Genuine spiritual influence, or leadership, is not anchored in the gifts, abilities and strategies of the pastor or preacher or elder or leader. Genuine influence is anchored in the very opposite: in following. Mel Lawrenz, in fact, upends so much of leadership theory with these words: “The best leaders are the best followers” (Spiritual Influence, 37). Many pastors claim authority — and talk about it often — or they talk about leadership being imposing their will on others. But the apostles were leader-followers and Jesus was himself living out the will of the Father.
What do you do to remind yourself that you are first of all a follower and not a leader? What are the biggest temptations of the leader?
“Some of the most dangerous leaders are those who think they know better than anyone else, who are interested only in their own inventions and who relish the isolation of being out ahead of everyone else” (37). Mel turns it inside out: “The best leaders you ever followed did not learn leading by leading, but by following.”
Genuine spiritual influence then is leading others into following Jesus. The question then is this: Does this person lead me to follow Christ or does this person lead me to follow him/her? This book will get even more into integrity, but genuine influence entails people following a leader (who is following Jesus). The leader must be follow-able.
Another way of looking at leading as following is to say genuine influence emerges from engagement with God. God is at work and we are influencing others into indwelling that life of God. So again this is what spiritual influence is all about: a spiritual person influencing another spiritual person. This begins when we bow before God in prayer and humility, when we serve God in the face of others — when we surrender our reputation to service of God. The pretense of greatness destroys genuine leadership/influence. He uses Zinzendorf as the example here, whose influence is not only worldwide but directly impacted the Wesleys.
This leads Mel to discuss integrity. If you don’t like a leader the issue is trust; leadership and trust go hand in hand. No trust, no influence. Influence does not come from the kind of integrity that means flawlessness but because of the call of God. There is a sense of congruence, of course, of a wholeness at work in the person of influence. Integrity is both a quality and a process. It is a coherence of inner and outer, private and public. (John of Antioch is his example, and a good one.)
Integrity’s challenges: more masks are available today; family structures are more broken; social structures are broken; competition eats at us.