall as I thought. What was really interesting about what Robert shared is that like so many leaders he followed a familiar arc that took him from nothing to one of the most well-known military and government leaders on the planet, and then ultimately he was toppled and ended up being banished in exile in Elba.
You see this same type of arc happen all over in leadership. It happens at the world’s biggest companies and organizations and at small businesses and churches. A leader with a mission, calling, and passion will rise up and create some sort of organization that rallies against ‘the man’ or the establishment. They will have a fresh product, approach, or vision and they will reshape the market. They will grow wildly drawing many people into their sphere of influence but then often with all of that influence, power, and size they will grow distracted. They go from supplanting the man to becoming the man. Some of these leaders, pastors included beginning to believe they are great instead of God. Their heads get too big. They become addicted to their success and power and so often become the thing they rallied against. This happened with Napoleon but it is happening every day with leaders of all types. You can see it in businesses and you can also see it in churches.
As leaders, it is important to not allow ourselves to become Napoleon. I think that is especially true of Christian leaders whether leading in a church context or a business context we can’t allow ourselves to forget that it is God’s grace that saved us. It is the gifts God has given us that have allowed us to reach whatever level of success we have reached and we need to remember that we’re the underdogs! Even in the smallest business, it is easy to allow our ego to run away with us. When God is choosing us he chose us for a reason and we need to let those gifts continue to shine and not allow ourselves to become something other than what God created us to be.
As Paul points out in Corinthians, God chose us, not the rich and fancy. So even in success, we cannot allow ourselves to become something other than what God created and called us to be! We can’t allow our success or failure to go to our head but instead lean into God and his wonderful grace and realize that our service in life is for His Kingdom and not for our own.