Let’s face it, leading is very difficult. Why? Because you are effectively trying to herd cats. It can get crazy. You have to deal with different maturity levels, different backgrounds, different demographics, and even different motives and aspirations. When I first started leading, I figured that everyone desired to be a leader someday, and that they had the same goals as the one that they were following. Wow, after years of extensive study (by that I mean, after years of tearing my hair out and cussing people out under my breath), I have found that when we look at Jesus and how he led and who he led, we find some very interesting groups of people, and he definitely interacted very differently with each group.
Now, anytime you write something like this, you have to generalize and you have to characterize. Don’t take this article as the end all or as a way to then characterize automatically everyone you are leading. This is meant as simply a summation of what I read in the Scriptures and what I have found in leading others on God’s mission.
So, who do we find as we look at the life and ministry of Jesus? We find these types of people:
- Apprentices (yeah, I know, it’s not an M word…)
When we see Jesus leading, we see that many followed him. Crowds upon crowds of people would follow him around to see what they could get out of him. Jesus would say some pretty rough things to them, whether it was to eat his flesh or drink his blood to the harsh words he spoke to rich young ruler and the Canaanite woman seeking to have her daughter healed. He would teach them the ways of his Father and he definitely showed them what it looked like to be one of his disciples, but you’ll notice that none of them were in his close realm of friendship or discipleship. These people didn’t help make the plans for the next journey or “get a vote” on what or where to go next. These people are curious, and Jesus allowed them to be.
Many times we want to please the masses, thinking that is the way to draw more people in. Jesus didn’t do this. Jesus would teach and be on his way, and then out of the masses those that took him serious would then follow him or come to him in private and Jesus would then engage even further with them. Think of Zacchaeus. You know, the wee little man? He was part of the masses, but Jesus saw something in his faith of climbing the tree to just get a glimpse of Jesus that caused Jesus to go deeper with him in relationship (Luke 19:1-10). Know that in the masses, there may be many who will go deeper, but do not try and conform your vision or message to convert all of them to the ways of Jesus… not even Jesus did that.
Many times we want to please the masses, thinking that is the way to draw more people in. Jesus didn’t do this.
The misfits are people who don’t fit into the mold as others do. In many ways, you are not sure what to do with them, but they keep showing up and they keep following in the ways of Jesus. Jesus had many of these in his time. He had the demon possessed man that he sent the Legion of demons into the pigs and told him to go back to his town to tell them what happened (Mark 5:1-20). He had the blind man in John 9 that had enough faith to go and tell what happened to the religious leaders. And of course, Zacchaeus would also fit into this category.
Know that you will run into these types all the time. They don’t fit the normal mold that you are used to leading. It could be their personality type, or it could be their beliefs. We’ve had many people in our missional communities over the years that didn’t fully believe in all the “tenants of Christianity,” but followed in the ways of Jesus more closely than any Christian I had come across. Don’t discourage these people, but foster them and help them grow in that understanding of who God is and what he’s done. The misfits were ones that Jesus took great care of and desired them to know his Father. For too long, we’ve been uncomfortable with leading these types of people, but know that God desires them among his flock, even if they believe that karma is legit and unicorns are real.
The misfits were ones that Jesus took great care of and desired them to know his Father.
I believe that Jesus had at least nine managers among him. They did what they were told, followed Jesus where he was going and loved Jesus until the end (besides one). These were the nine apostles apart from Peter, James and John. Now, I can’t tell you exactly why these nine were different than the three. But, we definitely see that Jesus’ relationship with the three – Peter, James and John – was quite different than the nine (which will be explained further in the article). Jesus entrusted the nine with a ton, but probably knew that their leadership capabilities were more than likely going to be in a smaller setting and done with very little vision or initiative. He needed to do a lot of hand-holding with their leadership, but he knew that if he laid out the plans and purpose, they would be very good with following through. Whether it was feeding the crowds or coming alongside him even after some tough conversations and teachings. They weren’t going anywhere, they loved him deeply.
We all lead these types of people. They are great at running tasks, small groups, or missional communities. But, to try and get them to take that next step of visionary leadership and leading leaders is just too much for them. For too long, we’ve been trying to make managers a leader among leaders. We then get frustrated when they don’t come through, or things become stagnant in their growth or in their groups. But, this is how God has made them and where their capacity lies. This is a huge step for you as a leader, to know the difference between a manager and an apprentice. Who is going to merely carry out an assignment and who is going to catalyze an assignment? Big difference. This will not only help managers function in the ways that God has made them, which will in turn be freeing for them, but it will stop your frustration with why they can’t get to that next level.
