The Leader and their Capacity
In my last blog, I spoke about how leadership flows from inside us to those around us. It comes from our very being and is not just a task or role we play. Leadership is influence, and Christ uses the totality of our redeemed personhood as the means of such effect. We also discussed how our identity in Christ is foundational to our functioning in leadership. This knowledge is essential to our understanding of the redeemed self in Christ, “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10b). We first and foremost must identify ourselves as adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God, our Heavenly Father.
Today, I’d like to introduce another core construct built upon our identity and essential to our healthy and fruitful function as a leader. It is something which I have named as capacity, and here is my “working definition”:
Capacity: The inner state of being of a person – their nature, their character, their heart in the biblical sense, being enlarged by the work of the Holy Spirit unto the obedient service of God and the consequential loving embrace and service of others. (Johnston, Tom. The Way of the Master: The Leader Development Methodology of Jesus (p. 13). Kindle Edition.)
Identity is what gives us the security to lead, to be confident and determined in Christ. Capacity is then the heart of Christ’s love for those whom we lead. I am using the term capacity here not in the sense of ability, but rather as the size of one’s heart for and towards others. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that our heart grows to become more obedient to God and loving to others. This wonderful verse from Psalm 119:32 portrays this well: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” (ESV) We respond to God in loving obedience when we personally encounter His love and the resultant work of the Holy Spirit in us. We are actively, continually being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29a), the capacity of the heart to love with Christ’s love is ever-increasing, ever-enlarging. This transformative work of the Spirit within us is essential to the very fabric of our leadership, enhancing our influence and impact upon others' lives.
With identity, we understand ourselves as sons and daughters of God. With capacity, we embrace the servant heart of Jesus. The Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi gives a broad understanding of how the servant heart of Jesus is meant to be expressed by and amongst His people:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:1-11).
Through this passage, Paul shows us the servanthood of Christ, who, as the Divine Son of God, chose the humility of service, even doing so by embracing a criminal’s death. This is the “mind” we are to have amid our relationships within the Kingdom community in which we live and minister. We look at not only our needs but also those of others. We are not in competition with one another but are to esteem others as worthy of honor above ourselves. We seek their welfare, their needs being met before our own. As God stretches and enlarges our heart by the Holy Spirit to be like that of Christ’s, we have our capacity increased. Such growth and transformation of our heart is critical for all disciples of Jesus and a seminal element for those who Christ has called as servant-leaders in His Kingdom enterprise.
Kingdom leadership happens in the context of relationships. The nature of those relationships, whether healthy or lacking health, is fundamental to the overall well-being of the Body and its missional fruitfulness. As Christian Schwarz has said:
“At its deepest level, leadership is nothing other than relationship—the relationship between the leader and the people who are influenced by him or her. The question is how this relationship is shaped (Schwarz, Christian. The 3 Colors of Leadership, 2012, p. 13).”
The leader’s posture as a servant in relationship with those whom they serve is elemental to the fabric of the church. As I have said before, “This is the heart and mind which the Kingdom community is to have – and it must be exemplified in its leaders” (Johnston, Tom. The Way of the Master: The Leader Development Methodology of Jesus (p. 162). Kindle Edition.) This is the example Christ set for His disciples when He washed their feet at the Last Supper, and which Paul calls out as the qualification for Elders in 1 Timothy 3. Paul indicates that it is the character qualities of Christ in the Elder-candidate that is most important, with one skill – able to teach – called out as necessary to the role. The focus is on the heart, the character, and the inner nature of the person who will lead. Again, the church's relational nature requires such leaders to be functional in loving relationships, serving others from the health of their own soul. This is the influence upon them – the essence of Christ shining through and showing forth from the leader. It is the capacity of a heart exemplifying Christ in which people will invest their trust. Again, “A leader who does not consistently demonstrate such character degrades their ability to lead, as those who may be following lose faith in their leadership. Acting out of character violates the de facto covenant a leader has with their followers, as their leadership is, at least in part, dependent upon their personal character” (Johnston, Tom. The Way of the Master: The Leader Development Methodology of Jesus (p. 166). Kindle Edition). When we compromise, we lose our credibility, we erode the trust others have placed in us. The continued cultivation of our heart keeps us “enlarging,” keeps us humble – and keeps us in the place of servan
thood with Christ and those He has called us to lead towards His preferred Kingdom future.
My encouragement for you this week, dear leader, is to know your identity in Christ as a son or daughter and to encourage and invite His Holy Spirit to enlarge the capacity of your heart, that you might truly take on the servant role to which He has called you.