In Scripture, in Matthew chapter 5 Jesus begins his Sermon on the Mount. In October I get the pleasure of preaching from those few chapters for an entire weekend to a group of middle schoolers. In preparation for that weekend, I’ve been reading that passage of scripture over and over again. In my daily read of it this past week this one verse stood out to me.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. — Matthew 5:1, ESV
It’s the very first verse of what would become a great sermon that Jesus will preach to the masses and Jesus is sitting. That’s odd, right? Even if you don’t listen to sermons weekly, you wouldn’t expect the pastor to be sitting. Even if you don’t listen to sermons regularly if you just notice when a presentation happens at work, or when you watch a TED talk you notice that very rarely are the presenters sitting down. But, Jesus is sitting here. And while some might say that I am reading too much into the text, I believe there are profound leadership lessons that we can learn from Jesus here.
You're not above anyone
Jesus is the lord of lords, kings of kings, the list goes and on. Jesus is above you and me. But, during this moment in scripture, he sits with the crowd. Jesus here isn’t taking a dominant stance in the relationship, even though he deserves it. Instead, Jesus is taking the stance of an equal. Instead of rising above the crowd he is meeting them where they are.
There have been times in my life, unrightfully so, that I thought my authority came from a title. When I have lead this way it has never turned out well. There are numerous people I know that lead this way. It often leads to their employees being burned out, having a high turn over rate and breeding cultures of fear. None of this is a good thing. Jesus shows us early in his ministry what true leadership looks like and the first thing he teaches us is that we are to lead and act as if we are not above anyone.
In this moment and in other moments in Jesus' ministry, he teaches us that we are to prioritize the relationship first. Often times in ministry and leadership we can get so bogged down with details and planning and being productive. These are all good things. We should be productive and well thought out and planned leaders, but if our productivity takes the place of prioritizing relationships.
When it comes to leadership the relationships that we have with people are the number one priority. For us to lead people well they have to trust us. Trust leads to having influence with someone and influence is how we lead. At the end of the day, leadership can be boiled down to us simply leveraging influence to accomplish the vision.
Trusting others with the vision
Jesus himself had a vision. Jesus envisioned a world where broken people were helping other broken people find healing and hope. Jesus envisioned a world where people partnered with him in the renewal of all things. He started to accomplish this by building relationships with his disciples and trusting them to be apart of what he was doing and inviting them to do it as well. Then the disciples invited and trusted others to join them. The same has to be for us. We have to invite others into joining us in relationship with the vision of what we are trying to accomplish.
To build trust and lead people well we must also entrust them with the vision. If we want to lead people then we have to give them some skin in the game. You also have to understand that they are going to mess up, and that is okay, you’ve messed up plenty of times. Jesus also entrusted his vision to people who have messed it up. There is story after story of pastors failing and churches hurting people, but their are also tons of stories of people getting it right. Jesus is calling us to a story of leading people where we model his style of leadership. That means not leading from an authority, but a relationship. It means building trust and entrusting the people we are leading. All of this together is how Jesus is calling us to lead.