I want to begin the new year by reflecting on what it means to lead like Jesus. I invite you to consider what we can learn about leadership specifically from His death, burial and resurrection. This is the second post in a series;  you can read the first post here.

 

Reflection #2 Like Jesus in His Death

In 1914, Earnest Shackleton placed an ad in the paper recruiting people to join him on his quest to cross Antarctica. Here is the ad:

Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. 

I love it! Who in their right mind would sign up for that?  He doesn’t sugarcoat the truth it, does he? He understood that the journey would require the kind of man whose spirit of adventure can’t be deterred. And he was right. He and his crew survived many setbacks as they successfully crossed Antartica. You can read about it here.

Jesus’ invitation to spiritual leadership carries the same tone:

John 12:23–26 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Like Shackleton, Jesus doesn’t candy-coat his invitation. He understood spiritual leadership to be (at least) as difficult as crossing Antarctica…the semicommitted need not show up. The invitation to spiritual leadership is first and foremost an invitation to death. Jesus words are plain — before a leader is useful to the Kingdom, he or she must die. This is not a physical death, as it was for Jesus. In some ways, this is a much more difficult death, death to self.

Death to self requires diligence. We don’t die easily and we don’t stay dead. The self can come to life in many forms: self-promotion, self-will, self-reliance, self-satisfaction, self-pity, self-esteem and self-righteousness (to name a few). The great battle we face as spiritual leaders is to daily discover what form our selfishness has taken and to surrender it again to Jesus.

Only as we crucify the self do we become spiritual leaders who bear fruit. I said this in the last post, but it is worth repeating: There is no resurrection power without crucifixion pain. Your willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit in the crucifixion process is the lid on your spiritual leadership. Whatever we are in our “selves” must die. We must become nothing in ourselves so God can make us something in Christ.

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