The world wants more of churches: more spirituality, more community, more engagement, more love, more miracles, more demonstration of the kingdom. Not less. Yet, most of us are serving shrinking, declining, even dying churches. If our leadership is to be effective, if we are about manifesting the kingdom here on earth, if we are to make a true difference in the lives of those we lead, and the communities we serve, we need to think big. Then, even bigger.
Of course, thinking big isn’t enough. We have to know what to do with the ideas. Jesus mastered three hidden leadership skills that we would do well to learn.
To begin with, Jesus boldly crafted and expressed his vision. Even under the most difficult of circumstances.
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
In the shadow of John’s death, Jesus got to work. He went about the countryside proclaiming a message welcomed by some leaders of the time, and dangerous to other leaders. He didn’t let death or threats of death stop him. In fact, he was intent on being light in that particular time of darkness.
But he didn’t stop there. Or try to do it all himself. He found people who were aligned with his message.
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately, they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets and he called them. Immediately, they left the boat and their father and followed him.
And that’s not all.
Jesus went throughout the Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
Other Jewish teachers, rabbis and miracle workers traveled the land during Jesus’ day. What set him apart was that he was doing it as a sign of the inbreaking of the kingdom. In the process, he was building alignment for his vision. Crowds of people, great crowds, began to follow him. That’s when he taught them more about his vision.
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 receive 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 for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Unlike some spiritual leaders today, Jesus wasn’t trying to do all the work himself. In fact, he knew that if the message ended with him, it would die when he did. He used the buy-in of the people to execute his vision of the Kingdom.
Watch what he does with his disciples.
Then Jesus summoned his 12 disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
These 12 Jesus sent out with the following instructions, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
Jesus doesn’t stop with this charge. He goes on to give them very specific instructions about how to execute the vision.
You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.
As specific as he is, he does not fall into micro-managing. He demonstrates trust in their ability to discern the nature of the people they will encounter.
Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
Vision. Alignment. Execution. These are the three hidden leadership skills Jesus practiced.future-vision
But leadership is not a linear process. It’s a spiral that redoubles and comes around again. Watch how Jesus demonstrates that.
Now when Jesus had finished instructing his 12 disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.
He’s just sent off his 12 closest followers, and now he’s off to cast his vision, build alignment and empower execution among brand new people! Powerful visions are like that. They compel you, energize you, and pull you forward. This was not drudgery for Jesus. It was his passion and purpose in life. (Luke 4:43). It was the reason he got out of bed in the morning. He was unstoppable!
If leadership requires vision, alignment and execution, it seems to me that there is one criterion that precedes these three tasks.
The vision has to be worth it. It has to be big enough, bold enough and compelling enough to promise a new state of affairs. Otherwise, you’ll lose interest. And so will everyone else.
Are you leading with a bold vision? That’s where it all starts.