“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)
In considering what it means to be to be an effective leader, I have come to understand that John 3:16 may very well be the best example of an effective leader. To be an effective leader, especially a Christian leader, we must surrender selfishness for generosity and focus on our obligations, our responsibilities, and our commitment on our parishioners and faith community at large. For it is not in building up our life, but in laying it down for the cause of Christ that best examples true Christian leadership. Effective leaders learn the needs of those who follow and exploit those needs, not for selfishness or evil, but in a manner that calls the follower to a higher good through common stimulation and elevation. Leaders must engage others in a way that elevates both the leader and the follower to a higher motivation and morality.
The power base of the leader and the follower link together, not as counterweights, but as mutual support for a common purpose of raising the morality level of human behavior. This action raises the ethical aspiration of the leader and the disciple, successfully transforming both the leader and the follower. This is an adversarial relationship of displayed love, not in our own understanding, but rather within the wisdom of God. This relation is adversarial because it rubs lives together like pages of sand paper in ways that friction, pain, and confusion often results. Effective leaders like effective parents are not afraid to raise difficult issues that present moments of uncomfortable challenges, moments in which God longs to move us to a higher spiritual level.
Peter pulled his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus. Peter did not like the truth of what God wanted for Jesus. Peter did not want to endure the pain of spiritual growth, the pain that required his Leader (Jesus Christ) to die. The problem was not with the Leader, the problem was with the disciple’s need for spiritual growth that allowed self to surrender to God’s will in his life, even when it was painful. The moment was tense as Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:23, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (NIV). The word Satan means adversary. When disciples “do not have in mind the things of God,” they become adversaries of effective leaders.
Effective Christian leaders must be willing to lay down their lives for the cause of Christ. This willingness must not be for selfish gain, but rather unselfish generosity based on love. God loved and therefore God gave himself as the incarnate Christ. As leaders, God uses us to help shape others in what is often an adversarial relationship. This is often extremely stressful for a loving leader willing to speak the truth to a selfish culture of disciples who believe themselves entitled to success without struggle, growth without pain, and heaven without sacrifice. As with Jesus, effective Christian leaders face betrayal, persecution, even the giving of their life, but it is done willingly and without selfish gain for the spiritual benefit of the individual disciple and the Kingdom at large – never for selfish gain of the leader.