I admit that I like lists. I also notice that the Bible is full of lists, starting with the Ten Commandments. Paul has lists of attributes in I Timothy 3 and Titus one and Peter has his own list of leadership qualities in I Peter chapter 5. Additionally, we have lists of the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit in Galatians chapter 5. So making and using lists has a biblical basis.
It’ s probably true, though, that there is no end to the making of lists. Some of us like to create a daily “Do” list to remind us of what needs to be accomplished. Some of us list things that we want to achieve over a longer period of time to help us grow, reach our God-given potential and be the best leaders we can be. Then there is the “Bucket List” of things we want to do before Jesus calls us home.
I’m going to guess that some reading this might hate the idea of lists and break out in an allergic reaction just thinking about it…just kidding. I know it’s probably not quite that bad.
I often think about, and work at, keeping things simple in my life and ministry. Simplicity is one of my current key values. So, in the name of simplicity, following is my short list of just three things I consider fundamentally foundational to leadership fruitfulness and longevity, which I believe every leader aspires to.
1. IDENTITY IN JESUS
It all starts here. As a Christian leader, if I attempt to have my identity, value and worth in anyone/anything else, in time I will be in deep trouble. This is the first mistake mentioned in my book Mistakes Leaders Make, “Allowing Ministry to Replace Jesus.” He doesn’t want idols to take his place in our hearts. Over time (if we are not vigilant and careful) our identity will become rooted in pleasing others, gaining respect, applause, accolades, promotion, popularity and success with Jesus pushed out of his rightful place in our affections.
It can be very subtle like the proverbial frog in the water and we don’t realize it’s happening. I love what Colossians 3:3,4 (ESV) says, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Emphasis added). Jesus Christ is my life as a Christian leader. My life is not my ministry, my success, my popularity, etc. It’s true, as the old hymn has it: “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” I wonder if we really believe this!
2. INTIMACY WITH JESUS
One of the keys in keeping our identity anchored in Jesus is growing in intimacy with him. I have observed over years of ministry that it’s possible to understand the good news of the gospel and have my identity clearly there and not elsewhere, but still not grow in my personal love relationship with him. Identity doesn’t automatically result in intimacy. It takes effort and time, which is not easy in a microwave culture that wants everything right now. Peter reminds us in his second epistle to “make every effort” (2 Peter 1:5 ESV) to grow and deepen in our intimacy with Jesus.
It takes effort, just as seeing any relationship deepen takes effort–whether we are talking about wives and husbands, parents and children or employers and employees. My favorite verse on this topic is Hosea 6:3 in the Living Bible: “Oh that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him, and he will respond to us as surely as the coming of dawn or the rain of early spring.” I love the admonition to “press on” (to make effort) to get to know him. I love the promise made here that he will respond to us like the sunrise or the nourishment of rain we need to our dry and thirsty souls. What consistent spiritual disciplines are you practicing to develop deeper intimacy with Jesus? What do you need to start doing or do differently so there is vitality and genuineness in your intimacy with him?
3. HUMILITY BEFORE JESUS
It was the late John Stott of England who said, “Pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” It is truly, and only, the humble leader who will have a life and ministry that can consistently honor the Lord. I have seen enough celebrity Christian leadership gone amok to last me for the rest of my life. Jesus is the only celebrity and the rest of us are his bondservants. Let’s lift him up and keep all leaders in proper perspective; the higher the pedestal, the bigger the fall.
Humility is a life-long pursuit, with the power of the Holy Spirit, but a pursuit well worth the time and effort because our Lord values it so highly.
“I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite one.” Isaiah 57:15 (ESV, Emphasis added)
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (ESV, Emphasis added)
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia. Serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.” Acts 20:18,19 (ESV, Emphasis added)
Gracious Lord Jesus, help us to have our identity in you and you alone. Help us to deepen in our intimacy with you. Help us to grow in genuine humility as we are led by you, seek to honor you and are empowered by you. In your matchless name, Amen!