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April 3, 2007

3 Temptations of Leadership, Part 2

temptation_of_christ.jpgIn a previous post, I mentioned Henri Nouwen's book In the Name of Jesus, which presents a powerful summary of what it means to be servant leaders. Nouwen used the story of Jesus' temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11) to show how we as leaders are tempted, and how we must embrace Christ's attitude of humility and service to others.

Nouwen describes Jesus' second temptation as "the temptation to be spectacular." Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself off the highest point of the temple, making a spectacular scene as angels came to his rescue and accompanied him gently to the ground in the heart of Jerusalem. This would have grabbed people's attention! It would have put Jesus' face on every magazine, newspaper, and blog in the ancient world. He might even have had a call from Oprah.

It's easy to see how we face this temptation. Who doesn't want to be popular? Who doesn't want all the glory and attention and spectacular scene that come with success? Even if we know the downsides to popularity, none of us can completely resist its pull. And, wired for worship as we are, we love a popularity contest and a hero.

So what's wrong with being popular and attracting attention for doing the right things? God has called some Christians to positions of great influence - even in the public eye. I mean, look at Moses - that guy was involved in some pretty spectacular ministry! And while Jesus refused to throw himself off the temple, he did attract quite a bit of attention in other ways. Raising people from the dead is pretty spectacular, and so is telling people you're God.

I'm not sure the problem is in being popular, or being part of something spectacular. Perhaps the problem comes in seeking popularity and our own glory. Nouwen describes ministry as a "mutual and communal" experience. In contrast to our individualistic tendencies, Christ has called us to community and mutuality. He has called us to be his body and his temple - not individually, but collectively. Not to achieve popularity or fame for ourselves - or even for Christianity - but to serve with humility and love, just as he "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). We're in this together, and that's a pretty good antidote to "in it for myself."

So what do you think? When God chooses to use us in spectacular ways, or others grant us popularity for a time, how are we to respond? What does it mean to do humble, "mutual and communal" ministry with others in the context of personal success? How do leaders make sure we're serving in unity with others, rather than using them to feed our egos?


its very true what you have spoken.Its my prayer that in all we do we would not attract attention to our selves but to Christ for its when He is lifted up He would draw men to Himself. God bless you.

Our desire for approval and acceptance make it so easy to slowly shift our motivation for what we do. I am constantly asking God to expose my true motives. It feels good to have attention and praise when something in ministry goes well. Not that there is anything wrong with receiving appreciation, but it can easily slip into craving that approval (at least for me).

I try to open myself to feedback from others--so they can point out areas I need to improve. I am also currently working on how to empower other people's ideas, instead of always wanting others to buy in to my plans. This helps me to stay more community focused instead of being a lone ranger.

I remind myself of where I have been--my own fallibility. It is by His grace that I am where I am. This reminds me of my dependency on God. I pray for a heart that is genuinely compassionate, free from all the mixed motives that can easily come. In other words--its a daily, on-going choice to be conscientious about why I am doing what I am doing.

I think Yancey discusses this scene in a similar way in The Jesus I Never Knew. I like considering how Jesus' temptations were an awful lot like mine.

Now, about the actual issue, I also like what Michael Card says in Scribbling in the Sand. He notes that we can NEVER be free from self-focused motivation. Thus, some of us stop before we ever start, in fear that we won't be able to get out of the way. He encourages us to use our gifts regardless.

I wonder if there are unique times when to do so would be unwise, but I also see the reasons to take his advice.

Oh, and I meant to say that I thought this was quite humorous in the middle! Do you think Jesus would agree to go on Oprah?

Your comments are very important and true. I experienced the destructive outcome of a pastor who fell into self-promotion very recently. I'm trying to recover from the devastating loss of my ministry and church home because his deceptive, manipulative and abusive methods continually undermined all efforts of humble servanthood. It didn't matter that our Women's Ministry was bringing healing to women's hearts. We weren't producing the kind of "show" he craved to fill his own need for position and power in our community. God provided me the strength to serve as Director and on staff for 7 yrs. and God swiftly let me know when it was time to leave. But how I grieve for what was lost to someone's ego and hold on now seeking God to restore what He began in my life. It was never about me and the truth of Christ will ultimately win.

L.L. Barkat, you've asked an intriguing side question: "Do you think Jesus would agree to go on Oprah?"

I don't know. I do think he would be invited if he walked on earth now. But whether he would agree to go...In one sense, I think he would because he certainly used the cultural and religious platforms of his day to communicate his message (like reading in the synagogue, publicly cleansing the temple). On the other hand, though, he definitely rejected the status quo and the temptation of celebrity.

What do the rest of you think?

Great article and reminder of just one of the many temptations that come at us. In light of the thoughts of attention on us,
question: what to do about the way our women in Music Ministry are dressing today?
I am not sure that I believe the idea that these women don't know that what they are wearing is not appropriate in worship or for that matter on Christian women in leadership. Low cut tops, shorter skirts,high slits in skirts, tight tight clothing, extremely Hollywood decor, What are your thoughts? any articles addressing and concerning these things.

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