Are you a woman who leads? Maybe you don’t see yourself as a leader, but God has you leading someone right where you are. Maybe it’s your kids, your friends, or the teenager next door. Maybe it’s a Women’s Ministry, a team at work, or a small group. This series—led by our women’s ministry specialist Kelly King—will help you no matter where you lead, and whether you’re leading one or one thousand.
I have a small collection of aprons that have sentimental value to me. One belonged to my paternal grandmother, another was a wedding gift hand-painted by a godly family friend, and one is a child-size apron worn by my daughter when she was in preschool. My grandmother’s apron reminds me of my past, a time when she lovingly made the best cinnamon rolls I’ve tasted, yet it is also a reminder of how she served others. I doubt she would have called herself a leader, but she was the epitome of servant leadership. Widowed in her 20s with three small boys, she worked hard to provide in the midst of World War II. Years later when I would spend time at the family farm, I watched her carefully lather lotion on her weary hands at the end of a long day of serving others.
As we consider the gospels and how Jesus led others, it’s no surprise we are drawn to His servant leadership. Jesus is our ultimate leadership example, yet He led differently than how our current culture promotes or exemplifies leadership. Instead of clamoring for fame or platform, Jesus presented leadership qualities that seem to be just the opposite. As followers of Christ, how can we be conformed to His leadership qualities rather than seeking power and position? While this list isn’t exhaustive, here are four ways we can lead and, like my grandmother, be the hands of Jesus.
First, we can lead like Jesus when we offer a balance of grace coupled with a call to repentance. I’m reminded of two very familiar passages in the Book of John where Jesus showed grace to women who needed forgiveness. The woman at the well in John 4 and the woman caught in adultery in John 8 are both examples of how Jesus offered grace and yet called them to leave their former life and follow Him. As leaders who minister to women, we too must show grace to others, yet challenge them to walk in obedience and leave their former lives in order to glorify God.
Second, we can lead like Jesus when we display humility coupled with exalting Him. Tucked in Philippians 2 is a passage where we are reminded that Christ did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant and taking on the likeness of humanity. We are reminded of Christ’s humility to become one of us, to live among us, and to die for us. Because of this, God highly exalted Him. As leaders, we don’t have to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less, lead with humility, and let God be exalted. We can trust that accolades and awards are only the result of Him working through us, not us working for Him.
Third, we can lead like Jesus when we are moved with compassion and yet move forward with action. In Mark 6, Jesus looked at the large crowd with compassion, yet this wasn’t just an empathetic feeling of pity. Jesus took action on His compassion, whether it was teaching the crowd, going after the one lost sheep, or raising Lazarus from the dead. You and I can lead with compassion when we see those in need, but true leadership is when we take compassion and satisfy the need.
Finally, we can lead like Jesus when we combine courage with joy. Courage has been defined as “strength in the face of pain or grief.” It does not exist until it is needed, yet in Jesus’ darkest hour on the cross, Hebrews 12:2 reminds us, “For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Leading well means leading with courage, even in the face of adversity, yet with joyful hope knowing our reward is found in eternity.
The next time you see an apron, consider the person behind the apron and how they have served you. Even Jesus at the Last Supper in Luke 13 removed His outer clothing and tied a towel around Himself—a servant’s apron—in order to wash His disciple’s feet. You and I can lead well when we follow the example of Jesus, put on the servant apron, and serve in humility, courage, compassion, and grace.
If you would like to learn more about Jesus and leadership, consider taking a group through the Bible study Jesus on Leadership by C. Gene Wilkes. It’s available here.
Kelly King is the Women’s Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Women. She and her husband, Vic, have been married for more than 28 years and have enjoyed serving together in ministry both teaching in student ministry for 25 years and teaching young married adults. They have two young adult children, Conner and Courtney, and a son-in-law, Gaige. They enjoy kayaking, having people in their home, and cheering for the Oklahoma City Thunder. A good day includes mocha lattes, Mexican food, and shopping for bargains.