We are hearing much recently of the negative impact of ungodly ambition in Christian leaders. It is so disheartening. I was reflecting this morning, however, that this is not new in any way. It’s as old as Eden. We want to be like God. Even wonderful Christian men can wake up and find that they have drifted from their first love, have slid into pragmatism and manipulation, “for the sake of the mission.”
Aaron and Miriam were not happy with Moses’ authority (Numbers 12). “Why did God choose you? Do we not hear from Him as well?” I had a friend a couple of years ago ask, “Why doesn’t the leadership of the CROSS for the Nations conference invite X to speak?” Now, X is a terrific speaker and has made his life’s mission the mobilization of Christ’s people. Indeed, X might be a great speaker for that conference. But, that’s not the point. God hasn’t chosen that for X. God hasn’t chosen X for that conference, either. We want (for ourselves or others) something that God has given to someone else. That’s bad ambition…that’s covetousness.
Korah, too, didn’t like Moses’ authority (Numbers 16). He felt all are equal before God. On the one hand, he was right. We all are one in Christ, in terms of our salvation. Yet, God appoints leaders…God grants authority. It’s not to be taken for our own, as we saw with Aaron and Miriam. It’s also not to be rejected. We are not all equal in spiritual authority. Today, we might say, anyone should be able to lead the church, regardless of age, sex, gender orientation, experience, gifting. This is drinking from the well of this fallen world, where any Joe with a blog thinks he knows more about topic A than the guy with the PhD in the same topic. Or where every comment-er on Twitter feels that their view is just as “right” as the next guy, in fact, it’s right-er and you’re power hungry if you try to argue otherwise.
A few years ago, at an international leadership conference, some of the speakers were older men and women. They had given their years and tears to the Church…some had been beaten and imprisoned for their faith. You can imagine how shocking it was to hear a younger leader there, probably late 20s, say, “Why should I listen to these speakers. They need to get out of the way so we can lead now.” At least Simon, the magician, wanted to pay for power from the Apostles (Acts 8). But, it’s not just younger leaders. Many churches are filled with older saints, leading committees, who hoard power in their little sphere of influence. If the tales are true, perhaps deacons, meant to be SERVANTS of all, those who wait tables and wash feet, are the ones most often hungry to make a church after their own image. Deliver us, Lord, from ourselves.
What do all of these have in common? It is nothing less than Unbelief. We don’t trust God and the way He distributes authority and influence. I should have more OR my organization should have more. I’m not content to just bring my desire for service and impact to the Lord in prayer and trust the Lord of all the earth to do what is right. So, we find ways to take power, one tweet at a time, one snide remark about the pastor at a time. We don’t really believe Jesus when He says that the last shall be first, that greatness comes through serving others.
It reminds me of my kids. My son once said, “Daddy, I want to be in charge.” I love his honesty. I responded, “Well, buddy, let’s think about that. What does it mean to be in charge? It means Daddy’s responsible to work, to earn money, so that I can pay our bills. It means that when someone is sick, the person in charge makes sure they are cared for. They make sure we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They make sure the clothes are washed, dried, and folder. They mow the lawn and mop the floor. Being in charge means you serve everyone else first. Is that what you want, buddy?” His response, “Umm, is it OK if I watch TV now?” My son, knowing what authority if for, wisely, did not want to lead yet.
What about us? What about you? Are you SURE you want to lead? Are you willing to go low, to serve EVERYONE else, in order to lead the way Jesus has asked? If that’s not what you want, to empty yourself so that others might live, then you are not fit to lead. If you find yourself thinking, “I want to lead. I want to influence,” instead of, “I wonder how I can serve my church, my wife, my kids?” then you are not ready to lead. People who are ready to lead aren’t talking about it…they are just serving. We need more of them. Let’s fight for faith – God dispenses wisely authority and influence. Let’s move towards humility – choosing what is lower and baser for us so that other might be lifted up. Let’s invite the Spirit to weave faith, patience, humility, self-control, and love above all into the fabric of our lives.