Don’t believe the hype, the church in Australia doesn’t lack for masculine leaders. It doesn’t. The tribes that I belong to are dripping with testosterone. (Metaphorically, obviously).
Seriously. I grew up in the most masculine of households and I often get overwhelmed by the potency of it all. The competitive culture, the jostling for supremacy, the tacit aggression, the ‘mine’s-bigger-than-yours’ atmosphere. I’ve observed all of these tendencies among my fellow younger brethren in church leadership. And I’ve been known to do a little metaphorical ministry scent-marking myself… Okay, more than a little.
Here’s the rub: most churches have enough meaty leadership opportunities to attract ‘alpha’ men who want to lead, but those leadership opportunities are usually offered under false pretences.
Masculine men are lured into leadership assuming that what awaits them is an entrepreneurial paradise. A haven for them to flex their ascendency. A leadership hotbox in which they can focus on going further faster.
It’s a case of faulty advertising.
And the product is a population of Christian leaders who are masculine enough to accept the baton of leadership, but not biblically masculine enough to accept the God-appointed renunciation that goes with it.
Leadership is sacrifice, but we neglected to write that on the tin.
I got into this church game early enough to have experienced life as a 'young man in ministry’ for a decade now, and if I was mathematically capable of drawing a pie graph illustrating the leadership lessons that i’ve received, the portion labelled ‘how to deal with God-appointed renunciation’ would represent the slightest of slithers.
And yet, we young masculine types are, to a man, desperately in need of this kind of instruction. And why wouldn’t we be? This is not a modern phenomena. It’s not the product of a contemporary world gone mad. , We can't, as much as we’d love to, lay the blame at the feet of our lascivious baby-boomer forebears.
No, this issue is far more ancient than that. Which means it probably stems from something more primal. It’s in our genes.
Witness the disciples of Jesus. Young? Probably. Masculine? Almost certainly. Power-hungry-and-thirsty? Yep. And so, in the gospels, we see Jesus drumming the necessity of sacrificial leadership into followers over and again: see Matt. 23:11-12; Mark 9:33; Luke 22:24; John 10:12; et al.
Here’s a good one:
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.' And he said to them, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And they said to him, 'Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.' Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised?' And they said to him, 'We are able.' And Jesus said to them, 'The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptised, you will be baptised, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.' And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.' - Mark 10:35-45
Jesus got it. Jesus was it. He was sacrificial leadership incarnate. And his young followers weren’t… yet.
And neither are we, gentlemen. But we are called to be. Check out the leadership qualifications outlined by Paul in the pastoral epistles. They're scarily sacrificial. But if we don't pay them heed, and ask for the Spirit's help to fashion us into their likeness, we're on a hiding to nothing.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons why Christian leaders don’t go the distance, but sometimes, I believe, it’s because they were sold a defective vision. A picture of leadership without sacrifice.
The truth is far more bloody, sweaty, and teary.
But don’t worry, young man, the true vision also reaches far enough into the future to see the end-game. And in the end, the blood is the Lamb’s, the sweat produces fruit, and all the tears are wiped away.