The Otherness of Leadership: Part One


How the nature of God shapes the nature of ministry.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.

 Rather, in humility value others above yourselves . . .

Have this mindset in you which was also in Christ Jesus.  Phil. 2:3,5

Jesus is our master and model for leadership. To lead more like him, we must be more in his presence, understand more of his mindset, and take on more of his character.  This is no small task. So, how does this happen and where do we begin?

This month and the next two, we will use this space to briefly explore the nature, function, and form of Jesus’ leadership.  We’ll ask, “Why did Jesus say what he said and do what he did?” Then ponder together, “How does this apply to ministry?” Our goal is to think more deeply about Jesus so that we might lead more like Jesus.

Certainly, no one word, concept, or principle can summarize Jesus’ life and leadership. As John wrote at the end of his gospel, Jesus did and said so many things that, “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

Still, one word may provide a frame of reference that will go a long way in the right direction for discovering Jesus leadership: the word “Others.” Jesus leadership is about others. To see this, let’s begin by considering the nature of Jesus’ leadership, using John’s gospel as a guide.

From the beginning to end of John’s gospel one thing is clear: you cannot separate what Jesus says and does apart from his relationship to Father and Spirit. Here are just a few examples:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  John 5:19

“For I (Jesus) did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.” John 12:49                               

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:2

The nature of Jesus’ leadership is mutual submission in the triune Godhead. Everything Jesus says and does springs from his eternal, intimate relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Some theologians have used the word perichoresis to describe the Trinity, a kind of circle dance of three diverse persons “dancing” as one–always deferring and always in step with each other, full of intimacy, unity, and love

Dance is an apt metaphor for the social, spiritual way Jesus leads. The gospels continually find Jesus speaking and acting in mutual submission to Father and Holy Spirit.

  • Jesus does nothing by himself, and only what he sees the Father doing. (John 5:19)
  • Jesus submits his own will to the will of the Father in life and death. (John 6:38)
  • Jesus promises that he and his Father will send the Holy Spirit to comfort and convict in his name. (John 14:26; 20:22

Indeed, often and at critical times of his life and ministry Jesus leaves the crowds behind to be alone with Father and Spirit in prayer

Have you ever thought of leadership as a dance with God?  Picture, for a moment, your ministry choreographed for purposeful movement with Jesus. What would that look like?

Imagine, for example, that meeting tonight as an expression of art, an opportunity for new creation in step with the Holy Spirit. What if your everyday tasks, goals, and responsibilities became expressions for God’s creativity? How would such a vision change you and your leadership?

The nature of Jesus’ leadership means that all ministry begins, ends, and hinges upon intimacy with Father, Son and Spirit.  Leading others reveals your relationship with the Other

Do you have the leadership mindset of Jesus?  Here are some questions you might continually hold before you as you lead today:

  • Have I committed myself today to do and say what I see Jesus and the Father doing?
  • Am I, like Jesus, engaging ministry today in submission to God, led by the Spirit’s empowering presence?
  • How might I engage ministry today with joy and creativity, as a dance with God for His glory?

by Jim Van Yperen