Monday, January 23, 2006

Why I'm Not A Leader

While helping set up for a homeschool conference one year, I helped the husband of the director arrange tables in the cafeteria. There wasn't much room in the designated area and we decided that functionality was more important than aesthetics. The director had a different idea. She decided that aesthetics were more important than access to the drink table and ordered us to correct it according to her preference.

If I were in charge of this situation, I would have recognized the effort of the team and offered praise for the thought put into it. If my vision had placed priority on function, I would have recognized the minimal difference in value between aesthetics and function in this particular situation and left it as the team had arranged it. Of course, I imagine the team would be emboldened to take matters into their own hands at a later time when the difference in value may be much greater. This is why I'm not a leader. I expect people to be reasonable, which is not a realistic expectation. I have no idea how to exert authority over a lack of reason. Of course, many good leaders I know do not behave reasonably. Nevertheless, if they are placed in authority over me and they lack reason, I will defer to them as long as their lack of reason is not off the proverbial scale.

I suppose it's for this reason that when I lead, people tend not to follow. For example, most people with whom I converse are interested only in speaking about themselves and will do so as long as I smile and nod my head. As soon as I mention something about myself they quickly take their leave of me. If a conversation is in full swing and I approach I am typically ignored. However, when I am conversing with someone and another approaches, my conversation is typically interrupted and often dropped completely. (I'm considering keeping a journal to verify this phenomenon with actual statistical data.) Furthermore, when I issue instructions from a leadership position, people tend to argue with me. However, when I observe others who are in a leadership position issue instructions, they are not often argued with (although every leader has his share). All of this constitutes the practical reason why I'm not a leader. (It's also one reason why I married my wife: She actually follows my lead.)

This brings up another point. Leaders attain positions of power because people follow them. It's true that many are appointed to positions of power by those who have even greater authority, but they don't last unless their subordinates follow them. So power isn't created by the leader, but his power is granted to him by his subordinates.

The question then becomes: Why do people give some individuals their loyal follower-ship and not others? Is there something about an individual that compels people to follow his lead? I believe so. With my capacity to analyze, I cannot determine a principle by which all leaders command respect. Observation seems to indicate that something about the mannerisms, appearance and tone of voice of a leader are factors in that person's leadership ability. Such qualities present during a future leader's formative years only serve to reinforce those qualities as well as build a sense of identity as a leader.

All too often, people who exhibit these leadership qualities seek power for the sake of having power. This is unfathomable to me. Reasonably, to do so creates situations where people are intimidated into submission or, especially on a large scale, where people die. It's not reasonable, but it's understandable if we take into account that the world is not as it should be. People seek power because they unreasonably believe it will give them security.

There is one position of authority whose power is not derived by the loyalty of subordinates. Some people give power to superstition or speculation about things that cannot be discovered scientifically. Some people give power to demonic persuasion. These are all false gods and such power is given in vain. But there is one true God whose eternal substance is the foundation of the existence of this temporal universe. False gods have no power other than that which is given.

If there is an eternal Creator (God), then a creation which is not as it should be would have an influence that is destructive rather than creative. Unless we are given over to utter destruction (which we're obviously not) then this influence would be limited and would be created by God as well. Let's call this influence "demonic". Demons, therefore, have no power other than that which is given by God. But only the true God has the power to create subordinates. The demonic counterfeit of God's power is to persuade people that they have the power of God because they can destroy subordinates. When power is sought by a leader, it is an attempt to usurp power that rightfully belongs to God. God, in His wisdom, may allow some to have ill-gotten power for a time. However, this power is never truly usurped but granted by God for the destruction of the unrighteous to demonstrate His mercy to those He has created for His glory. Therefore, it is right not to seek power.

As a parenthetical... If there are false gods (whose worshippers may claim created the world) and a real God who created the world, then how do we know who the real God is? Has God not left us with plenty of clues? Is it any god whose worshippers claim demands us to save ourselves, or the God whose worshippers claim came to save us Himself? Perhaps He has given us some sort of communication. Which set of holy writings can be scientifically demonstrated to have been transmitted accurately over millennia of copying? Which set of holy writings were written over a couple of millennia by several authors from different nations at different times and yet retain a consistent message. Today, we can read philosophy from a couple hundred years ago and see how thought has changed. Yet one set of holy scriptures contain truths that have not. Which set of holy scriptures contain not a few, but a wealth of SPECIFIC prophecies that have been fulfilled (despite claims of skeptics to the contrary)? When you find the God of these scriptures, you will have found the God of creation. He is unique in a world of false gods for these reasons. I'm writing, of course, of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who didn't seek power, but were led by God to leave power that they may gain the promise of the messiah. The promise was fulfilled in the person of Jesus who took on human flesh that He may pay the penalty for the sin of Adam that has permeated all of creation so that those who have been created for His glory will be saved. There's a trial set for this week in Italy where an atheist is suing a Catholic priest demanding proof that Christ exists. I've said it before: I'd like to be witness at this trial.

Since I have brought up Christ, there are obviously Christian leaders. Are there legitimate Christian leaders who have been raised up aside from a desire to have power, but whose purpose is to glorify God through Christian leadership? Christian leadership is not based on the concept of personal domination and lordship over others. The concept of Christian leadership is founded in the person of Christ who came not to be served, but to serve. Therefore, Christian leadership stems from a heart of sacrificial service. There are some leaders among Christians who do not follow this pattern. They will answer to God for such impetuousness because they harm the testimony of Christ's Church.

Perhaps the greatest sacrificial servants to take the mantle of Christian Leaders have been missionaries. This year marks 50 years since five missionaries lost their lives contacting a tribe of native South Americans. Their story has inspired a generation of missionaries and has swelled interest in missionary work in some circles to the extent that there are now more missionary hopefuls than there are funds to send them. I am among them, being relegated to short-term missions as I have opportunity and can raise the funds.

This is why I'm not a leader...and God is faithful to make me so.

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