What Is Leadership?
Pastor John, I have a leadership question for you, and it’s a really foundational question. Broadly speaking, how do you define leadership? What does godly leadership look like? And what does godly leadership aim to achieve?
I would define leadership as acting and speaking so as to create a following toward a goal. That would be the most generic way I could think of explaining it, which, of course, is morally neutral. I haven't said anything about what makes it Christian or godly, but that is what it would be wherever you talk about it. It seems like how you act and how you speak so as to create a following toward a goal.
Distinctly Christian Leadership
Then, what makes that Christian or godly or biblical, it seems, is first that the goal is defined by Scripture. You want to take people, move people toward godliness, towards worship, towards honoring Jesus, towards loving people.
Secondly, what makes it Christian would be that you care that the following you are trying to create be every people and tongue and tribe and nation. In other words, you are not prejudicial. You don’t want just the really cool people to get behind you. That would be an ungodly leadership if you said, “I want to lead people, but the only people I want behind me, following me are people who are so rich or so famous or so cool that they reflect well upon me in that way.” You don’t have that attitude at all. You want the people following you to be of all kinds of people without that kind of prejudicial partial bit.
The third thing would be that the things you do, your acting and speaking to get a following to go toward a goal, well, those kinds of actings and that kind of speaking is going to have a certain flavor to it if we are being guided by the Scriptures. Jesus said, all the nations are trying to get people to bow to their authority and yield to them, and you should not be like that. But he who would be great among you must be the servant of all.
So this leadership is going to have a servant quality about it, a humble quality about it. It is going to be trying to get under people and lift them up to something good as their servant rather than getting over people and oppressing and manipulating and using them to accomplish your private ends.
So it seems like those three things. The goal, the breadth of the following, the humility and the servant quality of the acting, takes this definition and makes it Christian by defining all of those according to the Bible.
Bending Low to Lift Up
It seems like in our culture there is an animosity toward leadership because leadership is agenda driven, and it seems the self-giving nature of leadership is a really key element. Any thoughts on that?
Piper: Christian leadership is acting and speaking to create a following toward a goal, all defined by the Bible.
Yeah, totally. I agree exactly. For example, when we tried to lead people to be engaged in the pro-life movement more actively on the ground, it was clear that the more humble, the more ready to suffer, the more caring, the more empathetic that leadership was, the more authentic it was, the more ready people were to follow. But if it was strident and forceful and mean-spirited, then people said, “I don’t want anything to do with that.”
So I think Jesus dictated for us not only what is God-honoring, but what is effective when people are really are looking for authentic leadership. They are not looking for people who are on an ego trip, who want to have a big following because it keeps their ego satisfied. They are looking for people who have been satisfied by Jesus. He is their identity, and they want others to enjoy that.
And to that end, they are willing to get down low. They are willing to be patient. They are willing to wait. They are willing to serve. And people can smell that, and they really do love it. They are ready, I think, to get behind somebody like that.