Jesus fulfilled his life purpose and was genuinely happy during his three years of living life with twelve “not-what-you-would-expect” kind of guys. I often wonder if Jesus chose the most stubborn guys just to prove to us that it can be done with anyone. The members of Jesus’ little group had little in common. For example, many scholars agree that John was a young teenager and Peter was married and perhaps had children. Simon was a zealot, a Jewish revolutionary sticking it to the proverbial Roman “man” while Matthew built his career as a Jewish backstabbing Roman tax collector. Thomas was the downer of the meeting always rolling his eyes and mumbling, “Yeah, right” because of his little faith. While a guy like James was interested in the popularity and power that came with hanging out with Jesus – the coolest thing since hummus on unleavened bread. We know this because James’ mommy asked Jesus if her sons could be co-vice presidents of their little club. So lets just assume that their cell meetings were NOT without issues.
Because of the interesting dynamic in Jesus’ little band of brothers their last night together gives us great insight into Jesus as a “small group” leader and also the kind of leader he wants to replicate. Now read John 13:1-20 and don’t read any further until you’re done:
So here are my observations from this passage:
1) LOVE (v. 1) – Jesus is a great leader because he genuinely loved his guys not despite their brokenness and neediness but because of it. Jesus prepared a special dinner for them because he wanted to show them that he genuinely loved them.
2) VULNERABILITY (v. 4) – Jesus literally stripped down to his underwear to the form of a slave. He was the most talented, skilled and influential in the room yet he humiliated himself and became vulnerable in front of everyone.
3) HUMBLE SERVICE (v. 5) – Like a slave he washed his member’s feet. Peter rejected this forgetting that in order to serve the King, we must first be served by the King.
4) DEALS WITH REALITY (v. 11) – Jesus was not naïve and he was not oblivious to Judas’ wicked motives of being a disciple. He dealt directly with Judas as needed, but he also allowed Judas’ wickedness to run its course. Jesus did not force his will on anyone, but he also spoke powerful truth to the stubborn in hopes of their repentance.
5) SETS THE EXAMPLE (v. 15) – Jesus was showing the disciples how to love one another and serve one another. This is how the world will know that they belong to Jesus. He was not asking them to do anything that he himself would not do. He could only give to them what he already had.
6) HAS DREAMS AND HOPES (v. 16-17) – He has big dreams for his people. He hopes for them when they are unable to hope for themselves. As a matter fact later he says that they will do even greater things than what he was able to do.
7) RELEASE (v. 20) – That last night together Jesus was releasing his guys to do his work and to fulfill their purpose – which would be done without his physical presence. He wasn’t going to do everything himself. He was going to love them, teach them, equip them and then let them go.
So if the Elephant in the Room is lack of leadership/vision and you’re supposed to be the leader/visionary the solution isn’t necessarily to remove yourself from leadership or to doubt yourself. Don’t beat yourself up! However, as the one privileged to oversee this small church – lead it for goodness sake and be humble enough to learn from Jesus and from others! He set the example for you! Love your people, be open, serve them, deal with the frustrations of reality, set an example, dream big dreams for them and then send them to work. Be secure in knowing God’s approval of you so that you can be real and honest with your people. And remember to think of your cell group as a small basic church with Jesus as the head of the church – the true leader of the group.
As a member who doesn’t have to oversee the group, John 13 is as much for you as it is for your leader. Peter was rebuked for his pride. Judas was released to do his own bidding. But everyone else humbly and perhaps even embarrassingly received Jesus’ footwashing. BUT by allowing Jesus to serve them in this way, they began to understand the heart of Jesus’ leadership style. “It is better to give than to receive,” their Master said. Now they could love and serve one another in freedom. And by doing so they became an unstoppable force throughout the world used by Jesus to show and tell the greatness of God.
The truth is that the point of a cell group is to get everyone to become a healthy leader. And until we see ourselves that way, cell groups will fall short of accomplishing what Jesus was able to do with his little band of rebels and misfits.
Three Suggestions for Leaders:
- Review God’s approval of you in Christ. Allow Christ to really serve you first before you serve others. This might mean finding someone outside of your cell group to mentor and pour into you.
- Prayerfully go through these 7 observations and evaluate your leadership style in light of Jesus’ leadership style.
- Carve out time as a group to speak openly about your group dynamics, but filter everything through the Bible, prayer and hearing Jesus.
Three Suggestions for everyone:
- Let your leader know how much you appreciate their leadership. Ask them how you can pray for them regularly and with specificity.
- Provide honest feedback. BUT Pray before you say, act or critique! And be humble enough to receive critique as well. Peter was rebuked, but he didn’t runaway like Judas.
- Take initiative within the group. Don’t sit back and don’t be so last minute. Be proactive.
And as a bonus, celebrate their birthday! (Mine happens to be December 9th!)