"Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders."
-- Acts 3:17
How do you define leadership?
According to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, leadership is "the art of getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it." Eisenhower also once asserted that you don't lead people by hitting them over the head. "That's assault," he explained, "not leadership."
However you define it, leadership can involve making unpopular decisions. Consider, for example, Clifton "Pop" Herring, the basketball coach at Laney High School in Wilmington, NC. It was Coach Herring's decision to move the then 15-year-old Michael Jordan to the school's junior varsity team rather than adding him to the varsity squad. For years, Jordan claimed that he was cut from the team. The truth is, however, that it would have been highly unusual for a younger and smaller underclassman like Jordan to jump ahead of the school's returning varsity players.
Let's now fast-forward about 30 years. History reveals that Coach Herring's willingness to lead and make the tough calls eventually worked out for everyone. Jordan became a star in high school, college--and many say the greatest player in NBA history. And he also grew into a leader on the basketball court every step of the way. It was Jordan's lead-by-example work ethic that helped deliver the NBA Championship to Chicago six times.
Coach Herring used level-headed logic to decide which players made his school's varsity squad. But God tends to pick leaders for His team quite differently. After all, his ways aren't mankind's ways. And He often chooses the least likely people to serve Him and accomplish the remarkable things that conventional wisdom deems impossible.
The Bible is full of familiar examples. Moses was a stutterer who once murdered an Egyptian taskmaster. King David--one of the most powerful rulers on Earth--was once an obscure shepherd boy. The Apostle Peter actually denied knowing Jesus three times in public. And Paul--the Apostle to the Gentiles who authored much of the New Testament--once dedicated himself to catching, arresting and killing Jesus' followers to prevent the new faith from spreading across the Roman Empire. And what's the common denominator? All four of these effective leaders were weak, either physically or spiritually. They were also unlikely choices for accomplishing God-size tasks. But that's often the way He does it.
"For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength," writes the Apostle Paul. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."
The point here is that you don't have to slam-dunk a basketball or score 30 points a game to make a big difference on God's Squad. In fact, every Christ-follower--strong or weak--is called to be a leader by serving as Jesus' hands and feet on earth while we wait for His return...or that day when He calls us back home (whichever comes first). Until then, God wants us to help prepare His Kingdom by making the most of the different gifts and talents He's given each follower. So rather than imitating Michael Jordan's impressive round ball exploits, let's instead follow Jesus' perfect example of leadership:
"In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served," Jesus explains in Mark 10:45. "He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people."