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Guy Mason - March 2012

28 Feb 2012

“What I am learning about leadership” (Part 1)

In February this year City on a Hill started a new teaching series called The King’s Cupbearer – looking at the book of Nehemiah.

It’s the story of a cupbearer who served the king of Persia 500 years before Christ.  It was a role that required him to drink the King’s wine should someone try to poison the cup.  It was a position of sacrifice and service.    

Yet one day he heard news that placed him at a crossroads.  He learns that Jerusalem, God’s city, was in ruins.  The walls were down, the temple destroyed.  The people were in trouble and they walked in shame.

This was not new news, but it hit him in a new way.  

God moved in his heart and Nehemiah sees for the first time the severity of this situation, the concerns of the people and the need for him to do something about it.  He’s an ordinary man, faced with an extraordinary need walking with an almighty God.

It’s a gripping narrative that highlights not only God’s power but also what can be achieved when we unite and make a stand for him.  As Nehemiah learns, the broken walls of our life and city are never beyond His repair –

God is able to do immeasurably more than we ever think or imagine.  

We discover a number of invaluable leadership lessons here.  I seek to lovingly lead my wife, children and our church – these insights have proven invaluable and in the next three editions I will share them.

First – Effective leadership requires action.

Confronted with the news about the broken walls and the concerns of his people, Nehemiah (like us) could’ve responded in a number of ways.

He could have denied it, saying, “It can’t be that bad, I’m sure they’ll be ok.”

He could have moved into a state of apathy.  Apathy is not a denial of reality; it’s the decision to do nothing about it.  We say: “Oh I’m busy, there’s a lot happening in my life – career to think about, I met a new girl, my

Facebook account needs to be managed and I have a stack of Farmville requests to answer.  I’m very busy.”

Another card Nehemiah could have played was blame.  Nehemiah could have pointed the finger at the Babylonians who trashed the city or his Jewish brothers who abandoned God.  He could even have blamed God himself – after all isn’t God in control?

Nehemiah could have taken the path of hopelessness – which understands the severity of the situation and the need to do something, but believes nothing can be done.  We hear ourselves saying, “this has always been like this, nothing will change, nothing can be done”.  

In Nehemiah’s case the bible tells us he wept, he fasted and he prayed.  These were powerful steps of action.

Second – Effective leadership requires God’s strength.

Nehemiah was not ignorant.  He knew that the situation was much bigger than him.  He also knew that strength doesn’t come from within but above.  And so when the walls of the city (or our life) are down it’s time to lift our prayers up.

This has been an invaluable lesson for me.  There is both godless inaction (blame, apathy, hopelessness, etc) and godless action (acting in our own strength instead of God’s strength).  Personally, I tend towards the latter and see a need assuming (in my arrogance) I can be the one to save the day.  This “messiah complex” is rooted in pride and leaves people burnt out and disappointed.

Third – Effective leadership requires a servant heart.        

In Nehemiah’s opening prayer (Chapter 1) he refers to himself as “servant” eight times.

Nehemiah is a leader who under God achieves amazing success. But it starts on his knees, with tears in his eyes, confessing in his heart and a surrendering of his hands as servant before God and his people.

Many want to be king. We want to be the one with the throne, who wears the crown and has control.  It’s evident in the cars we drive, the jobs we take and the language we use.   Few sign up for the role of servant.  Few want the position of cupbearer.

The cupbearer drinks a cup that could cost him his life.  And amazingly, in God’s order, it is the humble that are lifted up.  It is the humble who find success in his kingdom.

This finds its perfect fulfillment in Jesus.

The most influential leader who has ever lived explained “effective leadership” in this way – he got down on his knees, washed the feet of his disciples and then said go and do likewise.

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