After the abuses of the Shepherding Movement in the 1970s, many Christian leaders flinch at the topic of authority and submission, and rightly so! On the other end of the spectrum, there are leaders still writing and espousing false teachings about being “Under Cover,” and the concept of “Spiritual Authority” is heralded as a hierarchical structure that God ordained.
Jonathan Brenneman has added wisdom to this confused realm of pain and abuse. He clears the undergrowth of brush and chaos with his refreshing perspective in his book, I Am Persuaded. As you take the time to digest this book, allow yourself to see Jesus’ leadership style through new eyes.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God (John 13:3). Jesus possessed unlimited power, and he knew it. He also knew where he had come from (identity) and where he was going (purpose). The apostle John tells us Jesus knew his own greatness and the scope of his authority—even before the cross—and in light of these very great realities, he purposefully decided to take the position of a servant. In other words, the power didn’t go to his head. It only caused him to bend lower and love more. This is why he got up in the middle of the last supper, took off his outer garments, and wrapped a towel around his waist so he could wash the disciples’ feet.
Though Jesus held the most amazing position possible as the all-powerful Son of God, he humbled himself in a very tangible way. Imagine becoming president or king or top leader of the largest nation or entity in the world! Jesus’ position far exceeded that. God had given him all power. It is hard to even comprehend the meaning of such a grand declaration. As Jesus stood in that incredible moment, the natural conclusion for him was, “This means I need to wash some feet.” It is almost incomprehensible for us, because it falls so far outside our grid for greatness. How in the world does that make any sense?
Really, it should stun us. After all, foot-washing in that day was very different from foot-washing as we know it. It is not too difficult to wash the reasonably clean feet of someone who had a shower in the morning and has worn socks and shoes since. In Jesus’ day, foot cleanliness as we know it did not exist. People wore open-toed sandals and walked on dirt roads behind camels in a very warm climate—with the result that foot-washing was a messy job assigned to the lowest slave in the house. It was the lowest of low positions: the one who cleaned dirt and sweat and “camel stuff” off people’s feet when they came over.
This is the foot-washing that Jesus did! In this light, when Jesus talked about leadership, He meant that those who are the greatest and have all of the power—those who are the most spiritual and have the greatest anointing and calling—these are they who should willingly take the lowest place of servant-hood in the house. This is how Jesus saw it: “Since God has given me the highest place, I need to take the lowest place.” That’s what leaders with great authority do: they take the lowest place of service. This is both natural and logical in Christ’s Kingdom. Being a great leader means being the foot-washer.
Dr. Jonathan Welton
Best Selling Author & President of Welton Academy