In Mark 12 we find Jesus teaching in the temple during the week leading up to Passover. This is the week that the Jewish believers would remember how God had passed over the homes who had marked their doorpost with blood (see Exodus 12) and it involved a special symbolic meal that represented various things around that historical event. During this week Jesus would teach in the temple during the day, and it was during this time that he overturned the tables of moneychangers, drove out livestock traders, and kept people from cutting through the Gentile court (Mark 11).
Trying to trap Jesus various religious groups came up to him with scenarios, theological and political questions, and each time Jesus skillfully escaped their word games. By Mark 14 and in other gospels we are told that they were trying to develop a plan to kill him. So what was the disconnect between Jesus and these Jewish religious groups – didn’t they have the same law of Moses?
At the end of the day you can boil it all down to one word – influence. Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah – the promised king who would bring salvation to His people. He proved this by teaching “as one who had authority,” and performing miracles (casting out demons, raising the dead, healing the blind and sick, controlling weather, multiplying bread and fish to feed thousands, etc.).
These religious leaders were trying to kill Jesus because he threatened their influence over the people. When John the Baptist faced this same situation early in Jesus’ ministry he came to the conclusion, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Understanding who Jesus was and John’s role as preparing the way for Jesus, when it was time for him to step aside and let Jesus take the spotlight, John stepped aside. So from a leadership perspective . . .
How do you know if you are being like the Pharisees or John the Baptist?
We all know of leaders who held on too long – they may have been the founder, planter, original leader, or just in the same position for a long time, but their ability to take the ministry, church, organization has been overshadowed by the job itself (it has grown past their ability or skillset).
(1) Have You Clearly Heard From the Lord? Ministry is hard, and there will always be tough issues to work through. So, the spiritual leader must understand their role in the organization and execute that to their fullest. In ministry, I have experienced the Lord telling me to hang on and keep going, and there have been times when He has said, “Drew, your time here is over.” Keep praying until you clearly hear one or the other.
(2) Are You Afraid to Surround Yourself With Great Leaders? Bad leaders feel threatened by new leaders who seek excellence, are growing and developing – while they decline and are becoming obsolete. Good leaders try to sure up where they are weak, and put people where they have blind spots. If you feel so threatened by people who are better at things than you are, then it may be time to step aside. Part of this concept is raising up new leaders, to eventually replace you or to multiply the work. If a person is so threatened to mentor another, then they are keeping the organization stagnant on purpose.
(3) Why Do You Do What You Do? When John the Baptist would preach and baptize people Mark tells us that, “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” This would have been thousands of people traveling out to the wilderness just to see, hear, and be baptized by John. If John had been a prideful man, then all that popularity and influence would have been very difficult to let it go.
For the Pharisees, Sadducees, high priests, scribes, etc. this influence was intoxicating to them – they loved it. Jesus even said, Matthew 23:5-7 “They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.” This is something about leadership that is hard to identify when you are in the moment – you may not see how people’s response to you drives your reason for serving in a particular position.
(4) Are You In Touch With Reality? The Pharisees, Sadducees, High Priests, and Scribes had to ignore all the miracles, fulfilled prophecies, and clear signs that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Even at the testimony of the guards who saw Jesus rise from the dead, they paid them off to say the disciples came and moved the body. They ignored reality because they wanted to hang on to power and influence.
Take a good hard look at your current situation – are you having to overlook constant and clear signs that it is time for you to go, or do you see how God is using you to move the needle, and push the organization forward? Don’t ignore what is right in front of your face, so that you can hold on to power and influence. Ups and Downs are a part of any organization, so don’t be discouraged if you are “down.” If you are called to be there, surrounding yourself with good leaders, taking solid steps forward then hang on, and learning as-you-go then it will get better.
Remember, you are in between the last leader, and the one that will come after you. Therefore, you are a steward of the organization now, but you will not be there forever. So, leave it better than you found it.