Leading Like Jesus

Many people use the initials TLC to mean tender, loving care. When we look at the model Jesus sets in the Gospels, we might redefine those same three letters to learn what it means to lead like Jesus.

A recurring scene in the Gospels is Jesus’s teaching and preaching. From His initial call to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt 4:17) to His circuitous travels throughout Galilee, “teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt 4:23), His commitment to communicating the truth remained unquestionable. His teaching was bold, creative, and illustrative, balancing gracious invitation and warning of coming judgment. He employed a distinctive blend of open discourse, public and private parables, and moments of encouragement and correction while traveling with His disciples. Reading the Gospels, we’re astonished at the breadth of topics covered and their everyday relevance for personal application. The final commission Jesus gave His disciples was the task of reproducing themselves in others through evangelism, as evidenced by baptism, and teaching others to obey all that Jesus commanded in His teachings. His listeners recognized that the uniqueness of Jesus’s teaching came from the authority with which He taught (Matt 7:29; Mark 1:27).

Great leaders are great followers who know their place of relative authority. This is true of Jesus. He gave us the perfect model of servant-hearted leadership. Jesus affirmed His own self-understanding as being under authority and with authority. He served under the authority of His Father. Led and guided by the Spirit in His earthly life and ministry, He did what He did and said what He said as directed and willed by the Father (John 5:19–47; 6:38; 7:17–18, 28; 8:28, 42). On the other hand, He confidently wielded the authority delegated to Him, as seen in His power over nature, disease, Satan, demons, and people (Matt 11:27; Mark 1:16–28). In the Gospels, from the time Jesus said “Come and follow” at the beginning of His earthly ministry to the “Go make disciples” at the end, He modeled leadership through vision, enlistment, training, delegation, accountability, promotion, and rewards. We should strive to emulate His pattern of leadership and His heart to selflessly serve everyone (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45).

The heart of Jesus for people reveals the essential leadership trait of caring. We find multiple references to Jesus’s compassion sprinkled throughout the Gospel accounts. Jesus felt compassion for the crowds because of the neglect, abuse, and lack of care they received from their cultural and religious leaders (Matt 9:36; 11:28–30). Jesus also expressed concern about people’s physical needs, such as hunger (Matt 14:14; Mark 6:34; 8:2–3), disease (Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13), death (John 11:34–38), and especially for people’s spiritual condition (Matt 23:37; Luke 19:10, 41–42). The dominant metaphor Jesus applied to Himself, and with which He challenged Peter three times after his recovery in Galilee, was shepherding (John 10; 21:15–17). Underlying all of Jesus’s teaching and lessons in leadership lay a foundation that He didn’t want any of His followers to miss: loving God wholeheartedly and others unselfishly (Matt 22:37–40; Luke 10:27). Caring for what God most desires and for what others most need cultivates the kind of heart that makes leaders great according to God’s kingdom standards (Matt 26–28; Mark 10:42–45).

In whatever areas of leadership God calls us to—in the church, the home, the workplace, the neighborhood – let’s commit to injecting every interaction with a little of Jesus’s TLC!

About the Contributors

Mark L. Bailey

Dr. Bailey assumed the role of DTS Chancellor after serving for 19 years as the Seminary’s fifth President, and continues his role as Sr. Professor in the Bible Exposition department. In addition to his years at Dallas Theological Seminary, he has pastored various churches in Arizona and Texas. He was a seminar instructor for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for twenty years and is in demand for Bible conferences and other preaching engagements all over the country and world. His overseas ministries have included Venezuela, Argentina, Hungary, and China. He is also a regular tour leader in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Rome. His board service includes Bible Study Fellowship, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, and Word of Life.