The most important thing that any leader can do is to lead by example. Jesus demonstrated by example in everything that He did that He was a true leader. Jesus provides us with the ultimate human model of leadership worthy of imitation. One major aspect of Jesus’ leadership is that he first modeled those beliefs, values, attitudes and behavior which his disciples were to possess (John 13:15; Luke 9:23-24; Philippians 2:5-8; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 11:1). In today’s lesson, we will provide you with the two of the four example of Jesus true leadership abilities, and we will give you the last two in tomorrow’s lesson.
Now let us begin with this question, is there a need for godly leadership in the family? Whenever God‘s people have been without godly leadership, the result has been disastrous. For example, in the period of the judges, every man did what was right in his own eyes because there was no king in Israel. The result was the disastrous record of sin and rebellion, which we have recorded, in the biblical book of Judges. Today in those families where there is no strong godly leadership, families will predictably be torn apart by sin resulting in the suffering of family, church and society. Godly leadership requires more than just being able to quote scripture and telling our children the difference between right and wrong. Although knowing truth is essential, just knowing what is right does not prevent people from doing wrong.
Throughout scripture, God has given us various principles for godly leadership. These principles are interlocking and overlapping. It is difficult to speak of any one of them without describing to some extent at least some of the other principles also.
As we study this subject, we need to comprehend the basic truth that the godly principles for leading a family do not differ or contradict the general principles, which God has established for other areas of successful leadership. In others words, we should not expect God to teach his leaders within the congregation that they can achieve success by employing a particular set of leadership tools and objectives while expecting parents to achieve leadership success through an entirely different scheme which might even include contradictory principles and goals. Texts such as Titus 3:4-5 confirm that leadership principles in one area of life are applicable to others also. Therefore, when we speak of leading our family, we are pursuing a biblical study incorporating both how the great principles of leadership within the Bible find expression within the family setting as well as any additional biblical teachings which might be specifically applied to the family.
Unlike the world where only some people possess the necessary skills, knowledge and personality considered essential to be a successful leader, none of God’s principles for leadership are beyond the reach of any faithful Christian. I would like to suggest that scripture provides at least four basic principles for successful leadership, which can be applied to leading the family. These are:
- Leaders need to base their security and identity upon God, not in false sources of security (idols).
- Leaders need to be examples worthy of imitation.
- Leaders need serve others instead of demanding to be served.
- Leaders need to accept the responsibility, which God has given them.
1. God wants his leader to depend upon God, not upon other sources of strength or confidence.
The fact that God taught his people about what was required from the one who would lead his people ought to cause us to take notice. In Deuteronomy 17:15-20 God not only made provision for an Israelite king, he also laid out a number of rules that were to govern this king. This is a very interesting list especially when we realize what God did not include. God did not appear to be concerned about a king’s economic strategy, his managerial ability, his expertise or experience with proven techniques, his social status, etc. It appears that none of these characteristics were important to God for his ability to be a good leader.
Instead, through the rules listed in Deuteronomy 17:15-20 we discover that God was primarily concerned with one central tenet. God prohibited the king from acquiring those items which could tempt the king to confide in an alternative source of security. For example, God prohibited the king from increasing his horses. In modern language, this would be equivalent to prohibiting him from building up his supply of tanks, etc. Leaders must trust in something. Israel’s kings would face the strong temptation to trust in their own military or in the strength of another country. 2 Kings 16:7-9; Habakkuk 1:11; Hosea 5:13; (14:3) Having prohibited various sources of confidence, God then commanded that His law was to be continually with the king in order that he might learn to fear His God. Properly understood, such fear describes someone who in reverence worships God. And then finally, these rules in Deuteronomy stipulated that the heart of the king was not to be filled with self-centered arrogance. After all, the king was merely to be God’s prince (God’s son cf. 2 Sam. 7:12-15; Ps. 2:6-12) with both the kingdom and its king depending upon God as the King. God’s point was, “I want my king to depend only on me.”
When God chose Saul to be king, God did not make a mistake. When God selected Saul, he was someone who was “small in his own eyes” (1 Samuel 15:17; 10:16, 22) and who would therefore be required to depend upon God. In fact, Saul was immediately rejected by those who apparently measured leadership based upon worldly standards of personal power (1 Samuel 10:27). The problem with Saul’s leadership is that he changed as he falsely began to credit his successful leadership to himself instead of to God. This caused him to become proud (1 Samuel 15:12), to begin to take initiatives based upon himself and how he would appear to others, rather than upon God (I Samuel 15:30). Eventually, he disobeyed God (1 Samuel 15:11) and was rejected. Because of who Saul became, God was sorry that He had made Saul king.
