An essential element in leadership, whatever the context of that leadership may be, is the ability to see “the big picture”. An individual soldier sees little more than the battlefield immediately before him. He knows little, and perhaps cares less, about the strategic importance of the action in which he is engaged. The generals, however, must not only be aware of that specific action, but also consider how it affects the overall plan for winning the war. Good generals take the big picture into account as they make decisions about the many smaller aspects of the conflict.
Having a “big picture” perspective is especially important in spiritual matters. In fact, it is commanded by the inspired apostle Paul. In Phil. 2:5-8 he said, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
This command is intended for all Christians, of course, but it is even more important for those who are our spiritual leaders. A good spiritual leader, like a good general, always keeps the overall good of the church in mind as he considers the decisions he is called on to make. Sometimes, the best decision for the good of the whole will not be in his own best interest. A humble and godly man will see this and put his own preferences aside, so he can contribute to the good of the body.
Having this kind of attitude requires a humility of heart that is not common in the world. It requires one to think of others’ interests before his own, as Paul said. It requires a magnanimity that allows a man to bow to the preferences of others rather than insisting on having his own way. As long as those preferences do not violate God’s word, nothing is lost in doing so.
The perfect example of this attitude is our Lord. Paul said that the Lord, “existed in the form of God”, but He set that aside to accomplish the overall purpose of God the Father. The Lord’s impassioned prayer in the garden of Gethsemane suggests that He would have preferred not to go to the cross (Mt. 26:36-46). Even so, He set aside His interests in favor of the interests of all the souls who might be saved by His sacrifice. He put our interests above HIs own and we have hope because He did. Surely, if the one and only Son of God could be so humble and gracious about dying on the cross, we can be humble and gracious with each other about the good of the church.
If spiritual leaders act selfishly or conceitedly, the church will suffer because of it. If spiritual leaders insist on putting their own interests above the interests of the church, it will suffer because of it. If spiritual leaders refuse to be humble, the church will be hobbled in accomplishing its purpose. If spiritual leaders neglect the “big picture”, the church will struggle to fulfill its mission. Therefore, let us each prayerfully consider Paul’s command. Let us set aside selfishness, conceit, and pride, and “with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves.” Let’s see the “big picture” of God’s great plan and do our best to fulfill it.