Submit: Leading When You Aren’t in Charge

I want to talk about something that makes the punk/rebel kid in me not want to talk about. The idea of submission is something that is important for all of us, something that truly allows us to lead others in the full potential we have. Before I go further, when I use the term submit or submission, I am not going to be talking about letting someone else take advantage or manipulate you. If you are being manipulated or someone is abusing power over you, that it not biblical or right in any way (I will provide resources at the end if you are in any danger. You are worth loving). When I talk about this term, I am meaning the way we can understand that there are authorities in our life that have been placed in authority for a reason. This is something that I have been learning in my current season of life, being able to submit to the authority above me. The reason why this is so important, as leaders and followers of Christ, is because God has given us spiritual authority to follow and he is our ultimate authority. When we contradict or go against the authorities he has given, we end up hurting ourselves. In 1 Peter, there is a moment in chapter 2 that speaks to this idea of submission. I definitely recommend that you read it, but I want to focus on one key verse. I Peter 2:17 says, “Show proper respect to everyone. Love the family of believers. Have respect for God. Honor the emperor.”

I’ve been writing these one-word titled posts because God has been revealing to me some of these words, as a way to incorporate it into my everyday life. Sometimes I feel powerless, or that I need to have a position of authority in order to be a good leader. It would make me feel frustrated that I wasn’t being heard or that my ideas aren’t considered if I didn’t have some kind of title in front of my name. I’ll never forget being in college and having to escort a guest speaker (it was a really weird thing), he asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him I wanted to be a pastor and a writer of fiction and leadership. He then made the comment of you have to actually be in a leadership position to write about leadership. It bothered me slightly, but he was kind of a jerk, so I didn’t let that comment sink in. As I think back on that, I disagree with him. I believe all of us have the power to lead when we aren’t in charge. Leadership isn’t about having tyrannical power, it’s about humbling oneself in submission to the God given authority so we can guide others into their calling.

We all have authority in our lives, we need to respond correctly.

I worked in a fast food restaurant, and had a manager who was just the worst. Think of any cartoonish evil boss, that was this guy. I remember thinking, “dude, it’s just fast food!” I had a choice in these moments. Do I fight? Do I go Rage Against the Machine on this guy? No. I instead chose to be an encouragement to my co-workers. We decided that laughter was stronger than rage in this situation. In all our lives, we have been placed under authority. Our parents, bosses, and pastors; there are many, but what we have to do is respond correctly when these authorities do something wrong. We see it in our culture, some decide to tweet out their venom, others decide to kneel in order to stand up for what’s right. Respond like a leader. Complaining will get us nowhere and we can’t control others, the only ones we can control is ourselves. Live out the fruits of the spirit, respond in love, and take a stand by the way you kneel in humility.

Pray for the authority in your life.

Responding the right way will speak volumes to the people around you; you become an influencer in these moments. We have to remember that we can’t stop there, we need to pray for the authorities in your life. For me, I was getting frustrated with this idea and one of my pastors and friends told me something very wise. When you support your authority, even when you may not agree, you are showing them true honor. If they have success, you share in that success. If they fail, you succeed in the way that you handled yourself. We need to be careful for when we choose not to honor. If they succeed and you pushed back or gossiped, your influence is diminished. If they fail and you pushed back or gossiped, your influence is diminished because you didn’t give the best of what God has given you. Get it? We need to honor our authorities (to a point, again, this is not a blog telling you to support malicious or tyrannical actions). How do we show honor? The words we speak about our authorities. Gossip will destroy your relationships. Avoid it at all costs. Words have the power to bring life or death, as a follower of Christ, we are called to treat others the way we want to be treated. Use your words to build others up, not tear them down; pray for the authority in your life.

Submit

The biggest key in submission, is understanding that we are all called to submit to the authority of all. Our creator is the authority in all our lives. We are called to submit ourselves to his word and follow the path he has called us into. When we choose to humble ourselves to God, we enter into his perfect plan for us. When we go against his authority, we stray off the path and wander farther from the path. It’s time to stand up as a leader. Even if you aren’t in a leadership title, you can still lead. In that story I shared, that guest speaker had no idea that I was in fact a leader. I was leading a small group of youth students, elementary school kids, and peers. I was a leader, I just didn’t have the title. You are a leader. We are all leaders. It’s time to start submitting to our God given authority and lead when we aren’t in charge.

Humble yourselves and lead.

-Joshua Thomas

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