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It’s Easier NOT to Lead

Leading Out Front

Photo by reds on tour.

Leadership is a hot topic with plenty of aspiring and hopeful people clamoring for success in its arena. But the reality is that it’s easier NOT to lead.

When we aspire to leadership, we envision the good stuff – the people who will look to us for direction, the success of our organization, and the accolades of those who follow us. What we can’t really anticipate is the tough stuff – the people who will question us, leave us, and criticize us unfairly.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a leader with influence, or you hope to be. Stop. Take inventory. Is this what you really want? If you lead, you’re going to have to disappoint people, redirect people, confront people, motivate people to do things they aren’t quite ready to do, and while you may be respected, you will also be disliked and often, you’ll be alone.

Leadership and popularity sometimes occupy the same space, but are never the same thing. Decide which you want.

If you want to be popular, lead halfheartedly, if at all. If you want to influence people, then proceed full speed ahead. The invitation is open for more leaders, and there is certainly a vacuum in our culture waiting to be filled by leaders with character. But count the cost.

It’s easier not to lead. It’s easier to watch from the stands. It’s easier to go with the flow. There is less friction and less pain.

But in the end, maybe God isn’t calling you to do the easy thing.

Influence Is Great, But To What End?

I like the word “influence” as you probably do too. I want more of it. It’s why Christians are left on earth after being saved and not drafted instantly into heave – so we can influence others to follow Christ. But I see a trend within our culture of downsizing the value of influence.

We now assume that if a lot of people follow you on Twitter or if you hit the limit of “friends” on Facebook, you have influence. Really? If a Hollywood celebrity has 5 million followers on a social network and sends and update that they are prepping for tonight’s show, millions of people will read that update, and then they’re going to… go on with life.

Being popular isn’t bad. Some people with large followings use the power of that influence to get people to vote, to build clean water wells in third world countries, or to save another dog from being euthanized. All good causes and worthy uses of actual influence.

Recommended Reading: One of the best books available on this subject is John Maxwell’s Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others (aff)

Within Christianity, we need to understand that our influence can matter for eternity. I can show you a picture of my day at the beach and brighten your moment. I can get you to give for clean wells and you’ll change someone’s health situation. But I can also tell you about Jesus and His willingness to forgive all of our sins on the basis of His death, burial, and resurrection, and I can change your eternity.

I’m glad you want more influence. If you’re a Christian, you need to realize that you are not your own. You are bought with a price, so your influence belongs to God. Therefore the end of it is an eternal purpose. Even if you’re not a believer, you still decide whether your popularity will be squandered in frivolity or used to change your world somehow.

I just wonder if we realize what a gold mine influence is. I want more of it, but I want God to be the One to decide I’m ready for it. I want to prove faithful in the little things and trust God to expand my influence so that eternity is impacted and heaven is filled.

You probably want more influence too… but to what end?

God’s Will For Every Believer

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification… For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7)

It’s very easy to get caught up in the pursuit of something secondary to God’s great purpose for us as believers. We constantly face the temptation to be driven toward success or popularity, possessions or prestige. But God has caught us and called us to a higher purpose, a better life, a heavenly goal. We’ve been called to cleanness.

While many believers will suffer spiritually as they struggle to gain the freedom to rule their own lives (and thus resorting back to the old, unredeemed life), we must pursue the purpose for which we have been apprehended by Jesus – holiness, cleanness, and sanctification. What other pursuit could be more important in our personal journey of faith?

If you’re a believer, you’ve been caught! Jesus, the fisher of men, has apprehended you. He has purchased you in such a way that you are no longer your own. Contrary to popular opinion and American individualism, you are not your own any longer. God has placed certain spiritual authorities in your life. He’s placed you in the family of God and your church has a mutual stake in the outcome of your faith. While you may scream for the freedom to rule your own domain, God’s Word will remind you that the greatest freedom of all is to be enjoyed within the boundaries of God’s will.

His will is in one respect, an individual issue. In another respect, His will is universal to all believers. We cannot resort to a Christian brand of moral relativism. Instead we must realize that certain rules are applicable for all Christians, regardless of individual circumstances. This is not legalism, which is seeking to please or “pay off” God through rule-keeping. Rather it is merely reverencing God’s moral authority as our Father, Lord, and King.

If Jesus is your Savior, then pursue that for which you’ve been saved – holiness! It’s a worthy pursuit. Holiness brings the confidence of spiritual assurance, it earns a crown in heaven, it pleases the Lord who purchased us with His precious blood, and it supports our verbal witness to a lost world. Give yourself wholly to this goal – total perfection, total spiritual completeness, and total Christlikeness!

The Praise of Men

“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” –John 12:42-43

Don’t assume for a moment that peer pressure is something new, nor is it simply something school-agers face. All of us have felt the pressure of the world demanding that we conform to the image of humanity’s elite. In Jesus’ day, the pressure was no doubt greater than it is today. Over and over throughout the gospels, people were faced with the question, “What are you going to do with Jesus?”

We must be clear that choosing to follow Christ is a choice against the nature of self, against the expectactions of the world, and against what is popular in our culture. It may be okay to join the Christian movement but to really stand for Christ will always cost us something. It will especially cost us the praise of men. The great heroes of the world such as William Carey, Adoniram Judson, and John R. Rice, who have brought so many to Jesus are all but forgotten in the secular world. No doubt these spiritual giants may have been great successes in the business world, but they chose to follow Christ with all of their energy and they paid the price for it.

We too must choose whether we’re going to live for the priase of men or for the smile of God. I don’t know about you, but I want the smile of my Father. I want to get to the gates someday and be welcomed by His open arms with the words “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord!” For our God, it matters not the things we obtain but rather the qualities we develop. It matters not the position we earn but the lives we touch. It matters not the sights we see and the places we go but whether we are fully surrendered to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. Whose praise do you want to live for?