As a team in C3 Amsterdam we are all writing a blog on our journey with the culture in C3 church (see video here). As I grew up outside of church and got saved around 18, many of my values, thought patterns and habits did not align with church culture at all. So I could write ten of these; a blog for each cultural component.
But ain’t nobody got time for that. I think of all the C3 culture components, it took me the longest amount of time to truly understand the place of leadership in church and my place in it. And with that, I don’t mean understanding how to take the lead.
Because as a child, I already often took the lead. I have been told I have a commanding personality. Whatever I did, I always let my opinion be known and got involved in decision making. Whether it was my football team, my debate team, projects at school or later university; I often took the lead. Or at the very least challenged decisions on the basis of reason. My mom didn’t always appreciate that! Leadership, in my view, was something to be deserved or something to be taken. And if you’re the leader: prepare to be challenged. I sure did when I was leading anything.
My way of understanding leadership was fed by the world around me and it seemed to work well for me. However, that doesn’t mean it was in line with how God sees leadership and authority. One of my favourite examples in the Bible of understanding the dynamics of leadership and authority to me is the Roman Centurion in Luke 7. When he asked Jesus to heal his servant, he expressed to understand that Jesus had been given the authority to heal; that Jesus has command of physical wellbeing. Verse 7b and 8 state:
But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
The Centurion understood that his position didn’t mean he could demand anything of Jesus, but that in this case, authority was given to Jesus. He understood the dynamics of leadership and authority. He submitted his request through the proper authorities at the time, who came to Jesus. Luke describes that he did a lot of the Jewish people, especially for a Roman soldier. He honoured Jesus, instead of just requiring something from him. His heart was not proud but humble.
I had to make a decision not to challenge every decision leaders in church made. Not just verbally, but also in my heart. I had to make a decision that my heart needed to be right and not rebellious. If I believe in what we are trying to achieve as a church: seeing hope on every street, seeing every person transformed in Christ and empowered for purpose, that meant I need to take my place and support authority instead of challenging it.
That does not mean I never voice my opinion anymore; just that the heart behind the opinion is in the right place. That even if I don’t agree with a decision, I can stand in agreement with it. It means I stand in unity. It means I encourage my leaders more than I challenge them. It means I encourage my peers more than I challenge them. It means I love the people I lead, before I require anything from them. It means my heart remains soft and my attitude humble.
Understanding that keeping my heart soft and my attitude humble comes with understanding that my leadership and authority have been given; not deserved. My place in the Kingdom of God is due to nothing other than grace. Obviously competency and skill are useful, but they are not the basis of leadership. They aren’t the basis of my leadership nor position. So I keep my heart soft and my attitude humble.
Not just when I relate to leadership, but also when I lead. One of my favourite scriptures is found in Colossians 3. Verse 23 and 24 state: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” That is what inspires me. Whether I lead or whether I follow, whether I am the one making decisions or executing the decisions made, I do it as if I’m working for the Lord.
Because in the end, that is exactly what I’m doing.