Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When Are You A Leader?

Everybody has leadership opportunities everyday. When the time comes to be a leader, will you step up or step away?

In tracking with the developing story of the early church in Luke's Acts of the Apostles, we see a really interesting leadership crisis develop. The apostles had been receiving large sums of money from several individuals who had sold a piece of property. This money was then used to purchase food which was distributed daily to widows in the city. As more disciples joined the assembly of believers, more property was sold, more money was given, and more food was purchased to give to more widows. 

And then some widows were getting more food than others. Some widows either got their food too late or not at all. Success had brought failure. Jewish widows who had grown up in foreign countries, but were now spending their last years in Jerusalem - well they were getting less food than the Jewish widows native to the Holy Land. The apostles leadership of food distribution had failed, and now accusations of racism were starting to emerge. Whoops!

Here's what's interesting: when the apostles here the complaints of the Hellenistic widows, they listen! A great example of when you are a leader. The apostles listened, and they responded - another example of when you are a leader. The apostles called together the disciples in the area and presented the problem to them - another great example of when you are a leader. 

The disciples were given the opportunity to help solve the problem - another example of when you are a leader. The disciples were instructed to select seven men with a reputation of wisdom and being full of God's Spirit. The disciples were given authority to select who would solve this problem - and thus the disciples were also granted responsibility to make sure the problem stay solved. More great examples of when you are a leader. The disciples chose seven Hellenistic men - a fascinating choice (and very wise). Another example of when you are a leader. 

The apostles accepted these choices by the disciples (also very wise), laid hands on them, prayed for them, and let them get to work. The apostles focused on prayer and preaching God's word, the seven deacons focused on daily distribution of food to widows. Now there are more leaders involved in the early church than ever before. When are you a leader? When you use wisdom to solve problems. 

The leadership that we need most doesn't rely on position and credentials. The leadership we want most doesn't stem from organizational savviness and political cunning. The leadership we hope for is rooted in wisdom - knowing what the next right thing is, and doing it right. There are too few leaders worth following these days because there are too few women and men who are willing to figure out what the next right thing is to do, and do it right. We are a generation addicted to convenience, leisure, apathy and narcissism. We look to be led because we are lazy, not because we are committed to wisdom. 

When are you a leader? When you care. You set an example of how to treat humans. When you pray. You seek to be influenced by God who only gives what is good. When you serve. You demonstrate the attitude that disarms rebels and unites the diligent.

When are you a leader? When you hear a complaint, really listen, and then discuss with some wise folks how to solve it ASAP. And then put the plan into action ASAP.

When are you a leader? When you empower more capable people with authority and responsibility by designating focused tasks centered on lifting up those who depend on you. And let them do their work. 

When are you a leader? When you support and affirm the accomplishments of those who work with you, of those whose work depends on you, of those whose work you depend on. 

When are you a leader? Whenever you want to be, whenever you choose to be. 

When are you a leader? When you are working in your home, working in the marketplace, working in the classroom, working in the sanctuary, working in the public square, working in the military. When you take initiative, when you keep your word, when you earn respect, when you fuel loyalty, when you stay patient, when you do your best, when you speak wisely, you are a leader. 

When are you a leader? 

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