Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Leadership is one of the most under-emphasized aspects of Christian Discipleship. Don’t get me wrong it gets plenty of attention and respect. Positions of Authority make instant celebrities in their organizations, people aspire to those titles and work hard to get and keep them. Those who hold positions like Scout Leader, Student Council President, Quarterback of the football team, Mayor, Governor, Senator, and President are often viewed as successful simply because they hold a position of leadership.

Just because someone does or does not hold a position of authority is no indication of that person's ability to lead nor is it a measure of their success.

So what is really being emphasized in those instances is the popularity of the positions and not the leadership itself.

John Maxwell, a leading author on business and leadership, identifies five levels of leadership and Position is the lowest and most basic level. The levels he describes are as follows:

1. Position - This is the most basic form of leadership in which people follow you based on your title and only reaches as far as your title has authority over.
2. Permission -  This is when people begin to follow you voluntarily perhaps because you have asked them to help you with something
3. Production -  This is where people begin to follow you based on the results that you get, people want to be part of something successful.
4. People Development -  This is when people follow you because of what you have done for others and what you could do for them
5. Personhood - This is when people follow you based on who you are and the things you represent.
(More information on those five levels of Leadership can be found in John Maxwell’s book Becoming a person of Influence)

I want you to think for a minute about the last one, “Personhood,” this is what the authority on the subject of leadership considers the pinnacle, the best you can achieve. Personhood, people are following you based on who you are and the kind of life that you live.

Now I want you to think for a moment about Jesus. Think about the life that he lived, think about how he led. Think about how he rejected the conventional image of a leader. He didn’t lead with a sword. He wasn’t like a Disney Hero, when he rode into Jerusalem for the last time it wasn’t on a white Stallion with a blond mane it was on a mule, a donkey! It was a sign of Humility when they were looking for someone with pride.

Remember they walked most places so feet were kind of a big deal, they were gross. Washing someone's feet was not a glamorous thing, it was for the lowest of the low. Washing someone's feet was a Slaves job, but that didn’t stop Jesus from washing the feet of the disciples and saying that he was doing it as an example for them to follow.

Jesus did not just do those two things, He didn’t just give his life for us on the cross. He LIVED his entire life treating others with respect. He loved people and was nice to them before they did the right thing. Look no further than the woman at the well, the adulterous woman, and Zacheus to see examples of his love and compassion. Jesus even prayed for his enemies and told us to do the same.

Jesus Lived over 2000 years ago and over 2 billion people in the world still FOLLOW him.
Jesus was the perfect example of Personhood leadership. The way he lived his life in service to others is the example for us. It is through service that we truly lead.

Leadership is being the first to act. Leadership is showing others how to accomplish something better. This means that Leaders don’t wait for others before doing the right thing. We don’t wait for someone to be nice to us before we are nice to them, we don’t wait for respect before offering it, we don’t wait for love or forgiveness or appreciation we just give it.

The word Christian literally means “like Christ,” or “little Christ,” CHRIST-ian. So to talk about being a Christian or about being a disciple is to talk about what Christ is like, and to try and live as he lived.
If Christ is the example of personhood leadership then to be like him I must also strive to live in a way that others would follow. If Christ did it then as a Christian I should aspire to it.

Peter (the disciple) understood this very much so from the beginning, I would argue even more than the other disciples. When Jesus said “come follow me” what he meant was I think you can do what I can do. Jesus even tells us in John Chapter 14 that we will do even greater works than He did. So when the disciples had left Jesus on the shore to pray and went out on the water to the other side and see a figure walking across the water, it only makes sense that Peter says “if it is you, Lord, then call me out to you.” This is often taught as a story of belief, or a story of trust, sometimes even a story of faith about how amazing it is that Jesus and Peter walked on the water (and Peter falling in). The part of this story that we do not often emphasize is that while Peter was being called “ye of little faith” for falling below the surface, there were 11 others who never left the boat.

When we begin to truly follow Jesus, it is only natural that we begin to lead. It is only natural that we live in selflessness and service to others. It is only natural that we begin to be the first to act, stepping out of the boat to do something unthinkable. When we begin to follow Jesus we suddenly find ourselves accomplishing much more than we ever expected.

As Always thanks for your time and giving this a read. If you enjoyed it share it with friends, you can do so easily with one of the buttons below. I pray that you will embrace life in the Love and Grace offered to you through Jesus Christ and that you will always remember Jeremiah 29:11.  – For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, Plans to Proper You and not for harm, Plans with Hope for the Future.


  1. Jacob, check out "Resident Aliens" by Will Willoman and Stanley Hauerwas. I think you would enjoy it. Great article by the way. Another interesting corollary to leadership is failure and willingness to obey Christ and fail. Abe Lincoln failed in pretty much everything until he became president, to use a secular example. Remember that the Holy Spirit blocked Paul from going into certain regions of the world.

    Another interesting thought: have you considered obedience and subservience as possible Christian disciplines? Some orders of Monks gave up all their property and all their free choice. They submitted completely to the Abbott. Some times following Christ might not be leadership in anyway secular culture can recognize.

  2. Great thoughts and comments Sean I will have to check out the book. Yes I definatly think obedience is important as well... But we can leave those for a separate post

  3. A important point to add to this is that leadership as leadership is tangential to the real business of living and loving God and each other. I am taking a management class right now, and find myself shocked by how much the business (read busy-ness) view of things has pervaded and perverted our world view. We have forgotten that leadership, power, organizations, management, efficiency, production, money and so on are means not ends. We have plenty of "leaders" in the world. What we need are livers (people who live, not the body organ) and lovers. When we love well and live true, leading will happen when it needs to.

  4. Very well said Robert... I found in my study of business how surprising it is that good business principals tend to start with good Christian principals. Thank you for pointing out that leadership is only one aspect of discipleship and should not be valued any more than the others... I am simply hoping that it would just get equal attention because it is a necessary part of living as Christ did. Your closing comment reminds me of the words of Richard Foster in the opening line of "celebration of discipline"