leadership and the victory of God

Following on from my previous post, I want to table the suggestion that there’s a distinctively Christian way to measure leadership — to determine if it’s truly effective, successful, and achieves its purposes.

It’s not that I think there are a bunch of leadership KPIs buried in Daniel or 2 Samuel (or wherever). But rather that, looking at Jesus and the apostles, we see what Christian leadership should look like. And we can measure our efforts at leadership against it.

When we do this, one feature stands out: Christian leadership is downwardly mobile.

For Jesus, it was about humility, obedience, even slavery — slavery unto death, as Philippians 2 puts it. This climaxed in the cross, which (far from overturning) God vindicated as the true path of sonship by raising Jesus from the dead. But it was also the pattern of his whole earthly ‘career’.

This is where the overworked distinction between the church’s proclamation of Jesus as Lord and Jesus’ own proclamation of the kingdom comes into its own. The germ of truth in it has to do with Jesus’ whole approach to effectiveness. It was all about trusting and obeying his Father, testifying to the Father’s work, teaching his disciples to pray for the Father’s kingdom to come and will to be done. Even working miracles (e.g., feeding 5000 people), Jesus was overtly dependent upon his Father — looking up to heaven and giving thanks as he broke the bread.

This was the path that lead inexorably to the suffering and rejection of the cross. And while it may have looked like failure and foolishness, this was how God achieved his long-awaited, world-upending victory.

And it was much the same trajectory that Paul and the other apostles followed. I love the way Paul summarises it in 1 Corinthians 2.1-5:

When I came among you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation was not with plausible words of human wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

That is the shape of wildly successful Christian leadership. It won’t look like much compared with the showy, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’-style approach of the teachers who wooed the Corinthians with rhetorical pyrotechnics. Although, it has its own power — the power of God!


  1. Sounds pretty spot on to me Chris – although challenging! I read a book called “Scattering the Proud” written by a guy named Sean O’Conaill. He’s a Catholic priest and basically writes this book as a critique of what he sees as the ‘upward journey’ leadership that has distracted leaders in the Catholic Church. Quite a good read and not too long.

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