There is a sobering phrase in Luke 7:30 which tells us that “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves”. Their response to Jesus is contrasted with the response of those who embraced God’s way of righteousness.
The Pharisees and other religious leaders had every opportunity to learn from Jesus and lead like Him, but they did not lead the way they should have. They squandered their positions of leadership. They missed the opportunity to embrace the purpose of God for themselves and thereby make an impact for the Kingdom. Why? We can’t know for certain, but perhaps it was because of pride. Maybe they thought they already knew what to do. Maybe they relied on their religious education instead of sitting and listening to Jesus. Maybe they thought they knew better than Jesus. Maybe sometimes we think the same things.
If we do not want to miss leadership opportunities like the pharisees did, then we must humbly embrace the purpose of God for ourselves. One way for us to know God’s purpose for us as leaders is to look to Jesus as our example for how to lead.
The Pharisees often were prideful leaders. In contrast, Jesus was a servant leader. He led by serving. He served the disciples by cooking fish for them (John 21), by washing their feet (John 13), and, ultimately, by sacrificing His very life for them on the cross. He also continuously modeled servant leadership for the disciples by meeting the needs of people he encountered. If we are going to lead like Jesus, then we must be servant leaders, not prideful leaders.
We also must be willing to do what we are asking those under our leadership to do. This kind of leadership is what Jesus modeled for us. Like Him, we must be willing to cook, clean up messes, and sacrifice of ourselves. While it is unlikely that we will be called to sacrifice our very lives for those we serve, we must be willing to be inconvenienced, to give of our time, to share what we have, and to get our hands dirty when needed. Jesus’ example points us toward the purpose of God for ourselves.
Beyond following Jesus’ example of serving, how can we know the God’s purpose for us as leaders? If we are seeking wisdom in any area of life, including how to lead well, James tells us to ask of God “who gives generously to all without reproach,” and it will be given to us (1:5).
We can find wisdom by praying for guidance, by reading God’s Word, and by seeking Godly counsel from other Christ followers. We can learn how to lead well by bathing our leadership in prayer. Reading God’s Word will point us to both godly and ungodly examples of leadership from which we can learn. Seeking counsel from other ministry leaders can help us gain valuable feedback about our own leadership. Ultimately, to benefit from any of these endeavors, we need to be listening intently.
The Pharisees failed to listen. They were so busy spouting off their rules that they didn’t take time to listen and learn from the greatest of all leaders who was teaching right in front of them. We must pause in the busyness of our leadership roles and listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Whether that guidance comes through prayer, the Bible, or the input of others, we have to take time to hear it.
If we are going to embrace the purpose of God for our lives as leaders, we must serve like Jesus, pray for guidance, read God’s Word, seek counsel from other leaders, and take time to listen. Embracing God’s purpose means humbly leading like Jesus.