“Not so with you.” They are four little words that appear in Matthew 20 but which ought to dominate the way we think about leadership in the church. Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the way the church and the kingdom works, how it functions, how it is led. And he contrasts the worldly way of doing leadership with the way of leading in the kingdom.
The leaders of the Gentiles lord it over them, they act as tyrants. Having reached the top and gained position and influence and prestige they use it, they tell others what to do. But says Jesus not so with you. You are not to lead like that. Leadership, and life, in the church is to follow Jesus pattern, he came to serve not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t helpful things we can learn from the way leadership operates in the world, there are. But it does mean that those leadership lessons mustn’t just be cut and pasted from the world into the church without being sifted and weighed by God’s people in light of God’s world. That means we must take time to work out what the world looks for in a leader and what the church looks for in a leader, because often we get the two confused and look for the same things in the church as in the world, when we do that it ought not to surprise us when they rule like a tyrant, when it’s their way or the highway. That lesson is made plain in 1 Samuel when Israel want a king just like the other nations and end up with a king just like the other nations and it doesn’t end well.
Instead the model Jesus gives us is servant leadership. Not sappy leadership, not soft leadership, but servant leadership. Leadership that knows the truth and holds to the truth but is liberated by the gospel from a quest to obtain security through reputation or position or success via leadership because they have found their security in Christ who gave himself as a ransom for them. Leaders must have a secure grasp on the gospel and it’s implications for them so that it is where their security is found. It alone liberates them to lead like Jesus, serving at cost to self, bearing with, gently correcting, being willing to bear questioning, and loving even when people misunderstand or mishear.
The key to being able to lead like Jesus is to root our identity and security so deeply in Jesus that we are liberated to serve others but not seek security in others approval or our reputation.
‘Not so with you’. How is your leadership? How is your playing your part in the church is it marked by these same things?