Monday, August 18, 2008

A Small Challenge To Men

In our summer Wednesday night men's Bible class, we studied the topic of leadership. We weren't looking at "church" leadership. We were trying to dig into the topic of leadership in general. Focusing on a list of 26 characteristics of leaders found in John MacArthur's, The Book On Leadership, one of the main things we learned is that leadership is not based on position or power. Leadership, at least in this study, came down to influence.

When a man influences others by his words, his actions, and his character, he is providing a kind of leadership that trumps possession of office or authority. That's not to say that a man in a particular office or who holds some kind of official authority cannot also lead, but it is to say that the ability to influence others is not necessarily related to those things.

From a worldly point of view, Jesus was man without position or authority. Follow me here for a moment. I know he had both from a heavenly or spiritual point of view, but he had neither as a man from Nazareth in Galilee. What he had was the ability to influence people. He did that through words and actions, backed up by his character.

You could say the same about the apostles. None had position or power. Again, understand that this is said from a worldly point of view, not a spiritual point of view. But even if you want to grant them a position of "leader" in the early church, exercising a divinely granted "authority", you still might want to consider that position and power were not the keys to success. Paul had his detractors and opponents, within the church, who recognized neither his position or authority. It still came down to the ability to establish the credentials of character, and the exercise of influence on others through words and actions.

One of the reasons this is an important topic is that men tend to run in two directions on this topic and neither achieves real leadership. One direction is that of position and power. Give a guy a position and watch him become a power broker. That happens more often than you might think. I remember years ago when we were going through a process to select elders for the congregation for whom I served as a preacher. One of the men just seemed to be a head taller, spiritually, than all the other candidates. I truly believed that he would make a good elder. But almost from the day he was appointed to that position, he became obsessed with a sense of power that ran roughshod over the church. It ultimately led to his undoing as a leader. This has happened again and again. Even among secular leaders, it is often this heavy swing toward position and power that makes a man's leadership less than it could be, or a failure altogether.

The other direction is that of abdication of leadership. A lot of men simply do not lead. They give leadership of their families to their wives. Ask them to lead in their church and you'll get a "Moses" speech about how unqualified or unable they are to do anything. Many communities suffer ill effects of social, economic, and other problems because men simply do nothing. Ever wondered about the qulity of those who run for political office? Are there no better men (or women for that matter) than the candidates running? I think there might well be, but they are hidden away.

Motivating men to lead is a tough job. It requires some leadership! Somebody must influence men to lead. Men must hear words, see actions, and be touched by the character of other men who have already stepped up to the plate and are swinging away at the job.

In an effort to be practical, we focused on one, very specific opportunity. Here's the challenge that was put to our men: on Sundays, when we meet as a church, take the responsibility to insure that every person who walks through the doors of our church building knows that they are loved, appreciated, and that our church is a "safe" place. What's behind this small challenge to our men? We want them, through words and actions, bolstered by their character, to take advantage of one simple opportunity to influence other people.

Don't think this is important? Let me ask a question. What would you think if you went to church on Sunday and a group of 20 or 25 men all spoke to you, asked about how you doing, offered to help in some way, made you feel welcomed and comfortable, and convinced you that in this church people would respect you and care for you? I'm betting it would knock your socks off. I'm betting those men and that church would have a positive, lasting influence on you.

It's a small challenge. It just might have huge results. I'm hoping our men rise to the challenge.