In my last Monday Memo, I wrote about Paul and asked the question, "Why was Paul such a different leader than his contemporaries?" Of course the answer is "Jesus." But then that leads to another question of why the other leaders who also had "Jesus" didn't lead like Paul did.
I am still studying the question, but I have come to the conclusion that the answers are found in Paul's letter to the Philippian church, especially in chapter two. There Paul described Jesus' leadership style and went on to give examples of this same style in the lives of three men--Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Paul himself.
It seems that each one of these leader, starting with Jesus, emptied himself. How did they do this? First of all, we read about Jesus:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).
Then Paul gave his three examples of this principle of becoming nothing.
1. Paul: "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you" (2:17).
2. Timothy: "But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel" (2:22).
3. Epaphroditus: "Because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me" (2:30).
Jesus died on the cross, Paul was poured out, Timothy served and Epaphroditus risked his life. So now I am asking one more question: What proof is there in my own life of this principle of emptying myself as a leader following Jesus? What would Paul write about me if he knew me and my leadership work? If you wish, you can take it one step further and ask what would be said about you.
Theologians have debated for centuries what it means that Jesus "emptied himself" and "become nothing." I don't have centuries to debate this and I don't think God wants me to debate this principle, He wants me to apply this principle. I invite you to join with me as together we seek to be the leaders that God wants us to be -- leaders that mirror the leadership style of Jesus Himself.