Friday, July 23, 2010

Lead, follow or get out...the serving dishes?

The church could sure benefit from following the United States Marine Corps example when it comes to leadership...

Let's face it. Jesus was an awesome leader while He walked the Earth. As a matter of fact, He was the ultimate example, the perfect template for what leadership is all about. Of course, the same can be said about any number of other categories as well.

But that's not fair! Jesus is God! Omnipotent and omnipresent.

As Christians, we really struggle to follow the example of Jesus on practically everything. We try...some of us really, really hard...but keep coming up short time and time again. Get over it! You and I will never be Jesus. Not now, not later and not when we're called Home. There's only One...and we aren't Him.

While following the example of Christ might be too lofty an expectation for us, the altruistic nature of Jesus is most worthy of an admirable effort to mimic, plus maybe...just maybe...God gave the church a more obtainable example in 1775 called the Corps. That's right.
The United States Marine Corps. Keepers of the peace and protectors of all that is right and good on this third chunk of rock from the Sun.

Sure. I'm a little biased on the subject matter, but you go with what you know. I know in the USMC...leadership reigns supreme. It's embedded in all that you do. From the moment you step off that bus at a Recruit Depot, recruits are being sized up on leadership abilities. It goes without saying that officer candidates live, breath, eat and dream on matters of leadership. The Marines don't hold to the politically correct philosophy that leaders are made and not born. Are you kidding me! If you're not cut out to be a leader, you will not make it. Period. Trust me, the Corps has develop a number of innovative ways to find out if you've got it or not too.

So how can the church adopt some of the principles used by the Corps to develop and groom present day church leadership? For the sake of David Johndrow who apparently comprehends best with bullet-style presentation, I give you three examples (a la Matt at The Church of No People) the church should follow:

  1. Lessons from history are important. As a green Second Lieutenant freshly commissioned right out of college, experience was something I seriously lacked when I first donned the uniform. So the Corps sent me to Quantico , VA for six months to study tactics, strategies and lessons from battles as far back as biblical days. Pilots, lawyers, engineers, electronic warfare special and any other non-infantry related career field are all there along with the future infantry officers. Doesn't matter what you will ultimately do in the Corps, you will always first and foremost be an infantry leader of combat Marines, so you study history, take in the lessons of what has worked and what hasn't in the heat of battle. Knowledge is power, and power builds confidence. Leaders must be confident if nothing else..

    As Christians, we have the greatest source of human history at our disposal each and every day. The Holy Bible. All we need is right in there...the history of God's plan to grow His Kingdom and bring us Home when He so wills. You don't even have to sleep in the freezing cold, live in the wet and mud, or be away from you family to learn from leaders of the past. No, you can share the Bible's history with your family right in your own living room and help them be better leaders in the Kingdom too.

  2. Leadership is a responsibility of everyone. Since combat is an ever-changing and fluid environment, a Marine never knows when he might be called upon to exercise his leadership in a given situation. Pay grades E-1 (Private) to O-9 (General)...every Marine fills a position in the chain of command. Someone sits atop that pyramid and ultimately answers to the President, or Commander in Chief, a civilian. However, Generals don't fight door-to-door in the urban trenches where life and death are played out from moment to moment, day after day. At every step up and down the chain of command, decisions are being made constantly...important decisions....and in each case leadership is being exercised. Generals exercise big picture leadership, while Lieutenants are up close and personal with the Marines they are charged with leading. How do Privates demonstrate leadership? Quite following their orders to the best of their ability. The Marine Corps learned along time ago, if you can't follow orders..chance are you aren't going to be very good giving orders.

    The church is a complex dynamic comprised of many different parts...ergo the body metaphor commonly used. Yet each part that makes up that dynamic plays an important role. Hopefully that's the role so desired by God. When the time comes, each part will be called upon to execute their function, and thus by nature, assume a leadership role. Some parts are involved daily in decisions making and planning while others may only be called upon in a very specific manner...but you lead to be ready. Executing your role in the body to the very best of your ability is in fact...leadership.

  3. Leadership is most about serving others. Being in charge doesn't necessarily make someone a leader. To get others to follow you (especially in situations that could get them killed), first you must demonstrate a commitment to something greater than self. The unit, the command, the Corps, and the country's needs must be put ahead of your own. Marines will follow a good leader straight into the face of an enemy trying to desperately kill if they know that leader is willing to die right along side them. You can't effectively lead from the rear. Also, good leaders always put their Marines first. They make sure their Marines eat, rest, get mail or just about anything thing else before they do. Sure, rank has privileges...but that doesn't mean you have to use them. Service to God, country and Corps is an unofficial motto of every Marine. There's not a motto for service to self.

    It's not about me, it's about God. Those words flow easily from our lips as Christians, but what do our actions actually demonstrate? Being a part of the church...a part of the Kingdom...means dying to self daily according to Paul. That means as Christians, we must humble our self and accept that self-service is no good...then turn our self over to serving the Spirit as we are lead. If God truly comes first in the heart, the church would be filled with great leaders who understand their role and are ready to step up when called upon by the Spirit or by someone else lead by the Spirit. Great leadership is forged through a commitment to serve others above self, and never was there a better example of that than Jesus Christ.
I stand by the Corps' philosophy that leaders are born and not made, but with one slight modification. In the grandest scale of God's infinity...leaders in the Kingdom are made by being born...born again that is...and then following the example left by a risen Savior.

By the way, semper fidelis is Latin for always faithful...but that's another blog for another time.


David said...

Excellent post. The bullets were a little long, but excedllent none the less.

Learning from history - Dueteronomy 6. Excellent point.

Tracy said...

Good Word!

I've long thought that the armed services have some excellent thoughts on leadership. I guess part of this is because of the intensity - it really is all on the line, it really can be about life and death.

photogr said...

The military is a great place to learn many aspects of life for young kids starting out. Coming from a long history of lifelong military family members, this was my prime objective after graduating college and becoming a navy pilot.

Sadly this did not happen. An inner ear problem washed me out of flight training much to my dismay. Even though I could fly the SNJs and T28 planes with the best of them, I could not stay in the military. I was devistated.

I ended up being a leader in other fields instead which I credit my military up bringing from family member teachings.

I applied those teachings through out my life which resulted me in being a follower of Christ.You first have to be a good follower before you can be a good leader. Lets hope that principle works out in the faith even at my age.

Tiffany said...

Thank you for posting this...It was a blessing

Deborah Ann said...

Love this! Leadership doesn't sound quite so intimidating when we take the focus off our selves, and put it on others...