When we think of leadership, we rarely consider terms such as bottom or weak, but rather top and strong. We define our idyllic leaders as sharp, innovative, visionary, and bright. Can you imagine being introduced this way: “I want you to meet Cedrick, our wonderful pastor who has lots of issues.”
Never do we aim to describe our leadership with such wonderful acclaim! Of course, until they fail… Until we fall… But what if there was a better, more reliable leadership model that we all could aspire to emulate or seek to follow? There is – it’s leading from the bottom up.
Leading from the bottom up does not suggest allowing those we are charged to lead to lead us. Nor does it allow us to evade those tough leadership assignments that most us want to hide under the covers and avoid. Leading from the bottom up captures and helps us fulfill all our responsibilities. When we lead from the bottom up, we are admitting our weakness, which allows the Holy Spirit to give us the supernatural wisdom and ability to lead.
As a leader with issues – thorns – I’ve leaned heavily upon the Apostle Paul’s Holy-Spirit-inspired words found in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. They describe to a T, an undeniable bottom up leadership model.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
From this passage, I would like to encourage you with 3 ways our issues/thorns help us lead from the bottom up.
3 WAYS OUR ISSUES HELP US LEAD FROM THE BOTTOM UP
1. KEEP US HUMBLE: As leaders we are privileged with revelation – insights and opportunities that those we lead may never experience. This is one of the greatest stimulus of pride. We as privileged vessels must remain humble and clean, thus our thorns, issues of life, become necessary cleansing agents used by the Holy Spirit.
Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh. (v. 7)
2. KEEP CHRIST VISIBLE: The sooner we admit our issues the sooner the power of Christ is seen, heard, and believed by others. Paul also said, follow me as I follow Christ. If we want to transformationally lead others towards intimacy with Christ, our lives must first show, in a magnified way, that we need Him just as much or more than those we lead.
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (v. 9)
3. KEEP US STRONG: As leaders we need supernatural strength to go on and even on. This supernatural power is unavailable to the leader who relies solely upon their own wit, skill sets, research, and life experiences. It is only available to the leader who learns to become content with their issues and weaknesses for Christ’s sake. In doing so, the supernatural strength that we all desperately need is waiting to be deployed and displayed through us for God’s glory and for the good of others.
I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (v. 10)
No matter how hard I’ve tried to live without it, I am learning that I desperately need God’s superintendence to watch over my soul, my character, and His reputation. This oversight is a touch from Him that is in addition to and in support of His infallible Word, the privilege of intimacy with Him in Prayer, and the opportunity to be His daily ambassador. I simply need His leadership to keep me in my place.
Over the years, I have learned to embrace the lingering thoughts of my past failures, my family dysfunction, and personal limitations as given to me by God to keep me low so that He remains high and lifted up. My issues have become the very instruments of the Holy Spirit to keep me postured at the foot of the cross. All that I was, all that my God has allowed me to be, do, and experience has culminated in my weaknesses that inspire me to lead from the bottom up, which is leadership from the foot of the cross.