Do we love in the ways that we lead? Does love have anything to do with the way we lead? I am trying to recollect but I am not aware that I have come across an article or book which connects leadership or missional leadership with the concept of love, and yet, my reading of God’s Story and Vision is that love is integral to understanding God and God’s mission.
Jesus in John 20:21 expresses, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you . . . .” That begs the question, in what way was Jesus sent by the Father? Previously in John’s Gospel, in John 3:16-17, we read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Also, Jesus with his disciples prior to his crucifixion challenges them with a new command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13: 34-35).
Somehow love has to be integrated with our leading, the way we lead, why we lead, if we are to lead missionally, if we are to lead Christ’s community to participate with God in God’s mission. And yet, we talk about traits and characteristics, skill sets, and techniques for leading more effectively, but seldom do we think about love as being a foundational characteristic for leading in the way of Christ Jesus.
Well, maybe we do, but is it merely an assumption we make so that we can get onto other aspects of leading effectively? In assuming we need to love those whom we are called to lead, do we neglect to integrate loving in the way of Christ with learning to lead in the way of Christ?
Not only was God’s love for the world the motivation for God’s taking on our humanity as Jesus, but also, Jesus’ ministry – and all that comprised – was motivated and shaped by love. If we are to minister and lead in the way of Jesus, then we must also love in the way of Jesus – love then cannot merely be an assumption, love must be a primary characteristic about the way we go about exercising our leading.
For sure, if we shape the way we lead by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13, rather than seeing it as a mere text for reading at weddings, or urging people within our churches to love one another, then I know we would lead in a very different way than many of us do, including leading missionally.
Listen, how we might hear 1 Corinthians differently if we realize that love is to be foundational to the way we lead:
“Leading is patient, leading is kind. Leading does not envy, it does not boast, leading is not proud. Exercising leading does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking. Leading is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Leading does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Leading always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I find it helpful to place myself into the text: “My leading is to be patient, my leading is to be kind . . .” for when I do that, it not only gives me a vision of how I might exercise my gift of leading, but it challenges me to look to Christ and the Spirit of Christ who enables me to lead in the way of Christ. If we were to begin leading in ways which are motivated by love, I know we would change the way pastoral leadership is currently exercised.
May we love by the way we lead! For if we do, then we will participate with God in God’s mission in a very different kind of way – which is in harmony with God’s motivation for all that God is doing in making all things new.