Leading as Jesus Did

Consider the contrast between the way Herod led and the way Jesus led. Herod lived for himself, Jesus lived for others. Herod derived his influence via power and terror. He had his wife and two sons killed to consolidate power. His behavior prompted Caesar Augustus to say, "I would rather be Herod's pig than his son."[20] Jesus' influence, however, was based on his character and on his living out the tenets he taught in the Sermon on the Mount. His influence was his personal power, which he presented as a result of his special connection to his Father.[21]

The challenge for the Christian leader is to find the same balance Jesus found. He had enough ambition to carry out his mission and enough humility to stay in submission to his Father. He knew when to back off, when not to take the bait or go for the shortcut that would abort his mission. Satan tried to get him to abandon his path to the cross; so did Peter, so did the Jewish leaders, and so did his own humanness. History would turn on his decisions; Jesus did it his own way, unlike most Christian leaders today. Jesus said he was the way, the truth, and the life.[22] Indeed, he had a way of leading; his way was the means by which he conducted his life and how he treated people.

I might add that Jesus crammed a lot into a little over three years of public ministry—less than one U.S. presidential term. He wasn't in a hurry; he wasn't racked with anxiety, and his ambitions didn't conform to the political or religious climate. Yet, he became the centerpiece of human history. He has billions of followers, and the Book written about him remains the number-one best seller of all time. He leads the world's largest organization. I think we should pay attention to how he did it. His way was personal and ran contrary to the dominant leadership model. "We cannot use impersonal means to do or say a personal thing—and the gospel is personal or it is nothing," Eugene Peterson wrote.[23] Christ was willing to sacrifice the immediate spoils of success to get long-term results. He left with eleven followers, but now he has billions. Very few leaders are willing to make that kind of sacrifice, but we must if we are to be like Jesus.


[20] Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12 (Waco, TX: Word, 1987), 50, quoted in Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 201.
[21] I speak here of his ability to heal, raise the dead, demonstrate dominance over evil spirits, and know what people were thinking in that he read their minds. See John 2:22. See also his discourses in John 5:19-30 and 17:1-26 on how his Father and he worked together on what to do and when to do it.
[22] See John 14:6.
[23] Peterson, 2.

Written by Bill Hull

Taken from The Christian Leader by Bill Hull. Copyright © 2016 by Robert W. Hull. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Chad Harrington