I am back home, recovering from my month-long choir tour. Yes, there is some recovery to be achieved. Event planning and touring require intense effort. You are always on call, constantly strategizing how to get from here to there in a timely manner, planning where you will feed 42 people and sweating the daily details. This morning I sent out my first Bible study in a month and I missed writing, yet there was barely time to eat let alone write. I take off today for a week of ministry in Grand Junction, Colorado, but have a lot of catching up to do today before I leave.
I've been meditating and reflecting on Luke 22:24-27 again this week. In case you don't remember, this is what Jesus said in those verses:
Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."
These verses contain Jesus' leadership philosophy and expectations for those whom He calls to lead. In my limited experience, service is the only way a leader can keep from being enamored and addicted to power and prestige. I drove a truck this past month for a choir, many of whom were younger than I. Yet my leadership role, if indeed I had one, was from the driver's seat, not from a limousine. I had no "armor bearer." I bore the armor, along with the luggage and personal effects, for others.
It occurred to me one day while driving that I have never seen any spiritual leader repent of an abuse of power in my 34 years in the Church. I have seen leaders repent of sexual sin and others repent for money mismanagement. Yet I have never heard anyone get up and say, "I need to repent today because I abused the power that God gave me to lead. I have taken advantage of people. I have assumed the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of my followers. I was mean and made people serve my agenda and whims in an ungodly way. I'm sorry, I ask your forgiveness and seek your prayers for the grace to change." Maybe it has happened and I never heard about it. I hope so.
There was a movie a few years ago with Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer called The Ghost and The Darkness. It was the story of the lions of Tsavo, two man-eating lions who were hunted and killed in the film. It is said that a lion who has tasted human blood must be tracked and killed, for it will prefer humans to any other prey from that point on. It is the same with leadership. Once someone has tasted the power in controlling or ruling another, it is almost impossible to turn back. Instead, there is only a taste for more and more power, even if that person started out being a servant of Jesus.
Luke 22 isn't a leadership option, it is a leadership standard set and modeled by Jesus Himself. We cannot measure anyone's leadership by their number of followers or success achieved. We must measure it by the standard set in Luke 22:24-27. And that standard is measured by one thing and one thing only: service to other people. Yet when you talk service among leaders, you almost invariably hear, "Yes, but someone must be in charge or there will be chaos." With those words, we tend to dismiss or excuse the lack of practical service that exists among spiritual leaders. With those words, we also accept abuse of power by leaders as a necessary evil; without it, the prevailing wisdom dictates that no one will be in charge and thus nothing will get done.
If I asked you today to give yourself a score from one to ten (one being poor and ten being exceptional) where Luke 22 is concerned, what would it be? Are you happy with that score? How could it improve in the next 60 days? Can you kill or at least control the lion in you that is in all of us, the lion that wants to rule others and have power? I hope you can, but the bigger problem is not whether you can do this. The problem is whether I can do this in and for myself.