Leadership Upside Down

In leadership, it's seems natural to want to "climb the corporate ladder" and to "reach for the top." But the Bible teaches an upside down version of leadership. In fact, at a conference I recently attended, Dr. Samuel Chand gave us an insight into the Apostle Paul's "Next Level Leadership" approach.  Take a look at how he approached leadership and his position as he grew and matured.

When Paul wrote the book of Galatians, he was a relatively new leader on the scene for the early church. However, make no mistake, he was highly influential and was already causing quite a stir among the apostles. Look at how introduces himself in verse 1 of the opening chapter.

Galatians 1:1 (NIV) Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—

Paul wrote this in 49AD. He makes it very clear to his readers that he is the man. He is the apostle. He was chosen by God Himself. With an introduction like this one, who could question his authority? And I think that was his point.

Later on in the book, Paul is telling his readers about how he had the opportunity to meet and hang out with the 11 disciples of Jesus. Now, if I were Paul, I would probably be name dropping and using that association to my advantage, but not Paul. Look at how he summed up this meeting in verse 6 of chapter 2.

Galatians 2:6 (NIV) 6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message.

Did he really say that they added nothing to him? That he couldn't learn anything from men who had been with Jesus Himself for more than 3 years? This level of self-confidence is definitely crossing over to arrogance. There's no question he is proud of his position and wants everyone to know he is the man.

Then, 8 years later, in 57AD Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 15:9 (NIV) 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

He went from being the man, the chief apostle who was equal if not greater than the 11 disciples, to being the "least of the apostles."

He keeps going. In 64AD, 7 years after writing to Corinth, he says this to the church in Ephesus.

Ephesians 3:8 (NIV) Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,

Now he's not even claiming to be an apostle. He is less than any of the believers. And only 2 years after that, in 66AD he writes to Timothy that he is the worst of the sinners.

1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

This is hardly a glowing self-assessment of a man that is climbing the corporate ladder. In fact, it's quite the opposite. He seems to willingly lower his position and strip himself of any title and importance as he grows in maturity and experience. Why is that? I believe it goes along with Jesus' admonishment to his disciples in Matthew 23 when he said, "10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Question: What can we learn from Paul's approach to leadership? Please leave a comment in the "Leave a Reply" box below.