I will probably never be asked to give a commencement speech at a major university. However, as a college professor I’m subjected to hearing them year after year. Not long ago I was asked to share my thoughts on what it means to be a Christian leader. I was reviewing my responses and thought if I had the opportunity to share some nuggets of wisdom with my graduating students, these eight principles are what I would share:
- Love unconditionally. Even when it’s difficult, find a way to love even those hard to love. Leadership is never about what others can do for you, it’s always about how you can serve the people in your life helping them fulfill the Gospel as it uniquely relates to them. The Gospel must be preached in love otherwise it falls on rocky ground never taking root transforming their lives.
- Teach by example, the use of metaphor, story, analogy, and creativity. People don’t need to be told what to do they need inspired. Christ inspired others to lay down their lives for God’s kingdom by doing so himself and inspiring the hearts of his disciples. Simply telling people what to do is not leadership it’s dictatorship and that has never changed the world for the better.
- Sacrifice yourself for what’s good, holy, and true. When you pour yourself out for what is Godly you can never exhaust yourself. God always pours more of himself into you to accomplish what he asks. It’s only when our agenda takes precedence that we get exhausted.
- Live relationally. I have a colleague who often reminds me of this important principle. We were created to draw strength and inspiration from one another, not live as isolated superhumans. Our greatest resource is the body of Christ; our fellow believers who encourage and lift us up when things are tough. They’re also the people who applaud our successes and celebrate with us when the job is done well. Man was not created to live alone therefore we should not attempt to lead as one above human company.
- Love to learn. Even Christ spent time in his human condition pursuing the wisdom of the Father. Growing in wisdom and knowledge is important for everyone, even those who have college degrees, and it must be intentional. Never tire of learning new things.
- Take care of your physical body. By living as an incarnational human being and taking his resurrected body into heaven Christ reminds us our physical well-being is essential to doing God’s work. We’re intended to have bodies and it’s through these bodies we will engage the world now and live in paradise later. We must care for our physical well-being to be the serving hands of God in a hurting and broken world.
- Allow yourself to experience human emotions, don’t be a stoic. Christ expressed the full range of human emotions so it’s quite appropriate for us to do the same. Denying emotions and not allowing ourselves to learn how to express them is denying part of what makes us human. No one wants to spend time with a robot.
- Pray. Pray always and walk in communion with God. It’s one of the very first acts Adam did while living in Eden, and it’s what Christ did while living on earth. Walk with God in prayer, hear his small still voice whisper to you, and always recognize his presence.
So, to the graduating class of 2016 I charge you to make these eight principles a part of your life. These will guide you in everything you do and help you become the wonderful creation that God made you to be. Congratulations to my dear students and may the Lord bless all you do in this life to make the world a better place.