Who are the greatest entrepreneurs and leaders in history? What executive leader in business, government, or nonprofit has had the greatest impact on our world? In America we might think of names like Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, John Rockefeller, or Estée Lauder. Many other world leaders might come to mind like Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Elizabeth I of England, and Nelson Mandella. You might not think of Madam CJ Walker or Sakichi Toyoda (Toyota) but they belong in the conversation. I’d certainly want to add Mother Teresa.
But sadly, very few people, even among Christians, will think of Jesus as the greatest leader in the world, let alone as the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the World. (Maybe you did, especially given the title of this Bible study!) I didn’t think of Jesus as being like a CEO until I read Laurie Beth Jones excellent book, Jesus, CEO. As a CEO herself she brings a fresh perspective to Jesus’ leadership. If you think about it and you truly know the Jesus Christ of the Bible then there’ll be no question in your mind that he is the greatest world leader in history! No one comes close to his brilliance and effectiveness as a leader, executive, or entrepreneur. So how can it be that many Christian books and seminars on leadership neglect to even mention Jesus’ leadership, let alone look to him as the model?
Jesus, CEO? He’s Head Over Every Power and Authority!
The Bible teaches that “[Jesus Christ, the Son of God] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17). Paul continues, “In [Christ are] hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge… He is the head over every power and authority.” (Col. 2:3, 10) This is not only who Jesus is as the Cosmic Christ, it’s also the Deity and Perfect Man that we see in the gospels
Imagine what our world would be like today if CEO’s, bankers, pastors, politicians, executives, sales directors, attorneys, doctors, police officers, school teachers, and other leaders were “rooted and built up in [Christ]” (Col. 2:7), learning how to do their work as Jesus would do it if he were they. Imagine leaders who are honest, humble, compassionate, hard-working, and fair. Imagine leaders who love their neighbor as themselves.
It starts with you and me happily coming under the authority of Christ! “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Jesus’ prayer is meant to be answered — not only in a far off age and place, but today. Little by little, through Christ are being “transformed with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
A Bible Study on Jesus, CEO of the World
What would Jesus Christ be like as a CEO of a business or nonprofit? What kind of an executive leader would he be? If you’re in any of these leadership roles then this article is especially important for you!
This Bible study on Jesus, CEO identifies a great variety of Jesus’ exemplary and uncommon leadership attributes. It starts with the understanding that the eternal Son of God, one with the Father God, truly became a human being, still remaining as fully God, but he took on human limitations and wasn’t just pretending to be tempted, suffer, or be unable to do miracles except by God’s power (Phil. 2:6-11). So we look at Jesus as a human leader and a model for us in our leadership.
Based on the historical accounts of the Lord Jesus Christ’s life in the four Gospels we’ll study him as the Founder and CEO of the Christian Enterprise. This Bible study on Jesus’ executive leadership is inspired by insights from Laurie Beth Jones’ book, Jesus, CEO. (All Bible quotes are from the NIV unless indicated otherwise.)
9 Counter-Cultural Leadership Characteristics of Christ Jesus
(1) Most leaders hurry or rely on their gifts and efforts to succeed — Jesus waited, trained, and depended on God’s love, power, and guidance. (Unhurried Leadership)
- Jesus waited on God’s timing to launch his public ministry, working as an obscure “tekton” (stonecutter or carpenter) in a small town for 18 years. It was “sweat work” and probably he was mistreated. He practiced his teachings, like not giving up in prayer, giving freely to those who ask, and blessing those that curse you. (Luke 2:51-52; Mark 6:3)
- Jesus began his leadership campaign by being driven by the Holy Spirit for a time of testing in the wilderness with wild animals and demons. He spent forty days alone to pray, meditate on Scripture, solidify his identity and mission, and overcome his enemy Satan. (Mark 1:12-13)
- Jesus sought to please his Father, submitted to him in all things, and acted in partnership with him to bless people. (John 5:19, 44, 8:28-29, 12:49-50)
- Jesus didn’t expect to always have clarity on what to do next — he trusted God for that. He waited and prayed. He watched to see what was happening around him. He trusted God as he took his next step. (Mark 1:32-39; Luke 6:12-13; John 7:1-10)
(2) Most leaders sacrifice their soul to succeed — Jesus worked in a relaxed and joyful Intimacy with God (what he called an “easy yoke”).
- Jesus didn’t need to please people to be secure and confident, he relied on God’s affirmation of him. (Mark 1:11; John 5:44)
- Jesus did the most important work of stopping his work; he kept a weekly Sabbath day to rest and appreciate God’s work. (Mark 1:29-31; Luke 4:16)
- Jesus focused on character over power or success. He perfected his character of love so that he could use God’s power safely to help people. (Matt. 4:1-11; John 3:34-35)
- When Jesus turned water into wine at the Cana wedding it shows that he knew how to celebrate, have fun, and bless people at a party. (John 2:1-11)
- Jesus sometimes said no to people in need in order to go to lonely places and pray. (Mark 1:35)
- Jesus took naps! Even in a storm when others worked feverishly. (Mark 4:35-41)
(3) Most leaders develop their own vision and get diverted — Jesus discerned God’s vision and was tenacious to carry it out.
