Forty-something Robin Sharma is a Canadian lawyer who has accellerated to world fame as a leadership guru, author and speaker. One of his books, ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ (at least he had one!), sold 3 million copies. Recently I picked up on the title of another of his books, ‘The Leader Who Had No Title.’ He was suggesting that you don’t have to be a leader with a title or be at the top of an organisation, to be successful – anyone with a little bit of faith can do it.
Last night, reading through John’s Gospel and the plot to kill Jesus following the raising of Lazarus, I wondered if the leading priests and Pharisees and the Sanhedrin (dept. of Religious Affairs), huddled together in an emergency board meeting, would have bought into Sharma’s leadership principles. Hardly. They could no longer deny Jesus’ miracles but at the same were terrified that he might spark a revolution which could potentially cost them their belief-system, position, power and identity: “‘What are we going to do?’ they asked each other… If we leave him alone, the whole nation will follow him, and then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation!” (Jn. 11:47-48/ NLT). At which point the opportunistic, pompous and bullying committee chairman Caiaphas exclaims “‘How can you all be so stupid? Why should the whole nation be destroyed? Let this one man die for the people!'” (v. 49ff). Little did he realise that he was accurately prophesying how ‘Jesus’ death would be not for Israel only, but for the gathering together of all the children of God scattered around the world’ (v. 51-52) (Ironically ‘Caiaphas’ means physiognomist or even ‘prophet’). Coming back to the committee meeting, from that time onward they began to plot Jesus’ death (v. 53ff).
Too often it still works like that in organised Christianity. We have to make a choice as servant-leaders and servant-members in Christ’s body: personal prestige or Christ, committees or the Kingdom? I have before me a Boardroom Basics newspaper editorial written by Prof. Piet Naude, theologian and business ethicist at Nelson Mandela University, captioned ‘Meetings are a waste of time.’ He writes of too many board members, predictable agendas (and outcomes), the pretence of significance and busy-ness, etc. Like fraud, the higher up board members climb the more damage they do.
Church meeting attenders and constitutionists and officers often over-rule the Bible and Jesus’ Kingdom interests. I’ve witnessed this first hand and been on the receiving end. One faithful church attender, when a church meeting (by simple oversight) took place a few hours before the time stipulated by the constitution, told me that even if a child was crossing the street, if the traffic light showed green he as the motorist would proceed no matter the consequences because that was the rule of the road. In disbelief I asked him to repeat his statement, and he did. Fortunately he resigned.
My fellow-leader and member, what are our priorities? What are our values? Are they shaped by Jesus and his Kingdom? It was Winston Churchill who, in an address to the British Parliament at the time when the bombed House of Commons was being rebuilt, declared ‘We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.’ Fellow-blogger Maurice Smith is right when he points out that we all begin with values which guide us as we shape our buildings and structures, but at some point along the way our ‘structures’ begin to shape us and our values.
It happened with Israel’s religious leaders and Caiaphas the high priest. Jesus’ first disciples had been shaped by the deeply-ingrained religiosity of those very leaders – until Jesus turned those disciples’ values and lives upside down.
Often in the organised Church we are unwittingly shaped by our structures, committees, religion, traditions, denominations, Judaistic legalism (cf. Galatian Letter), church brands, etc – instead of by Christ and his kingdom values. Dear friends, let’s come out of Babylon and be free, for we are free in Christ!
Jesus, in his home synagogue of Nazareth, clearly indicated his national and global purpose: “The scroll containing the messages of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him, and he unrolled the scroll to the place where it says: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come'” (Lk. 4:18ff/NLT).
You see the kingdom is not about committees and constitutions and rules etc – YES it’s about obedience, even costly obedience, but ultimately its about JESUS (the NT version), a love relationship with him and our neighbour, grace, his divine life within us, and his royal rule on earth!