LEADERSHIP PRINCIPLES FROM MATTHEW’S GOSPEL
In a few months, I will assume the leadership of the member care team at my mission agency’s mobilization center.
While scripture is replete with leadership principles, Matthew’s gospel is my current focus of study. Therefore, I offer four leadership principles from the life of Jesus as told by Matthew.
words + photographs EVA BURKHOLDER
Leaders Follow Jesus
“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him,” (Matthew 4:19–20). Matthew also arose and followed Jesus when He called him (Matthew 9:9).
Just like that, the disciples left everything, even their fathers, which was a costly sacrifice in their honor-shame culture. They followed Jesus without an application process, a time of fasting, a job description, the promise of benefits, a notarized contract, training replacements, or ensuring an income for their parents.
Their response reveals their trust in Jesus, not a lack of planning. What’s important is their commitment to him, not their change in vocation or their decision-making strategy.
What might be causing you to hesitate before following Jesus?
Leaders Listen to Jesus
“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him,’” (Matthew 17:5).
Of all the things God could have said when introducing his glorified Son to Peter, James, and John, He emphasized the importance of listening to Jesus. Most often in scripture, listening involves obedience. Merely listening to Jesus without doing what He says is self-deceit.
Jesus told a parable about a father who asked his two sons to go work in his vineyard. One son said he would go but never did. The second son refused at first but later obeyed (Matthew 21:28–31). When Jesus speaks, He expects us to listen by following through.
How might you put yourself in a space where you can hear Jesus’ voice more clearly?
Leaders Serve Others
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Matthew 20:26–28).
While they may occupy higher positions corporately, leaders lead by serving and putting their team’s needs above their own. They promote the ideas and viewpoints of each member and make sure each is heard and given provision to do a job effectively. Leaders treat others as equals and consider what is best and most helpful for them. They don’t abuse their authority, seek places of honor, or refuse others the most important seats at the table. For in the end, the first will be last and the least will be the greatest.
In what ways can you serve those you lead?
Leaders Love Others
While the greatest commandments in the law were to love God and love others as themselves (Matthew 22:37–39), Jesus added a new command: “Love one another as I have loved you,” (John 13:34, emphasis mine).
Jesus demonstrated his love by humanizing the marginalized and touching the outcast. He asked thoughtful questions, patiently instructed without shaming, and loved his enemies, extending his service beyond only those who loved him back. And ultimately, He gave his life for them.
Love is the bottom line, the foundation and driving principle behind all a leader does. Above all else, they love others the way Jesus loves them.
How might you love those you lead, even those who don’t like you?
By practicing these principles, I hope I’ll be a leader like my Jesus. And I’ll keep in mind He is with me always to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). I’ll certainly need his presence to equip me. EB
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