- Jesus submitted to God and found his mission in the Bible: preach the good news to the poor, set prisoners free, heal the blind, release the oppressed, and proclaim God’s favor. (Isaiah 61:2; Luke 4:18-19)
- Jesus didn’t let good things pull him away from the best. He stuck to his mission, turning down many “business opportunities.” He could’ve built a synagogue, written a book, focused entirely on healing ministry, gone to Athens to be a famous speaker, or become the Emperor of Rome.
- Jesus didn’t compromise his mission to be accepted, he was even willing to have his followers desert him. (John 6:66)
- Jesus didn’t let himself get stuck in the mire of the daily grind of ministry. He literally climbed mountains to maintain a heavenly perspective on his work (Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23, 17:1-5). Ironically, his highest moment was sacrificing his holy life on the cross. Recall that he predicted this: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (John 12:21, CEB)
- Jesus launched his enterprise without the support of family or the establishment and he completed his mission even though his staff and followers abandoned him. How did he do this? He stood in the Kingdom of God. (Mark 3:20-35)
- Jesus did whatever was needed to fulfill his mission. He was bold to fight demons and wild animals for 40 days (Mark 1:12-13), cry (John 11:35), shout (Matt. 23:1-39), fling tables and chairs (Mark 11:15-17), travail in prayer (Mark 14:32-42), and die forsaken and alone, hanging on a cross (Mark 15:33-37).
- Jesus took time to give his staff and other followers the vision and purpose behind what he was calling them to do. So when he called the fisherman he said, “Come follow me… and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:17)
(4) Most leaders focus more on success than kindness — Jesus was the most successful leader largely because he was so kind and caring.
- Like all leaders, Jesus had many things pulling on him, but always he kept his focus on God and people, God and people. “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” (Mark 10:21)
- Luke shows us that Jesus used his power to be a gentle protector for the tender: a frail leper (Luke 5:12-13), a grieving widow (Luke 7:11-17), the town harlot (Luke 7:36-50), a desperately sick woman (Luke 8:43-48), a crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17), children (Luke 18:15-17), a blind beggar (Luke 18:35-42), a short, greedy tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), a poor widow (Luke 21:1-4)
- Jesus lived by his teaching to “Give to the one who asks you” (Luke 6:30). He gave people access to himself; he had a bias for saying yes. “Yes, I’ll show you where I live (John 1:38-39)… Yes, I’ll come your party (Luke 7:36)… Yes, I’ll meet your mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31)… Yes, I’ll come to your village to meet your neighbors (Mark 4:40-41)… Yes, you can touch me (Mark 5:30-34)… Yes, I’ll feed all 5,000 of you (Mark 6:34-44)… Yes, I’ll calm this storm (Mark 4:35-41)… Yes, you can walk on water to me (Mark 6:47-52)… Yes, you can do miracles in my name (Mark 9:38-39; John 14:13-14)… Yes, I’ll heal your daughter (Mark 5:22-24)… your son (John 4:46-53)… your servant (Matt. 8:5-13)… Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!”
- Jesus knew that for his staff to learn from him he needed to spend lots of personal time with them in friendly conversation. He talked with his leaders after sermons (Mark 4:13) or healing services (Mark 9:14-29), while walking from one city to another (Mark 10:32), or when relaxing over a meal (Matthew 9:10-13).
- Jesus was an emotionally intelligent, relationally connected leader. He wept (John 11:35). He got angry (Mark 11:15-17). He felt deep distress and fear (Mark 14:33-34). He also felt exceeding joy (Luke 10:21), peace in storms (Mark 4:35-41), and warm love for people (Mark 10:21). He experienced and expressed the full range of emotions.
- Jesus wasn’t too busy to take time to weep with a grieving family (John 11:17-37), help people enjoy birds and flowers (Matt. 5:25-34), play with children (19:13-15), answer his disciples “dumb” questions (Mark 4:10, 34, 9:10-12, 28-29, 10:35, 14:4-5), and respond to the impositions of the rich and famous (Mark 5:22-24, 10:17-23; Matt. 8:5-13; John 3:1-21).
