The sobering gift of leadership: a lesson from Gideon
I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been intrigued with the concept and the reality of leadership. I was very interested in the subject before the Lord called me to follow Him. The ability that some people have to influence other people to do things they wouldn’t normally do was what made history so interesting to me, even in high school. In fact, all history–World history, is basically a study of leadership and the incredible consequences produced by the wielding of the powerful tool that leadership is.
When Jesus called me to follow Him my interest in leadership increased all the more. For me, it’s just not possible to follow the greatest leader the world has ever known and not be interested in the clearly God-created concept of leadership. In my pursuit of understanding the subject since His call for me to follow Him, I’ve read about a dozen books on Christ-like leadership and I’ve learned much. But as with so many other subjects that really matter, I’m of the strong conviction that the bible is the best book ever written on the subject of leadership.
But, similar to many other topics that the bible speaks about, the lessons on leadership contained within its pages must be gleaned from the STORIES of good leaders, bad leaders, reluctant, and even want-to-be leaders, that are recorded. Although there are certain phrases or statements that are clearly great principles of what true leadership really is, (like serving, rather than being served) the bible really doesn’t provide a succinct definition of what leadership is or a list of the key aspects of leadership arranged in a really cool, logical format.
The past few weeks I’ve met with quite a few pastors, attended a handful of different churches, and watched a few videos from a few different pastor’s conferences. Doing so has prompted me to re-examine an important leadership lesson from the life of Gideon that God pressed upon my heart not long after I discovered through other people’s input that He had entrusted me with the sobering gift of leadership–the ability to influence people to do what they normally wouldn’t do.
Please know that I apply this caution to myself first and foremost, but I believe and pray that it is of value to anyone who has been blessed with the stewardship of leading others.
I will skip over quite a bit of Gideon’s story and zero in on what I believe are a few crucial warnings that can be learned from his life and leadership.
Judges 6:11,15 Gideon is a member of the small clan called the Abiezrites, who are a part of the small and less than influential tribe of Manasseh.
Judges 6:34 In response to the gathering of the armies of the Midianites and Amalekites nearby, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon” and he blew the trumpet and the Abiezrites gathered to him. (At this point, begin thinking about how many Abiezrites may have gathered in response to his Spirit-led trumpet blast).
Judges 6:35 Gideon then sends messengers to his whole tribe and 3 other tribes.
Judges 7:2-7 God tells him there are too many people gathered under Gideons leadership and therefore there is a danger of them thinking that if they win the battle, it was because of their numbers and their abilities. He then goes through a process of pairing them down from 32,000 to 10,000 and then finally, to just 300, and they have a great victory with an army of 300 that had God’s power and creativity with them.
I had a few questions about this whole episode for a long time. My questions were these:
Did God know before they gathered that an army of 32,000 would be prone to take the glory for the victory? Of course.
If He knew that and HE was the one who gathered them, would He make such an apparent mistake and then have to undo His mistake? Not likely.
Or, is it possible that it wasn’t God’s power of Spirit that gathered them, but Gideon’s personal leadership and influence that gathered them? Possible.
When the Spirit led Gideon to blow the trumpet, how many Abiezrites probably gathered to him? My guess: 300.
Did the Spirit lead Gideon to send messengers to the rest of his tribe and the 3 others? It doesn’t say that.
Finally, here are a couple of lessons that I believe God wanted to teach Gideon, His people, and all those whom He has given the gift of leadership to:
1. If you have the gift, be careful to ensure that God’s Spirit is leading you to use it.
2. To determine whether it is His Spirit leading you to use your influence with people, ask yourself whether success will bring glory to Him alone, or whether it will increase your glory and status in the eyes of others and potentially even increase the pride in themselves of those you lead.
3. If you do exert your influence and it hasn’t been Spirit-led, know that He will expose your flesh-based efforts at some point and that you’ll see for yourself the disruption of other people’s lives that you have caused.
4. Know that when He is truly leading you, the number of those you lead at any moment in time moment, is exactly the amount of resources necessary to do what He has called you to do, (similar to the 5 loaves and 2 fishes).
5. Impact for His kingdom is usually inversely proportionally to size. Thinking that a large task requires a large group of people is faulty thinking. Jesus’ example of investing in a few that would eventually impact the whole world and the history of the church itself clearly demonstrates that smaller groups of people generally have as much or even more impact as larger groups.
Great leadership principles, Jeff. I like your emphasis not only on direct biblical statements about leadership, but also gleaming from a study of the biographies of Bible men. Thanks.