In church these days, we know how important it is to choose the right leaders. After all, these people will represent our local church (and God himself) to the community around us. We nominate selection committees and spend countless hours searching for the right person who will embody the moral and professional characteristics needed to lead God’s church in the right direction, to shepherd and guide and nurture and feed us. “Top Ten” lists of leadership characteristics tell us we should seek out church leaders who are skilful, competent, professional, influential, visionary, hard-working, energetic and gifted communicators.
Jesus didn’t seem to get that memo.
While we look for the most squeaky-clean, well-presented, got-it-together, charismatic communicators to lead the church, Jesus chose the most rag-tag, unlikely outsiders to be his ambassadors.
He publicly endorsed a despised tax collector who stole from his own people.
He commissioned a naked madman as his first missionary.
He entrusted a promiscuous Samaritan woman with his testimony.
He held up a Roman centurion, the military enemy of the Jewish people, as the greatest example of faith in Israel.
He let a woman sit in learning at his feet, in the place of a man.
He handpicked uneducated workmen as his proteges.
He selected a headstrong, unfaithful loudmouth to be the foundation for the church.
He chose the murderer of the church to proclaim his name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
Over and again, Jesus picked the most unlikely characters to represent him—the least of these, the outsiders, the bottom of the food chain. What was he thinking?
Fortunately, we know much better now. We’ve learned from leadership manuals and business studies what to look for in the perfect leader, the Top 10 list of character traits to measure up against, how to get the very best people in the right positions.
But maybe, just maybe, we’ve missed the point?