“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” | Luke 5:16
My church recently started an 8-week leadership course called Essential Leadership. This course discusses topics like leadership theology, leadership theory, margin, coaching, innovation, and more - all within a biblical framework. With the many roles and opportunities given to me to lead, I considered taking this course a no-brainer. My parents have always said, “Be careful the bar you set for yourself - you just might reach it.” This adage encourages me to set the bar HIGH for my life, never allowing complacency to keep me from where God wants to take me next. As the course began, I thought I knew what leadership entailed. Authority. Power. Role. Autonomy. Esteem. Vision. Followers. (To name a few.) Though many of these traits accompany leaders, they are not what makes a leader.
It did not take long for my leadership theory to be interrupted by good leadership theology. As I looked at God as leader, I saw a new definition.
Leadership is influence.
Godly leadership is acting as a shepherd, living on mission, and being like Jesus when he lived on earth. A true leader loves, displays godly character, cares for those he leads, and lives out what he believes. The more I studied God as leader, I realized what I want for my life is not authority, but influence. I don’t want to have a wide reach without any depth. I want the way I live my life and love people to influence and inspire. Countless priorities are seen in the life of a truly godly leader: humility, service, faithfulness, accountability, compassion, faith, etc. Yet one priority stood out to me the most. I really believe this to be the cornerstone on which influence is built.
This short Luke passage truly rocked my world: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)
In the verses preceding this particular passage, we read that Jesus’ influence was expanding. News about him was spreading everywhere, and massive crowds were arriving to hear him, be near him, and to be healed by him. At the beginning stages of Christ’s’ fame, he withdrew to lonely places and he prayed. Jesus knew that his influence could only go as far as his intimacy with the Father. Intimacy, as portrayed by Christ in this passage, shows us the priority of being grounded in and committed to a loving relationship with God. As influence increases, so should our intimacy. What a breathtaking thing to realize that the God of the Universe wants to be at the very center of our lives. He wants to walk with us in our purpose, he wants to speak into our decisions, and he wants to enter those private, scary parts of our hearts. Jesus prioritized intimacy with his Father because he knew it would be the solid ground on which his ministry would stand.
The same is true for you and I. Whenever someone tells me that they are on the verge of walking away from leadership, ministry, their passion, etc. - I always ask them this question: “When was the last time you spent some real, quality time with the Lord?” If I begin to doubt where I am or what I am doing, it is usually an indication that I have been putting too much stock in my ability and my authority, and less weight on God and His truth. What a dangerous place to be in...and it is a place I’m sad to say, I’ve been in often. Our source, our life, our confidence, our abilities, and our capacity for influence, ALL live within the life-changing presence of God. It is only there that we can receive what we need to faithfully walk out our calling.
Feel like quitting? How’s your intimacy? Turned around and no one is following? How’s your intimacy? Nothing has changed? How’s your intimacy? Blaming people and/or circumstances for where you are or how you are feeling? How’s your intimacy?
Following in Christ’s steps cannot be equated with just behaving as he did when he was “before the crowds” or “on the spot.” To lead as Christ led is to lead as He did ALL of His life.Christ’s private moments prepared him for his public ones. Today, as I lead, love, and aim to have influence - I begin at His feet. I remember my need. I lift up my hands. And as I meet with Him, I remind myself that intimacy isn't a box to be checked so that I get results. Intimacy with God unlocks the things of the soul that will truly satisfy. Intimacy is eternity stuff. I don’t know about you, but I feel akin to Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10 when he says, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!” I want God to use me! I want to live a long life of influencing others for the kingdom! But I know that my longevity will be in direct proportion to my intimacy.
How’s your intimacy? I encourage you to carve out some time today and during the week for the Lord to fill you up! Get in your Word, invest in your prayer life, worship him as you drive! Replace whatever is holding you down with the truth of God, and make him your constant companion. Invite the Holy Spirit to INTERRUPT your reality with His power and presence! The wonderful thing about our God is that he is always eager and ready to meet us. Intimacy is HIS creation, and when we make it a priority, we become ready for unprecedented, incredible things.
PS - This is a worship song that has really been rocking me lately. It's been one of my go-to's to start off my intimate time with the Lord. I hope it blesses you. xx