This article is an excerpt from the Bible study Jesus on Leadership by C. Gene Wilkes, available to order from lifeway.com.
Jesus was a servant leader, and the focus of His leadership was empowering others to live out God’s plan for their lives, not their own agendas. He equipped His disciples to continue the mission of reconciliation after He returned to the Father. We can identify four key elements of Jesus’ leadership.
1. Jesus had a clear mission. Jesus was a servant to the Father’s mission for His life: to be the Suffering Servant Messiah (see Isa. 53:11), “to give His life—a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He didn’t come to do His will “but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Jesus humbled Himself and became a servant to God’s mission for His life (see Phil. 2:6-8).
The mission of God is everything for a servant leader who follows Jesus, answering the question “Why are we here?” The most familiar statement of this mission is the Great Commission (see Matt. 28:19-20). As followers of Jesus go about their lives, we’re to “make disciples” (v. 19) of Jesus. More specifically, God has commissioned with us the “ministry of reconciliation”(2 Cor. 5:18), in which we’re “ambassadors for Christ” where we live, learn, work, and play (v. 20).
2. Jesus provided a clear direction. Jesus influenced His followers to leave their status quo and go where they wouldn’t go on their own. The direction Jesus provided enabled His disciples to answer the question “Where are we going?” Jesus led them to trust “the kingdom of God has come near” and to “repent and believe in the good news” of His coming (Mark 1:15). He told vision stories in the form of parables to help them see God’s preferred future for them. Jesus led those who trusted Him to the cross, where He suffered and died but was raised on the third day. Jesus kept the purposes and plans of God before His followers through His actions, teachings, and stories. Servant leaders like Jesus continually tell those they lead where they’re going and what their lives are becoming through a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
3. Jesus trained His disciples to carry out the Father’s mission. Jesus equipped them through His “Follow Me” method of training (Matt. 4:19) and trained them with the skills to be Kingdom people through His teaching and example. Equipping answers the question of those who join us on mission: “How do we do this?”
4. Jesus invested in a team of disciples. At the end of three years, when Jesus’ time came to return to the Father, He commissioned His disciples to continue God’s mission of reconciliation (see Matt. 28:19-20). To lead as a servant leader like Jesus is to invest in a core group of leaders who will carry on the mission in the leader’s absence. Team leadership answers the question “Whom can we count on?”
Excerpted from C. Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership © 1996 Lifeway Press®, revised 2015. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.