The cross is central in Mark’s Gospel, determining everything about the character of Jesus, God, and discipleship to God’s Son.
The cross also orients leadership among God’s people.
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:35-45).
I’m always stunned when I see books on Christian leadership that begin with “leadership principles” taken from corporate business models and sprinkle Bible verses here and there.
For Mark, the way of the cross subverts all other ways. It is antithetical to the world’s way of power, prestige, self-advancement, self-promotion, and domination of others.
There is certainly much to say about leadership in churches and Christian organizations. But the cross must be the first thing that is said. And the last thing. And it must orient and saturate everything in-between.
If the Lord of all gives his life for the flourishing of others, then those who lead on his behalf must do from a basic orientation of self-giving love.