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Christian Leadership: A Conversation with Phil Sallee and Eric Knox

This Sunday, two of the church elders talked with us about what Leadership means, using the passage Matthew 20:20-28.  In this section, the mother of James and John had asked that her sons get important places in Jesus' kingdom.  His response showed that they didn't understand how the kingdom works.

Appointment:  True Christian leadership is directed by God.

Jesus said that the places of honor would go to those for whom they were prepared.  God appoints us to leadership.

Church:  As an example, our church's men's group began when two men met with one man who needed counseling.  They didn't set out to lead anything, but have served more than 50 men since then.

Ephesians 2:11 -- God prepared good works in advance for us to do.  Our role isn't to "make it happen," but to serve, to look for God's direction.

Home:  Pray over decisions and seek God's will.  Are your goals God's goals?

Business:  Seek God's guidance in your workplace.  It takes humbling ourselves to listen to God's direction.

Here Eric told a story of an answer to prayer that began with him being fired. 

Jesus said, "You don't know what you're asking."  Some answers to prayer come with great difficulty.

Humility:  True Christian leadership is not self-promoting.

"The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them.  Not so with you."

Church:  Humble leaders point others to God, not to themselves.  Are we willing to take the job that is needed?

Home:  Recognize the strengths of your spouse and family and your own weaknesses.  It's not a competition -- you're part of a team.  We're all better when we point each other toward God.  Parenting - and life - is a team effort.  Defensiveness is opposed to humility.

Business:  Allow God to raise us up (Luke 14:10).  Even popular authors on leadership acknowledge the importance of humility.

We don't have to strive to be successful.  Trust God and pray for direction.  Allow God and others to promote us.

Is it okay to seek a promotion?  Yes, at times.  But never in order to lord it over others.  Check your attitude.

Service:  True Christian Leadership enables others to succeed.

"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave."

Church:  At Gateway, we serve our way into leadership.  Deacons are small group leaders and team leads.  The term "deacon" comes from the Greek word for "servant" used here.  We want to see ourselves as servants of Christ.

Home:  Husbands lay down your life for your wife. (Ephesians 5:25)  Serving our children does not mean putting them in control.  But the home is a good place to teach our children about service.

Business:  True leadership is found in serving others.  Leaders enable others to succeed.  When we demonstrate servanthood at work, we're serving Jesus (Colossians 3:23).  Jesus was the ultimate servant leader.

Conclusion:  "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Our example is Jesus.  He still serves us today as an intercessor.

To lead is to serve:  "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave."

We are all leaders in some capacity.  May we serve all the more heartily!

Spiritual Growth: What It Is, How It Happens, and Why It Matters: Philippians 2:1-11

February 11, 2018


This morning we marched boldly into the rich second chapter of Philippians, where Paul challenges us to move away from a casual understanding of spirituality and urges us to strive for a God-honoring, Christ –promoting, sharply focused, gospel-declaring culture of growth. Philippians 2: 1-11 urges us to participate more in the Body of Christ, described in the Greek language as Koinonia. Whatever you are doing, Paul intimates, do more. Paul urged the Philippians to make his joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one spirit, all infused with genuine humility (verses 1-4). (Ed suggested using the English Standard Version for this passage as a method of gaining new understanding.)

If you miss everything else, don’t miss this: Being connected to one another is a really big deal, and one of the most important keys to successful relationships- connection- is humility.

CS Lewis said, “To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.”

Ed painted the backdrop for Paul’s explanation of the profound humility of Jesus by touching on 3 titanic concepts:

  1. The mystery of the Trinity.
  2. The nature of Jesus- fully God, yet fully man (think of the story of Jesus calming the storm, and the disciples being terrified, asking: What sort of man is this?”)
  3. The ultimate glorification of Jesus. We understand that there will one day come a time when everyone and everything will worship Jesus Christ.

The passage goes on from here to explain how Jesus, this Jesus who was part of the Trinity, fully God and fully Man, did not consider for a moment that equality with God was possible, and humbled Himself even to death on the cross. Humility could be perhaps explained as the complete absence of the rights of the self. (How would you define humility based on this passage?)

After giving us an overview of these verses, Ed took a step aside from scripture and described an illustration from the world of business. Author Jim Collins wrote a book called “Good to Great.” His research team searched for specific patterns in companies that had sky-rocketed in the market and asked, “What conditions were present that could have caused this incredible success?” Collins’ research went on to identify 7 features which these companies had in common:

  1. They put the right people in the right places.
  2. They confronted facts, even when those facts were brutally honest.
  3. They employed the hedgehog concept. In other words, find your one big thing and become very, very good at it. (In his famous essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox, Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”)
  4. They practiced a culture of discipline.
  5. These companies used technology accelerators.
  6. They incorporated the Flywheel Concept: There is no quick fix; rather, these great companies relentlessly pushed a big wheel up a hill until they pushed it over the top.
  7. And then there’s Level 5 Leadership: This is the point we need to focus on for our discussion today. A level 5 leader “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will.” Example: Kimberly Clark, led by Darwin Smith. His humility was such that hardly anyone knew who he was, yet everyone has heard of the great health-care products giant that is Kimberly Clark.

Collins’ conclusion about level 5 leadership is strikingly similar to Paul’s explanation of Christ’s humility in Philippians Chapter 2. Collins said that level 5 leadership is counter-intuitive—even counter-cultural! And yet this combination of humility and will makes for a universal combination which results in great leadership.

Based on this idea of level 5 leadership, Ed challenges us to think about 6 principles to employ in order to move toward greater personal humility and purpose.

  1. Speak less. Ed’s twist: Answer fewer questions.
  2. Mind your own business. Don’t try to manage others; rather, manage yourself.
  3. Listen to your critics.
  4. Bless those who insult you, slight you, forget you and dislike you.
  5. Own your strengths, and let them speak for themselves.
  6. Accept your limits.

For a group exercise, we discussed which one of these points did we feel we needed to work on and why? (My answer? I definitely need to work on accepting my limits. But probably all of them need to be addressed. It was a motivating discussion.)

Let’s end on another C.S. Lewis quote:

“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And it is a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”