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Leadership Without Titles?

Can you be a leader and not have a title?

I ask this question because it is one I’ve legitimately wrestled with in church culture over the past few years.

On our business cards, beside our name, on our websites and doors to our offices, we place titles: Doctor, Professor, Pastor, Author, Speaker. Titles seem to lend credibility. They are the three or four stars on our uniform, the badges we wear, the labels we assign to ourselves and to others.

A title means he’s been educated—he’s studied, learned, earned the right to lead. He has a diploma, seven years of theology, education and book knowledge to prove it.

A title means she’s more qualified—she’s more hirable, and she’s more desirable. A church from somewhere, a denomination or elder board, saw her talents and offered her a job.

And most of all, the title lends to the person herself a sort of ego boost on her psychosis: “I have what it takes to lead because I’m a Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration.”

Even Jesus had a title: Rabbi.

But titles do not always result in influence of the heart. Of this I’m sure.

President John Quincy Adams defined leadership this way: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Some of the people who inspire me most are not in “church leadership.” They are people who live down the street and watch my kids when I need a break; email-friends across continents that I’ve written long, audacious letters back and forth, back and forth, for over 10 years; prayer warriors whom I’ve reached out to in times of pain, who have sat with me, held my head up and whispered God’s Truth; my wise husband and humble parents, both of whom believe in me and ‘gently instruct me in the way I should go.’

These people, they are not extraordinarily trained, educated or skilled. They are simply servants—friends who have sacrificed and proven themselves time and time again to point me humbly back to the Cross. There is no division between us as leader/follower, of my pedestaling them as more capable or qualified than myself. There’s mutual vulnerability, honesty and need.

The more I’ve come to know their hearts, who they are, what they’re about, and journey with them in discovering God at work in them—the more they inspire me.

I do not see them as superhuman. I see them as fellow disciples, flawed, passionate and willing, brothers and sisters in the same Family, running hard in the same race, to know and love more deeply our Savior, Jesus.