“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1) Not long ago, I read an article on leadership and was impacted by the following statement: “Poor leadership cripples businesses, ruins economies, destroys families, loses wars, and can bring the demise of nations.” That is a fair assessment. The quality of leadership is vital in almost every human endeavour. In the beginning of the book of Romans, we get a personal glimpse of the Apostle Paul. He gives his credentials for why he has the right to be heard and from where he has authority to “bring about the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). We notice that he is an apostle, and as such, is given unique authority over the church that no one else has. We would call him a leader. What kind of a leader is he? There are eight times throughout the New Testament where Paul urges his readers to imitate him. His leadership was such that his personal example produced the greatest results. Paul learned his leadership style from Jesus. That’s why he didn’t just say “Imitate me.” He said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
What is Christ’s style of leadership? Yes, all authority in heaven and earth is given to Him. Yes, in the end every knee will bow to Him – some to everlasting joy and others to everlasting contempt. The day will come when He rules the nations with a rod of iron. When we think of Jesus, we need to remember that He is one who has genuine power. However, during this dispensation, He has clothed Himself in humility. Listen to what Jesus said about leadership in the present hour: “You know that the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28) So Paul starts his letter to the Romans by also describing himself as “a servant.” He has learned his leadership style from Jesus, and his example reminds us exactly of the kind of leadership Jesus gave and principles that all of us can seek to imitate. Now there are those who hear this and will say, “But I am not a leader.” Perhaps you are thinking only of formal or authoritative leadership – like a political leader, a business or corporate leader, a coach in athletics or a church leader, or even a military leader. Perhaps that is all you think of when you hear the word “leadership.” But you have missed part of what being a leader is.
Leadership is influence. It is not only a person with a title, or a person who has the power to make others do something they would never do on their own. The power to make others do something is one kind of leadership to be sure. A dictator can make others do something they wouldn’t normally do, and that power is in the strength of His might, and in His power over life and death. Jesus adopted a very different approach to leadership than anyone had ever seen. He led by showing His deep care for the flock by serving and washing His disciples’ feet and laying down His life so that we can be forgiven and made whole. This kind of leadership has its own power and authority. This kind of leadership is available for all of us to imitate.
APPLICATION: If leadership is influence, think about what kind of leader you are today. As we reflect on what godly leadership looks like, let us also reflect on how we can better be imitators of Paul, as he was of Christ. How can we show humility and care for God’s people?
“BE IMITATORS OF ME, AS I AM OF CHRIST.” (1 COR. 11:1)
Dr. John Neufeld
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