Three days ago our eldest daughter got married.
Today, I am an emotional and physical train wreck. What a day. What a fortnight. What a life!
Not much went to plan.
The day before the wedding was warm, sunny and generally delightful. The evening before the wedding, the heavens opened and never closed. Torrential. It rained so much the roads were flooded. The marquee held so much water that the roof threatened to burst. The water feature was free but not in the original plan. The dress code should have specified gum boots. People got lost. Cars got bogged. People slipped over in the mud. My Dad (grandfather of the bride) drove into a puddle, aqua-planed and rolled his car until it came to a stop on its roof. Yet somehow, like the rest of the day, he walked out fine.
Better than fine. It was one of the most wonderful weddings I’ve ever had the privilege to be part of. (Thankfully the bride and groom concur)
I am truly overwhelmed by the depth of love, generosity and celebration that marked the day. Everyone left the wedding with an irrepressible smile on their face and a warm, albeit damp, embrace.
Contingency planning and my wildest imaginings could not have prepared me for how unexpected and yet how amazing the day would be.
Two weeks earlier I saw my daughter in her wedding dress for the first time. Nothing could have prepared me for that either. I just started crying, involuntarily and uncontrollably. I had this overwhelming sense of loss mixed with awe, wrapped up with wonder and pride. In that moment it suddenly became very real that our baby girl had grown up and was getting married.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting that I’ve had it tough. My role, as Father of the Bride, is not that difficult. I pay for things. I mostly do what I’m told. I walk the bride down the aisle. I help people to feel welcome and valued. I eat. I drink. I check to make sure other people eat and drink. I speak words of encouragement and celebration. That’s pretty much the extent of it.
I can’t control the weather. I can’t control how well (or poorly) my Dad drives. I can’t predict the need for gum boots. That’s not my responsibility. My role and responsibility is simple but important… to walk with the bride down the aisle and present her to her groom.
As leaders, as Christians, our role is the same… to walk alongside people (lovingly and deliberately) and take them to Jesus.
I am not Jesus, you are not Jesus, we are not Jesus. We need to be more LIKE Him, but that’s very different to taking His place. Yet, I think we often make that mistake. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. We feel responsible for people’s healing and salvation. We feel responsible for growing the church. We feel responsible for convincing people of how they should live their lives. None of that is our responsibility. Look it up, it’s not.
1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV) – I (Paul) planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
We have a part to play, yes. But we can’t actually do those things in and of ourselves. Only Jesus can. Only the Holy Spirt can. As leaders we need to stop replacing Jesus in our own and other people’s lives.
J.D. Greear puts it like this:
Christian leaders, God has appointed you to lead his people to know him. Do you understand the horrible offense it is to put yourself in the center, to substitute yourself for God? And what a disservice it is to you! You can’t handle that weight; you can’t save these people. The church is Jesus’ bride, not yours. You’re just the best man: so stop stealing the bride’s attention and bring her to the groom already.
I wasn’t the best man, I was the father of the bride – but the sentiment is the same.
We need to keep leading people to Jesus understanding that to the world Christian leadership actually looks like serving and loving.
Sometimes people are unable to walk to Jesus and we need to carry them. Sometimes they refuse to walk down the aisle and in fact run in the opposite direction and we can only carry them to Jesus in prayer and stand in their place.
This begins with our household, and our neighbours and our community. It begins with seeking to grow in our faith through prayer, the word of God and gathering together to break bread, worship and encourage one another. It begins with loving others as Jesus loved us.
This is the life of faith. Sometimes it can seem a lot more complicated than that. However, reaching the world for Jesus doesn’t require us to do more or to be better. Often it requires the opposite. To reduce distractions and to get the foundations right.
We need to take the pressure off ourselves to save, to heal, to grow the church – that’s not our responsibility or role. Our role is to trust, to love, to pray, to serve, to give – out of what Jesus has done in our lives, what He has given us, who He has created us to be and to let Him play His part. And to rejoice when He does.
Relationship is everything. Relationship with Jesus and relationship with each other. If these relationships are healthy, nothing else matters. If these relationships are broken, nothing else matters.
Christian leadership is all about relationship and drawing people to Jesus – gently, lovingly and compassionately – like a father walking his daughter down the aisle.