The Incarnational Leader



Sometime back I got an email from a church describing their discipleship pathway.


They were particularly focused on “skeptics”. The way they described their generalized mission was leading people from skeptic to seeker to saved to servant. I like that continuum. I think most of us who are interested in spiritual formation tend to see people move from “seeker” to eventually what we call a “disciple”. But what if the end result was actually a “servant”? What a statement that would make!—and maybe more theologically correct. Consider these well-known verses in Philippians:


Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8 NLT


Something happens to us when we quit clamoring for our rights and submit to God’s overarching work in our lives. We become less interested in being right or having power or control, but rather understanding that being a servant means we relinquish what we want for the greater good of God’s desires. It doesn’t mean that we lose our sense of passion and drive for the Kingdom; it simply means we view our work through the world-view of Jesus. The Christmas story is the ultimate tale of the prince and the pauper. The incarnation is simply God slipping into human skin in order to rescue us. He made Himself nothing. We’re encouraged to have that same attitude in us…to practice incarnational Christianity and slip into a servant’s guise. Paul seems to be reminding us that attitude comes before any perceived sacrifice.

And let's get real: it’s a bit embarrassing to talk about our “sacrifices for God” in light of the One who gave up His life for us little self-centered knuckleheads. Or even our forefathers in the faith….as the writer of Hebrews describes:


Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Hebrews 10:32-34 NIV


Leaders have to perpetually remind ourselves that the world we slip into—where we incarnate the life of Jesus—holds no promise of safety, ease, or recognition. But what it builds inside of us is worth more than all the accolades, money, and power this little dustball of a planet has to offer. And a future world of promise that is just, righteous, peaceful, and whole. Merry Incarnation, all! Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES

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