Lessons on Leadership

By 21/04/2021From Nigel

 [2] Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. [3] I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. [4] I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

2 Corinthians 7:2-4

There are so many books, seminars, conferences, and online webinars on principles of leadership today. “Try this book or that book” as if each was a panacea to Church success. If I do have a concern about this abundance of resources it would be that most of them come from the board room or the office, they are management principles. In fact from my perspective on looking at Church leadership many Pastors are really CEO’s of companies.

If I were to suggest to someone desiring leadership or a current leader that they could learn from Paul here in 2 Corinthians, I guess I would get a very patronising tap on the shoulder before they asked for something more substantial, more up-to-date, more relevant, more in touch with contemporary culture and the prevailing trends in the market place.

I seriously believe that what we read in 2 Corinthians about Paul and the people of that city is the most insightful, practical, wise, and edifying biblical advice for how to lead and be led available in this or any age of the Church. I will continue to believe this, so I apologise. If you haven’t already read verses 2-4 again do so very carefully and slowly.

The first thing that stands out is Paul’s determination to do everything within his power to facilitate reconciliation with the Corinthians. “Make room in your hearts for us,” he pleads with them. This is a resumption of his earlier appeal in chapter 6:13, “In return (I speak as to children), widen your hearts also.”

Paul refused to settle for the status quo. It wasn’t enough that he had deep affection for them (2 Corinthians 6:11-12) he also worked so hard to persuade them that there was no good reason to close their hearts to him. Mutual love and mutual commitment was the goal. How tragic is it when leaders and their people become entrenched in long term grudges, which are, more times than not, based on misunderstanding and miscommunication that could easily be resolved if humility was the foundation of Church life. How sad, and unnecessary, when Christians feed off relational wounds and simply assume that reconciliation is either too difficult, not worth the effort, or completely beyond the realm of possibility. We just leave and find another church. So many times folk have turned up to my Church with tales of disagreements. Paul wouldn’t have it, and neither should we.

To prove that the rift was groundless, and that he was deserving of a place in their hearts, Paul insists that he has “wronged” no one, “corrupted” no one, nor “taken advantage” of anyone. I and all Church leaders should take note that integrity is foundational to all levels and expressions of leadership.

Paul insists he had “wronged” no one, this was a possible response to the charge that he had been unduly harsh in dealing with the incestuous man of 1 Corinthians 5 or the offender mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.

In saying he had “corrupted” no one, it’s possible he is alluding to finances, or morality or even doctrine. There seems to be an invitation to anyone in Corinth to investigate Paul’s behaviour which is interesting. Look at my life, behind closed doors if you like, our lives and leadership are more than just the pulpit.

The words “take advantage” might mean exploit or defraud.

It’s possible that some suspected he manipulated for his own benefit the offering taken up for the Jerusalem Church (2 Corinthians 8:20-22). Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just interesting that there are always rumours surrounding leadership. I was once accused of playing golf regularly and having been seen playing it. I wasn’t, I can’t play very well, and haven’t any golf clubs, yet people believed it.

I also find it helpful in how careful Paul is about his use of words. He knows how prone people are to twist things to their own advantage, so he quickly qualifies his words in verse 2 with his affirmation of love in verse 3. In fact, Paul was not only willing to live with them, but to die with them as well (vs 3). What an incredible affirmation of the depth and sincerity of his commitment to them. Sounds like,

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Paul is declaring his heart, he is now and always interwoven with the Corinthians. Neither the arrival of death nor the changes of life are going to stop his affection for them. Paul does not leave it there he takes his leadership further, and gives us some wonderful examples.

Firstly, he was determined to be utterly and altogether open in his speech with them. The force of the words translated in verse 4 “I am acting with great boldness toward you,” meaning his words are not a cloak for some self-serving agenda or a means to protect a wounded ego. He speaks his mind candidly, fearlessly, and without regard to what consequences might happen to him personally. He will not hide his intentions or his feelings or his beliefs about what is right and wrong in the Church. Whether his words encourage or rebuke, they are the accurate expression of what’s in his heart.

Secondly, he boasts to others about them, vs 4 “I have great pride in you” the meaning is he shouts it aloud. The suggestion is, what he says in public he says in private. Now that one is a challenge. Can you imagine the changes in our Churches if we were honest with and about one another, both in private and in public?

He is not simply happy about hearing good news of these Christians (2 Corinthians 7:7) he is “filled with comfort” there is a deep emotional connection, they are a part of his heart. I was once asked about my feelings for a Church I had previously led and when I replied that I felt they were a part of me, the person cautioned me to move on. They were wrong! People are not numbers, lives given are privileges , let’s not get into running a Church.

Finally in verse 4 “ in all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy,”

whether his afflictions are the cause of his joy or, more likely, that in the midst of them he yet finds reasons to rejoice, he wants them to know that whatever he endured to bring them the gospel, whatever he suffered to see Christ work in them, whatever pain and loss he incurred so that Christ might look good in his life, and thus become the treasure in theirs, he did it joyfully. He was happy to pay the cost so that they would benefit. This is not promotion, influence, money or power.

In a day when some self-appointed and self-serving Pastors and leaders either fleece their flocks and burden them with the responsibility of providing for a lavish and opulent lifestyle, or are there just so they can move on to something bigger and better and it’s all about them we are reminded that Paul joyfully embraced whatever hardship might come his way if it produced harvest in the lives of those entrusted to his care.

This is the calling and character of those entrusted with the care of God’s people. You will not find it an example of leadership popular today.

[5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

You don’t read much about leadership like this today, it’s all process, statistics and methods. This is heart, but thanks be to God for his timeless and true revelation from scripture of what makes for godly Church leaders. Last appeal: can we stick to the Bible?