So much of confusion and frustration in leadership comes from not having clearly defined roles or expectations.
And one of the great things that role confusion and frustration leads to is serious identity crisis, which leads to purpose crisis, which I’ve even seen lead to a bout of depression and anxiety in some.
It’s actually a very interesting concept that our church leadership has been investing ourselves in recently.
It’s this John Piper idea of Be. Do. Have. (VS the way of the world which is Do. Have. Be.).
One of the problems with the above scenario is that the order is all out of whack…
What typically happens at work or life is:
First, you have problems in your role or expectation and;
Second, you develop a potential identity crisis.
When you know your identity (and hence the shape your leadership calling should take), the doing will always be secondary and thus less crippling when it doesn’t go your way.
I was reading about John the Baptist recently and I saw something which I think is powerful for keeping an accurate and fundamental understanding of our leadership lane. (Lane: defined as the straight and narrow path of which you are uniquely called.)
There are at least 7 amazing leadership principles from John chapter 3 and it starts off with one of the most amazing proclamational statements about identity I have ever heard of.
It comes from John 1.
Basically John is doing his thing (the whole wilderness stream-side baptism deal).
People are coming to him from literally every walk of life. Soldiers, tax collectors, your everyday Jew, which is an impressive sight unto itself. (Because it makes an early statement of how the Church is composed of people who are welcome… from every possible walk.)
But apparently there are some other, more “hardcore,” Jews who come up on John with a line of questioning (from their higher-ups) about who John is proclaiming to be…
Like ‘we’ve heard about you… there’s rumors… what’s up… who are you… are you someone special that was foretold about in the scriptures of old?’
To which John does something amazing… he says:
23 …in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”
ONE: Leaders stake a claim.
The way he stakes a claim in his founded and true God-breathed identity is just remarkable.
The boldness and confidence to stake an Old Testament prophecy for yourself, that was all yours… I just can’t even imagine what that must have been like…
Today, staking a claim could look like all sorts of things, mostly though it has to do with the all-out stubborn resistance to compromise your commissioning. It could mean:
- refusal to make unethical decisions or go along with unethical practice
- refusal to settle for a job that is not your lane
- refusal to water down what you were called to produce
But we have to start there, because it shows you just how much of a direct and crystal clear understanding he had about himself, his namesake and his life’s work.
But he goes on in chapter 3 and says some things that should give every leader pause about their identity, calling and lane.
23 At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there; and people kept coming to him for baptism. 24 (This was before John was thrown into prison.)
TWO: Leaders go for broke
It’s kind of sad actually but I fear for most of us “career christians,” this whole ‘getting carted off to prison’ thing becomes quite unsurprising to us…
Partly, I presume, because we have read the other instances in the Gospels where this was frequently taking place but also for a much more profound reason:
We have virtually no frame of reference for what it would mean or look like: having a willingness to go to these depths for our faith, our Jesus, for the saving of this world.
Something that John reminds us about leadership is the absolute comfort and familiarity around death and dying…
death and dying to oneself,
death and dying to ones resources,
death and dying to all the things we may hold dear for the greatest cause there ever was.
25 A debate broke out between John’s disciples and a certain Jew over ceremonial cleansing. 26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
THREE: Focus on the real target (which is never you)
Another temptation, as someone who was raised in the church, is to succumb to the notion that some Apostles and Prophets spoken about in the Bible are untouchable.
Untouchable meaning: we fail to take into consideration their humanity in light of their authority, their inerrancy, their word or deed.
I think we do a disservice to ourselves (and others!) if we neglect one of the most contextual pieces for interpreting scripture: the fact that every Biblical icon, besides Jesus, was still a human being full of sin and general shortcomings!
I think we see that here in the way that John’s disciples were fiercely loyal to him even to the point of becoming envious and spiteful of Jesus attracting away their crowds!
To their credit, Jesus was still a new figure and the fact of him being the one and true Messiah was far from widely accepted at this point, but maybe, just maybe we see here a glimpse of how John could have done a better job pointing his fiercest companions toward the ultimate target and not his charismatic self.
Also, it’s a powerful reminder that it’s never about the crowds. It’s always about people. Good leaders know the difference.
27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.
FOUR: Understand that YOU ultimately don’t produce results.
There is one source and giver of all things and that’s God. As leaders we need this pride check: Every. Single. Day.
28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’
FIVE: All the work we do here is just about preparing the way
We are given a limited time here on earth, truly in the scope of eternity… so what does preparing the way look like for you.
As leaders we really must get busy living or get busy dying and SETTLING on devotion to your lane is a form of slow death.
29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success.
SIX: part 1, descend into obscurity
Notice that it says bridegroom’s FRIEND… it doesn’t even say ‘best man’ or ‘first mate’ or ‘fellow priest;’ it says “friend!”
I was taught one invaluable principle for officiating weddings and it was this: become invisible. This day is not about you so do your best to prop up the bride and groom and then fade into obscurity.
This is our call in leadership, it is a lane of assuming humility.
30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
SEVEN: part 2, descend into obscurity
This last verse is one of my favorite throughout the whole of the Bible. I think it is because I am so aware of how prideful and selfish I truly am.
I need this verse as a daily mantra.
I need this verse before and after every meeting with a leader.
I need this verse before and after I step on stage to preach.
I need this verse before I walk in the door at home and before I step out in the morning.
I need this verse when I rise and when I lay my head.
This is it. It’s everything… He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. He must become enlarged in my life and the life of others around me and I must be reduced to insignificance.