A couple of blogs ago, we looked at some of the marks of a leader. In this passage, I think we can see more of what a true leader in the church looks like.
One is that they do not think of themselves more highly than they ought, but that they think of themselves with sober judgment (Romans 12:3). In short, they can see who they are, and properly evaluate themselves as a servant of Christ, seeing with humility both their strengths and weaknesses.
Paul said in comparing himself with those “leaders” who criticized him,
I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. (11)
Paul knew who he was. He was an apostle called by Christ. He was accredited by the signs, wonders, and miracles he performed; he had started multiple churches; and though he wasn’t “impressive” as a speaker, he nevertheless spoke to great effect.
Yet he also remembered that he was nothing in himself, the least of all the apostles because he had once persecuted the church (I Corinthians 15:9). That in himself he was weak and could do nothing. (II Corinthians 12:7-10)
True leaders need to be able to see themselves with that same kind of lens, remembering who they are in Christ and their daily need for God’s grace in their lives and in their ministries.
True leaders also love their people, not simply looking to use them for their own advantage. Paul wrote,
I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? (14-15)
Paul truly wanted what was best for the Corinthians, and like a parent was willing to do anything to see them prosper spiritually, no matter what it cost him. All true leaders should have that kind of mindset.
True leaders are consistent in their integrity. Some of the Corinthians accused Paul of somehow trying to exploit them or deceive them, ironically by not taking their money to support his ministry to them. Perhaps they were saying, “Well, he’s saying that he wasn’t going to take your money, but actually he is under the guise of taking up an offering for the poor in Jerusalem.”
But Paul could point to his life and the men he had sent to the Corinthians, showing that they had all acted with the utmost integrity. (17-18) Would that all leaders be able to do that.
Finally, true leaders grieve over sin in their people’s lives, and ultimately deal with it. Paul’s fear was that he would have to deal with the Corinthian’s sins and deal firmly with it. He didn’t want to do that, and was grieved over that possibility, but he was willing to do it (20-21). All true leaders should be that way. They cannot simply look the other way in the face of sin.
That’s the kind of leader Paul was. What kind of leader are you?