The Special Sauce of LeadershipBy Dan Hammer
December 7, 2021
Growing up I had an unhealthy, literally and figuratively, affinity for McDonald’s. The allurement of the golden arches captivated me and the Big Mac called to me. There was something about those two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun that tickled my taste buds in such a compelling way that I kept coming back for more. The special sauce, with its ingredients cloaked in secrecy, brought out the best in all the other components and tied them all together in such a glorious way.
As leaders, whether in the church or the corporate world, we are always looking for that special sauce to foster unity on our staff or that silver bullet to facilitate growth. Countless leadership books have been written and consumed. Numerous leadership podcasts have been produced and downloaded. Many leadership articles have been posted and read. However, the most important component to leading faithfully and successfully in God’s church is not cloaked in secrecy but rather written clearly and boldly in Scripture. The special sauce that empowers us and emboldens us to lead like Jesus is the love of Jesus.
Unfortunately, many people yearn for a position of leadership before truly understanding the posture of love. We love to lead more than we love to love, and that’s not the way God designed it to be. As God’s undershepherds, we must lead with love more than we love to lead. Here are three ways to lead with love.
LET GOD’S LOVE FILL YOU
What fills you fuels you. Nothing comes out of you that isn’t already inside of you. If you want to grow as a leader for God, you must start in growing more deeply in love with God personally and sharing the love of God with others faithfully. The greatest commandment isn’t to build a big church, preach the best sermon, form the coolest worship team, or have the most effective leadership development pipeline. The greatest commandment is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39).
The Ephesian church was doing much work for God, but was at risk of losing it all because they had forsaken their love of God (Rev. 2:1-7). Is that you today? You can’t pour out of an empty cup, and you can’t lead well with your vertical love tank on empty. May you remember the reality that God’s grace is as sufficient for you today as it was on the day of your salvation, and may you make a beeline to the cross to take shelter under the shadow of God’s mighty wings. During the busyness of this season, may you not forsake the privilege and necessity of doing business with God. May you find restoration, renewal, and rejoicing through repentance. As you remember and rest in the depth of God’s unconditional love to you, allow it to restore and renew you before it flows through you because the first person you need to lead to the cross is yourself.
LET GOD’S LOVE DEFINE YOU
We don’t get to define God’s love, but we must allow God’s love to define us. Far too often we justify or rationalize our reasoning for not loving others based on how they might have hurt us, how they disagree with us, how they are different from us, or just how they are inconvenient to us. However, Jesus declares, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Love isn’t just what Jesus does, but love is who He is. There are no opt out clauses to loving. To lead like Jesus is to love like Jesus.
To love like Jesus is to love those who hurt you, offend you, betray you, abandon you, reject you, misunderstand you, and don’t like you. To love like Jesus is to consider others before yourself, feed your enemies, listen quickly, speak slowly and gently, and forgive continually. To love like Jesus is to love without condition and without limit. To love like Jesus is to sit with the sinner, help the hurting, fight for the forsaken, pursue the prodigal, care for the outcast, comfort the grieving, exhort the idle, and love others like God has first loved us. When it comes to God’s love, we are both an undeserving recipient and intentional conduit because to lead like Jesus is to point others to Jesus. To lead like Jesus means genuinely wanting others to see our Savior and not ourselves. Leading like Jesus means loving the people we serve more than the position we sit in.
LET GOD’S LOVE BIND YOU
Church growth strategies come and go, but God’s love stands forever. The love of God remains undefeated and it never ever fails. When Paul wrote to a messed up and jacked up church in Corinth, his exhortation, leadership consultation, and revitalization solution was the same to them as it is to us today: love. If you have all the charisma but no love, you’re just putting on a show. If you have an amazing worship band but don’t have love, you’re just making a bunch of loud noise. This love “is patient and kind; love that does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. … So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:4-8, 13).
This love identifies us as disciples of God and binds our hearts together as the family of God in a world that tries to break us. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Col. 3:14-15). In a world that tries to divide us based on who we vote for, the love of God unites us based on who died for us, and who we are willing to die for (John 15:13). The love of God is the most powerful force in the universe.
If you want to grow as a leader for God, it starts with a personal, vibrant vertical love of God, and a humble, faithful horizontal love of others around you. The special sauce of leadership is the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ that must fill us, define us, and bind us. As we choose to taste, see, and share God’s love, we experience the reality that it’s both good and life-giving to us and those around us.