I’d like you to re-read Jesus’s teaching to the disciples in John chapters 14, 15, and 16 through a leadership lens. Let’s think together about how abiding in Christ is the linchpin that connects leadership with our Triune God and puts all our work in meaningful context.
The accomplished work of Jesus puts us in a new kind of relationship with God.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:14-16, ESV)
Here is one way to picture this “God has called me friend” relationship:
Jesus tells his disciples – all called to leadership roles! – about what they will experience in this abiding relationship:
- Their prayers will be heard and answered. “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14)
- They will be taught and they will learn. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
- They will experience peace rather than fear. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
- They will be lovingly pruned so they will be even more fruitful in the future. “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
- They will be fruitful to serve and help others. “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
- They will experience true joy – something remarkably rare in a sin-corrupted world. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
- They will be able to obey Christ’s commandment to love others, even as they are loved by Jesus. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
- They will testify about Jesus. “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:27)
- They will know first-hand the truth that they are in a battle against darkness and evil; they will experience persecution (see John 15:18-25), and yet their Battle Commander has overcome the world! “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Let’s add these to our diagram:
The point of all this is that God is glorified. We were created by God. We live in a world created by God as leaders of people created by God. All our leadership experience that comes from our relationship with the living God is meant for God’s glory. Glorifying God closes the loop:
As leaders, our work must be centered in abiding with Christ. That’s the key to connecting the immeasurable love and power of the Trinity to work that glorifies God.
Think about your leadership role, the opportunities you have. Now, read again Jesus’s words to you as a leader, which are as much for you as they were for his first leaders:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:4-11, ESV)
Your first work as a leader must be to consistently create time and space to abide with Jesus. Read and meditate on the Word. Pray for wisdom, understanding, and guidance. Pray for the people he has called you to lead. Rest in him. Resist the temptation to make “abiding” an efficient checkoff task on your to-do list.
Abiding is an active effort, not passive. We do not unconsciously drift into abiding with Jesus. Build habits that pull you back into abiding with Christ multiple times daily.
A practical suggestion: Read John 14-16 every morning for a week. Read it aloud so you hear it. Imagine you are there with the disciples listening to Jesus. Let the truths here sink into your mind and heart and displace fear and uncertainty.