Some moles are wolves, but not all of them, so I won’t use that term to classify a whole “class” of people. The moles seem to be going along just fine for the most part. But, they usually don’t speak up, or they don’t buy into the vision and end up being like rocks in your shoe. Jesus had moles all around him. He had some that were wolves and some that were merely going to slow down his mission to show off his Father. Think of it:
Jesus had the rich young ruler that didn’t want to fully follow him, so Jesus let him go instead of trying to convince him to stay (Mark 10:17-27).
Jesus had one who asked to go and bury his father and yet another that asked to go say goodbye to his family (Luke 9:57-62).
Not only this, but Jesus also had moles that were wolves. Of course, there was Judas. There were also the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes who were asking questions to try and throw him and his disciples off their plan to make disciples.
The point is that moles will never follow you where you are going. They always have excuses or bring up questions that sound legit if you took each one by themselves, but when added up, only equal a stagnant self-focused individual that will never actually follow your leadership.
They need to be let go. You have to prune these branches. Too many allow these types of people hang around and call it “grace,” when in reality it’s bad leadership and is holding back the misfits, the masses, and the managers from actually following you as you follow Jesus and his mission. Jesus only allowed Judas to stick around because he had a specific plan in place for him, but with all other moles, he sharply addresses and moves on without them.
Now, don’t automatically label someone as a mole, but when someone’s actions have a pattern of this type of behavior, the worst thing you can do is keep them around as they only hinder you and everyone else from fulfilling the mission.
Just look at Jesus. He knew men’s hearts, so he could make this judgment far quicker than we can. But he wouldn’t even allow these types of people to be close to him or his disciples. That says a lot.
The apprentices are a little different than the rest. They not only get the mission and vision, but they can see and lead five steps down the line. Jesus had three of these: Peter, James and John. These three were the ones that were going to lead the charge when Jesus was gone. They were virtually taking the place of Jesus. You’ll notice that they aren’t perfect; Peter says many things we cringe at, and James and John desire to destroy people with fire from heaven (Luke 9:54). Jesus doesn’t use this against them, but finds them to be men of zeal and passion for him and his mission. He sees them, not as merely managers, but as ones that will take his place. He spends extra time with them to teach them and guide them in his ways, even taking them up to see his transfiguration. These were men who he was training in all of his ways, allowing them to speak into situations and aid the people so that they could understand what he was about.
We have the same in our communities. They are humble and want to learn and want to lead without titles. They have great ideas and seem to always see down the road and how things will affect people in ways we haven’t thought about. These are the people we need to spend the most time with. These are the future leaders that will continue to lead, not in a way a manager will, but will lead with big vision and lead the charge, instead of just taking orders. Dig deep with these people as much as possible. Spend time with them that others won’t get to with you, not because you are picking favorites, but because you know that they are going to be a leader or leaders and need that extra time to understand what it looks like.
Under your wing, these leaders will be the ones who continue to properly handle the masses, the misfits, the managers, the moles, and the new apprentices long after you’re gone. In my opinion, this is the best way to multiply leaders and, ultimately, to multiply disciples. And that’s what we’re here for, right?
What you’ll see about Jesus is that he allowed every one of these types of people to hear and observe his message and life. He didn’t leave people out, but he also didn’t treat them all the same. He used wisdom to understand who to let “in” and who to let go, who to dig deeper with and who to keep at a distance. It wasn’t because Jesus was a jerk, it was because Jesus had a mission.
What you’ll see about Jesus is that he allowed every one of these types of people to hear and observe his message and life.
The same is said for us. Jesus left us with his mission to make disciples. Knowing where people are on their journey will help you identify how to lead them and who to offer more of your time. This doesn’t mean that if someone is a misfit or a manager that someday they won’t be an apprentice; treat it as though it could happen and pray for the Spirit’s leading. It also doesn’t mean that God won’t change the heart of the mole. Saul became Paul.
I hope here to offer my experience, and to aid your understanding in who you are leading and how Jesus led. Let this be just a taster of your study and understanding of leading others in their journey of following Jesus.
Seth McBee is the adopted son of God, husband of one wife, and father of three. He’s a graduate of Seattle Pacific University with a finance degree. By trade. Seth is an investment portfolio manager, serving as President of McBee Advisors, Inc. He is also a MC leader/trainer/coach and executive team member of the GCM Collective. Seth currently lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife Stacy and their three children: Caleb, Coleman, and Madelynn. He is also the artist and co-author of the wildly popular (and free!) eBook, Be The Church: Discipleship & Mission Made Simple. Twitter: @sdmcbee.