A Challenge to Leadership.

By Sky Cline.

“Great leader” is often synonymous “great preacher.” In the evangelical Christian world “great leaders” often have televised services and run the “conference circuit.” “Great leaders” are likewise associated with prolific publishing, academic pedigrees and important prefixes.

Jesus is certainly the model by which we examine greatness as it concerns leadership. It might come as a surprise to some, but Jesus and later his disciples, don’t necessarily fit into the evangelical “great” model of leadership. 

Jesus was certainly a teacher of the Word, and it is not my intention to in any way denigrate this critical function of the leader, but even a cursory reading of the gospels shows that Jesus did more than preach in synagogue on Saturday morning.  In fact, in some sense, Jesus’ leadership always involved teaching – but the teaching went well beyond the confines of “instructing from the pulpit.”

Jesus’ teaching was primarily practical. It was his life. Jesus didn’t teach soccer from a white board and an encyclopedia.  Jesus gathered people around him and showed them how to play. He didn’t simply teach evangelism – He evangelized.  He lived it with people.  They learned as He lived it out.  He preached repentance and gathered disciples. He didn’t simply teach or preach on prayer. He gathered people to pray. He showed them.  He healed the sick.  He demonstrated. He confronted and expelled the unclean spirits. He showed them. He preached to the poor.  He did it with them. He loved the unlovable. He embraced the outsider. He taught on humility and washed their feet.  He taught sacrifice.  He showed them. In other words, Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God primarily by actually living out the Kingdom with people who wanted to learn (his disciples). The disciples therefore were shown how to live out this new Kingdom by someone who was living it out. He wasn’t just telling them “what the Bible said.” He was doing it. Jesus’ teaching was an extension of His person.  In other words, his primary mode of teaching was essentially, “Come, let me show you how to do it.”

Many “top tier” leaders rarely play soccer.  They preach it.  They conference about it. They write about it. They podcast it. The publish it. They have the credentials. The clothes. So much energy has been placed on how to instruct, but little time is given to actually playing. No cuts or bruises. Clothes are spotless; there are no stains. Soccer is a book, not a field. Cleats are squeaky clean. Socks have no stains. So many people think they know soccer, but have never passed the ball. It’s learning to be a cardiac surgeon with the Cliff’s Notes.

Leaders must come down from the lofty, sanitized pulpit and demonstrate the Kingdom of God with their fellow disciples. Demonstrate the Kingdom in the context of the “world,” not in the evangelical echo chambers so many have grown accustomed to. It’s dirty down there. “Great Leaders” are people that lead their disciples not primarily by classroom instruction but by the practical demonstration of the Kingdom in the world.