One of the most powerful tools ever discovered is the lever. A lever is simply an instrument that’s used with a pivot to move an object. With a lever, objects that could not possibly be moved can be moved. Leverage is used in all kinds of fields. In mechanics, leverage is used to increase a person’s strength. In finance, leverage is used to increase the return on investments. In manufacturing operational leverage is used is to both increase production and decrease the unit cost of the products. And most importantly to us in ministry, leverage can be used to increase our impact. Leverage in ministry comes through leadership when we use our influence to engage others in our cause. It’s human leverage.
The problem with leverage is that it carries with it some big risks. Financial leverage not only multiplies investment gains, it can also multiply investment losses (as we’ve seen spectacularly in the last few years). Operational leverage lowers unit costs only if there is a large enough demand for the product. If that’s not the case, operational leverage can bankrupt a company. And worst of all, leadership leverage is great as long as the leader’s influence isn’t compromised. But as we’ve seen way too many times, the leverage of leaders who lose their way because of greed, lust, pride, or a misguided mission produces train wrecks.
That’s why it’s critical for us as church leaders to spend a lot of time tending to our character. The truth is that, as our influence grows, leading with godly character becomes more and more difficult. It’s easy to get distracted by the privileges of leadership and forget what actually makes us leaders in the first place, our influence. If we let our influence become compromised we lose the leverage that comes with leadership. Jesus gave some great advice about how to approach leadership and guard our ability to influence.
“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.” Matthew 20:25-27 (MSG)