Money. Sex. Power.

Most people feel particularly drawn to one of these three things. Or so the saying goes. And it's true enough for me. I want power. Because I have no regard for money. Brothels are nasty. Fame and recognition are useless. And Mumford & Sons are sissies (metal is awesome). No, just like Tim Allen in Home Improvement, I always need "more power." This hasn't translated well into life, however. Try as I might, power has always eluded me.

When I left my youth group, I saw that the youth band I had left behind was disorganized and fractured. So I took it upon myself to return in a leadership capacity. And I excelled at it. My first taste of power. It felt good to exert my control in an area in which I was gifted. My musicianship already spoke for itself in my local church context as I was the son of the worship pastor and choir pianist.

But this experience was short-lived. God soon moved me completely outside of my context--not something us introverts appreciate. Especially after having established my following/constituency. So I had to start all over. And I quickly found a new avenue to power at the Bible conference I was working at: dorm head. I was already named acting dorm head by the end of the summer as all of the college-aged leaders had returned to school. So I was basically a shoe-in for the role the following summer. Yet again, God stepped in and thwarted my coup. Not once, but twice. Two summers I served in a supporting position to the dorm head. Close to power, yet still outside my grasp.

photo credit: Katie@! via photopin cc
Looking back on my life now makes me wish I was a lawyer or a politician. Because at least the jokes about those folks are gentler than those about narcissists and hypocrites. Now, the descriptions of myself in or around leadership are caricatured to a degree, but I doubt they're incongruous with common experience.

Leaders are often control freaks just like me. Of course, they're never described that way. But since when were "assertive" and "power-hungry" synonyms? It's as if we've accepted this as the model of what makes a good leader. Or do we kid ourselves that being "decisive" and being "totalitarian" are basically the same thing? If being a bad leader has taught me one thing, it's that bad leaders lead through control.

I think this can best be seen in the marriage relationship. Many Christians hold to the concept of male leadership as expressed in Paul's writings. But the execution of this has been dismissive at best. And by that, I mean dismissive of women. Because the way the church has understood leadership in marriage is that the man gets the last word. He gets control. As bad as that is, my generation hasn't done much better. It's become fashionable to re-imagine what Paul meant in Ephesians 5 and absolve humanity of the responsibility to lead at all. Rewriting orthodoxy (right thinking) will never solve a problem that lies with orthopraxy (right practice).

Leadership is better expressed by the term initiative. Jesus' calling of his disciples comes to mind as he said to each of them, "Follow me." A leader is one who doesn't take charge but takes the lead--literally. Because it's not about having the last word as much as making the first move.

Jesus could have commanded his disciples to just wash each others' feet. But he made the first move and washed Peter's feet. He could have yelled at them or even struck them when they fell asleep, too weary to pray. Instead, he led them by example. And continued to pray.

That's leadership. A shepherd, gently guiding his straying sheep while fiercely protecting them from the wolves. We're all sheep. And regardless of the clothes we wear, the last thing we need are wolves (like me) hiding behind the pulpit.