By Lindsey Bell
I’m a stay-at-home mom. There are some weeks I don’t see anything except the walls of our home and the things and people who reside there. On weeks like these, it’s tempting to think I’m not a leader. After all, whom can I lead from inside my home other than my children?
What I must realize, though, is that those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus are leaders—whether we feel like it or not. Maybe you’re a schoolteacher or a manager at a local furniture store. Maybe you’re a nurse or retired from the military. Maybe you’re a policeman or waitress. Regardless of what you do for a living, you are a leader.
If you follow Jesus Christ, people will look to you as an example. When difficulties come your way, they will look to see how a Christian reacts. When temptation taunts you, they will watch to see how you respond. People are watching. You are leading.
The question is not if, but how we will lead. Will we lead those around us to the Father or will we lead them away from him? Though there are many leaders from whom we could learn, one leader surpasses them all—Jesus Christ. Jesus did many things that made him an excellent leader. Let’s consider three.
Jesus Made Prayer a Priority
When I face a difficult decision, I tend to do two things: worry and seek advice. Though there is nothing wrong with seeking advice (in fact, it’s both biblical and wise to find godly mentors), there is something wrong when we look to others before looking to the Lord. When our gut reaction is to run to a friend rather than to the Father, we’ve gotten our priorities mixed up.
God shouldn’t be our last resort. He wasn’t for Jesus. When faced with a difficult decision, Jesus ran to the Father first. He didn’t seek advice from his parents or from the religious leaders of the day. And he most definitely didn’t worry—something that has become an epidemic among American Christians.
You don’t have to search hard to discover what Jesus thinks about worry. Look, for instance, at Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
It couldn’t be clearer. Worry is sin. It’s taking something you can’t control and trying to control it. It’s focusing on your fear so much that you take your eyes off the Father. Jesus didn’t worry when he faced a big decision or difficulty. Instead, he brought his decision before the Lord in prayer.
One such example of this was in Luke 6. As Jesus prepared to choose his 12 disciples, he “went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). I can’t think of the last time I stayed up all night praying about something. Maybe if I did, I’d spend less time worrying and more time doing what God wants me to do.
Those who lead like Jesus make prayer a priority. They don’t worry about the decisions that need to be made or the difficulties in their path. They don’t lean exclusively on those around them. They lean on God and trust him with the results.
Jesus Loved the Unlovable
Leaders who lead like Jesus also love the unlovable. Let’s be honest. Some people you work with—and maybe even live with—are difficult. Most likely some of the people you go to church with rub you the wrong way. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus’ disciples made it difficult for him to work with them.
I have to assume a few of them did. After all, Jesus was fully human. He experienced the same emotions and struggles we experience. Many of his disciples were strong willed and opinionated. You can imagine some of the arguments that might have surfaced between a tax collector, a zealot, and two men who were known as “sons of thunder.”
Nonetheless, Jesus loved these men. He even loved the man who would later betray him. In John 13, shortly before his death, Jesus “showed [the disciples] the full extent of his love” (John 13:1, NIV 1984). Can you imagine? Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him. He also knew Peter was going to deny him and the other disciples were going to run away in fear. Even with this knowledge he showed his love to these men through the humble act of washing their feet.
Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery when no one else would. He loved the Samaritan woman. He loved the rich young ruler. He loved—and touched—outcasts the rest of society avoided. Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty or damage his reputation. His priority was to love the world he came to save.
Sometimes I wonder about us, though. We don’t want to look bad so we avoid talking to the provocatively dressed woman who is sitting alone at church. We’re too busy to notice the man on the street corner who is holding a sign that reads, “Anything helps.” Leaders love when it’s easy, but also when it’s difficult. When it fits into their schedules, but also when it’s inconvenient.
Jesus Wasn’t Afraid to Confront
A third thing that made Jesus a great leader was his willingness to confront. I don’t think Jesus enjoyed confrontation. He didn’t get pleasure from proving his enemies wrong. (If he did, he certainly would have rubbed his resurrection in their faces, don’t you think?) Jesus didn’t confront for an ego boost.
He confronted for the sole purpose of bringing people closer to the Father. When the woman caught in adultery was brought before him, Jesus challenged those who were without sin to throw the first stone. As the men slowly stepped away, Jesus said these beautiful words to the broken woman before him: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Jesus responded, “Then neither do I condemn you
. . . . Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:10, 11).
I wish we knew the rest of this story and what happened to the woman. I have a guess, though. I think she walked away from her sinful lifestyle and followed Jesus. I think she was there when he died, maybe even there when he rose from the dead.
Jesus confronted sin when it was necessary but he did it with a humble spirit and loving heart. Leaders today who want to lead like Jesus will do likewise.
Jesus was the greatest leader who ever lived, one whose impact is still felt all over the world today. I wonder what would happen if we followed in his footsteps. If we prayed like he prayed, loved like he loved, and challenged like he challenged. One thing I know for sure: if we led like Jesus, we’d have a lot more followers.
Lindsey Bell is a freelance writer in Carterville, Missouri.
Watch and Learn: Video Lessons on Leading Like Jesus
“Lead Like Jesus” by Ken Blanchard
“Leading Like Jesus” by Rick Warren