Why asking “will it work?” is not a sufficient test of strategic decisions.
Over the years I have learned a variety of lessons concerning leadership, from many different people, operating in a variety of different spheres. In business, I witnessed those who led through dynamism. I have gleaned snippets of wisdom from politicians of various persuasions. I have heard athletes, managers and even sports-physiologists share strategies that have left massive impressions on me. Finally, throughout my time in full-time ministry, I have watched and listened to leaders within churches and charities who have both inspired and informed me.
Whatever area of leadership the Lord has called you to, I would encourage you to learn from and seek to apply good practice from wherever you find it. I would also encourage you however, to weigh that practice with a measure more stringent than simple pragmatism. Therefore, the test that we must apply to any strategy or stylistic choice is not simply ‘will it work?’, but ‘is it right’ and, ‘can it be implemented in a way that will subsequently bring glory to God‘?
I find both of these questions of huge personal challenge. Why? Because both of these questions challenge not only my practice, but also my heart! These questions ensure that I am less keen to blindly apply ‘worldly wisdom’ in order to accomplish what I seek to achieve and much more likely to judge the patterns of this world against the principles of the Kingdom of God.
Like you, there are many Scriptures to which I frequently return. However, let me briefly share with you a few thoughts from a passage, to which I seem to turn more often than any other. In Philippians 2:5, Paul challenges us to ‘have the same attitude as Christ Jesus’, before reminding us how this attitude was demonstrated among us. It appears evident that the following six verses are either a hymn or confession that was used within the early church. The verses neatly break into two halves with a fascinating ‘bridge’ between those halves.
The first few lines speak of Christ’s humiliation. Now, I struggle with that. Humiliation is normally that which someone does to another for all of the wrong reasons. Yet, this passage clearly articulates that the creator of all things, refusing to use that which was at his disposal for his own advantage, willingly took upon himself our humanity and became, through the means of his death, the object of disgrace. Yet, as we know, the story does not end there but rather is only just beginning.
Paul then introduces his ‘bridge’, the vital link between Christ’s humiliation and glorious exaltation. Paul says ‘therefore’. ‘Therefore, God exalted him’. God exalted his son, the Lord Jesus, not only from death to life, but also from Earth to Heaven. In using the word ‘therefore’ it appears obvious that Paul wants us to clearly understand that the honour bestowed upon Jesus in the present, and his glorious acknowledgement in the future, are not independent of his sacrifice, but because of it!
Therefore, this is my challenge. That whenever we seek to learn from any idea, principle or philosophy which we glean from elsewhere, that we check our spirit and ask ‘can we adhere to its principles as we seek to emulate the example of the Lord Jesus’? You see, ultimately God’s measure of success is different from the world’s measure. The leaders of this world disunite as they fight for top spot. However, true leaders, within the Kingdom of God, fight not for the top, but for the bottom! Although each of us must be willing to learn from others and should apply good principles to our ministry with wisdom, we must never forget the ultimate example. That is, God calls us to follow the one who served and knew that sorrow and suffering were a prerequisite of glory! We ought to then model our ministries according to this amazing passage in order to honour the one who ‘did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt 20:28).