A Failure to Lead is a Failure to Follow
by Joseph Franks
Men, we are called to follow Jesus.
He is our Savior, Shepherd, and King. He has all wisdom, power, and authority. And Jesus the King of kings and Lord of lords bids us follow. Sometimes his directions are clear and delightful. At other times his ways are foggy and dangerous. However, he is our Sovereign and we are his subjects. Therefore, we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him regardless of the cost.
Men, we are called to lead.
As Christian fellows, we are called to wear ourselves out being “fishers of men.” God is very interested in watching us ambitiously seek to bring lost and hurting people to the cross. As men, we are to lead people to Jesus.
We are to lead people on ball fields, on battle fields, and in boardrooms. Whether a sports team captain, a company lieutenant, or a corporate chief executive officer, we are to be faithful stewards of all the opportunities given us by God. We are to influence, and pursue success while loving our brothers and giving glory to God. As men, we are to look for opportunities to lead.
At home, our Commander and Chief has called us to lead our wives and children. We are to do so in a way that points them and others to Jesus. When people see our marital leadership, they are to smile and say, “That is so much like my Lord.” And we are to be evangelistic educators in the way we fulfill our fatherly roles. Yes, our children are to learn much about the loving leadership of their Heavenly Father as they experience the loving leadership of their earthly dad. Men, we are called to be the shepherding leaders in our homes.
The same holds true in the various churches of Jesus Christ. The Chief Shepherd calls men to selflessly lead and serve those under their care. Elders and deacons are to preach, teach, counsel, encourage, admonish, disciple, equip, support, and administrate. Like Jonathan, they are to give up all they have and are to promote the interest of God. Like Jesus, they are to take up the basin and the towel and serve the brotherhood. Like Stephan, they are to die proclaiming God’s truth. Elders and deacons are to be men, and they are to lead. And they are to do so after the model and message of Jesus Christ — the perfect male leader.
Men, when we fail to lead, we fail to follow.
We are poor followers of Jesus and poor leaders in our communities. Our lack of evangelistic zeal is an act of rebellion. The same can be said of our pitiful stewardship in our schools, on our teams, in our squadrons, within our companies, outside in the community, and any other public place where God has granted us an opportunity to influence.
We are poor followers of Jesus and poor leaders in our homes. God sees all we think, say, and do, and he is angry at the sin of the domineering or distant patriarch. It is a horrible sin to be placed by God in a position of household leadership and then fail to lead according to God’s Law.
Additionally, Jesus Christ hates the sins committed in his church by pathetic churchmen.
What’s the deal?
Too often, we are exemplified by the language used by Paul in the second chapter of Philippians:
- We are conceited
- We are selfishly ambitious
- We count ourselves more significant than others
- We look only after our own interests
- We have no interest in being self-humbled, self-sacrificing, servants
- We have no interest in leading as did Jesus — the perfect man
We are conceited and selfish men, overly passionate about our own significance and interests, and too uninterested in the affairs of Jesus and our neighbors. We are men who will not follow Jesus, and therefore we are men who will not properly lead. And this manifests itself in two forms of failed leadership:
First, because we are arrogant, we are often abusive. Yes, because we are conceited and selfish men, we have a wicked tendency to use our time, energy, health, skills, intellect, money, power, opportunities, and influence to serve ourselves. Therefore, instead of feeding the flock we are fleecing the sheep. Though called to be servants, we proclaim ourselves to be lords. And according to Jesus, this is the sinful mantra of the Gentiles and not the manner of those infected with the Gospel. This abusive form of self-serving leadership is seen in Ahab who stole Naboth’s reputation, life, and vineyard. It is also seen in the Pharisees who demanded of their parishoners high titles, chief seats, and unquestioned allegiance. Men, this form of leadership is so displeasing to the Lord and so dangerous to his friends. Such dictatorial, self-serving leadership is harmful to his name, his image, and his people. When we are arrogantly abusive, we prove to not follow Jesus.
Second, because we are arrogant, we are often apathetic. Because we are conceited and selfish men, some of us sin on the other side of the spectrum. We express our self-love by being too passive, too absent, to weak, and too mousy. Therefore, because we overvalue the applause of men, we will make all our decisions to make sure we get one more pat on the back or handclap. Or, because we overvalue the absence of friction, we refuse to speak forth truth that might irritate. Yes, because we like the easy road and smooth sailing, and because we love ourselves, we will consistently forsake that which is hard but best honors Christ and improves his people. My fellow passive leaders, this too stems from pride. This too is unloving. This too is wickedness, and the Lord detests such sins.
Therefore, what ought we to do?
We need to follow Jesus, sit at his feet, hear him present the Law, and confess our transgressions. Admit it! In many ways we have been arrogantly abusive in our leadership. In other ways we have been arrogantly apathetic. Men, let us not excuse these sins any longer. Let us contemplate and confess our failure to follow Jesus and lead properly.
Then, we need to follow Jesus, sit at his feet, hear him present the Gospel, and rejoice in his unconditional affection. Jesus was our faithful leader and servant. He humbled himself and took on a human soul and body. He served, obeyed, and earned the all the merit we needed. He then suffered a cruel death on a Roman cross and paid for our demerit. In doing so, he perfectly satisfied all the just requirements of our Heavenly Father. Therefore, in Christ Jesus, our record of failed leadership has been adjusted. Now, in the Father’s eyes we look good and from the Father’s mouth we hear, “Well done!” Yes, only because of the leadership of Jesus, we have been declared to be good neighbors, captains, lieutenants, executives, husbands, fathers, elders, deacons, and leaders.
Now, we get to follow Jesus, sit at his feet, hear him present the Law, and get busy supplicating and worshiping. Through prayer and Spirit-led self-discipline, we can learn to live like the good neighbor, team captain, lieutenant, CEO, husband, father, elder, deacon, or leader we have been declared to be. As we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will find ourselves less and less focusing upon ourselves. As we read and pray, we will find ourselves more interested in the affairs of Jesus and others than in our own. Yes, as we follow Jesus today, we will find ourselves being less arrogant, then we will find ourselves being less abusive or apathetic. As followers, we will become leaders, and those who share life with us will give thanks to God for both our following and our leading.
Brothers, this is our calling; this is our privilege; this is our duty; this is our mission! Let us get over ourselves. Let us say no to another day of selfish ambition and conceit. Let us consider others more significant than ourselves. Let us look after their interests. Let us be godly men passionate about following and leading. Your world, your home, and your church are in great need of Christ-honoring, Christ-like male leadership.