Benefits for leaders who are powerful but not dominating:
1. Leaders sometimes become bitter, feeling their role requires an endless supply of energy that no human has. But, if God is the source of energy, leaders are able to draw on God’s endless resources.
2. Powerful leaders cooperate with God in the work He is doing and do not need to force their way. They are able to relax and trust in God.
Benefits for the community where leaders are powerful but not dominating:
When leaders trust in God’s power and see themselves as God’s servants, stewarding the gift of leadership entrusted to them, their confidence in God protects them from the fears that lead to using authority to suppress others. They have no need to dominate but are able, instead, to invite.
Biblical inspiration and support:
Christian leaders are powerful, but maybe not in the same way we often think about leaders being powerful. When James and John asked to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand in glory, Jesus taught His disciples:
“ …'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 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 10:42–45, ESV)
So, those who were not God-followers lived a certain way, but Jesus taught His disciples not to follow their pattern. How did they live? Those who were considered rulers, or leaders, “lord it over them.” What does it mean to “lord it over” someone? The word used here is a Greek word that has the sense of subduing, bringing into subjection, and being master over. The leaders who were not following God were bringing others into subjection and acting as master over them.
“But it shall not be so among you…” (Mark 10:43, ESV) Jesus confidently and authoritatively states. Christians should not follow that pattern.
Instead, Jesus says, “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44, ESV). This is quite a shift, from subduing and ruling over those you lead to serving all.
Jesus redefined what greatness is.
Being great is being the servant of all.
Not only did He redefine it in His teaching, Jesus modeled it.
Jesus continues, “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 10:45, ESV). Jesus showed us what it looks like to be great as He laid down His life on the cross for people.
Christian leaders are not to dominate as we often see leaders around us doing, pressuring others to submit to our will and agenda. Instead, those who follow Christ follow His example of serving all.
What does that look like? I think Peter gives us an idea as he teaches:
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1–3, ESV, emphasis mine).
Leaders are to willingly oversee others, not eager for money, and not domineering (our Greek word from the Mark passage above) over others but “being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3, ESV). One of the ways we serve is by being examples. I would suggest we serve as examples as we imitate Christ, our example.
So, what about the power? I believe as we align our will with God’s will, His mighty power is released in and through us. Imagine a gas stove, as you turn the dial to align with “on”- poof! The power is released and the flame is burning! As we line up our attitudes, will and behavior with God’s will in the situation, His power is released in us.
Paul describes how he works with God’s power that works mightily in him:
“29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29, ESV, emphasis mine).
Paul does exert, but it is with God’s energy.
As we seek to resist the common temptation to dominate and pressure others…
As we seek to serve as leaders, following Christ’s example…
As we seek to serve God, serving His agenda not our own…
God’s power is released in us, and through our obedience it is released into the relationships and situations we find ourselves in. And that, my friends, is truly great.
 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 519). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
A few years ago I read about a concept called, “abandoning outcomes to God,” in Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke by Bill Gaultiere. Before that time, I consistently found myself uptight in meetings, eager to share my opinion and use my influence to get my way. As I recall, one of the exercises in the book encouraged the reader to go into a meeting letting go of the pressure to share your own ideas and opinions and to instead, abandon the outcome to God. It seemed like a strange idea, but one day it came to mind as I was entering a meeting and I tried it. I let go of what I really wanted to persuade everyone to do and just listened. As I listened, I realized that people were not really hearing each other. I started praying for those in the meeting to hear and understand one another. I found myself realizing that the conversation did not need any additional new ideas so instead of injecting my thoughts I worked towards facilitating the conversation. I started praying to sense what God was doing and what He wanted in the meeting. This has changed how I approach meetings in general. I am much more open to what God wants to do in the meeting. I think sometimes His priority has more to do with relationships, communication and unity then decisions and action items. Giving up my desire to “rule” in the meeting and have my way “win” has given me the ability to be sensitive to and enter into what God may want to do in the meeting. It has allowed me to serve God and others.
1. Write down some ways you see leaders and rulers “lording it over” people in our world today.
2. Reflect on where you feel pressure as a leader to force your way and to subdue others.
3. Read Mark 10:35-45. Write down any insights you have.
4. Pray and ask the Lord to show you the way to be great as a leader, the way to serve in your situation.
A final word:
Powerful leaders do not dominate, they invite.
Comment: How have you experienced God’s energy working powerfully within you, like Paul describes in Colossians 1:29?
Hi! I'm Jeri Howe.
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