Thoughts to Ponder are my musings regarding community, things of the Spirit, and living as a Christ-follower. I don't offer the words of a professional or an expert; just a fellow traveler and explorer. Please don't take my musings more serious than I do. I've discovered a long time ago that I do not hold the keys of knowledge or wisdom. If I did, I misplaced them somewhere...typical.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Leading From Your Knees

Wall Street Journal Columnist, Peggy Noonan caught my attention today. Her article was entitled "What Nobodies Know." It was a reflection on her reading of the 30-year-old classic Freedom At Midnight that told the story of the advent of democracy in India and the resulting violence that shook the world. She proceeds to compare the leadership of India at that time with our present situation in America.

What arrested me was her comments:

The leaders of the day did not know that terrible violence was coming because of what I think is a classic and structural problem of leadership: it distances. Each of these men was to varying degrees detached from facts on the ground. They were by virtue of their position and accomplishments an elite. They no longer knew what was beating within the hearts of those who lived quite literally on the ground.

People who know most intimately...what is happening on the ground, and in the hearts of men, are usually not in the inner councils. They have not fought their way or earned their way in yet. Sometimes they are called in and listened to, at least for a moment, but in the end they tend to be ignored. They're nobodies, after all...Elites become detached, and governments are composed of elites.

This is true not only in government, but in businesses, and in churches.

This is the primary problem with our approach to church leadership. We tend to see Elders (or any other leadership team) as leaders who make decisions, set vision, and oversee a large operation of programs. Some groups, to be certain, have learned to delegate tasks to ministry leaders and deacons--but they still serve as primarily a group that meets to discuss "the business of the church." If someone has a complaint, they'll go and express it to an elder and the elder will then bring it before the board to either deal with the problem or ignore it.

But who goes among the people? Who listens to their hurts? Who identifies with their problems and difficulties?

Jesus explained that if one wished to be great, he must be a servant. If he wished to be first, he must become a slave to all (Mark 10:43-45). Jesus did not say that one must be a servant-leader. He did not say that the leader should utilize a business technique called "service." He said the leader is a slave.

Servanthood is not a tool to be used. Servanthood is the nature of leadership in the kingdom. It is not sitting in meetings and making decisions. It is not setting policy and budgets. Leading is about loving on people, getting to know them, listening to them, hearing their concerns, and serving by meeting ultimate needs.

Those of us who have been called "leaders" tend to think we know more than we actually do. I tend to believe I have my "finger on the pulse"--but so often I don't. I am merely pursuing my own agenda, concerned with my own desires. That isn't serving others. That is serving ego.

Noonan writes, If you are a leader, recognize what drives you. Know your motives...The only one who knew what was coming was Gandhi, mystic, genius and eccentric, who drove the other great men crazy by insisting on living among and ministering to the poor, the nonelite. He knew their hearts...He spent the eve of Independence mourning.

Leading by being a slave to those you lead is a message we can all take to heart. Jesus modeled this behavior by taking the form of a slave and getting on his knees to wash feet (Philippians 2:5-10; John 13).

Leaders who follow the example of Jesus know themselves, know their people and humbly lead from their knees.

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