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John on Leadership - Part 3: The Located Leader

John 1.35-39

With Guest Blogger Doug Jackson, D.Min
Assistant Professor of Spiritual Formation
Logsdon Seminary/South Texas School of Christian Studies

They said unto him, Rabbi, where dwellest thou?

Where dwellest thou?

Jesus asks a "what" question, and the disciples give a "who" answer. Jesus responds by inviting them to hang out. I conclude that Jesus is the Located Leader, so we should be located leaders. The Located Leader is the leader who makes space available.

Where dwellest thou?

We have just read the prologue: Jesus is the eternal Son of the omnipresent God, yet these two men can GPS him. Theologians call that the "scandal of particularity."

God is Someone! God is somewhere! More audacious still, this God, in Christ, indwells us, so that the answer to the question, Where dwellest thou? is that Jesus meets people today in the very person, the flesh and blood and car and office and schedule and possessions of every Christian, especially of the Christian leader.

They abode with him that day; for it was about the tenth hour. That means ten AM. Jesus gives them his whole day! John does not record a single thing Jesus said. We only read that they spent time around Jesus. As Malcolm Guite writes, our "theology depends. . .on the radical idea that the Word behind all words. . .has been made, not more words, but flesh"!

So who we are is more important than what we say. What we do is more important than what we say. Being with people is a more powerful leadership tool than speaking to people or organizing people.

Why don't we lead like Jesus, inviting a world hungrier for intimacy than for information to Come and see? Three barriers block located leadership: fatigue, fear, and power.

To make space available, Located Leadership fights through fatigue.

Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of wayfaring men; that I might leave my people, and go from them! (Jer 9.2)

Jeremiah launches this lament eight chapters into his ministry, and he's already tired! Not because giving is behind budget or the church roof leaks or he can't come up with a sermon for Sunday: It's the people!

If you've never prayed that prayer, then you aren't a leader yet. Let's admit: Ministry would be easier without people. Yet Jesus gives his whole day to two walk-ons. If you think it was easy for him because he was Jesus, listen to our Lord echo the lament of Jeremiah: O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? (Mt 17.17) But he chose to make his leadership available.

How do we overcome the legitimate weariness of intimate exposure? By the practice of spiritual disciplines. John does not record the wilderness temptations but comparison with the Synoptics indicates that these events occur right after the forty day fast beyond the Jordan. Conclusion: If you want to be the located leader who makes space available, you must fight through the fatigue of community by withdrawing to the solace of solitude.

To make space available, Located Leadership overcomes fear.

Fear also causes us to keep people at arms' length: If we let them in they can hurt us. So we project a persona from the pulpit, substitute proclamation for conversation, pretend that being visible is the same as being vulnerable.

Jesus sets aside those fears. Notice that I did not say Jesus does not feel those fears. Listen to the words of Our Lord the day after the feeding of the five thousand. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? (Jo 6.66-67) The grammar expects a negative answer. He actually begs his remaining friends, "Please, you won't leave me too, will you?"

Love overcomes the fear that prevents us from offering located leadership. Perfect love casteth out fear. (1 Jo 4.17) It does not cast out pain – Jesus' love sent him to the cross! – but perfect love says that I seek your good even if it costs me my good.

To make space available, Located Leadership rejects power.

We fail to be available as leaders because we want to look powerful. It feels good to say, "I think I can squeeze you in. I'm so busy!" But Eugene Peterson claims that "busy" as a modifier of "pastor" should sound like "adulterous" as a modifier for "husband"! It may be true, but it's hardly a virtue. Jesus does not consult his smart phone or ask Siri to set something up. He says, "How about right now? I'm not doing anything."

Conclusion

We live in a world that hungers to see Jesus. The Christian leader is a located leader – one in whom the world can literally find Christ embodied and available for their experience. The Massai Christian creed says that Jesus "was always on safari doing good." That is the Jesus our sin-sickened and Spirit-starved world needs to see. We must be the located leaders who make space available and make Christ visible, so that we can say to a world who asks where Jesus is, "Come and see."

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