Sometimes leaders get too big for their britches. The consequences for their followers are painful when God eventually pulls the rug out. Headlines like, “Church Disbands After Lead Pastor……” represent damaged hearts on a grand scale. The problem is, it’s a subtle and easy thing to allow myself, as a leader, to try and occupy a higher position than the role God’s given to me.
In the next few posts, I’m examining some leaders from the Bible that don’t receive quite as much attention as guys like Moses, Joshua, Joseph, David and Paul. The people I’ve selected are great leaders also, even though their spheres of influence were smaller or their season of leadership shorter. What attracts me to them is that each one possessed a quality of spiritual greatness that I believe every leader should seek to emulate. Today, I am dazzled by John the Baptist and his humility.
I remember when I led a thriving Bible study that dwindled because a chunk of my participants chose, one year, to attend a large, nondenominational, intensive Bible study at a nearby church. Instead of being glad that these women grew to the point that they wanted some serious Bible meat, I felt rejected. (My study was geared for young believers) Thankfully, God interrupted my pity party and pointed out my skewed perspective. I didn’t celebrate the fact that they wanted to follow Jesus more deeply, I felt jealousy that they weren’t with me anymore. I allowed God to change my attitude and continued to lead the beginning group for several more years. I’m grateful he didn’t take it from me entirely and give it to someone else.
First, a few facts about John the Baptist, taken from Baker’s Bible dictionary. When you realize the significance and honor God bestowed on him, it’s even more amazing that he didn’t think he was all that plus a bag of chips.
His birth is recorded in detail. (Luke 1)
His birth is also framed by angels and divine intervention, like Jesus. (Luke 1)
God chose him to be the first prophetic voice after 400 years of silence. (Isaiah 40:3-5)
God chose him to announce the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the plan of salvation. (Matt. 3:2)
People from Jerusalem, Judea and that entire region journeyed out into the wilderness to hear him preach. (Matthew 3:1-17)
He baptized Jesus, the Son of God. (Matt. 3:13-17)
His preaching and teaching were carried all the way to the ears of King Herod. (Matthew 14:1-12)
His disciple’s prayer lives were so significant that one of Jesus’ disciples asked him to, “teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)
The Apostle John dubbed him “the witness of the light.” (John 1:6-8)
So, how hard might it be to remain humble if you were the pastor of the first A.D. mega church that baptized Jesus Christ, along with being the first prophet to speak after 400 years of prophetic silence? I’ve observed leaders with much less on their resume act like they are God’s special bonus to the church. The truth is, God designs his leaders to be gifts to the body of Christ. The problem with too many of us, is that we get to thinking that our piece is a little more important than some other pieces on God’s chessboard. When a leader becomes careless with their cloak of humility, they leave a wake of damaged hearts and tarnished credibility not just in the kingdom of God, but in the lost world around them.
I want to be like John the Baptist. Check out his responses in the first few chapters of the Apostle John’s book, to Jesus’ fast-growing ministry on a hillside near John’s own.
“I am not the Messiah.”
“I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
“He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
When John the Baptist’s disciples became very concerned that they were losing members to Jesus, they spoke to him about it. He replied,
“I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
John expressed true joy at Jesus’s ministry success. He didn’t view him as a competitor but instead recognized that although God chose him to occupy a very key position in kingdom events, it was time for him to recede into the background as Jesus’ ministry rose in prominence. Oh, that every leader could possess that kind of humility.
It’s almost impossible not to run into a competitive vibe amongst spiritual leaders when you put a herd of them together. I’ve wrangled with it every time I’ve been involved in a combined church, community event, even struggling with it sometimes in my own heart.
How differently might we come across to the unchurched and each other, as individual believers and local bodies of Christ, if our spiritual gifts and achievements could only be seen under our cloaks of humility?