The Leadership Style of Jesus

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The Leadership Style of JesusWhat is the Leadership Style of Jesus?

The leadership style of Jesus is one that is obviously unique to any other leadership style known to man.

It is clear that the way Jesus led His disciples was a plan for the future of His Church.

His strategy in developing disciples was laid out in such a way to spread the Gospel for all time. This message of Jesus transcends the barriers of culture, time, and history.

Although the effects of his ministry are limitless, there is a simplicity to the leadership style of Jesus.  His style of leadership was a process of involving His disciples in four phases of ministry.  These phases are described by what Bill Hull calls

  1. The “Come and See” Phase
  2. The “Follow Me” Phase
  3. The “Be With Me” Phase
  4. The “Remain in Me” Phase.1  

Come and See

In the first phases of his ministry, Jesus’ invitation to His followers was for them to simply “come and see” what was taking place.

As Jesus began His public ministry, He began it by giving this simple invitation to the disciples.  “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them,

“Come and you will see.” John 1:38-39

There can be no doubt that the leadership style of Jesus was one that invoked curiosity.

The increase of Jesus’ followers took a very natural turn when Andrew went to find his brother Simon (John 1:40).  The invitation from Andrew to Simon was a “come and see” type invitation. This process did not stop with the two brothers.  The next disciple according to John’s gospel was Phillip. Phillip followed the pattern of Andrew.  He found Nathanael and told him to “come and see” Jesus even after Nathanael criticized the fact that Jesus was from Nazareth. (John 1:45)

The beginning process of Jesus’ ministry did not start the disciples with teaching, preaching, or healing. It started by giving an introduction to “come and see”.

It is interesting how this invitation after being given by Jesus became part of His follower’s behavior and conversation.  The Master Teacher taught his followers by setting the example and the standard for ministry.  There can be no doubt that Jesus’ strategy was extremely effective.  “People need to be convinced of the presence and power of God if they are to catch the vision of his kingdom on the earth.” 2

It was the leadership style of Jesus to have others learn from Him by

  • engaging
  • watching, and
  • repeating His behavior.

Follow Me

The next phase of His public ministry was an invitation to “follow.”

The concept of following calls for basic behaviors from the one asking others to follow him.  Jesus said to His disciples,

“Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”(Matthew 4:19)

The implication here is that Jesus can take skills already developed and teach someone how to use what they know for the Kingdom of God.

There was never an attempt by Christ to turn His followers from all they knew. The leadership strategy of Jesus was to make disciples by encouraging them to use their known skills.

There is no doubt that the following of Christ and watching how he performed ministry was as much a teaching experience as His words. Jesus used the phrase “follow me” in every gospel (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 16:24, 19:21; Mark 1:17, 2:14, 8:34, 10:21; Luke 5:27, 9:23, 9:59, 18:22; John 1:43, 10:27, 12:26, 21:19, 21:22). One of the basic teaching and leadership styles of Christ is that of setting examples for others to follow.

A major adjustment that some pastors and church leaders may face is in the transformation of their leadership style.  Many congregations have adopted a secular approach to ministry development.  The examples Christ set are quite different from a business world approach.

The word “follow” according to Webster’s dictionary calls one to proceed, come after, or pursue.  The “follow me” phase of Christ is a basic foundational teaching of Jesus’ ministry and leadership style.

Be With Me

In Mark 3:13- 14 Jesus shows another aspect of His leadership style.

The Scripture teaches that Jesus went up on a mountain, and he called to himself those He wanted to follow Him.  It is obvious that prayers had gone into Jesus’ planning.

The multitudes had become larger by the day, and the Lord set an example for the future church as how to develop a strategic ministry.  At this point, the Lord was calling men who, for the most part, would be willing to follow Him in life and death.

This leadership style of Jesus or phase of ministry is what Hull calls the “be with me phase”3  There are many who have discussed and debated why Jesus chose only twelve disciples.  It is certain that the ability to become intimate with anyone is lost when the numbers of a group grow.

Jesus’ ability to understand the workings of education and crowd dynamics is obvious in His selection of only twelve men. It is almost impossible to experience closeness with anyone when there are dozens of people present.

It is now commonly held that an average person retains only ten percent of what he or she learns orally.  If that person takes notes and is assisted by visual aids, the retention level is fifty percent.  But, if a person participates in doing a related activity, the retention level jumps to ninety percent.

The disciples were already armed with content.  They were established in the word of God, prayer, fellowship and witnessing. But to become effective in the vital areas of ministry, they would need actual practice.

But what does a person need to be ready to labor in ministry for Jesus?  A disciple needs to grow in his convictions, to undergo supervised training experiences with critique, and to be taught certain key ministry skills.  It would be three months before Jesus commissioned his disciples to actual laboring. But in the meantime there was much work to be done. 4

The strategy of Jesus began with the “come and see phase” then a “follow me phase” which led to a more intimate “be with me phase.”

The “be with me” phase was a time when Jesus called His disciples to a higher level of commitment.  The strategy of Jesus was to create followers who would be able to lead the multitudes.  Jesus’ goal was to establish a team to share responsibility rather than the needs of the many falling onto the shoulders of an individual or small group.

Remain in Me

It is obvious in the leadership style of Jesus that He was seeking men who would continue developing others long after He ascended into heaven.  Robert Coleman said of Jesus that “everything he did and said was a part of the whole pattern.” 5  Men were the strategy by which Jesus planned to change the world.

What is more revealing about these men is that at first they do not impress us a being potential key leaders.  None of them occupied prominent places in the synagogue, nor did any of them belong to the Levitical priesthood.  For the most part, they were common laboring men, probably having no professional training beyond the rudiments of knowledge necessary for their vocation.

Perhaps a few of them came from families of some considerable means, such as the sons of Zebedee, but none of them could have been considered wealthy.

They had no academic degrees in the arts and philosophies of their day.  Like their Master, their formal education likely consisted only of the synagogue schools. Most of them were raised in the poor section of the country around Galilee.  Apparently the only one of the twelve who came from the more refined region of Judea was Judas Iscariot.  By any standard of sophisticated culture then and now they would surely be considered as a rather ragged collection of souls.

One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them.  They were

  • impulsive
  • temperamental
  • easily offended
  • and had all the prejudices of their environment.

These men, selected by the Lord to be his assistants, represented an average cross section of society in their day.  They were not the kind of group one would expect to win the world for Christ. However, they changed the world by following closely to the leadership style of Jesus.

Dale Roach

Who is Dale Roach?

  1. Bill Hull, New Century Disciplemaking, (Fleming, H. Revell; Grand Rapids, 1984), p 5
  2. Bill Hull, New Century Disciplemaking, p.25
  3. Bill Hull, New Century Disciplemaking, pp. 131-178
  4. Bill Hull, New Century Disciplemaking, pp. 134
  5. Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Revell; Abridged 2nd edition (December 1, 1994)
  6. Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Revell; Abridged 2nd edition (December 1, 1994)
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