Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monday Morning Leadership Devo

(Originally published on February 23, 2009)

Who Leads the Leader?

The term leader tends to be a terminal word in our minds. What I mean is that when you think of a leader, you think of the top dog. There’s nobody higher up the food chain than the leader, right? But this is the kind of thinking that will get you into trouble. As human beings, we are not capable of maintaining sole occupancy of the top of the ladder. Sin will always get in the way. Pride will always corrupt. Just look around at the state of our economy in America. How many stories have we heard of top execs who thought they were at the top of the food chain and thus untouchable. They could write the rules any way they wanted and nobody could do anything about it because they were the leader. This is how it will always be because we are human.

So today, with this in mind, I ask the question: Who leads the leader? You see, leadership is not terminal. Every leader must submit to the authority of another. Even the President of the United States submits to the will of the people and the Constitution. As a pastor, I submit to the Board of Overseers. When you do not know who leads you, then your own leadership is doomed.

Passage for Reflection: Numbers 22

I preached recently on this passage and my focus was on the mysterious figure of Balaam. Balaam was a leader of sorts. We are told that another great leader, King Balak of the Moabite empire, sent for Balaam. Balaam lived over 400 miles away, which means that from an ancient perspective, he was a celebrity. His fame as a prophet-for-hire was worldwide. Balaam was good at what he did and he knew it. His price was high and results were guaranteed. The kind of success that Balaam experienced professionally can lead one to think they are untouchable, that they need not submit to anyone’s authority. King Balak was seeking to purchase a curse upon God’s people so that he could defeat them in battle. What is interesting is that God inserts Himself into the story to stop Balaam. This ultimately leads to Balaam’s greatest leadership error. Balaam convinced himself that his leadership was absolute and terminal. That there was no one higher than him that he needed to submit to. He determined to do it his way and to collect his fee. Only when God sent an angel to kill him and his life was saved by his donkey did Balaam get it…for a season. If you read on, you will discover that Balaam went back to the self-deception that HE was the top dog, the one that got to make the rules and call the shots. In a way, his leadership was terminal because his actions led to his own death via the sword.

Focal Point: All great leaders are themselves led by another.

What we are missing in our leadership theory is what I call a theology of leadership. Ultimately, God is the only “top dog.” Only God occupies the top of the ladder, the head of the food chain, only He is the King of the mountain. God is the ONLY one who need not submit to the authority of another. A theology of leadership says that not only do I submit to God’s leadership, but my most significant task as a leader is to point people to the leadership of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Leader of Leaders.

So who leads the leader? Who leads you?

“Lord, I deny myself, and take up my cross daily, and follow you, my leader. Amen.”


Note: To listen to my sermon on Numbers 22 and on Balaam, click here.

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