“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
I have been engaged in a number of conversations on leadership lately. Many different perspectives, many different levels of thought. In this process, as with many topics we engage in, I realize that some of my language becomes ambiguous. You know how it is, you use one word often enough and it suddenly drifts in meaning. It morphs into other arenas and directions than we first intended.
Having conversations with those of a different persuasion is a good thing. It sharpens our own understanding.
Leadership. Discipleship. Mentorship.
All three of these ships sail together in my language and understanding. They all require investment in others and seeking to create new understanding within a given context. That new understanding usually means change and transformation. Even in small ways, observed from the exterior, are marks of leadership. I would affirm that within all these conversations and observations the latter three ships follow the first.
In light of the above verse, leadership is really a mark of being a chief imitator.
A person recognizing they are being shaped by the one they follow, and in doing so realize they shape those who seek their example. And let’s not kid ourselves, we are followed in all facets of life. Some just ignore this or choose to not acknowledge it.
All three ships recognize that we impact, influence, and instruct the lives of others. Intentionally doing something about it makes Christlike leadership stand out. It gives us the opportunity to bless another with how they ‘walk in the way of love’, and we are also blessed as we acknowledge that others are doing the same for us.
I am reminded that at all levels of imitation I have three key groups developing me as a leader:
1. The ships before me. Those who have shown me how to sail, and continue to do so. I acknowledge them by name and recognize how God has placed them each uniquely in my path.
2. The ships behind me. An increasing number that I must allow to keep pace with me and are actively learning from the navigation I have chosen before them. God has entrusted these to me to direct back to Him, through Him. By not acknowledging this I diminish the importance of my actions turning into instruction and guidance for those who have chosen to learn and grow.
3. The ships beside me. There are always a few that we must recognize are moving in the same direction, possibly the same pace, and are kindred to us in their current place of growth. These friends are God-given and are needed to gird and encourage as I move along.
Have you recognized the people in your life that fit into all three of these ships? Where would they place you?