I heard a local pastor share a thought recently which impacted me:
He said that when he was in a church youth group, the leader of the group told him and all the other boys to stay away from girls. Don't talk to them, don't look at them. This was done in the name of helping to protect the boys from getting caught in a trap of lust.
For anyone who was once a teenage boy, you're probably shaking your head, either laughing, or getting angry. Trying to teach a teenage boy not to lust is like trying to train cats to pull a dogsled in the iditarod. You will literally die before you succeed.
But leaders of youth groups sometimes have a success metric that looks like this: I have to keep the kids in my group away from sex, drinking and drugs. Doing that means I'm succeeding, otherwise I am failing.
It's a terrible metric for several reasons, but I'm getting off on a tangent.
This pastor explained a problem that developed out of this guidance to avoid girls: all the boys who respected leadership and wanted to honor God listened and avoided girls like they were putting out weapons grade cooties. So guess which boys were the only ones who paid attention to the girls and talked to them? Did you guess 'the boys who didn't give a crap about what some youth leader said?' Because if you said that, you'd be right.
So the girls had a choice - sit around and be lonely, or hang out with guys who probably didn't have the best of intentions since there was no desire to balance the call of raging hormones against a desire to honor God with their actions.
This pastor, being a sharp kid, realized what was happening. It was a lose-lose-lose situation.
The "good boys" were isolated and grew socially awkward.
The "bad boys" didn't have to treat girls very well to get what they wanted.
The girls were treated like crap - or perhaps like prey would be a more appropriate term.
So this pastor asks "good, church going boys" NOT to ignore girls. Instead, he asks them to view them as sisters. To respect, honor, cherish and protect them.
Some boys will still only be trying to get something for themselves, but it'll be more difficult if a girl's self esteem has been raised by other boys treating them with respect.
I loved what he had to say. If we are worried about unhealthy relationships, proposing a solution of having NO relationships is lazy, foolish and ultimately harmful. We must be willing to seek how Jesus points us to having healthier relationships.
Jesus always wants us to have a better, healthier, fuller life than what we would choose for ourselves.
I have taken this insight and realized it needs to be applied elsewhere, in a way that affects me.
See, I've said many, many times that I don't want to be the 'lead guy' at a church. I'm friendly (far too nice in my attempts at being a business owner), I'm a collaborator and I have no need to have the final word on every conversation. So I've told everyone that I'm happy being a #2 guy wherever I'm at.
Here's the problem I have discovered: the people who desire power tend to be jerks. This is true in the business world and the church world.
No, seriously. Most people who crave power want to use it in ways that aren't healthy or collaborative or Christ-like.
Remember, Jesus said this: "You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 emphasis mine)
It is this upside-down economy of the Kingdom of God which can drive us all a little nuts at times:
Make yourself last to be first.
If you want to live, you have to die to yourself.
If you want to lead, become a servant.
Yet the people who are willing to serve usually don't seek positions of power. You know who does? People who think they deserve power. People who are controlling or arrogant or entitled, and if no humble, serving people are available, there's not much choice.
Much like a girl who has to decide between skipping a dance or going with a creep, except that organizations need leaders, so they can't simply say 'no thanks' and sit around.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "Nearly any [person] can stand adversity. If you really want to test a [person's] character, give them power." How much worse will this be if men and women who were never interested in serving anyone other than themselves in the first place are given authority?
Recently, I have repented of my 'I don't want to be the lead guy attitude', because while I don't need power, and I am aware of the possibly corrupting influence of power, I'd rather someone aware and concerned about that be in charge than someone who just doesn't care.
So if you see yourself as someone who is called to serve, read some leadership books. Start looking for any opportunities to develop your skills in people management. Attend a leadership conference.
Make yourself available for God to use in this area so that we don't continue to see a pipeline of unqualified people take on authority simply because they were the only ones willing to accept the baton.
Leadership should be seen as the ultimate serving position - it will take more from you than anything else you could do, but if you are willing to give of yourself, you are far more qualified than anyone who only wants to take.