Clearly, David did not possess the leadership qualities which the world demanded of a national leader. He was the youngest of eight brothers and merely a common youth taking care of some sheep when God chose him to be king over Israel. But David did possess the quality of heart which God valued, namely he utterly depended upon God (1 Samuel 16:7; 17:37).
Why is this such an important principle of leadership for God? Behind this principle of depending upon God, lies the contest between God and idols for the heart and the love of an individual. The love of a person’s life has always been and will always be devoted to what that person believes offers him the greatest source of security and meaning. Our beliefs create our values which we feel as powerful desires and objects of love that in turn empower our behavior and attitudes. If we believe that our own ability, our jobs, education, social connections, money, etc. is the bottom line of what will take care of us, then our primary devotion will be to something other than God. Whatever is our primary devotion will control how we make decisions and how time and resources will be spent. If our center for life is falsely built upon this world, then our leadership will be secular not godly. God demands that his leader be an individual whose heart relies upon him, not upon some other rock or shield. A godly leader’s identity and security needs to be founded upon his trust in God, not upon false sources of meaning and security (idols).
Any leader who fails to learn this lesson of leadership will find himself making many decisions, based upon values which are not rooted in God. The decisions he makes may reflect placing priority upon the status which his work may provide or which comes from owning the latest technology. Or perhaps he will be tempted to place too much value upon the power he has acquired, instead of upon God. There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, money, or possessions. The problem arises when these things become the sources of our security and identity. For reasons outlined elsewhere, the capacity for godly leadership becomes greatly crippled, if not fatally flawed, when someone fails to trust God first.
Although worldly status, wealth, position, power and influence may forever be beyond most of us, the principle of utterly depending upon God is within the reach of each one of us. Anyone can choose to apply this principle of leadership within his or her life.
2. A second principle of Godly leadership is that leadership comes from first being the type of person God wants me to be in order that I might become an example worthy of imitation.
One key requirement of pastoral leadership is for elders to be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3). Being an example should not be understood as summarizing all of the means by which an elder leads. He also leads through teaching (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 5:17) and equipping the flock for good works (Ephesians 4:11-14). But unless the elder is “above reproach” (Titus 1:6,7; 1 Timothy 3:2,7) and thus worthy of imitation, he has lost his capacity to be a godly leader within the church.
Jesus provides us with the ultimate human model of leadership worthy of imitation. One major aspect of Jesus’ leadership is that he first modeled those beliefs, values, attitudes and behavior which his disciples were to possess (John 13:15; Luke 9:23-24; Philippians 2:5-8; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 11:1).
Although the answer is rather obvious, there is the need to ask the question, “an example of what?” Leadership involves knowing what is important and where the group ought to be headed. Fundamentally, there are two diametrically opposed goals which war for the heart of the leader. On the one hand, either we will seek to preserve Self or some human value which Self has embraced, or on the other hand we will seek the Lord. God’s primary goal for his people has been and will always be summarized by the command “to love the Lord your God will all of your heart, soul and strength.” The second priority is to love others as one loves himself. Accordingly, these should be the primary goals driving godly leadership.
Unfortunately, at times the religious shepherds of Israel failed to love God and others, as they ought. Instead, they fell into the idolatrousness of living to serve themselves (Ezekiel 34:1-3, 8; self-centered greed is idolatry Colossians 3:5). This predictably resulted in them abusing and failing in their leadership responsibilities toward the flock (Ezekiel 34:2-6).
In instructing parents what to teach their children, God focused parents upon the primary lesson and value within life, namely to love God with all of our being (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) Success in raising children is not measured by their eventual economic security, societal status, power, prestige, ability to acquire material goods, how much leisure time they can afford, etc. Success is determined by whether they grow up to love God. The parent who through actions, words, time and financial means places the greatest emphasis upon his child’s development toward being a doctor or a sports hero, should not later wonder why his child left the church. The child learned and obeyed exactly the values of the parent.
Our goal should be to first love God and then to love our fellow human being. In this way, we will be an example worthy of imitation. The husband and father who selfishly demands that the TV be always tuned to his favorite programs or who insists on being with his friends and doing what he wants to do, will be virtually inept at teaching his family to love and to seek the well-being of other people. The parent who is easily angered when something breaks will reveal through his or her temper just how much he or she values the things of this world. Accordingly, the children will perceive any words about loving God and not the things of this world to be hypocritical and empty. Although the parent might fool himself, others will clearly see what matters most within his life. A parent should not expect his household to respond to him with love, patience, kindness and mercy unless he has first demonstrated these qualities to them. Do not expect your children to listen to you, to forgive you, to make decisions to serve God instead of pleasure and the hectic demands of life, etc. if you have not first modeled these values and behaviors through how you chose to act. This principle of leadership is not beyond the reach of anyone who has first died to self in order to live for God.