- Jesus’ bottom line wasn’t profits, but the profitability of love. He said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love… [and] love one another.” (John 15:9, 12)
- Jesus didn’t focus on numbers, but a number of names. If he were a typical leader his final report to his boss might have been, “God, I shared the Gospel in 38 cities, multiplied fishes and loaves to feed 20,000 hungry people, healed 250 sick, completed initial phase of leadership training for 120 disciples, raised two people from the dead.” But he said, “Father, I loved those that you gave me and now I give them back to you better and stronger. Here are Peter, James, John, Mary, Martha, Mary Magdalene, and…” (John 17:6-8)
- Jesus presumed the best about everyone, even his enemies. (Luke 23:34)
- Jesus gave people loving goodbyes. When the rich young ruler walked away from Jesus he kept looking at him and reaching out to him in love. (Mark 10:21)
(5) Most leaders restrict their leadership table to men of power (wealthy, heady, executive status) — Jesus included women, minorities, and tender-hearted men.
- Mary Magdalene, Joanna (wife of Herod’s manager), Mary the Mother of James, Susana, and other women were leading disciples of Jesus. They traveled with him at times and provided him and his community with hospitality, financial support, and encouragement. They were the first evangelists of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and taught Peter, James, John, the other male apostles and leaders, and many other people. (Luke 8:2-3, 24:1-7)
- The Lord welcomed Mary of Bethany to leave the kitchen and “sit at his feet,” which is an expression to indicate that he accepted her as his student so that she could learn how to become a teacher like him. (Luke 10:38-42)
- Jesus received many minorities into his group of disciple-leaders, like the widow of Nain, Samaritan leper, Roman centurion, Gadarene demoniac, Greek woman. (Luke 7:11-17, 17:11-19; Matthew 8:5-13, 28-34, 15-21-28) The Samaritan adulteress that he met at the well put faith in him and became a great evangelist for him and led many in her country to put their faith in him, paving the way for the later revival brought by the Apostle Philip. (John 4:4-26, 39-42; Acts 8:4-8)
- Andrew was one of Jesus’ Twelve and was a relational, shepherding leader. He was supportive of his bold, outspoken brother Peter. (Probably Andrew was the “little brother” since his name always comes after Peter’s.) In the ministry of Jesus Andrew is always in the background, caring for people and bring them to his Lord. (John 1:40-42, 6:8, 12:20-22)
- The Twelve surely included other “Type B” (more laid back, gentle, soft-spoken, and compassionate) leaders. This is implied by the fact that more than half of them are barely even mentioned in the Gospels.
- Jesus taught that the greatest in the Kingdom of the Heavens are the childlike. (Matthew 18:1-5) He wanted his leaders to be opposite of the self-promoting, power-hungry Pharisees, insisting, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts themselves will be humbled, and whoever humbles themselves will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
- Jesus entrusted the witness of his resurrection to women. (Mark 14:9, 15:41, 16:9-11)
(6) Most leaders stick to established ideas and methods in their work — Jesus kept innovating to create a new message and new ways of sharing it. (Venture on God)
- Jesus didn’t bring his message through the long-established leadership and delivery system of the Scribes and Pharisees. He came up with a shocking new approach: he called on fishermen to be his messengers. (Mark 1:17)
- Jesus took inventory of his materials, available venues, culture, ideas, and people and used these resources to innovate and expand his enterprise. For instance, when he had 5,000 hungry people with no food he said to his staff, “How many loaves to you have?” The he prayed, broke the five loaves and two fish, and multiplied them to feed everyone all they wanted. (Mark 6:38)
- In his leadership and teaching Jesus didn’t settle for the status quo — he broke the mold of what rabbis had been like for centuries. (Matt. 7:29)
- Jesus didn’t accommodate to people wanting predictability — he kept changing things up. For instance, in his healing ministry he used many different methods. To one blind man he puts mud in his eyes and tells him to wash in the pool and to another he simply says, “Go, your faith has healed you.” (John 9:1-7; Mark 10:46-52)
- Jesus changed all the units of measurement to present divine reality. “You’ve heard it said…. But I say to you…” He made all laws and standards below one great command to love God and neighbor (Matt. 5:21-48; Mark 12:30-31) and he gave us a new command to “love one another” as he loves us (John 13:34).
- Jesus replaced all religions with a New Covenant between God and people: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you…” (Luke 22:30)
(7) Most leaders work hard to grow their business — Jesus worked hard and smart, using highly successful (and often uncommon) strategies.
- Jesus wasn’t limited to only physical reality, but worked with unseen divine power and he taught his leaders to do the same (Acts 10:38).
