One of the most surprising models of leadership I’ve ever encountered is that of Doug Coe. He leads from the Third Chair. From behind. At the National Prayer Breakfast in DC each year – he’s unseen. Literally, unless you have an appointment with him, you will not see him. He’s never on stage. He’ll sometimes slip in the back quietly and leave quietly. But he’s been the prime mover of this event (and much of what happens from it) for 40 years or more.
When I’m asked “Who is the most significant leader in the world when it comes to things of God” I answer – “That’s easy. It’s Doug Coe.” 8 out of 10 say “Who’s that?” Interesting, that we wouldn’t know the name of the man who perhaps has the most influence of any leader in the world (in any arena).
Leading from behind. An interesting concept. Putting others on the stage even when you know you’re probably more qualified to talk about things than they are. I’m a professional. I can work up a pretty decent talk on Jesus in no time. It might take a businessman or a political leader or just the regular Joe down the street hours to come up with a talk that’d be only half as good as my worse talk. But….it might be worth it. Here are 4 reasons why putting others in charge might be a good idea:
1. It’s a biblical injunction for those of us who are “full-time professionals” to equip others to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4). More literally, we are not the ones doing the ministry – we are training others to do it.
2. It gets good men and women who are often on the side-lines directly involved. They will do better than we give them credit for when we put them upfront.
3. Peter and John were “ordinary, unschooled men” who had simply “been with Jesus.” This is the requirement – to have been with Jesus. It’s not Bible College and Seminary (although I’m not against those things), it’s not Titles or Positions – the authority comes by “being with Jesus.” Lots of ordinary “lay” people have been with him as much or more than I have. They need to shine. Often when they speak from their hearts – as children would – they speak with great passion and power.
4. God often worked with and through secular leadership – rather than the religious leaders. He used Kings in the Old Testament for his purposes constantly. Think of Ezra and Nehemiah – one was a trained religious leader (Ezra) but it was the simply cup-bearer that got the ball rolling.
Jonah was the “professional prophet” (who really didn’t do that well) and yet it was the King of Ninevah who called the people to repentance. King David was a political leader. So was Moses and Daniel. Jesus chose young businessmen to be his Apostles.
Only a few are called to be the “trained professionals.” And for those of us who think that’s what we are – our job is clear – to raise up and place upfront the non-religious leaders to take the stage.
It’s challenge that I’ve seen bear much fruit!