I want you to think of someone that you believe is a great leader. Go ahead… think of someone that you respect as a leader. Have you got their name in your mind? Now, answer this question: What qualities do they possess that makes them a great leader?
I’m sure that if we surveyed 100 people with that question we would get some pretty consistent answers. We would hear qualities listed like visionary, entrepreneur, integrity, risk-taker, decisive, communicator, faith, courage, inspirational and focused.
And these are qualities of great leaders. But in Hebrews 5, God describes a spiritual leader and it’s not what we typically think.
Hebrews 5:1 (NIV) says “Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”
The priest is appointed to represent the people. Let those words sink in. That statement is a poignant reminder that our leadership and ministry is on behalf of people. A true, spiritual leader authentically cares for people.
Tucked away in the Old Testament book of Exodus is a poignant illustration that paints a picture of a very personal God who puts a high premium on people.
Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord.30 Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord. Exodus 28:29-30 (NIV)
Every time Aaron went to perform his priestly duties, he was reminded of God’s heart for the people of Israel. Each gem in the four rows of stones represented a different tribe of Israel. Every man, woman, boy and girl was represented in those stones.
I am struck by the last part of verse 30, “Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart.”
In other words, Aaron needed to constantly ask the question “what is best for the people?” The priests needed a reminder because, in our humanness, it is actually possible to carry out priestly duties and yet be relationally distant from the very people we are called to serve. More than I want to admit, I have preached sermons and led meetings and cast vision and made plans not as a shepherd who loved his sheep, but as a leader obsessed with a cause and accomplishment.
So, in all your leading and preaching and planning and strategizing, always remember to carry the people on your heart.