- Jesus didn’t push himself or his services on people; he gave people compelling invitations while respecting their free choice. (Luke 14:15-24)
- Jesus kept his message and methods simple, yet profound, so ordinary people could understand and participate. For instance he distilled thousands of teachings and hundreds of laws into one sentence! (Matt. 22:38-39)
- Jesus’ attitude was never, “Do what I say, not what I do.” (What the leader actually does becomes the culture of the company that pervades and grows.) The Master set the example for his team so they all knew that true leaders wash dirty feet, which is to say that they’re not too self-important to do the little acts of service that needs to be done. (Foot washing back then wasn’t ritual, it was needed to clean dirty feet!) (John 13:1-17)
- Jesus offered himself and his services to prospective “customers” and staff, but he didn’t stop there. He asked, “Will you follow me?” and he waited for an answer. (Luke 9:57-62)
- Jesus was strategic in picking his “first followers,” knowing that he couldn’t succeed without them. He started his staff with two pairs of brothers who grew up together and were leaders (Mark 1:16-20). He trained them to carry his name, presence, and message in ways that he couldn’t do as the top leader (Matthew 10:1, 28:19). If it weren’t for his first followers then people would think only Jesus could live and lead that way.
- Jesus was cost-conscious, but not willing to cut the education budget. Everywhere he went he taught people; even when he forgave people’s sins (John 8:11), fed them (Luke 9:10-17), or healed their sicknesses (John 9:35-38) he gave them spiritual teaching. He kept investing in training leaders who could teach still more people (Matt. 10:1-42).
- Developing leaders was Jesus’ top priority. Usually when he ministered to people in need he had leaders with him to assist and learn (Mark 5:37-43). Sometimes Jesus said no to people in need in order to develop his leaders (Mark 9:30-31).
- Jesus was vulnerable to let others give him many things including friendship and hospitality (Luke 10:38-42), dinner parties (Matt. 9:10; Luke 7:36), a donkey (Mark 11:1-10), appreciation (Luke 7:37-38; Mark 14:3), a banquet room (Mark 14:13-16), service and money (Mark 15:41), and help to carry his cross (Luke 23:26). Many leaders are destroyed by power or use it foolishly.
- Jesus didn’t just have brilliant ideas — he made plans and executed them. He increased his staff from 12 to 72 people and gave them information and power to carry out his plans: recruit new followers, raise capital, train more staff, maintain personal soul care under God, market services, complete speaking tours, beat the competition (save people from sin!). (Luke 10:1-11)
- Jesus didn’t try too hard in his work; he didn’t strain. He did “ministry business” in a relaxed, personal, and fun way. He laughed and played with little children (Mark 10:13). He ate meals in people’s homes (Matt. 9:10; Luke 7:36). He told stories (Mark 4:34) and jokes too (Mark 9:43-47). He took his staff on walks in grain fields (Mark 2:23) and vineyards (John 15:1-8). He took his staff on boat rides (Luke 8:22) and picnics at the beach (John 21:9-10).
(8) Most leaders have control issues (they micromanage or hold back staff) — Jesus trained and empowered his staff. (Apprenticeship to Jesus)
- Jesus never micromanaged people, he let them fail and sin, giving them grace to learn from their mistakes. When the disciples tried unsuccessfully to heal the demonized boy Jesus showed them how to trust God to do it. (Mark 9:17, 23) When brash Peter insisted he wouldn’t deny his Lord Jesus prayed that his faith wouldn’t fail and after Peter failed he did return to his faith in God. (Luke 22:31-34)
- Instead of trying to do everything himself, Jesus delegated responsibility to his staff and worked through them. He trusted them and empowered them before they seemed capable and they rose to the level of his expectation (Matthew 10:5; Luke 10:1)
- Jesus entrusted leadership responsibilities and power to women. (John 4:27, 39-42; Luke 21:1-4; Mark 14:9, 15:41, 16:9-11)
- Jesus didn’t cling to his position or power — he trained and empowered his staff to do greater works than he did and to replace him. (John 14:12)
- Jesus saw great potential in people that no one else saw and he maximized it. For instance, he renamed “Flaky Simon” as “Peter the Rock” and sure enough Peter became the leader of the early Church! (Matt. 16:17-19; Acts 2:14, 4:8, 15:7-11)
(9) Most leaders try to hold onto their power — Jesus turned everything loose to God, even dying on the cross for our sins! (Abandon outcomes to God)
- Jesus planned his exit, prepared his staff for how to run the operation after he was gone, and he turned it loose into his Father’s hands. (Mark 8:31-32; 9:12-13; 10:32-34; 12:1-12; 13:1-37; 14:8-9, 24-25, 28; Luke 23:46)
- Jesus had a beloved staff member betray him and join forces with an enemy, but he used this to accomplish his mission. (Matt. 26:14-16)
- Jesus took courage to lead in frightening situations. For instance, just before going to the cross he battled Satan and was so afraid that he got sick to his stomach and sweat drops of blood. (Luke 22:44)
- Jesus led without an ego; he was willing to look foolish to love people — whether it meant riding on a little donkey or hanging naked on a cross. (John 12:14; Matt. 27:28, 35)