1. Do you take things too seriously?
2. Have you held grudges against people when perceived to be wronged?
3. Do you strive for recognition from others, either in your own church or in wider circles of influence?
Come on, 'fess up! Personally, I can tick all three boxes. If we are honest, we can all get very carnal about leadership and, at times, hardly lean on God's Spirit at all for direction and strength. But of course it is a downward spiral that one that leads to an eventual whole heap of ugly.
I found the following advice from US pastor David Fitch, published on Out of Ur, passed on to you below, immensely useful in helping to examine our motives and bring repentance where needed. I offer it not because 'you really need it', but because we are all susceptible to the enemy's wiles and need to be reminded what it is to be servant leaders in the King's service.
It is a good test to take and helps us, perhaps, to see that this thing is really not about us at all, but Him and only HIm.
I’ve seen it time and again in my own leadership. Any time I am doing one of these three things I am undercutting the Spirit’s work in the midst of a group, I am making it about me, and I am subverting the Kingdom.
As a result, I have come to the conclusion that I must consistently test myself and allow others to test me in these three areas. Because when I start to indulge in these behaviours (which is inevitable) and let them linger, I not only will be messing myself up royally, I’ll be undercutting the reign of Christ – the work of God in our midst – in and through my mis-motivated leadership. So here are some comments on each of these three.
1. TAKING THINGS TOO PERSONALLY
A sign that leadership has gone bad is when someone’s criticism or even comments threaten your sense of security. Of course this is easier said than done. I think of the many times we must navigate criticism and self examine ourselves before the Spirit. We should never callously ignore criticism. Neither should we take all criticism as being true about me. We would be in perpetual self-examine mode. But leadership in the Kingdom is never “about me.” We can’t lead from a place where this is “about me.”Taking things personally gives off the unmistakable, easily detected vibration that what I am doing is about me and if you don’t follow me it will hurt me personally. You can’t lead from this place in the Kingdom.
Instead, we should be open to criticism and examining it. If it comes from one source, check in with somebody. If we received it from three sources, we begin to trust that this issue has some merits. We intentionally submit this issue for examination to those “with” us, and in so doing we submit it to Christ. We are ready to repent, confess, seek to be faithful, seek to submit, seek to obey, seek to affirm. Each time we grow. WE SHOULD NEVER BE AFRAID OF BEING CALLED ON SOMETHING. WE SHOULD ALWAYS BE READY TO REPENT. If we cannot enter into this process of the community (as is so evident in Ephesians 4) we cannot grow ourselves, which means we cannot grow with the community, which means we are holding the community back.
If we shut ourselves off from criticism, or we narrow the people we are listening to down to our “fans” – the people already on our side – this is a recipe for eventual breakdown. The Spirit works within a community to reveal the truth. If you cannot participate in that process, you isolate yourself from reality. You shut down people from telling you what they really think. You have no gauge. The dynamic of the Spirit in the community is gone. Leaders therefore must always be able to receive any and all criticism that comes their way in vulnerability and humility. If you can’t, I consider this a disqualifier for leadership.
Ephesians 4:15 "Instead speaking truth in love, we will grow up into Him who is the head, that is Christ. Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body."
Therefore: a good question to submit yourself regularly to as a leader in the Kingdom is: Am I taking this too personally? Why? What am I afraid of? What does it look like to submit to others in these cases?
2. HOLDING GRUDGES
Holding grudges is another sign that leadership has gone awry. Someone has hurt you? Someone has disagreed with you? And now, weeks later (maybe months?) you are still resenting them? You’re inhabiting a mentality that says, “They were not with me, therefore they are against me.” Whenever I catch myself in this mentality I need to go to my knees and repent. It is a key indicator that I have assumed that I am in charge of the church (and its future) not Jesus, the Lord of the church. I’m undercutting the Kingdom. Forgiveness, forbearance for all people who disagree with me is a sign I am living in the Kingdom, that I am submitted to Jesus as Lord. So, the first sniff of a grudge is grounds for me being disqualified from leadership in the Kingdom. It happens all the time. I must be called on this and repent.
Colossians 3:13 "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."
Therefore, a good question to submit yourself to regularly (with someone else) is: Am I holding a grudge, resenting someone for something? Why am I holding on to this? What does it look like to forgive, forbear, and submit to Jesus reign in regard to this person?
3. WANTING IT TOO MUCH
Am I striving for recognition? Does my sense of identity depend upon being recognised as a leader? This suggests, if I let this mode of operating continue, that I am leading out of warped space, trying to prove something. This will infect everything I do. People will sense that I am leading not out of Kingdom interests, but out of my own. Leadership is a call to service, obedience to God, not one’s own ego gratification or even identity. I refuse to lead out of my own sense of identity. I agree that, as God uses us, we will come to know who we are within the realm of God’s purposes.
But the minute I start striving for some recognition in the body of Christ instead of submitting to the recognition, I am working against the dynamic of the Kingdom. I suggest that a leader in the Kingdom must always be ready and willing to give up leadership, surrender, and only serve at the behest of the body at large. A.W. Tozer said, "The most dangerous leader in the room is the one who wants leadership."
Philippians 2:3-5 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mind-set as Christ Jesus."
Therefore, a good question to submit yourself to is: Am I willing to give up my leadership in this role or has it become too important to my own sense of identity? Am I willing to submit to my co-labourers and ask if it is time for me to resign? Is God still calling me to act in this role in this place? If I cannot do this, and trust God for the future, I suggest I am seriously close to disqualification for leadership in the Kingdom. I am seriously close to operating not out of a place of submission to the King, but our of my own needs for this “job.”
In conclusion, these three signs all testify to the singular most important dynamic to unleashing the Spirit in and around our communities: the dynamic of Jesus’ rule as Lord and King over the space of His people. We who lead among His people therefore must lead in submission to His rule, always discerning with a group of people in His rule, where he is taking us, what He is doing. To lead out of personal ego and/or control undermines this dynamic. And it turns our church into just another social organisation based in human organisational processes.