Dying to Lead (Part Two)
Welcome back! I hope you have had a great week!
Last week we took a look at what is means to “die to self”, especially as a leader. Additionally, we looked at a couple of examples from the Bible, including Jesus and John the Baptist. In Jesus we saw how dying to himself and yielding to God’s will ultimately started the greatest movement in history and, in that, was an incredible picture of leadership. Maybe you’re thinking, “The concept sounds great, but how do I act on it as a leader?” We are going to look at this today, at least in the form of what God has taught me so far.
As a leader, the act of dying to myself is something I have heard about for a long time, but if I am honest, I have only tried to live out for a short period of time. Whether consciously or not, in the past I have usually felt the need to “in control” of everything I was leading at all times. I think this is a natural tendency as a leader (at least I am going to pretend that is the case to keep myself from feeling too bad) because we tend to think that is the best way to guarantee success. Is that really the case though? I think looking back to the example of John the Baptist is a good one. What if, instead of yielding to Jesus, John decided to tell his followers to ignore that Jesus guy and his movement and to stay on the “John Train”? Obviously, this wouldn’t have impacted Jesus’ ability to fulfill his mission, but it could have seriously damaged the John’s ability to successfully finish his. If we look a little farther back in the Bible, to John 3:3, we can read about John’s calling – “This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him'” (NIV 1984). John the Baptist’s calling was to prepare the way for Jesus. If John decided he needed to stay in full control of those who were following him, he would have been preparing the way for himself. Instead, he died to himself and understood that to lead successfully it couldn’t be about his glory, but about the greater mission, bringing glory to Jesus. We can also see this all throughout the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Instead of trying to micromanage all of the churches he was a part of starting and therefore bringing glory to him, he raised up leaders in the churches and allowed them to live out God’s will for their lives. Paul also raised up other leaders such as Timothy to advance the mission farther than he could himself. Paul understood that the mission was greater than himself and, to successfully complete his calling, he had to equip others to be successful. Did this allow for the possibility that Paul wouldn’t get all of the praise? Of course. In fact, I would say it guaranteed it, but Paul understood the need to die to himself to truly lead well. Paul had a vision for his life that compelled him to lead in such a way that others were empowered and his mission to spread the Gospel to end of the earth was fulfilled. It wasn’t about him, and, because of that, he is now known as one of the greatest leaders in history.
What this has taught me is that in order to follow God’s calling on my life in Nicaragua, I am going to have to work as hard as I can to make sure the people with whom I lead and partnership are successful. This means leading and equipping them in such a way that they can follow God’s calling on their life to the fullest of their potential, even if that means not being in complete control and no one knowing my name. It means us casting a vision that is bigger than ourselves and then boldly living out that vision, without concern for our reputation. Ultimately, this means saying, “I must decrease so that others can increase”. If I were to instead say, “No, I need to do everything to ensure that I get the credit I deserve” my ability to make an impact would be severely limited as I am only one person. By being willing to follow Jesus’ example of putting God’s mission ahead of myself, I am able to be successful and lead well. By dying to ourselves as leaders so that others can realize success, we are able to have an impact that will far outlast any reputation we could possibly build. It seemed to work okay for John the Baptist, Paul and Jesus. Are you willing to die to lead?
If I were to answer that question honestly, I would have to say, “I think so”. I am still a work in progress and I don’t have it all figured out. I do, however, hold onto the promise, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV 1984). Every day I believe God will help me die to myself a little more if I am willing to commit to the process. I believe he will do this for you as well. It is up to you to decide if you will let him.
– James Belt