Following to Lead

October 20, 2017

There is no shortage of opinions on those who lead or how one is to lead. The books and bandwidth that have been used to discuss or critique leadership can cause a person to lament with the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, “Meaningless! Meaningless! A chasing after the wind!”

The selections of Scripture for today, however, offer a helpful Biblical perspective, the base or foundation upon which true leadership rests.

Psalm 96 practically bursts with praise. It is a bright light which, in shining, points us to God, illuminating the darkness. All the other gods of this age or any age are just idols.

We need Psalm 96, because it is a reminder for us to seek the goodness of God. We live in a time in which our society moves from outrage to outrage, fueled by the never-ending thirst for news, real or fake. We feed on the rage for a time and we’re convinced of the righteousness of our opinions, but in the midst of these emotions we risk becoming a husk of ourselves, consumed by hate. We become like a flake of ash and ember, burned up and flamed out, carried by the wind. If we lead out of anger or fear, we forget that we are not our own.

Psalm 96 reminds me of the greater Story. While we might despair at the seeming hopelessness of things, this psalm reminds us that we have a God, glorious and strong. When we worship God, it doesn’t make trouble go away, but we are given a vision that truth, mercy, and grace triumphs in the end. We are able to center ourselves in God’s strength and to lead with hope.

In the passage from Deuteronomy, we remember who is in charge. As you read this passage, reflect on verse 16: “You are not to go back that way again.” As God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, we have been delivered by God from sin through Jesus Christ.

How do we remember that we are not to go back? The king was instructed to “write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law.” I imagine the king, high and mighty, sitting at a desk with ink-stained hands. In copying down each word, that Word became a part of him. He was to keep it with him and read it every day of his life. The king was to embody the Law, to literally live with the Word and, in doing so, to live out the Word.

I’ve encouraged the people I serve to read, as well as to live and live out the Word. Leaders should do the same. Devotionals can be an aid or can help us learn, but we should also learn to be comfortable with really reading Scripture—big chunks, chapters, and books in one reading—rather than just a verse or two and then a page of a devotional.

I am convinced that reading and hearing God’s Word changes us. Leaders, in following the pattern of the king in Deuteronomy, should not be strangers to that Word. Set aside the time. Give yourself the space. Sit down and be silent. Read. Remember your Maker.

Along with the passage from Deuteronomy, the 1 Peter passage reminds us that leadership is an act of service, not merely an exercise of power. There is authority given to those who lead, but that authority is to be used as an instrument to bless, not oppress.

For those who shepherd, the pattern of leadership is that of the Good Shepherd, with a balance of humility and authority. We are encouraged to be willing, eager examples for those whom God gives us the opportunity to lead.

To lead effectively, the flashy, bright-colored book that you might find on display in the airport bookstore might give you some helpful tips or ideas, but in my opinion, the texts today provide a template for something that has a far more lasting measure.

In leadership, but also in the whole of life, follow the pattern of the psalmist: seek the good with a heart of praise. Like the king, live in and live out the Word. Like the shepherd, lead with humility and service. In your service, God is glorified, and we are given a gracious and priceless gift. Whatever that crown of glory may look like, it will never fade.

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  1. Thanks for this, Pastor Todd. It offers a call to return to our steady, clear directions in a time when it can be difficult to see the road. Or, perhaps the perspective to pull back and see the entire map. Thank you for leading in your writing.