What makes someone a Godly leader? How do you recognize a Godly leader? Is it someone ordained by an organized church? Is it someone with a title or exalted position? Is it someone with great speaking ability or vast scholarship? Is it someone with remarkable spiritual gifts? Is it someone with a large following? Does the Bible list any of these as qualities of a Godly leader? No, the Bible makes clear that a Godly leader follows where YHWH* leads (e.g., Deut. 31:3).
In a battle, is the leader the general who commands from the rear or the soldier who goes first? True leaders are called not to rule or command but to lead. In times past, a leader in battle would go in front of his men. He knew their names, so he could call them and encourage them to advance. Often he knew something about the individual soldiers' lives. Above all, he could be trusted to take them only where he would go first, fight alongside them, and die with them.
The Godly leaders found in the Bible behaved in the same way, even when not in worldly battles. They also exhibited humility, obedience to YHWH, courage and concern for those around them. Their lives, words and conduct demonstrated the integrity and character that YHWH regards as virtuous. They had natural gifts and abilities, but the Bible doesn't indicate that YHWH chose them for that reason. They were usually nobodies, perhaps because it's a virtue in the kingdom of YHWH to be a nobody in this world. Among them were such nobodies as Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, most of the prophets, Jesus and the apostles. Those who weren't nobodies when chosen (e.g., Moses and Paul) became nobodies before YHWH put them to work.
Very few kings of Israel and Judah were Godly leaders according to the Biblical accounts, yet they had numerous subjects or servants, people some would call "followers". They were sometimes ordained by rulers of the state religion, and held an exalted status among men. But the Bible doesn't hold them up as models of Godly leadership. In fact, David's Godly leadership waned the longer he was king. Solomon's kingdom was the greatest Israel ever knew, and for his humility he received the spiritual gift of extraordinary wisdom. He possessed the qualities regarded as leadership by worldly standards, but he became one of the most ungodly rulers of Israel.
What, then, makes someone a Godly leader? Obviously, for Christians, the leader must accept Jesus Christ as both savior and Lord and receive and be filled with the Holy Spirit to transform her from within. Thus equipped, she shows the way. Heeding Jesus' own example in washing his disciples' feet, Peter tells us she leads by example, not by lording it over others. Like the soldier who takes the point and risks taking the first bullet, she does and says what YHWH wants, risking ridicule and rejection by obediently trying to please YHWH. She accepts being a fool for Jesus' sake.
Jesus tells us the Godly leader serves others and takes the lowest seat at a feast. He doesn't seek status or fulfilment of his own desires. He doesn't seek recognition for his acts but lets the acts speak for themselves and tries instead to love, honor and serve YHWH, as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And, as Jesus and Moses commanded, he seeks to love others as much as he loves himself. He doesn't seek to rule anything, doesn't insist on having authority over others or the works in which he participates. He knows that all authority has been given to Jesus and that the leader has authority only to the extent he lives in Jesus.
A Godly leader accepts weaker members of the body and helps them along the way. In fact, Godly leaders are not completed (perfect) people either. They, too, fall short of the glory of YHWH and what he wants, but that doesn't stop them from pushing ahead in response to his call. When a group climbs a mountain, they rope themselves together. They move at the speed of the slowest person, dictating that the stronger help the weaker if greater speed is wanted. Godly leaders don't reject dysfunctional members of Jesus' body. They try to help those people become healthy, mature, functional members-- members who unselfishly love others, involve themselves in the work of the kingdom and prepare to become leaders themselves.
Contrary to the worldly concept of leadership, the Godly leader has no followers and wants none, at least none who will adore and glorify her and none in the sense of people the leader directs and rules. She wants others to follow Jesus and tries to lead them in that direction, seeking to please YHWH, not man. Unconcerned about whether anyone admires or even respects her or whether anyone follows her example or heeds what she says, she seeks to keep others focused on YHWH-- the Heavenly Father, his son, our Lord and savior, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Those who encourage a following are meeting their own need for significance (a need all humans share), instead of accepting as sufficient the significance we have in becoming children of YHWH through the gift of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Godly leaders further distinguish themselves from the worldly model by sharing the role with others in the body as the others become able. Some lead in the areas of their natural abilities received from YHWH, some by demonstrating behaviors that please YHWH, some by imparting wisdom and knowledge from YHWH, some by exercising gifts of the Holy Spirit, some by encouraging others in that exercise. The list goes on, each leading in a different way. All are unique, according to YHWH's will, and all provide models for those who follow Jesus.
But the Godly leader doesn't retain that position indefinitely. His leadership resembles that of the lead rider in a bicycle pace line who "pulls" the riders tucked in behind him by breaking the wall of air that fatigues every rider. Eventually, the leader moves aside, letting another rider take the lead, and falls in at or near the rear of the pace line. The new leader may not be as fast, but over the long haul, the pace line fares far better and goes faster than any single rider could. That practice enables Tour de France teams to produce a winner. That practice exemplifies leadership in the body of Jesus Christ. Jesus wants all of us to share the burden of leadership, according to our abilities and the gifts YHWH gives us.
Whether we like it, the body of Jesus Christ isn't made of Lone Rangers, each racing ahead at whatever speed and with whatever results each can achieve. When Jesus told his listeners, "You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect", his command used the plural form of the Greek word-- "You" should be translated "All of you together". We cannot achieve perfection (completion) alone. We must help one another toward the goal. We must do it together or we fail.
Contrary to the message of the organized and institutional churches and those who run them and exercise their authority and power, all born-again Christians are ordained as full-time ministers of Jesus Christ, called to serve him where each finds himself. We are all to share the burdens of leadership, which means that everyone who enters the body of Jesus Christ has a duty to train, strengthen and mature spiritually, receive the healing Jesus offers, and otherwise seek the equipping needed to share the burden of leadership. And we can help that process by recognizing the Godly leaders among us, heeding their word and following their example, and by encouraging each other toward such leadership.
What qualities of Godly leadership do you see among those around you in the body of Jesus Christ right now? What do they do or say that leads or encourages you in your life as a Christian? Encourage them and help build their confidence as Godly leaders by telling them what you see and that you are grateful for their example.
Scripture references (just a few) include the following: Matt. 5:48, 20:25-28, 23:5-12, 28:18-20; Luke 14:7-11, 22:24-26; John 13:5-17; 1 Cor. 1:18, 25-29, 2:14, 13:1-13; Eph. 5:21; Phlp. 4:8-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
Examples of Godly rulers and leaders in the Bible (with just some of the reasons why I chose them and very limited scripture references):
And after him (in chronological order):
And after him (in chronological order):
*YHWH or YHVH is the English representation of the four Hebrew letters that spell the name of the God of the Bible, the one true, living God worshipped by Jews and Christians. YHWH was the name by which he identified himself to Moses in Ex. 3:14. According to references that I've read, the exact pronunciation of YHWH's name was lost in antiquity. I prefer to pronounce the name "Yah-o-wah" (the "h" being aspirated as in "hay"), but the generally accepted pronounciation in common English is "Yah-weh" or "Yah-way". Some translations of the Bible, such as the KJV and NASB, substitute "the LORD" for his name, following a practice begun before Jesus' birth.
YHWH revealed himself in various ways to the children of Israel in the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament. He also revealed himself in and through his son Jesus Christ and acts, among other ways, in and through Christians by the Holy Spirit. Because the word "God" is being used today to designate all kinds of human inventions, although accepted for centuries in English as a name for YHWH, I prefer to use the name that YHWH chose for himself rather than "God" or "the LORD" as I did in early versions of my writings. Please read The Name of the One True, Living God for a fuller discussion.
|Remember who He is and whose you are|