Jesus Christ was the “ultimate leader.” There are numerous models of leadership, both secular and spiritual, that are being taught and practiced today, but what better model could there be than to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the ultimate servant leader.
The definition of the word “ultimate” is as follows, “the finest or most superior quality of its kind and/or the furthest or highest in degree or order; the utmost or extreme.” All of these definitions aptly describe the leadership that Jesus demonstrated in his three and a half years of ministry that changed the direction of history.
Jesus’ life as a leader and the results that followed, declares that he is the ultimate leader of all time. His genius, wit, and ability to handle a crisis coupled with his overall leadership skills are unparalleled. In his day and culture, his leadership style was “extreme” and stretched his followers to the highest degree, and dumbfounded the religious leaders. Hindsight sees the wisdom and effectiveness of what skills were needed at that time, an extreme leader who brought in a new paradigm of leadership. Not only was it necessary then, but yet today the world is in desperate need of a different model of leadership. While the focus of leadership in many cases deals with the idea of “how can we get followers to serve the leader,” Jesus puts the emphasis on being a servant-leader, as he becomes the “servant of all.”
Although it appears obvious, it may be a good idea to take a quick look at the definition of a leader. Let’s glance at a few leaders who have given us their definitions of leadership. For years we have heard John Maxwell define leadership, “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” Another modern day leader gives his input, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” The most practical definition of leadership I found is “the art of getting people to do what they ought to do because they want to do it.” To round out the definition of leadership Peter Drucker simplifies it stating, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” John Maxwell in humor states, “A leader without followers is only going for a walk.” Jesus is the personification of the word leadership as he has been the greatest influence in history for no one has produced more leaders or had more followers than he. (According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life there are more than 2.2 billion Christians in the world.) Jesus began with what would be called by modern standards, twelve untrained and unlearned men. However, after sitting at his feet and following his steps for three years, his disciples became the solid foundation upon which the church is built. The church is the greatest institution the world has ever seen.
All human odds were against Jesus becoming a great leader, a person of unparalleled influence. Jesus was born in a stable, in a manger, in the small unknown town called Bethlehem, which was on the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem. He came from a peasant family who lived in Nazareth, one of the most disrespected cities of his country. Galilee, the northern region of Israel where Jesus was from, was considered in that day to consist of lower, second class citizens in comparison to Judean citizens. His country Israel was insignificant in the big picture of the Roman Empire: and what was known of the Jews by Rome was that they were a stubborn and rebellious people. In spite of all of these odds, even his humble beginning in an obscure place, Jesus became the ultimate leader, revered yet today after two thousand years.
Our calendar is based on his birth with the designation BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, the year of our Lord) which has been changed by liberal scholars to BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era). What is ironic about this change is that the BCE and CE titles are still designated around the birth of Christ; nothing has changed except the labels. Every week over 2.2 billion people worship Jesus the Christ and no one has affected the course of history more than this one individual. Take any kind of class pertaining to world history: Christ and his church will be the focal point.
Dr. James Allen Francis penned it better than anyone ever could in his poem, One Solitary Life. Following are a few excerpts from it:
He was born in an obscure village, He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. He then became an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book, or held an office.
He never raises an army. He never has a family of his own.
He never owns a home. He never goes to college.
He had no credentials but Himself. Nineteen centuries have come and gone,
and today he is still the central figure of the human race. Of all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, No one has affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.”
Many believe leaders must be born with the proverbial “silver leadership spoon” in their mouth but Jesus shows us that our circumstances and background, either positive or negative, does not necessarily dictate whether one would become a leader or not. Yes, some people are born with leadership tendencies as well as having positive leadership circumstances. Contrary to the falsehood that people must be born leaders, leadership can be learned by those who do not possess skills or a personality that might be associated with a leader. Even those individuals born with a personality that is bent toward leading must still develop and hone their leadership skills. Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists who were visiting a picturesque village. As they walked by an old man who was sitting beside a fence, a tourist asked him in a patronizing way, “Were any great men born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.” It’s just a pure myth that only a lucky few can ever understand the intricacies of leadership. Leadership is not a gene, and it’s not a secret code to be deciphered by ordinary people. The truth is that leadership is an observable set of skills and abilities that can be strengthened, sharpened, and enhanced. Given the motivation and desire, along with practice, feedback, role models and coaching, leadership can be developed.
Our goal as a spiritual leader is to replicate Jesus’ leadership principles in our life. Of course, Jesus was a perfect leader. Jesus was the “ultimate leader.”
The writer is the pastor of Northtowne Church of God in Sidney.