Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Exhortation for Young Leaders

Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 7 Mar 2012

"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men." (Titus 3:1-2)

Last week, I preached on the passage above in my Church. Making a passionate plea for believers to obey their authorities, I maintain that being able to subject ourselves willingly under the leadership of our respective communities is in itself a mark of a believer. The verses in Titus above urge us to:

  • submit to the authorities that have been legitimately elected
  • to be obedient and be law abiding citizens
  • to be ready to keep doing good
  • to refrain from slandering anybody
  • to refuse to create a racket to stir up trouble for people
  • to demonstrate true humility toward all people.
In this article, I like to firstly make some observations of the current labour problems in BC. Then I will talk about biblical submission to authorities, followed by giving 5 tips for new and young leaders.

A) Labour Trouble in British Columbia

This past week, there has been several instances of insubordination and open challenges to the government here in British Columbia. The teachers for the public school sector have decided to walk out of their jobs. Claiming to fight for the children, instead of teaching and guiding children, they are showing children what it means to 'stand up for your rights' against a legitimately and democratically elected provincial government. As I drive past several schools, there will be teachers and some students holding up placards decrying the 'poor' conditions of public schools. Each honking, each shout, and each picketing act combine to show the entire public that the ones victimized are the teachers and the children.

Personally, I believe that this issue is not about children or parents. It is about politics and power. It is about how money is being allocated across the province especially in a very challenging economy of late. It is very easy to throw darts of accusations at the government. It is easy to simply stand up for our own rights, and shift the blame to others. In fact, anybody who want to protest can surely find a reason to protest. 

I have instructed my kids to stay out of either the government or the teachers positions. It is strictly between the BC Teachers Federation and the Provincial government. Anyone who wants to take sides, need to be mature enough to understand BOTH sides of the equation. Since my kids tend to hear mostly from the side of the teachers, I doubt if they are able to see the entire big picture in the first place. Mind you, I am not saying who is right or wrong. I am simply saying that we need to learn to see both sides of the picture before making any decision.

B) Biblical Submission

Given the biblical guideline, we are exhorted to be subject to our leaders and our authorities. This is clear. Whatever the pros and cons of the teachers-provincial dispute, this submission to authority does not change. It is a biblical mandate in which Christians need to observe. Of course, if we feel that the present government is not doing their jobs to their satisfaction, we have every right to vote them out the next time. Until that happens, we are to be law abiding in our actions. 

As far as the Church is concerned, Titus 3:1-2 applies as well. The leadership guru, John Maxwell's Law of Navigation says:

"Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course." (John C Maxwell, The Five Levels of Leadership, New York, NY, Center Street, 2011, p71)
Trust is important for those of us who are under the leadership of any organization. It is easy to blame leaders for anything untoward happening in the Church. It is also easy to criticize and take pot shots. If leaders are to justify in detail every single decision they make to their congregation, I think the issue is a lack of trust. This is an unhealthy sign. Maxwell's law of navigation reminds us again that it may be fun for anybody to play with the steering wheel. Without the map, we will not know where to go. Without a course set before us, we will have no clue how much resources we need to get to our destination. Leaders are expected to know the course. This is why anyone who tries to usurp the roles of leaders in the Church is very irresponsible. Want to drive the car? Do you have a roadmap? Want to take the steering wheel? Do you know where to go? Want to criticize leaders? Do you think you can do a better job? If yes, why are you not stepping up to be a leader?

Leadership with power comes with a critical sense of responsibility. Leaders are accountable to God and to the rest of the Church. Leaders are called to lead. Followers are called to follow. Mix them up and we have a potent combination of chaos and dissent. 

C) Encouragement to New Leaders

I like to focus this encouragement on new leaders. In fact, I believe that a good leader may do things competently and effectively. It takes a great leader to not only do that, but to cultivate and develop new leaders. In looking at Titus 3:1, we have been asked to be subject to our leaders. In our modern world, it is hard to simply expect people to submit just because the Bible says so. They need a certain persuasion in order to do that more willingly. 

Firstly, remember that titles are only the beginning. The title is only the beginning. It is NOT the fuel to sustain one's leadership potential. In other words, new leaders must grow. They cannot merely discharge the responsibilities like a worker bee. Anyone can be a worker bee. The important distinguishing mark of a leader is not mere working or aimless leading. It is growing. Watch how Peter grows as he endures the ups and downs of his spiritual life. He follows Jesus. He boasts of never denying Jesus. Yet, he ends up denying Christ three times! He receives Jesus' reinstatement in John 21. He leads a band of Christians mightily in the Book of Acts. In other words, despite his clumsy ways, he grows in faith, in love, and in passions. Leadership is only the beginning, not the end.

Secondly, relationships remain key to leadership growth. Note how the letter to Titus progresses from submission to leaders, to an attitude of obedience, and subsequently true humility to all people? It is about building relationships. New leaders are encouraged to build relationships through obedience to God and good works to one another. There is always room for a little more kindness. Send an email for a prayer request. Disengage from administration for a while so that one can engage with a real person.

"A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble." (Charles H. Spurgeon)
People are more important than programs. We grow as we help other people to grow. In fact, I venture to say that I will rather lives be changed, than programs to be well attended.

Thirdly, a new leader needs to be humble to learn. This is especially so for the younger leaders who do not have as much experience as the older leaders. Sometimes, young leaders suffer the brunt of condescending words.

  • "You are still young. One day you will understand."
  • "What you are doing is nothing compared to what I have gone through."
  • "How can you do such a stupid thing!"
  • "You think you know better than me?"

It is tough for young leaders to hear things like these from someone older or more experienced than them.  Personally, I feel for anyone bearing the brunt of such condescending words. The phrases belittle the young very easily. It smacks of arrogance that discourages young leaders. That said, I believe that condescending behaviour is the classic blind spot of people who have been in leadership for a long time. They have been a leader for so long that they think they know more than other people. This is why young leaders need to be especially gracious to anyone older than them. A young leader who knows how to extend grace even to those who belittle them, has the mark of a great leader in the making.

Fourthly, there is no shame in saying "I Don't Know." The problem comes when young leaders continue to remain in that state. If you do not know, find out what is needed to know. Young leaders need to  be open to learning.

Finally, cling on to Christ under all circumstances. A spiritual leader is different from a worldly leader. A spiritual leader knows that without God, he can do nothing. In fact, a spiritual leader is one who learns to tap the bountiful resources of God, and is sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

D) Summary

Obey your leaders. Be submissive to the authorities, even though we may disagree with their policies. In fact, we need to maintain a grip on any tendency to misbehave or to rebel against legitimate rulers of the land. In a democractic society, we are free to vote anyone we prefer. However, after the elections, after the votes are counted, we need to be responsible citizens to be law abiding.

For young leaders, remember the 5 pointers of leadership. Having a title of a leader is only the beginning. Lead with relationships in mind. Be humble to learn even in the light of lots of condescending words from the older folks, especially older leaders. Be ready to learn and admit we do not have all the answers. Cling on to God always.


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