The best way – no, the only way – to lead others is to do so in confession of your own need for Jesus.
The dynamic power that drives a person to live a life of true meaning is the ongoing rediscovery of the life that is ours through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The kind of life we’ve been called to live cannot happen apart from a personal and community experience of grace that compels us to “go all in” with Jesus’ people on Jesus’ mission of helping others find and follow Him.
There are many challenges to this kind of life – the pressure of the world, the schemes of the enemy, and our own busyness with the daily demands of life. But one of the greatest challenges to the ongoing experience of spiritual transformation is the temptation toward a type of performance based spirituality that disconnects us from living a life that looks consistently more like Jesus.
In Luke 12, as the crowds are increasing around Jesus, and even trampling one another to get to him, Jesus speaks these words to his disciples:
“In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:1-3 ESV)
You can imagine the situation: as more people look to Jesus and his disciples for teaching, leadership, and spiritual growth, the greater the pressure on Jesus’ disciples to pretend as though they are experts in these things. This was the “yeast of the Pharisees” – because their standards were so high, the Pharisees lived under the constant pressure to look mature, godly, and disciplined. This pressure increased as many looked to them as examples of godliness, so they lived hiding the truth about their twisted and greedy internal world and living a kind of performance spirituality that kept the outside of the dish clean while the inside of the dish rotted away (see Luke 11).
As followers of Jesus, our standards are actually higher than the Pharisees, especially as we call people to follow us into an all-of-life kind of Christianity. The more we call people into this way of life, and the more they look to us for leadership, the more we, too, are tempted to hide and perform. So Jesus warns his disciples to avoid what he calls “hypocrisy”: which is living of the Christian life in a way that is primarily concerned about looking right before men.
So what is the opposite of hiding and performing? What is the countermeasure for hypocrisy? Honest confession of sin and genuine repentance before God and men. As people transformed by the power of Jesus, we lead through our repentance. We lead by confessing the distance between who we ought to be and who we actually are, between our stated desires and our actual desires, between our confessional belief and our functional belief.
The best way – no, the only way – to lead others is to do so in confession of your own need for Jesus. Please don’t lead as an expert, as a mentor, as a shinning example of glamorized perfection. You’re not. We live and lead others from our own need for Jesus, meaning you’ll often feel totally unqualified and insufficient! That’s actually what people need from you, even if they mock you or doubt your qualifications. Let them. As Ted Tripp has said, “You have nothing to prove but this: the gospel of Jesus Christ is reliable and true and has the power to both free and transform you and me.” Anything other than this puts you on a pedestal, and while that may feel great for a time, it will all come crashing down and people will get hurt. Best to be a person in the middle of his or her journey of finding and following Jesus, and be content to say “I need Jesus; isn’t he gracious and good?”
And then do it again.