As an ordinary person, I notice trending news and articles with words like “ordinary” and “people” in them, especially when the two words are put together. Lately I am seeing ordinary people being addressed more frequently by major Christian leadership types — from the pulpit, in their blogs, on the air.
As in, “Ordinary people can do powerful things for God!”
While this is true, and it forms the basis for pretty much everything I speak and write, I find it alarming that the Christian leadership community has discovered ordinary people and recognized that they can be useful, because it’s all too likely that this usefulness will be harnessed for programs, committees, and projects that the leaders, not necessarily God, are excited about.
It starts big and works itself down, and while there are a lot of humble, ordinary pastors genuinely and concernedly walking side by side with their fellow believers, there is a danger that they will be prodded — by the mesmeric meteorites of the field — into thinking that leadership is a substantial step above ordinary.
Do Major Leaders Think That They Are Ordinary?
When a popular speaker makes a living out of standing in the front, looking out at the sea of faces, it makes me wonder,
“Do you consider yourself one of us?”
Somehow, I don’t think so. The impression I get is that these leaders — especially the forceful, dynamic ones — are there for the rest of us to follow, and it is through their brilliance, their light, their life, their energy, their study, their words — that we will move forward. Despite all the warm talk of our being brothers and sisters together, I always get the feeling that the guy up in the very front thinks that he is the patriarch.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not an anarchist. In every situation, every group, every dynamic, there are leaders and followers, but what we tend to forget — most especially Christian leaders and just as much us “laypeople” — is that there is a time and a season for everything, and just because you speak to a very large audience, does not mean that you always hold the chair. There are times when leaders must follow, and this is not something that I see very much.
Ordinary People Are Influential
Leadership is a heady, exhilarating, potentially financially profitable endeavor, and any person who gets a taste of it wants more.
But you ordinary people — the ones that leadership is getting so excited about — you really are powerful, because you’re weak, defenseless, uninfluential, unnoticed, disregarded, overlooked and ignored — for Christ’s sake, you can “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
The Apostle Paul was definitely a leader, but he was pretty humble about it, and the things he valued and boasted about are a bit different from what any of us expect, or frequently see, in the higher parts of any hierarchy:
The “Perks” of Leadership
“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (1 Corinthian 6:3-10)
I especially love the “known, yet regarded as unknown,” part, because that describes the experience of so many of us ordinary Christians.
Are you a leader? If you’re a Christian, that’s not the question that matters, because if it’s your focus, you really need to get in the back of the line. What matters is that you are a servant of Christ, and regardless of how you serve Him, your job description is listed right above.