By BARBARA LOWNSBURY
Leadership is a heavy mantle that sometimes we wear too lightly. While I never want my role as a leader to feel overwhelming, or worse, carry it as if it were mine to bear, I view it with sober judgement. As a ministry leader, I carry people’s hopes, fears, dreams and devastations in my hands. It doesn’t matter if I am dealing with them directly or indirectly. Whenever I assume the role of “leader,” my words and my actions carry more weight, whether I’m speaking to a crowd of thousands or passing by quickly in the hallway. Yes, everyone (usually) knows I put my pants on the same way they do – one leg at a time. Still, there is no denying the impact a leader makes, whether for good or for bad. And sometimes both, simultaneously.
Two scriptures immediately come to mind. The first, by the Apostle Paul, comes after a long, long list of his sufferings for Christ. He wraps it up in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 by saying, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Paul doesn’t think, Ah, well. I tried. They’re accountable for the own actions before the Lord. I don’t need to care or worry. It is clear he loves the people he is serving, and takes ownership of their spiritual journey with the heart of a father towards his children.
The idea of not just caring for those within your sphere of influence, but caring deeply, can quickly get overwhelming to me if I don’t immediately place it in the context of the next scripture: 2 Cor 2:14-17: “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.”
The victory in people’s lives rests firmly in God’s hands. My job is to fully lean into Him, remembering it is He who directs my steps and guides me, and to keep my heart sincere before Him. As I share and move and be, God is shining through. My love for others, the words I share and the actions I take then stem from a position of humble and faithful obedience. I don’t have to “perform.” Rather, I serve with humility and compassion, leading from a position of meekness. It’s like one beggar sharing a piece of bread with another beggar. It’s the bread that matters. Whether the other beggar accepts it or not—embraces the Lord or not—is out of my control. Jesus is the bread of life, not me. When I remember that, the unhealthy pressure dissipates, and I can continually offer the bread freely with a sincere heart.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT While you might not think of yourself as a leader, the truth is we all wear that title in one form or another. Whether it’s with your family, your friends, your children or your co-workers, there are people who look to you for guidance and direction. Spend some time today reflecting on your leadership roles and how God can grow them.
PRAYER Lord, I am humbled that you choose to use me, flawed though I am. Help me to remember that it’s not up to me to make things happen. That’s Your job. Instead, help me to focus on giving my best effort to honor You, knowing Your grace covers the gaps in my leadership, and help me to continue to grow to become more like you. May I reflect the aroma of Christ as I go about my day to those around me. Amen.