[notice]Alf James reports on a leadership talk by author and coach to elite sportsmen Myan Subrayan at a church breakfast in the Karoo. [/notice]
As Christians each and every one of us is called to be a leader in our families and in the world around us, however, it is firstly necessary to be an obedient follower of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
To be a Christian leader we don’t need a qualification, special education, rank or title — all we need is to be an obedient follower of Jesus Christ.
To be a Christian leader is to understand that it is not about us, it is all about Jesus, following His example so that His light shines through us attracting others in the dark into His light.
Leadership was the topic on the lips and in the ears of about 130 people from Middleburg in the Eastern Cape who attended a breakfast last Saturday at the Family Church at which Myan Subrayan spoke.
Subrayan, who is a writer, speaker, corporate trainer, and life coach to elite athletes and teams, which have included the Springboks, All Blacks 7s, and Lions, was accompanied by Lions flank Steph de Wit.
Both Subrayan and De Wit emphasised that effective leadership is more about doing than saying, about being an example that people want to follow and about being willing to serve.
Subrayan said although there is much information available on leadership and many books written on the topic, the book that separates us as leaders and has the proper definition and information about how to be an effective leader is the bible.
“Every good leader knows that ‘one plus God is a majority’, which are the words of Martin Luther, the reformer, when he took on the Catholic Church.
“Leaders don’t look for a following. It is important to understand we all have one leader, one God, one chief, one captain.”
However, Subrayan said it is important to know the attributes of a good leader.
“Vision and values are important characteristics of an effective leader. Proverbs 29:18 tells us: Where there is no vision, the people perish. Don’t be attached to people who don’t have a passion for life, a clear goal and idea of where they are going.
“A leader must have a clear purpose and vision that provides inspiration and motivates others, which is a key aspect of leadership — activating others for the pursuit of a common goal, a shared interest and concern.
“Leaders are not about themselves, it is about serving others and looking after the interests of others — maintaining the commitment, momentum, confidence and courage of others acting together for the common goal.
“Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life, which is one of the best-selling books in the world, starts with the words, ‘It’s not about you’. Warren says, ‘If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by His purpose and for His purpose’.
Jesus modelled leadership
“For us the greatest model of leadership is Jesus Christ, whose leadership was based on obedience to God’s will and serving others. It is important to understand that you are a leader not for your own interest or purpose, but to serve,” said Subrayan.
He underscored his leadership message with Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith . . .
“We have to rid ourselves of anything that destroys or divides, that does not edify and holds us back from a common vision,” explained Subrayan.
“Jesus is our goal and it is important as a leader to remember that when we take our eyes off our goal we start to see obstacles and are distracted.
“We know, according to 2 Corinthians 5:7, that we walk not by sight, we walk by faith. And what is faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
“That word substance was used in that day to describe title deed, so faith gives us the title deed (ownership) of things hoped for.
“Faith allows us to see past the obstacles that life puts before us, which is the reason it is important to understand that as a leader we need to keep our eyes fixed on our goal, Jesus the author and finisher of our faith,” said Subrayan.
He illustrated the importance of keeping our eyes on our goal with a picture and description of how Chad Le Clos, having beaten his childhood hero, swimming legend Michael Phelps, at the 2012 Olympics, took his eyes off the finishing line during their race at the 2016 Olympics, looked at Phelps, lost his focus and lost the race.
“Leaders are people who are not easily distracted from their goal — leaders are people who are steadfast and keep focussed on Jesus.
“Focus on what is ahead, not what is behind, focus on your goal, our common goal,” urged Subrayan.
Influencing through example
He said leaders are influential, they exercise influence for a common cause by what they do, by their example.
“People often shut their ears to advice, but they open their eyes to example. A leader leads by example and we are all leaders,” said Subrayan.
“God has created within each and every one of us the ability to lead.
“The question is: are we going to be the change we want to see in the world — that is what people are crying out for, they want a good example, they want to be led in the right way.”
Subrayan emphasised that leaders don’t go looking for a job in leadership — they are faithful and obedient in what they are called to do, because when you are faithful in a little it leads to much.
He gave the inspiring illustration of the example set by Va’aiga (Inga) Tuigamala, an All Black icon and one of the most imposing and explosive wingers New Zealand rugby ever produced, when he left New Zealand to go to the UK and play rugby league at Wigan.
Known as “Inga the Winger” by many people, he arrived at Wigan, which was the most successful rugby league club in the world at the time, with the reputation of being a church goer – something that his new team mates only did to attend a wedding, funeral or baptism.
One of his new team mates was dual rugby league and rugby union international Jason Robinson who relates in the book that Myan wrote about Inga: “I was very sceptical of anyone who openly professed their faith in God”.
However, Jason goes on to say, “I know it may seem selfish on my part, but I maintain that Inga came to Wigan in 1994 just for me”.
“I was drinking quite heavily, frequenting nightclubs and fooling around with girls. I had given in to the pressure of being in the limelight with all the fame and fortune of being a professional sportsman.
“At that time, I did what I did to prove that I was one of the boys. Inga didn’t buy in to any of that rubbish. In the treatment room he would sit there and read away contentedly with his bible. Although he was no bible-basher, at the same time he didn’t attempt to hide his life.
“In those days I was against Christianity, but even I had to acknowledge that there was something different about him.”
Jason says he remembers the fateful day when Inga came up to him and asked if he could share a dream he’d had.
“In his dream he’s seen me standing on top of the world with the world under my feet. As he watched, the world started to crumble beneath me. How had he known how messed up his 20-year-old team-mate’s life was?”
At the time, Jason was with a girl with whom he had a baby out of marriage and had just got news that he had made another girl pregnant, because of this he was drinking even more to drown his problems.
“Just as in Inga’s dream the world was disintegrating beneath me. I needed to take better control of my life: only dead fish go with the flow.”
Jason joined Inga’s bible study group and during that year asked the Lord into his life . . “and it’s because of the example he set that I believe Inga was sent to Wigan for me in 1994”.
“I’m not saying he was perfect either. What I saw was a godly man who had the conviction to live out his faith and not be diverted by the temporal attractions of this world,” said Jason.
Subrayan described how during Inga’s time at Wigan many people joined the Church of which Inga was a member, so much so that the pastor had to start a second service on a Sunday.
Making a difference
Inga’s advice to others is that if you want to make a difference in people’s lives you don’t have to be hounding them all the time.
“Instead, follow the example of St Francis of Assisi: ‘preach the Gospel at all time, and when necessary use words’.”
As with Inga, each and every one of us can be a leader in Jesus Christ’s example, we not only can be such a leader, but it is what Jesus called and commissioned us to do (Matthew 28: 19-20 and Luke 10:1-12).
To be a Christian leader is to bear the fruit of the seed that Jesus sowed in us – to be fruitful and multiply.
However, as Christians, in order to bear fruit, we are called on to hear and accept God’s Word, while the biggest hindrances we face to bearing fruit are the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matthew 13:22) that choke the Word of God in us making us unfruitful.
We are all called on to bear the fruit of the Word, Jesus Christ, whose seed is in us, but it is up to us to be the good ground, hear the word, understand it, obey it, and do it — then we will indeed bear the fruit of Jesus’s seed through others following His example that has been extended to them through us.
“I think it is really important for all who are followers of Christ to be leaders,” says Subrayan.
“The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 28: 13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only and not be beneath, if you heed the commandment of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.
“I believe each and every one of us has a responsibility to be the light bearers of Jesus Christ in the sense that we lead others; firstly, into relationship with the Lord, and secondly to be good citizens and members of the community,” says Subrayan.