Leadership is a funny thing. Some folk are good at it and don’t realise it, while others are hopeless leaders but think they are wonderful. During my time in the Merchant Navy I had good and bad teachers. There was the captain who put on overalls and swept the holds when the crew went on strike. He taught me a lot about needing to get your hands dirty as a leader. Then there was the captain who didn’t trust the third mate and stayed up on the bridge all through the 8-12 watch, morning and night. The same captain could not stop interfering with the navigational equipment, which was my responsibility. Finding the sextants, dividers, and various other items covered in oil one morning was just one more challenge to my sanity as a young navigating officer. There is nothing like being undermined by a bad leader to damage one’s confidence.


Leadership is not just a challenge in our working lives. It is very much a challenge in our churches. We have paid and unpaid ministers, and unpaid elders and deacons who form the leadership team in the church I belong to. During a recent period of interregnum the leadership team functioned very effectively without a leader. How? Simple really: the team was comprised of people who were not afraid to get their hands dirty. Much of what they did was unseen and remains so. It is unlikely that most church members are aware of the many hours that the leaders spend quietly doing all the things that need to be done for the church to function. None are part of the team because they are seeking glory, or praise from others in the church. They act as servants instead of leaders, and through their acts of service lead by example. Most also hold down full time employment outside the church.

Scripture offers us a very different picture of leadership to the world. It is not one of an elite officer class of leaders, but one in which Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an example both to them and to us. Those same disciples and others who joined with them in the early church often suffered much for their faith and their faithful acts of service. They didn’t follow business plans, probably didn’t have much in the way of budgets, and lived without a formal system of appraisals. Yet increasingly it seems that business methodology is finding its way into the church. I know that there are legal obligations that need to be fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean that we turn the church into a business with a command structure and operating procedures to match. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be part of a church that follows the world instead of Jesus.

Jesus said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12 NIV)