I’ve been thinking quite a bit about leadership recently and I thought I would revise some previous meditations on the topic from a cruciform perspective.
The cross of Jesus Christ is central to the Christian faith, and it shapes and determines everything about being Christian. Cruciformity — or, being “cross-shaped” — means having our lives and church community dynamics oriented by the cross-shaped life of Jesus.
Cruciformity is a powerful reality because it is the only way to gain access to the resurrection power of God. When we shape our lives according to the life of Jesus, we experience his presence by the Spirit, and God floods our lives, relationships, and communities with resurrection power.
When I talk to people training for Christian leadership about cruciformity, however, I discover the assumption that it isn’t easily practiced in ministry. Many assume that cruciformity may be good for ordinary Christian people, but it won’t work in leadership situations.
I wonder if this is because our imaginations are shaped by worldly conceptions of leadership and of power. We assume that at some point cruciform leadership would fail. It wouldn’t be up to the challenges of “real world” situations where power must be wielded over others.
In my view, we simply haven’t given enough creative thought to how leadership in churches and Christian organizations can be shaped by the cross, generating and unleashing the life-giving power of God.
For Jesus, this isn’t negotiable. He addresses forms of leadership in Mark 10. The disciples are agitating for positions of privilege, power, and prestige in the Kingdom of God. Jesus responds:
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 10:42-45).
Leadership in the Kingdom of God must be shaped by the life of the King, who gives himself for others. This is contrasted directly with worldly forms of leadership, which has to do with power over others.
This form of leadership for God’s people isn’t all that new, actually. Moses had already outlined a counter-cultural form of leadership in Deut. 17:14-20. Israel’s king was to be radically different, having the Law read to him daily so that “his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen” (v. 20).
Christian leadership, then, ought to be cruciform since those who lead do so on behalf of the One whose identity is determined by the cross.
Over the next handful of posts, I want to think through some contrasts between cruciform leadership and worldly leadership in an effort to provoke imaginations with hope in leading God’s people according to the ways of God revealed in Jesus.