Success Begins with the Least, not the Highest

“If hell is happy when our strengths get stronger as long as our weaknesses get weaker.” Dr Don Lynch

Jesus has a leadership style unlike any available in the natural world. You cannot become more like Jesus as a Leader by studying the leadership principles of mammon.

You will find some of His principles, processes, and protocols in those models because His ideas have been invested in many cultures. You will find these principles, processes, and protocols subservient to the spirit of this world, however, therefore, corrupted in the bottom line intention or redefined in what they produced.

Washing Feet

The Dirty Feet Syndrome governs the leadership of Jesus. It is not an add-on feature but a lifestyle and behavioral anchoring point. If you see Jesus washing feet as an illustration or propaganda stunt, you understand neither the life or ministry of Jesus at all.

Most modern church leaders see washing feet as a stunt, not a lifestyle or behavioral anchoring point.

  1. Washing feet means you measure the success of a purpose or goal and the steps of strategic implementation by leadership, not management. Washing feet is not about maintaining clean feet. That is, Jesus washed feet but didn’t become a foot washer.

You wash feet but you do not become a professional foot washer.

Becoming a professional foot washer means you give yourself to a purpose completely unrelated to your success; you begin to work for sidewalks and paved roads so people’s feet are not even dirty. You start working for equality of footwear so people all have access to something more substantial than flip-flops. You train people to wear clean socks. You think clean feet is the objective. It is not. People can have dirty feet and people can wash their own feet. Not the point.

Kingdom leaders who serve in this mindset are not leaders at all. They are ministers (what people call “deacons”), but they are not leaders. They do not have the vision, strategy, or authority. They simply serve. Leaders do not become foot washers because they wash feet.

Thousands of churches treat kingdom leaders like employees bossed about by spiritual bozos with no more understanding of kingdom purpose than mosquito larvae floating in a still pool of brackish water draining down from a dripping drain in a back alley in San Francisco. The (clear your throat) “chairman of the board” runs the ministry with the same leadership that drove his children from his house. Pastors expected to mow the grass and church building to save money because “that’s your job” are the revelation of servants serving someone beside Jesus. Get that “we serve people” idea out of your mind, kingdom leader.

Carried to extremes, these people lead by avoiding the dirty when the dirt is part of the process. Avoiding dirt means spraying people down with a hose before they enter the doorway. (!) Since dirty feet is a problem, they want to avoid dirty feet instead of washing feet.

Jesus had a room full of dirty feet for the entire Passover meal. Clean feet was not the point of the leadership lesson.

The lesson was this: if you lead  with spiritual power and authority but ignore the least of the prevailing issues, your highest will never resolve the lowest. No matter how anointed you are, you must involve your leadership in the least to produce the ultimate of your assignment. The disciples with dirty feet had healed the diseased and set free the demonised. They were about to run like screeching little four-year-old girls from a frog when someone says they might know Jesus of Nazareth.

Focusing upon hiring the best of the best of the best for your event planning church-anity will never produce the highest of your calling. Preaching like George Whitfield while your assignment produces lukewarmness at the spectator level will never lead to a Great Awakening.

George Whitfield would be just another preacher is no Great Awakening atmosphere was unavailable for his preaching. The Awakening operated at the grassroots level and carried the highest higher; the highest didn’t lift the least. The kingdom works the other way around.

The idea that hiring great professionals will produce kingdom purposes is as worldly as the devil who controls this present order of things. “Ignore the least and focus on the highest” and you will plan and execute great events while the culture goes to hell all around you.

Application

I have been part of ministries that were focused upon the highest with zero interest on the least. They did not measure ministry by real people, real needs, in real time. They spent millions on administrative record keeping, compiling reports no one read, filling DayTimer pages with exacting proof that the worker bees were not playing golf and acted “professional” in their meeting schedules. They ran out of storage space for all the paper that no one touched – not even one time did anyone read the million-dollar collection of worthless information.

I asked one question in a meeting: “How do you know a person attends this ministry or considers it their church home?” Silence. Complete stillness. Not a muscle in the leadership room moved. I had touched the sacred cow’s udder, and she was not supposed to be milked.

In other words, perception and appearances of the highest were continually being improved in perceived “excellence” and appearance while dirty feet were ignored. The train wreck was devastating when reality caught up with the travesty. The Emperor’s New Clothes became apparent. The tail wagged the dog. Etc.

Keeping professional looking file cabinets full of worthless reports does not produce disciples. When you say you ministers to people but have no idea who the people are for whom you have a responsibility, you are an event machine, not a kingdom Ecclesia.

An initiative to expand and multiply that ignores the essential, “You have to have leaders,” part of the kingdom strategy comes from an arrogant assumption that “our highest is all we need.” People can’t wait to flock over here where the appearance and perceptions of excellence impress them with our world class style.

Not so much. Especially when the source of determining what excellence is comes from “your momma hearing you sing in the shower and encouraging you to try out for American Idol.”

2. Washing feet means you start with the least to discover the implementation pathway to the highest.

I sat in my upgraded seat ready for takeoff. I sat there for six hours.

We had the quarter of a billion dollar plane. We had the trained crew. We had the pilots and back up pilots. We had access to the trillion dollar air traffic system. We had the billion dollar airport and runway. We went nowhere. We were waiting for a back switch for some obscure alert system the pilot admitted was not that important to the safety of the flight.

The least governs the highest. If you do not give as much attention to the backup switch for an obscure alert system as you do the engine hanging on the wing, you end up on the ground instead of flying.

If you do not wash feet, you will not produce leaders with clean hearts.

Simon says, “Lord, You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus says, “Well, you will never have any place in Me or My kingdom then.”

Wow! Did you hear that? