Ancient church mothers and fathers often greeted one another with the phrase, “Give me a word.” This greeting led to the sharing of insights and wisdom. Today we continue this tradition with this monthly column.
By Mandy Sayers
Pastor, Covenant UMC, Gaithersburg
I heard John Mayer’s song, “Waiting on the World to Change” on the radio today. I really don’t like that song. It’s whiney. It’s about a generation that isn’t old enough to take the lead, so they’re just waiting on the world to change. It sounds a bit like a cop-out to me.
I’ll grant you that it’s hard to know how to lead when the man you’re following was crucified by the powers that be. It’s hard to lead people like Jesus would have led because that sort of leadership tends to end with nails and a cross.
When the Son of God took the form of a servant and modeled a leadership that looks like washing feet, well, that’s a hard thing to put on a bumper sticker. That’s a leader that’s neither “electable” nor likely to “make America great again.” (Note the bipartisan nature of the reference).
But God has always been in the leadership development business. The ones God tends to choose are often a surprise: Moses stuttered; Jeremiah was too young; Sarah was too old; Saul persecuted Christians; and David…well, he violated almost all the commandments.
Consider all the prophets that God woke up in the middle of the night, all the people God called to lead when even the church didn’t recognize their call — people like Sojourner Truth and Jerena Lee.
God is still raising up leaders, who at first may not know they are leaders. When the great “I Am” whispers, so often the response is “but who am I to go and lead anybody? I’m just waiting on the world to change.” That’s where the church can step in — naming spiritual gifts and graces, training and encouraging new leaders, being an Eli to help a Samuel recognize God’s voice.
Leading sometimes means doing the hard thing, the unpopular thing. It sometimes means speaking truth to power. It sometimes means keeping your mouth shut. Leadership is both skill and art, requiring a curious balance of courage and humility. Servant leadership in the name of Jesus requires knowing that “leaders” are also first and foremost “followers.” We follow Jesus and we lead others to him. We follow the Savior whose model of greatness was about being a servant of all.
Leading is about speaking up and speaking out and taking risks in Jesus’ name. Leading is about disciples washing feet, breaking chains,