Being a leader, at least a Christian leader, is a very hard thing. It requires that you lead people through thought or deed. Being noticed by others comes with two great pitfalls. The first is that the more you are sought out, the more people desire what you have to say or how you direct others, the less time you have for solitude and for personal discernment. Second is that the longer you lead— if you don’t watch for it— the more you become addicted to the attention you get from leading. You become attached to the affirmation, the success, and the popularity (or the hatred you might spur on to stay in the spotlight). You become attached to your power, your ability to persuade or control the order of things. All of this attention feeds the ego.
True Christian leadership cannot exist from the ego. The longer you lead from an ego space, the longer you go on not being led. The job of the Christian leader is not to please the people who pay attention to you, but it is first to submit your leadership to God and to allow him to lead you. If Christ has redeemed history, if the Holy Spirit is renewing all things, then we are all vessels and it is God in us working through us. But, it is hard to be led when your ego will only allow you to serve yourself (after all, no man can serve two masters).
There are many obstacles within Christian leadership that get in the way of true transformation taking place (issues I’ll discuss throughout the week). But, we cannot truly allow God to transform us if we are now willing to let go of our personal ambitions and gains (ego), or without letting go of our shame and fear (also ego). We cannot properly serve God without a continual dying to ourselves. We cannot form communities of people if we will not let go of our ‘I’ and serve a greater ‘we’. For Christians in leadership, the greatest task is not of performance but of daily surrender and presence to God. Without this, it is we who will be getting in the way of his work getting done.
“Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness, because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.”-Henri Nouwen