Leadership lessons from 1 Corinthians 4

“as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”

When we read 1 Corinthians 4 in certain English translations we don’t get the importance of our calling and we can easily be misled to think we are merely servants of Christ. Although being a servant for Christ is a privilege, we have been given far more greater responsibility than a servant. 

When we read the original Greek translation it throws a new light into our calling and identity. We are not just called to be “servants” of Christ but as “ministers” (“hyperetas” in Greek)  and “stewards” ( “oikonomois” in Greek) of mysteries of God.

The word “hyperetas” is the same word used to refer “Officers” in other places in new testament. The variations of the word “oikonomois” is used to refer to “governors” and “managers” in other places such as Galatians 4:2. Oxford dictionary defines the word “steward” as “A person employed to manage or look after”. So in essence we are not just servants of Christ but we have been appointed as ministers/officials for Christ and to manage/steward the mysteries of God.

If we don’t understand our calling correctly then we will be working for God in a slave mentality and see God in a slave-master relationship. Forbes magazine published the “Golden rules of leadership” written by Panos Mourdoukoutas, Professor at LIU Post in New York and the top rule is “Know Thyself.” 1 Corinthians 4 teaches an important leadership lesson and also shows the importance of management in God’s kingdom.

“Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful

We are called to be faithful. Billy Graham once said “God did not call us to be successful in a worldly sense but to be faithful.” As a manager/steward if we are not faithful to what we have been entrusted with we are not qualified to be stewards in God’s kingdom. God is looking for faithfulness from you and me as a steward. If God were to advertise the post of “Stewardship” in recruitment companies the top most requirement will be “Faithfulness”.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court;”

We cannot please everyone. I read a tweet the other day that said,

If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader – sell ice cream!”

It is impossible to please everyone and be a leader. Jesus himself said “But I receive not testimony from man.” Don’t worry about people’s criticism when you are leading or managing things for God. People will criticise you. Sometimes they will throw “stones” at you just as Shimei threw stone on David and accused him. The best thing you can do is ignore the “stones of Shimei” and continue to do the work for God.

“Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”

Yes, it will be lonely at the top. Leadership is not a celebrity status. Sometimes it is a lonely place. The world has a distorted view of leadership. The world thinks it is a place from where they can “control” people and “enjoy” worldly pleasures. But a true leader goes to the length of washing his people’s feet and being treated as a filth for the sake of the people and the trust given to him/her by God.

“I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.”

You can either alienate someone with your criticism or build them up. Never criticise people to alienate or attack them. Always offer constructive criticism and understand what you are going to achieve by your criticism. Never be afraid of telling someone “it is wrong” if it is wrong.

“Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. “

Be an exemplary leader. Be a servant leader and not a boss. Nicky Gumbel recently tweeted,

“The difference between a boss and a leader: a boss says, ‘Go’ but a leader says, ‘Let’s go’.”

Don’t try to be bossy and control people all the time. Let people follow you by choice and not by force. Dare to say like Paul: “follow me as I follow Christ”. We need to be a leader of God’s people but also a follower of Christ. Both should go hand in hand. If we don’t follow Christ it will be like blind leading the blind.

“What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?”

As a leader we need to know when to take the “rod” and when to be “gentle”. Paul used the right balance in this letter showing “holy anger” and rebuke without lacking love and gentleness which are the fruit of the Spirit.

 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”

Christian leadership and management is not just effective communication and people management but a lot more than that. The word Power in Greek is “Dunamai” (from where “Dynamite” comes) and it means to “show ability or power”, “enabled by God”. One of the golden rule of Christian leadership/management which we won’t find in any secular articles or books is that we do things only relying on the power/ability that comes from God. Jesus said “apart from me you can do NOTHING”. So if we try to lead God’s people or manage God’s work without relying on God, in the end we will achieve only one thing i.e. NOTHING. So as God’s faithful stewards, managers and ministers let us learn to totally rely on Him and lead the flock. People will then see the power of God displayed through us and will be transformed. The more we rely on God and spend time with him the more we become like Him and show His power and ability. No wonder Moses’s face was radiant when he came down from Sinai and he was also one of the most effective leader in the bible!

If you are encouraged by what you read today, would you share this article with a friend, co-worker, or family member?

2 Responses to Leadership lessons from 1 Corinthians 4

  1. MEL THOMPSON says:

    Terrific POST! “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a LEADER–sell Ice Cream!” Love that! I also wrote a note to self when it comes to my “stewardship” in Christ Jesus, to learn to lean on the “power/ability” that only comes from God. It ain’t all about me!

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