For some time now I’ve said that I Peter 5 is the “lost” chapter on leadership. When churches are vetting potential leaders, often the go-to chapters are I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, where we have a list of leadership qualities and attributes.
Most of what we find in Timothy and Titus is not competence, but character in the context of healthy relationships. This is very notesworthy given today's obsesssion with competency and talent.
However, 1 Peter chapter 5, verses 1-11 are often not referenced at all, or not enough, when it comes to the choosing of future leaders. One insight that came to me not too long ago is that right in the middle (verse 8, ESV) of this exquisite chapter on leadership by Peter (who rose from the ashes of failure, defeat and disappointment to become a key leader in the early church) is a statement about our enemy, the devil.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
What struck me was the fact that the enemy's tactics certainly applies to all followers of Jesus; but this is in the middle of a chapter on leadership, which leads me to conclude that our enemy is mostly, and primarily, after leaders; to "devour," take them out of the race, cause them to be disqualified. (I Corinthians 9:27).
I’m currently reading through the New Testament in the New Living Translation, and a day or two ago, I read I Thessalonians 3:5:
“That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.” (Emphasis mine)
The phrase, “…the tempter had gotten the best of you…” really caught my attention. The last thing true Christian leaders want is to have the tempter (the devil, the enemy, the accuser) get the best of them, taking them down and out. But we all know it happens to lots of leaders and has been happening for a very long time.
As I was reflecting and praying about this, I thought of four areas where the enemy can get the best of us:
Men in leadership need to be especially watchful on this one. The strongest man in the Bible (Sampson), the wisest man in the Bible (Solomon), and the man after God’s own heart (David), all got significantly hit on this one. This is something I pray about daily/hourly for myself. Five minutes of illicit pleasure, real or imagined through pornography, can in a matter of hours reverse a legacy that has been years in building. Numerous chapters in the book of Proverbs deal expressly with this danger.
Personal greed, lack of integrity, the misuse and/or mismanagement of corporate monies, as well as financial envy and jealously, has brought many a leader down. Total honesty and honor in the handling of money is an endangered species in politics, business and, sad to say, in the church. Years ago I worked in a church where an elder stole money from the offering to the tune of $10,000 to pay off personal debt. I’m convinced this is not an isolated incident.
Not clearly and consistently living out of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) in the context of working relationships is devastating and destructive to fruitful Christian ministry.
Often relationally challenged leaders are given a pass (due to their stellar success) when it comes to loving relationships. But, sooner or later, the lack of genuine love, consideration and kindness in how people are treated, spoken to (and about) and appreciated can cause the outward trappings of success to come to a screeching halt.
Many leaders get promoted on the basis of their ability to get things done, but are eventually let go due to their inability to get along with the people they work with day in and day out.
It was the late John Stott who said: “Pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” A leader all wrapped up in him/herself makes a very small package. Pride sent Lucifer crashing down and it has been the undoing of many leaders in the Bible, in early church history and still takes its toll today. As I said in my book, “Mistakes Leaders Make,” “Pride is a difficult issue for leaders to recognize in themselves and even more difficult to deal with. It often hides under the cloak of confidence and conviction.”
Keep a watchful eye open
Please join me in praying for yourself and for leaders you know that the tempter will not get the best of any of us; sexually, financially, relationally or pridefully.
Jesus wants the best of all of us!