Society of Fellows
During the early years of the National Football League, the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants were matched against each other in the championship game. As the first half ended, the Packers coach, Curly Lambeau, thought about what to say to his players. With his team down 16-14, his players counted on him for a revised game plan. This would be one of his most important chalk talks ever. Unfortunately, Lambeau never got to deliver that important halftime talk. On the way to the dressing room, he got lost in thought and opened the door to what he thought was the dressing room but wound up out on the street. Before he realized what had happened, the door slammed shut behind him. The coach was locked out of the stadium! Lambeau pounded on the door but it did no good. He raced to the nearest gate, but the security guard refused to let him in without a ticket. Lambeau said, "But Iím the coach!" The security guard sneered, "If youíre the coach what are you doing out here on the sidewalk?" Lambeau hustled to another gate. But the guard there shoved him away saying, "Yeah sure, youíre the coach of the Packers and Iím the King of England!" Meanwhile back in the dressing room, the Packers were wondering where their coach went. As the halftime minutes went by, the puzzled players waited patiently. By this time, their angry, red-faced coach had charged the main gate, only to be stopped once again. Screaming at the top of his lungs, Lambeau attracted a big crowd including some reporters. The reporters recognized Lambeau and convinced the guards that he was indeed the coach of the Green Bay Packers. But by the time Curly Lambeau reached the dressing room the second half had already begun. And without Lambeauís leadership and revised game plan, the Packers faltered and lost the championship 23-17.1
Iím convinced that the greatest need in the local church today is leadership. Every church yearns for strong and effective leadership. A church will never be stronger than itís leader. Tom Landry, late great coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said, "A leader is a person who takes the people where they canít go themselves." John Maxwell said, "A true leader has the ability to change a group from what it is, into what it ought to be." So given the value of leadership we, as pastors, need to learn some effective laws of leadership.
Jesus is the leader after whom we should pattern our ministry. He was such a great leader that the organization He founded is still prospering 2000 years after His death. How did He do it? What were His secrets? What can we learn from Him that will benefit us today?
I. Jesus was a visionary.
No company, institution, or church will succeed if its leaders do not have a vision for the future! The Bible says,"Where there is no vision, the people perish."2 Don Shula, retired coach of the Miami Dolphins said, "All driven leadership is based on a vision."
In his memoirs, Dr. R.G. Lee, the great Southern Baptist pioneer, author, and preacher wrote, "When I was a boy I had a vision. I used to plow, then look up at some of the white thunderheads in the sky and say to myself that sometime in the years ahead I would be pastor of a big and great church in a big city; that I would no longer troop between the plow handles behind a stubborn white mule the heels of which were wicked. Did my dream come true? Yes. My desire to be pastor of a big church in a big city was not a babbling brook but a surging river in my ambition. My ambition to beóin the future yearsópastor of a big church with many members in a big city with its multitudes was not a little sapling but a tall redwood tree in the forest of my thinking."3 As we all know, his vision became a reality.
Every great leader must have a vision. Jesus had a vision of service and shared ministry. He said, "Öwhoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."4 Jesus knew he could not do it all and he knew that if the world is to be won, it will have to be a team effort.
R.G. Lee understood that concept. In his first sermon to the members at Bellevue Baptist Church in 1927 he said, "Together the bricks make the wall; together the links make the chain; together the trees make the forest; together the soldiers make the army; together the cents make the dollars. And if we love and work and pray togetherógreat things can be done!"5 If you and I want to be good leaders, we too, must have a vision for service and shared ministry.
II. Jesus led with love, not fear.
Jesus was a master at motivating people. He understood that more could be accomplished through love than through fear. Jesus was remarkably patient with his disciples. His disciples were ordinary men. Sometimes they were quarrelsome, sometimes they were ornery, sometimes they lacked courage, sometimes they were lazy and apathetic, but he was always patient with them. One day two of them were jockeying for power and prestige. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." Jesus shook his head and said, "You donít know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"6
I wonder if any other leader would have handled the disciples that gently? Their question showed that they had no understanding whatsoever of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not about power and prestige, it is about servanthood. Notice how Jesus kept his cool. That was because he was a leader who led with love, not fear. It was said of General George S. Patton that his men feared him more than they feared the enemy. Fear may work fine in some situations but genuinely loving and caring for your people works better! No one likes to live in constant fear under the authority of a dictator. Jesus had no interest in intimidating or leading his disciples in a dictatorial manner by fear. He dealt with them patiently and with genuine love and concern. We should lead our people in the same way. God did not call us to be sergeants, but shepherds. He does not want us to be dictatorsóHe wants us to be servants. We arenít to lead with fear but rather with love.
III. Jesus led by example.
Jesus asked James and John, "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? And be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, we can."7 But it is evident they had no idea what Jesus was talking about. However, the writer of Hebrews knew what Jesus was talking about when he wrote these words, "During the days of Jesusí life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."8
Jesus did not just talk about laying down his life for usóhe did it! He did not just talk about obedience, he lived it! He did not just talk about servanthood, he practiced it! Jesus was an effective, great leader because he led by example. And likewise, the best kinds of pastors are those who lead by example.
Iím convinced we canít teach people anythingóthey must catch it from us. The best way people learn is to see us do it. We canít lead where we havenít gone and we canít ask or expect our church members to do what weíre not doing. People learn to do from seeing us do.
In Everyday Discipleship for Ordinary People, Stuart Briscoe writes: "One of my young colleagues was officiating at the funeral of a veteran. The dead manís military friends wished to have a part in the service at the funeral home, so they requested the pastor to lead them down to the casket, stand with them for a solemn moment of remembrance, and then lead them out through the side door. This he proceeded to do, but unfortunately the pastor picked the wrong door. The result was that these men marched with military precision right into a broom closet, and in full view of the mourners they had to swallow their pride and make a hasty retreat."9 This true story reminds us of two important truths. First, if youíre going to be a leader, make sure you know where youíre going. Second, make sure that you are following someone who knows where they are going!
As pastors we are both leaders and followers. We are called to lead the church, but we are called to follow Christ. Jesus Christ is the greatest leader this world has ever known. He knows where He is going, thus He is the One we should follow! Jesus is a great leader because He is a visionary, because He leads with love, not fear; and because He leads by example.
In 1938, the Green Bay Packers lost the championship because their leader got locked out of the stadium. If we, as church leaders, fail it will be because we have locked the "real" leader, Jesus Christ out of the church and failed to heed His call, catch His vision, practice His patient love and follow His example of true leadership!
Written by: Rev. Tim McGehee, Pastor
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim McGehee has been pastor of First Baptist Church of Camden, Tennessee since 1999. Under his leadership the church has had over 160 additions, completed a building project, and added two other full-time staff members. Rev. McGehee holds a B.S. degree from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and the master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He and his wife Kimberly have two daughters, Hannah and Katie.
1. Bruce Nash and Alan Zullo, The Fishing Hall of Shame, Bantam Doubleday Dell, (New York, New York, 1991)
2. Proverbs 29:18, KJV.
3. R.G. Lee, Payday Everyday, Broadman Press, (Nashville, Tennessee, 1974) pp.86-87.
4. Mark 10:43-45, NIV.
5. R.G. Lee, Payday Everyday, Broadman Press, (Nashville, Tennessee, 1974) pp.89-90.
6. Mark 10:35-38, NIV.
7. Mark 10:38-39, KJV.
8. Hebrews 5:7-9, NIV.
9. Craig Brian Larson, Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, Baker Book House Company, (Grand Rapids, 1994) p.130