Was Jesus the Perfect Leader?

April 19th, 2013

“So, you want to be a leader? Just look at Jesus.” That’s what someone once told me. Quite frankly, I don’t know that I necessarily like the advice. I mean, Jesus was mistreated, misunderstood, and homeless, and they killed him.

Often, people will want to use the Jesus card to help you determine whether you are making the right leadership decision based on a similar thing Jesus did. These are things I have heard regarding decisions I’ve made and what Jesus would have me do instead:

  • Jesus never gave up on someone. You shouldn’t stop counseling that person. 
  • Jesus had a group of 12 disciples. We should have small groups with no more than 12 people in them. 
  • Jesus drove out the moneychangers, so we should not have any money transactions in the church. 

Did Jesus have the perfect size for a small group? I’m sure he knew what he was doing and 12 seemed the best number based on the people he selected and invited, but I’m pretty sure he could have gone with 11 or 13 if it suited him, and if he had picked 17, it still wouldn’t have been prescriptive for us.

These silly out-of-context connections about what Jesus would do in our scenario based on what he did back then in his are ridiculous. All leadership scenarios require their own exegesis and innovation. Jesus certainly made good leadership decisions, but he wasn’t giving us a leadership blueprint—at least not in these very specific ways.

As a Christian, I believe Jesus was perfect. He was perfect in the sense that he was everything the Father intended and spoke of from the beginning. He was perfect in his work on the cross, his victory of death and sin, lacking nothing. Complete. Fulfilled. The end.

But can we say he was born the perfect leader? The best communicator who ever lived? Was he innately the best at everything he touched?

This is where it gets tricky. And harder to prove.

Jesus was a carpenter (most likely a stone mason). Did he build the best custom homes?

When Jesus sang as he walked down the road, did people marvel at his angelic voice and call him the songbird of his generation?

Was Jesus always picked first for the basketball team because of his killer dunk shot and his ability to sink the three-pointer?

Jesus was human. Jesus had to learn things. He wasn’t born talking. He filled his diapers, and he had to be taught how to tie his sandals.

If we say Jesus was the perfect leader, should we make that claim about his whole life, or just about his life at the end? If he was the perfect leader at 33, what can we say about 25? Or as a teenager?

Jesus must have had spiritual gifts like all of us. Jesus must have stunk at something, or at least have been mediocre at something. If this isn’t true, we should stop telling people the church body is made of different parts and so they shouldn’t feel bad about not being good at one thing over another. We should tell people they should become good at everything as Jesus was. See how weird that is?

If Jesus was innately good at everything, he wasn’t human. He was a robot. A perfectly programmed robot with an operating system that never failed or had to be rebooted. The absence of sin should not be equated with the ability to excel at everything.

Jesus is perfectly God. But this doesn’t mean he always won the foot race, made a perfect lamb meatloaf, or would win American Idol, The Voice, or Chopped hands down. I’m sure they would vote him off the island on Survivor no matter how well we think he could “Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast.” They killed him, for crying out loud.

He, like the men of Issachar in the oft-quoted 1 Chronicles 12:32, understood the times and knew what he should do. He read the signs. He paid attention. He made decisions based on the context he was in and observed. He surrendered his will to the Father.

Knowing that Jesus read the signs, interpreted the times, exegeted his culture, and made the decisions he felt necessary to his context, as opposed to giving us a perfect blueprint for all kinds of leadership, should give us a new kind of freedom and permission to lead through all the unknowns.

This article is an excerpt from Quirky Leadership by John Voelz, Copyright © 2013 Abingdon Press

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