This week I’ve been writing about the concept of “skin in the game” and how it relates to the Kingdom of God.
Today, I want to look at one of the most crucial areas for believers to have skin in the game: leaders.
Leaders are a funny thing in the body of Christ. Some people get angry that I acknowledge that they exist. Others get mad when I say that not everyone who calls themselves a leader is one. The truth comes down to skin in the game.
Yes, leaders exist. But not everyone who calls themselves a leader is one. Neither is everyone who is called a pastor, bishop, elder, or apostle a leader. Leadership is determined not by who has a title, but who is leading. The critical element to understand about leading is that it’s not primarily a title or a position. Leading is a verb.
Leading happens when people do something that others haven’t. Leaders are those who pave the way for others, allowing them to do what they couldn’t on their own. Because of this, only the people who have skin in the game are truly leading. It’s impossible to lead people in teaching the Bible if you have a weak understanding of what the Bible says. Only people with skin in the game can truly lead.
I could give a million examples of this, but let me start with one outside of the body of Christ.
Silicon Valley has been in the forefront of developing the technology that powers our smart phones, tablets, and the rest of our internet-connected world. These changes to society have particularly affected our children. However, when you poll those who are leading these changes to society and ask them whether they allow their children to have access to the technologies they develop, the answer is a resounding “no.” While these leaders profit from people being in front of “screens,” they know the harm that screens have on the development of children, and in a very real sense, they don’t have their “skin in the game.”
The opposite is true of every real leader in the body of Christ. In any way that a leader wants to make progress in the church, he or she must allow that work to be done in him or her prior to leading others. This costly process is the definition of skin in the game.
Christian leadership material abounds with admonitions to leaders that they must model the change they want to see. Leaders who want to see a group of people reach the lost must model the evangelistic heart they want to see others adopt. Pastors who teach submission to the body of Christ, must themselves submit, not just to a bishop or board, but to the body of Christ. Leaders cannot just tell the rest of body to serve. They need to serve and as they do, the body of Christ will respond and follow in their example of service.
Leaders can’t ask the body of Christ to do what they’re not willing to do themselves. Leaders can’t lead through slick speeches. That’s not leadership, it’s dictatorship. It lacks skin in the game. Skin in the game takes time, patience, and faith, and for those reasons, many make the mistake of pursuing other ways to lead. When they do, they step outside of God’s plan for His Kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, I leave this series the same way I started it:
“Have skin in the game.
Partner with others who have skin in the game.
Don’t waste a lot of time and energy on those who don’t.”
If you’re not familiar with Seth Godin, he’s a blogger/entrepreneur/programmer/marketer/genius who daily challenges what you think about everything.
Seth, as far as I know, is not a believer in Jesus. But what he writes is brilliant and you would have to write off much of the book of Proverbs in order to not pay attention to what he writes. Often I take one of Seth’s business or marketing thoughts and apply it to my walk in the Kingdom. The parallels are uncanny.
Anyways, jump over today and read Seth’s short post entitled “In and Out.” It’s worth the read. Basically Seth asks the question: “How much information do you need before you begin to do revolutionary things?”
Let me rephrase it a little differently, in light of our shared Kingdom priorities:
How many healing conferences are you going to attend before you start to pray for people with cancer?
How many times will you read through the Bible before you start a 2 & 3 or LTG with someone?
How many books on evangelism will you read before you go and start talking to lost people?
Or, if you want to get personal about it: How many house church books and conferences am I going to go to before I start planting and multiplying house churches?
The thing is, in the West, we prefer to know everything and then obey a little. Jesus would prefer us to obey all of the little we know.
So here’s my impromptu exhortation to you today. In what area do you know way more than you should but are doing very little with the knowledge? Obviously we want to wait for God’s sending and there are character issues that need to be addressed. But is that what’s really holding you back?
Or is it fear?
We’ve been talking a lot in our house church about what the future looks like. What does it mean to be a church made up of more than one house church? What does leadership look like in an environment like this?
“Brian McGaffigan writes,
The job of facilitator/change agent was described by Ifor Ffowcs-Williams when he asked the question: ‘Would you like a job that offers no formal authority; a high degree of uncertainty; no regular hours; and you will need to earn respect from skeptics; be proactive when the limelight fades; work with energy drainers; lead from behind – no ego tripping. The upside of the job is that you can break patterns; cross boundaries; build bridges across your community; be a hero finder uncovering talent; make things happen through others; influence people in and beyond the cluster; satisfy your hunger for Action; and make a dent in the universe?'”
Obviously there are a lot of character qualifications and Kingdom mandates left out of this description. But if you marry the kind of person Scripture says should lead with these characteristics, I think you get a much clearer picture of what Kingdom leaders look like.
What about you? What would you add to this list? How is this different than leaders you see in the world?