Imagine that you’ve been given the task to render a talented servant-leader useless. You know, one of those people who lead with humility, make a difference with every thing they do, and connect well with others. A strange request, eh? Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking about this in the past month (and I’ll share why later).
I don’t think I’d parade a variety of obvious temptations in front of them. No, I’d want to be more subtle. My goal would simply be to somehow take them out of those exchanges. Just remove them from having an effect on others’ lives and hope that someone less competent and faithful will take their place, if anyone at all. Here’s the list of strategies that I made:
- Give them success and attention. Take the focus off the service work and put it on the response of those who talk about them and their work. Make it less about those being served and more about the reputation with others.
- Pay them well for their work. Most who serve aren’t going to be in high-paying gigs. So, I’d up their standard of living and again take the focus off of the service … if I could. I’m not sure this one would work super well. Most would give the extra money away anyway.
- Give them a title and put them in charge of something. It’d be easier that way, as they age, to focus on that role and feel like they once did their part.
- Make them an expert. I think all should strive for expertise in their work area, and those who are expert play an important role in our work. It’s not their only role. And the goal isn’t to be the ‘most’ expert (as some in academia tend to do).
- Sin. Plain and simple. I’d still try to lure them away down various paths, and I’d work with pride, envy, jealousy, and lust first. The big four that trip up so many.
Here’s why I am thinking of this: First, I see SO MANY great and wonderful people in leadership who once lived and worked on the ‘front lines’ ministering to hurting people. And now these gifted leaders seem insulated far from those front lines. Maybe that’s ok. But, I ached at how good these people were at what they did and think it a loss that they’re supervisors or managers.
No matter your title, and even if you don’t have one, I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians that continue to challenge me:
For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 5 Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! 6 As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children[b] among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.
9 Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. 11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory. (I Thess. 2:4-12, NLT)
Isn’t that what we’d all desire for those who lead us? Isn’t that what we should be striving toward? My hope is that we can all exhibit similar qualities as we lead no matter where we serve.