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John on Leadership - Part 1: Contrast and Complement - Two Factors of Christian Leadership

John 1.35-39
With Guest Blogger Doug Jackson, D.Min
Assistant Professor of Spiritual Formation
Logsdon Seminary/South Texas School of Christian Studies

In certain South American countries there is a species of army ant called Labidus praedator. Completely blind, these ants navigate by following the scent trail left by other members of the colony. Occasionally the lead ant loops, doubles back on its own trail. The others follow and this results in masses of ants circling in an endless spiral that leads nowhere. They will do this until they starve to death. The scientific term for this is "circular milling," but the popular term is "ant death spiral."

Leadership transforms energy into purpose. Lack of leadership derails energy into death.

A single exchange in the Gospel of John, John 1.35-39, highlights two aspects in the leadership style of Our Lord: the Listening Leader, and the Located Leader. It gives us a picture of the Christian leader who simultaneously leans back and leans forward.

First, look at the Last Supper to see a leadership that leans back. John describes himself as the disciple who leaned on Jesus' breast at the last supper. (Jo 13.25, 21.20). John writes, not just as an old man, but as one who has spent those decades with his ear pressed to the beating heart of Christ, attuning himself to the rhythm of the life of the Son of God.

One great need in Christian leadership today is this backward leaning into the beating heart of Our Lord. We have become so aware of the exterior tools of leadership that we have lost contact with the interior touch of leadership. If we are not careful, we will end up executing graceful steps but dancing to the wrong tune!

Next, let's look at the Empty Tomb to find a leadership that leans forward. Peter runs into the tomb and then runs out, while John looks, then enters, then sees. The Greek text uses two different words for "seeing" here. Peter took in all the facts of the scene, but drew no conclusions. John, by contrast, stooped, that is, he leaned forward into this incalculable new future, then saw, and believed. He leans forward for the same reason he leaned backward: to discover where the heart of Jesus is.

That is the two-fold position of the Christian leader: Leaning back to hear the heart of the crucified Christ, and leaning forward to seek the presence of the risen Christ.

LEAN BACK TO LISTEN: In the midst of the busyness of life, the crazyness of ministry, the messiness of leadership – carve out the time and attention to lean back against the breast of your Lord, to press your ear to the chest of the one who meets you in the broken bread and spilled cup, and quiet the racing of your own adrenaline-drenched blood stream until it matches the pulse of the peaceful heart of your Lord.

LEAN FORWARD TO LOOK: Then, as you run the race that is set before you, remember now and then to pause at the door of the empty tomb. Peter will rush past, hollering that there is work to be done – and Peter is right. But how can we do the work until we know where Jesus is working? Christ is risen, Christ is alive – and that means that he moves freely in the world around us and we must regularly pause to ponder the truth of the empty tomb. Only then can we know which way to run if we want to run toward Christ and not away from him.

Lean backward to listen! Lean forward to look! And then you will be ready to lead.


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