In this Advent season as we anticipate Christmas, I have been reflecting on the great importance of humility. Since Jesus humbled himself and became one of us, it seems to me that Christian leadership and church ministry really ought to take some cues from the posture of our Lord.
Humility is the queen of all Christian virtue, especially that of leadership. Yet, humility is one of the hardest virtues to practice because it requires that we willingly put aside pride, ego, and personal agendas in order to embrace God’s agenda. Being poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3), becoming like a little child (Matthew 18:3), and thinking of others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) are the cornerstones to becoming open to what God has for us. To be a humble leader means to be obsessed with seeking God’s will and way in everything, and then to have the courage to lead others in God’s direction despite resistance and opposition from those who want to follow a different path.
Therefore our task as Christ followers is to be consumed with seeking God’s direction rather than living purely according to our instincts, pragmatic desires, and personal views. We continually need a radical openness to God. We must work to develop an ever-deepening awareness of where God is leading us. God is up to something and He has plans for us and our community. Humility allows us to listen well to God’s Spirit.
But being open to God is not quite as easy as it sounds. We need to recognize that not everyone is open to God. There are those, maybe even including ourselves, whom are closed to God. If our focus is more on creating safety and security, trying to do enough good deeds to be recognized by God and others, and having the church be what we want it to be, then we have become closed to what God wants. This comes out in a couple of different ways.
First, people who want to maintain tradition at all costs may be closed to God. When doing things the way we have always done them makes us feel safe and secure, then anything that threatens that security makes us angry. This is the place where folks practice either fight or flight – they wage either a holy war or just leave. Living with uncertainty and ambiguity is too much for them. But that is what it takes if we are going to follow God. Like Abraham, we are called to move and change without always knowing where we are going.
Second, it is not just members trying to maintain traditions who can be closed to God. Those who want to get rid of traditions can be just as closed off to God. Sometimes folks who want new or different music, spiritual practices, and ministries desire to create a church of their own making to serve them and their needs, and not a church that focuses on what God is calling them to do. Like Timothy, we are to hold onto the great deposit of doctrine and heritage given to us and not always be looking for the next new thing to turn things around.
So, what to do? Have the humility as leaders to continually and constantly ask the question: “What is God’s will?” We need to practice leadership that is incredibly open to God. This allows us to lead from a position of faith, and not fear. This helps us to let God flow in and through us, rather than willfully insisting it should be our way or the highway. This enables us to practice hope and love, and not rely on our own strength and desires. Humble leadership which is open to God makes prayer and discernment the foundation of what we do, always seeking what God wants and then leading others in that direction by inviting them to the same kind of prayerful process. We must read our Bibles as if our lives depended on it, and pray like there is no tomorrow.
If we have humility and a deep openness to God; a conviction that we are primarily called to follow Jesus Christ; a willingness to let God’s power flow through us; and, a determined readiness to move people lovingly and graciously in God’s direction, then amazing things can happen in our churches. Let our prayer together be this: “I’m yours, God, no matter where you call me to go, what you call me to do, and how you call me to be. I will seek your will and way as I lead others to do the same.”