The Lasting Impact of Quiet Spiritual Leadership
True leadership is rarely loud. This is especially the case when it comes to fatherhood. As humans, our first inclination in difficult situations and conversations is to get loud. To rise above the conflict or distractions of a chaotic family situation, we often turn up the volume. We long to be heard clearly, and if we’re parents, then we also want to be obeyed. Immediately. Many of us have memories of fathers who regularly turned up the volume as a part of their everyday leadership style. Sometimes these memories are humorous, but most of the time they are tinged with bitterness or anger, even if they occurred years or even decades earlier. However, the Bible calls for a different approach to fatherhood… a radical one that is only achievable through the power of God. It is one that exhibits resolute strength and wisdom without the need for overbearing superiority or thunderous commands.
Something tells me that Cornelius, the central figure of Acts 10, wasn’t a loud leader or father. Even though he was a formidable and professionally-compensated tough guy for the Roman army, it appears as though he led his home with humility through the gentle, but strategic application of power. In verse two we read that he placed respect of God over his own ambitions and feelings, overflowed with generosity, and sought the presence of God continually. Cornelius was a man of relationships — both with his God and with the people around him. And we all know that relationships don’t thrive in loud, overbearing environments. The overwhelming evidence presented throughout Acts 10 about Cornelius paints a clear picture of a widely admired and respected man whose life was overflowing with relationships, many of which were clearly blossoming under his gentle leadership.
Although my own father served his country in the armed services, he wasn’t anything like Cornelius professionally. If my Dad had lived in the time of the Roman Empire, he would’ve been far more likely to be a tent salesman or perhaps a shoemaker. But when I read about the way Cornelius sought after God and led his family and community through gentle leadership and relationship building, I hear echoes of my Dad’s quiet voice ringing in my heart. This passage stirred up my memories of a man who guided others with such humility and subtlety, that they often didn’t even realize it. We lost my Dad earlier this year, and at his funeral, dozens of people told me surprising stories of his impact on their lives. I wasn’t surprised because the stories seemed out of character. I was surprised because my Dad managed to have that kind of impact on countless lives without anyone noticing — except for the person receiving his kindness.
The verse I selected to read at my Dad’s funeral is Micah 6:8, which sounds a lot like Acts 10:2 in its description of Cornelius. Micah describes a man after God’s own heart in this manner: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Whatever leadership roles God allows us to have in life — be it parenting, supervising, or volunteering — He asks us to continually submit to His leadership of our hearts. To do that, we must do as Cornelius did, we must seek God’s presence constantly through prayer, worship, and generosity with our time and money. And when the King of the universe is on the throne of our hearts, we are not capable of putting ourselves up on a pedestal in front of others. True leaders remove pedestals. Leaders after God’s own heart speak volumes in quiet tones. True leaders don’t have to be seen on a grand stage to be respected and loved deeply in the heart.