Monday, May 02, 2016
Monday Morning Rewind: The Qualities of a Unifying Leader
Being subjected to a "horrible boss" is exhausting, depressing, and mind-numbing. But the worst kind of leader is the divisive leader--the manager, team leader, or even pastor or small group leader whose modus operandi is to lead through division. For the past several weeks, we have been studying Paul's letter to Philippians, and focusing on the theme of unity. We've learned some hard but valuable lessons along the way regarding what it takes for a church to achieve the kind of unity Paul speaks of--the kind Jesus prayed for in John 17.
But as Chapter 2 comes to a close, Paul gives us a glimpse of a different kind of leader--a leader who unifies. And through his praise of Timothy and Epaphroditus, we see four clear characteristics of the kind of leaders every church needs to seek and submit to if they truly want unity.
1. Selflessness. Paul gives his highest commendation when he says "there is no one like Timothy." This compliment is particularly noteworthy when compared with others Paul doesn't name, but describes as "those who seek their own interests." Epaphroditus likewise, in spite of what was apparently a serious illness, continued to think primarily about his church family back in Philippi, ad pushed through in order to complete the task given him by the church When the church seeks leaders, it should seek those who are always thinking of others.
2. Faithfulness. Paul described Timothy as having "proven worth." In other words, Timothy had a track record of faithfulness! The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, and Paul knows this, so he says of both these men "I trust them, and you can trust them too because they have already proven themselves through their actions." The best leaders are those with a track record of faithfulness that says "I will always be there for my church family."
3. Teachability. The relationship between Paul and Timothy was very much like a "father-son" relationship. And it is apparent from what we read here that Timothy continued to learn much from Paul. Though he was a mature pastoral leader himself, Timothy remained a life-long learner, and was always willing to submit to godly authority. Unteachable people make horrible leaders because they want to be in authority without being under it. All of us need accountability and humility that keeps us from assuming "I know this. I have it figured out. I don't need anyone telling me what to do." Those who bring unity to a church by heir leadership are teachable.
4. Kingdom-focused. Of Epaphroditus in particular Paul says he did what he did "for the work of Christ." This is what keeps a real leader going. Can't you imagine that somewhere along that 1600 mile, round-trip journey, Epaphroditus wondered to himself, "is this really worth it? Good grief! I'm just carrying supplies, and I almost died from it!" I imagine quite a few followers of Jesus sometimes feel the same way when they are charged with doing something that seems mundane. But think about this: Paul is sending this man back to the church with the letter we are now studying 2000 years later! Had Epaphroditus not completed this "mundane" journey, you and I might have had 65 rather than 66 books in our Bibles.
My point? When you serve Jesus, however you are serving Jesus, it is of immense importance and there is nothing mundane about it--even if it seems that way!
Serving in KidMIN might seem mundane and meaningless, until you recognize that you are raising up the next generation of men and women who will take the reigns of leadership in less than 20 years--and one of them might even be our next pastor! If you serve in the parking lot--especially in this unusually cold weather we've been having--you might wonder if its worth it. But if you have read the statistics, you know people are more likely to return to the church because of what they experience in the first 10 minutes after leaving their car than they are because of the worship, or the preaching.
Absolutely nothing done in the name of Jesus is meaningless.
Those who realize this and model selflessness, faithfulness, teachability, and a Kingdom focus are the sort we should all be looking for when selecting those who will help lead us into a unified future. Education is a great asset. Experience is also beneficial. But either of those divorced from the measurable characteristics Scripture describes only leads to arrogance and self-centerdness in a leader. You can educate the ignorant, and give the novice experience. But you can't fix bad character. So as we move forward together, we will be examining that aspect much more closely, and in light of the examples we have here in two godly men from the first century.
So if this letter were being written today to Covenant rather than Philippi, would you get a mention? If so, what would be said about you? Would you be described as faithful? Or would you be numbered among those who seek their own interests?
What do you want to be said about you?