In his book, Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs, Albert Speer discusses something he witnessed as Adolf Hitler’s popularity began to escalate.
“Hitler himself put up no visible resistance to the evolution of a court.”
Powerful people, whether they intend for it to happen or not, find that “a court” of sorts rises up around them. Suddenly people want to serve them. People want to run errands for them. Something happens and people look to see how that person is responding, and they respond accordingly. It happens to powerful people, popular people, famous people. And it’s not the powerful, popular, famous person’s fault. It’s simply human nature.
Just before a friend of ours became CEO of a Fortune 500 company, he asked a predecessor what to expect. The former CEO responded, “Your jokes are about to get a lot funnier.” It was his way of saying that a court would soon be evolving around this leader.
Dictators and CEOs are not the only victims of this phenomenon. Pastors and ministry leaders are as well.
Apparently, Jesus saw this coming. He certainly experienced it. And, he made it clear how leaders should respond.
Jesus continually emphasized the importance of humility. He instructed his disciples to serve rather than be served. Toward the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated humility in a way his followers would never forget. As he gathered them to celebrate Passover, he assumed the role of a servant and washed their feet. This was awkward, to say the least. So awkward that Peter initially refused. Jesus concluded his demonstration by saying, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” I think it’s safe to say Jesus resisted the evolution of a court.
Extraordinary humility was not the only way Jesus resisted the evolution of a court. He had a pattern of getting alone to pray after huge crowd affirmation. Luke tells us that as his popularity increased, he often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Matthew explains that after feeding the five thousand, he sent the disciples ahead, dismissed the crowd, and went up on a mountainside alone to pray.
So what do we do when confronted with the evolution of a court? How should we respond when people glance our way for cues? What’s our next move when people begin looking to us for answers?
We must resist the evolution of a court by serving others and by humbling ourselves in prayer. As we exalt Jesus, we find ourselves aware of our place.
Here are a few thoughts to consider as it relates to being a church leader:
- Don’t let your church/ministry pay for things that you should be personally responsible for. That’s why you get a paycheck. You must resist the evolution of a court.
- Think twice before accepting expensive gifts from your church/ministry. You must resist the evolution of a court.
- Don’t let church members/attendees do monetary favors for you (e.g., give you cars, lots, or loans). It will usually cause relational problems, even if they assure you “there are no strings attached.” If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it or accept it. You must resist the evolution of a court.
- If people are in the habit of standing when you enter a room, insist they break that habit. You must resist the evolution of a court.
- If your organization insists on celebrating your birthday, make sure they’re celebrating everyone else’s too. You must resist the evolution of a court.
Entitlement always begins somewhere. If you don’t choose where to draw the line, no one else will. Great leaders draw the line early and often. Great leaders resist the evolution of a court.