Is there anything that tends to replace Christ in your life as a leader?

Just an early warning – it’s about to get personal (at least for me!). I’ve been processing this idea in my own life a lot lately. It’s a process so by nature somewhat incomplete. Here’s where I’m at today:

Paul, in Colossians 3, provides an important statement about the life of a believer. As a Christian, Paul’s instruction is a beautiful reminder of our new life that is found in Jesus. But I believe it has significant leadership implications – ones that I’ve struggled to maintain at times.

Here’s what Paul wrote to the believers in Colossae:

[blockquote source=”Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)”] 1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.[/blockquote]

The church has become enamored with leadership. For good reason. Quality leadership is missing in far too many churches around the globe. Yes, pastors are shepherds. Yes, pastors are disciple-makers. But pastors are also leaders, and the church needs more great leaders. Without quality leadership, the church suffers. This will sound blasphemous, but a great leader can grow a church crowd without Jesus. Great leaders can make things happen on their own. Great leaders can attract followers.

Now, I realize like you that Jesus is the head of the church (the ultimate leader) and he works through us, but the reality is Jesus seems to do more through great leadership. I think this is partially why Solomon prayed for wisdom. He understood that excellent leadership was a requirement as king, and wisdom provided the necessary insight to lead with excellence.

Here is my struggle: I often forget my life is not first a leader, pastor, teacher, or preacher. I DO all those things, but I AM not those things. That is not my LIFE. My life is Christ. My old life has passed and my new life is hidden in Christ. But I constantly set my heart on the things of leadership. I set my mind on progress. There’s nothing inherently wrong with leadership and progress, so long as they take a backseat to Christ.

Here are a few things I’ve found easily replace Jesus in my heart and mind:

1. Progress.

My name is Gavin, and I’m a progress addict. If you are a leader of any type, you probably love progress, as well. Leaders are influencers, and most (if not all) of our influence is targeted toward progress. So, it’s easy to understand how progress can become your life. It easily replaces Jesus.

2. Selfish Ambition.

Ambition is healthy. Selfish ambition is destructive. When we as leaders begin to set our heart and mind on what WE want more than what GOD desires, we have taken our ambition in a selfish direction.

3. Praise.

As my boss Andy Stanley has taught our staff, living for the applause of One is healthy, but seeking the applause of many moves our hearts and minds to the things of this world. Lady Gaga might live (and sing) for the applause. We as Christian leaders must keep our desire for praise second to our Godly praise.

4. What’s Next.

Promotions are great. Looking ahead is fine. But when our eyes stray away from what Jesus has next to seek what we want next, we may find ourselves heading in the wrong direction. We are called to lead to the best of our ability where God has placed us today. Lead well where God has placed you now and trust God to move you where he desires tomorrow.

5. Growth.

Christ is your life, not your attendance. Watermarke Church, where God has placed me to lead, has seen tremendous growth over 5-years. By “tremendous,” I mean over 1,000% growth – from 350 to 4,500 in the building each week. There are many factors that contributed to our increase. That’s not the point. Here is the problem: The temptation in a season of growth is to focus on prolonging the season. We should care about attendance numbers, because numbers are people and people matter to God. But, we cannot focus our leadership around church growth in place of Christ.

Well, there are 5 things that have supplanted Jesus in my life from time to time. How about you? What tends to push Jesus to the backseat in your life? I’d love to know in the comments below. And feel free to share this post so we can all learn more together.

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