Leading from Below, Not from Above

spiritual leadershipOur 5 hour drive ended in an abandoned lot. Across the street was the office where we spent the next 5 days with 15 leaders of an indigenous African ministry. Nicholas our team leader began unpacking the van, and we followed his lead. During the week he worked tirelessly, pouring the wisdom of 50 years of leadership experience into the lives of the seminar participants. He led by example. He served. Nothing was too little for him to do. As the week progressed I learned that he had been the leader of a large denomination. He had “the ear” of the highest religious and political leaders in his nation and across the region. Yet he carried his own bags, set up chairs, drove the van, and never complained. Nicholas exemplified Philippians 2: 7 – taking on “the nature of a servant”. He led from “below” not from “above.”

Nicholas was following the example of Jesus who told us in Matthew 20: 25-28 to not follow the example of the leaders of the day – who expected to be served and who took joy in telling others what to do. Instead, Jesus told us that the way to power is through service. They way to Kingdom greatness is from below, not from above.

As we think about what it means to redeem power, we must reimagine what leadership looks like. We can’t take our cues from the world around us. We can’t take the “old leadership wineskins” and put “new leadership wine” into them. Rather we need to throw out the old wine in the old wineskins and replace them with new wine and new wineskins.

But what does that look like? In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus tells us that the new wine is the leaders heart to serve, and the new wineskin is a leader with no concern for status or power. This is the heart of Kingdom leadership. This is leadership from below, not from above.

This is what we will explore in the blogs that follow. But, let’s begin to imagine a world where all our leaders exhibit true Kingdom leadership.

master of leadership

Author: Karl Mueller, DAI Senior Consultant for Church and Leadership Services, strengthens international partnerships between ministries around the world and churches in the USA. He joined DAI in 2014 and brings with him 35 years of ministry experience. Karl serves on the boards of African Leadership And Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM) and Community Health Evangelism (CHE).

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