An Appeal for Humble Leaders

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Written by: Adam Muhtaseb 

Adam Muhtaseb (MDiv, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the founding pastor of Redemption City Church in Baltimore, Maryland. He and his wife, Sherrie, have three sons. You can follow him on Twitter.

This following content was originally published on Acts 29’s website, linked HERE.


Most leaders would express a desire to follow the pattern of Jesus, who was “meek” and “humble of heart,” but do we genuinely embody his example? Here are two ways we can check to see if we are humble leaders who are more known for our faithfulness than our impressiveness.

A Plurality of Leadership

“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (Prov. 18:12).

Plurality means a number greater than one—a decentralized leadership. When you start your church, you may have to be Han Solo. But eventually, Chewbacca and the rest of the crew need to join the team and have real influence.

In a plurality of leadership, it’s possible for you to be outvoted. For example, you go to a group of other men for their counsel, not just their permission regarding your decisions. It means surrendering authority and influence by deferring to others in their strengths and letting them lead the departments where you’re not as gifted. Are you the kind of leader that blames the team, or do you take ownership that maybe you’re not leading the team as well as you could be? CLICK TO TWEET

The credit for growth is multiplied, and the blame for struggles is divided. The team around you feels heard and valued, and has legitimate influence. Plurality means the team is leading the church, not just you. It might even mean rejecting a title like senior or lead pastor to emphasize the church’s shared leadership.

Choose these leaders wisely. And when you have them, listen to them. Do you believe that the leaders God has given you in the church might be the means by which he directs and guides you toward his will? 

A Propensity to Apologize

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:12–13).

Humble pastors are humble because they know and live the gospel. The gospel demands that we fall on our faces in brokenness because we aren’t good enough and never will be. And we must throw ourselves entirely on Christ’s mercy. If this is the gospel we declare, it must be the same gospel we display. 

We are sinners who make mistakes and struggle. We have bad days. We ding people with our brokenness. Humble leaders know they have flaws and quickly own up to them. Ray Ortlund says we can either be impressive or we can be known. Choose. Humble leaders choose to be known—down to earth, lowly, and quick to laugh at themselves—not impressive. 

Are you the kind of leader that blames the team, or do you take ownership that maybe you’re not leading the team as well as you could be? Do you point fingers or extend a hand? Are you known to ask how someone is doing, not just what someone is accomplishing? Do you call them “my staff” or “our staff”? Are you open to considering rebuke and willing to apologize when critiqued? 

You can recruit people with your gifting, but you’ll keep them with your humility. You’re not perfect. No one expects you to be. So acknowledge that by being the chief repenter in the church.

A Posture of Humility

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:11–12).

The sad reality of evangelicalism today is that if someone is gifted, we’re not usually surprised if they’re a jerk. That’s what can happen when pastors are more forged in the fires of American consumerism than in the servant posture of Christ (Phil. 2:7-8). I bet Jesus would be more pleased with churches being half their current sizes if humble leaders led them. Jesus never seemed displeased with smallness. Let’s be men and women who make themselves low and watch how God uses small, unimpressive things so no one can boast in the presence of God. CLICK TO TWEET

But the quickest way to displease God is arrogance. He detests and punishes the proud (Prov. 16:5), he opposes them (James 4:6), and he promises they won’t win in the end (Prov. 18:12Isa. 2:12). That was our end. 

Yet Christ, the king of kings, stooped down to save us from our self-reliance by giving us his life of humility and paying for our destructive arrogance on the cross. Now, he gives us the power to follow his pattern of humility by establishing other leaders around us to listen to and free us up to seek forgiveness because Christ already paid for that sin 2,000 years ago at Golgotha. 

Richard Sibbes said, “See a flame in a spark, a tree in a seed. See great things in little beginnings.” Let’s be men and women who make themselves low and watch how God uses small, unimpressive things so no one can boast in the presence of God.