We are looking at five implications for leaders taken from Philippians 2:7, where Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” Are we ready to lead in this selfless, sacrificial way? If so, here is the fourth of five ways that leading in obedience to Christ will require of us that we become leaders of no reputation.
Surefire way #4 Defy success
Perhaps a better heading would be ‘re-define success.’ Read through the Gospels and see how many times Jesus redefined what people thought of as success. It was a consistent mantra with him to apply an alien ethic to the social issues of the day. Jesus taught kingdom values and applied them wherever he went, and it made him an offense to some and a laughingstock to others.
Jesus praised peacemakers in a world of violence and oppression. He opined that the meek would inherit the earth when it was only the powerful were in control. He equated lust with adultery and hatred with murder. He exhorted people to walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek, pray for enemies and love you neighbors – even the Samaritans. Jesus’ formula for success flew in the face of everything the present world represented.
Jesus changed the metrics on success, turned upside down the traits to be emulated and the values to be pursued. He did it at a very high price. He offended the religious leaders, disappointed the zealots, amused the Romans and infuriated the overly pious. And he did it all by redefining the abundant life that they were all seeking but not finding.
How do you define success for your organization in your role as a leader? How closely is that definition aligned with a secular one? Is it composed of financial gain, larger staff, increase in influence, etc? How about your personal definition of success? Is it tied up in accomplishments, accolades, approval and advancement?
The bottom line question is to what extent do kingdom values drive your definitions of success? How radical a change would occur if they were your only terms of measurement? We have been trying over the past decade to call Christian ministries back to a kingdom-value centric model of fundraising. That means measuring success by how well God has used us to engender givers’ hearts that are rich toward him, rather than how much we can raise for our selves. It is a radically new metric for measuring fundraising success.
In the end, leading according to kingdom values begins with us. It is intensely personal because it asks us to redefine success as we see it in our own eyes and measure it in our own hearts. As we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, we become free to see our role in a new light. As kingdom values begin to drive us, we will in turn lead organizations toward achieving kingdom goals. When we do we will be facing a torrent of pushback from those who believe that success in doing God’s work is nothing more than applying good secular models with a few Bible verses thrown in. For them, your reputation will be compromised as you seek to lead according to a set of values that often run headlong into the world’s practices and definitions.
Under kingdom values, everything we have known is called into question: HR policies, budgeting, endowment keeping, fundraising, program assessment, board governance, marketing and communications, and even the way we manage our facilities and grounds.
Are you willing, as a leader, to set aside your reputation and accept the challenge of redefining every area of your organization according to kingdom values? Can you dare to do anything less?