The 5 ‘C’s of Jesus-Shaped Leadership: Part 1 (by Manik Corea)

Last week, we began this series by affirming that Jesus’ view of Christian leadership is the one that counts, and if we are going to raise disciple-making leaders for God’s mission in church and world, then no other view ultimately counts.

Additionally, we saw from Jesus’ teaching example that in His (glorious) opinion, great leaders are great servants.

Since every Christian leader is always a disciple first, therefore the prototype of leadership for every Christian leader is Christ himself, since leaders are first and foremost, disciples of Jesus. And Jesus modeled servant-leadership.

In the historic churches therefore, one is always ordained to the diaconate as a deacon first, prior to ordination as a presbyter or elder. The call to lead is always at the base level, a call to serve. Leadership is diakonia or service.

Today, we begin to look specially at what I call the 5 ‘C’s of Jesus-shaped leadership – five critical elements that constitute divinely approved and inspired leadership in Scripture and history. The first of this is ‘Call’.

God, rich in grace and mercy, calls us to himself. Disciples are those who respond in repentance and faith. Similarly, leadership is first and foremost the call of God to a man or a woman towards a godly task and vocation. It is not a job for hire. No prophet or apostle in the Scriptures ever applies to be one. God calls, and still does, and part of the call of the church at last, is to exercise a godly discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, to which amongst us are called to exercise leadership.

Disciples and leaders, like sheep, are safe so long as they learn to heed the call of their Master and Chief Shepherd.  

Years ago, when I was an under-graduate studying in London, I went with an international student group to stay on a farm in Cornwall, in South-West England – a novel experience for city-folk like me. One of our fellow students, a fine Christian man, was a farmer there. He was into poultry farming but also kept a flock of sheep. We had a great time visiting the flock with him. We noticed the sheep responded to a distinctive sound he made to call them. I remember a few of us trying to imitate the calling sound he made, but none of the sheep were deceived to follow us.

They had come to know the voice of their shepherd (John 10:4-5; 16). Jesus-shaped leadership flourishes when we develop an ear for hearing and obeying the voice of God. This must be clear and discern-able.

We know from the Gospels that Jesus had a habit of spending alone time with his Father in prayer (Luke 5:16 – something he taught disciples to do in Matthew 6:8). I find it interesting that Luke tells us that Jesus spent a night in prayer prior to calling and appointing his twelve disciples (Like 6:12-16). Why did he spend the night in prayer? I believe that the choice of his closest companions in ministry was a matter of vital importance to Jesus, and he diligently sought the Father’s mind on this, interceding for those so-called.

Consequently, every instance of the appointing of leaders (elders, deacons, etc) in the book of Acts is done in the context of prayer and often, fasting – Acts 1:23-26; 6:6; 13:3; 14:23. We don’t simply elect the leaders among us – we seek to discern God’s call and appointment on those he’s chosen. This was no flippant exercise of popularity, but a discerning of who God has called.

One qualifies for leadership only if one can prove a call from God. J. Oswald Sanders in his classic treatise on the subject, wrote that ‘Spiritual leaders are not elected, appointed, or created by synods or churchly assemblies. God alone makes them. One does not become a spiritual leader by merely filling an office, taking course work in the subject, or resolving in one’s own will to do this task. A person must qualify to be a spiritual leader.’ The call of God must be discerned or be clear in us. Whom God calls, he qualifies.

The clear evidence of a calling we receive to leadership is shown in the next ‘C’ on our list – character, which we will discuss next week.

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The 5 ‘C’s of Jesus-Shaped Leadership: Part 1 (by Manik Corea)

Jesus-shaped Leaders (by Manik Corea)

Discipleship can be defined as the redemptive process of learning to look at the world through the eyes of Jesus. It is coming to see all of life from the Father’s point of view and for his glorious ends, as Jesus did (John 5:19-20, 6:38). We are called likewise in Scripture to view people, our circumstances and the world from an altogether different vantage point than the world does (see 2 Corinthians 4 and 5, Colossians 3:1, 2).

In the Gospels, the teaching, parables and sterling example of Jesus often challenged the disciples to see things from a completely different standpoint, one that did not come naturally to them. Old habits die hard, but die they must, if the new is to prosper.

Indeed, for us to become bona-fide disciples, we will need new eyes – bereft and healed of our myopia and blindness from the cataract-like effects of sin and self-centeredness. These prevent clear sight and right response to the will and ways of God. We need sight that Jesus supernaturally bestows and restores, not merely improves – so that we can truly say, ‘I was blind, but now I see’.

But seeing afresh with new eyes is a challenge because we have gotten so used to seeing ourselves and the world about us through bad eyes in the dark night of sin. Too many of our perceptions and underlying beliefs have been framed and informed by years of following the notions and distortions afforded by faulty vision.

A case in point is the popular understanding of leadership versus Jesus’ startling teaching about it. In this next series of blogs, I want to take a look at some biblical principles and insights regarding a kingdom understanding on the call and role of leaders in the church and mission of God. I am calling it ‘Jesus-shaped leadership.’

Jesus saw leadership very differently from the way it is viewed in our world. In our world, it is all about power, influence and achievement– how high you got in order to dominate (negatively) or command (positively) people, where the loci of influence is your leadership style, personality and competence.

Jesus taught and modeled a different way of leadership that was not simply about the use (or abuse) of power for personal or instrumental benefit or corporate profit. Instead, it had godly influence and purpose, with an other-person focus. He defined it strictly in terms of ‘servanthood’ – the helping and building up of others in love and truth.

In the church therefore, leadership isn’t about how high your performance curve extends, but how low your service stoops.

Jesus’ object lesson on this is at the start of the Upper Room discourse, the night he is arrested and sentenced to die as recorded in John chapters 13-16. In John 13:1-17, Jesus does something which stuns his disciples. We read in verses 3 and 4 that Jesus, cognizant of his divine authority and soon-coming ascension, paradoxically rises to get basin and water to wash the feet of his disciples as only the lowliest of slaves would do.

Why this lesson, and why now? Perhaps the context for his action is in Luke’s account of their time in the upper room, where we read that there was a dispute among them about who is the greatest (Luke 22:24). Even at this desperate hour, they were still thinking about who gets positions and titles. Jesus called them (and calls us) not to seek for titles, but to serve with towels.

He drives home the intended teaching in John 13:14-15: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Jesus-shaped leadership confounds the strong and mighty of our world. Humility and lowly service, not power and authority, are its hall-marks.

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 11:43-45).

In Jesus’ eyes, to lead is to serve. No more, no less.

Jesus-shaped Leaders (by Manik Corea)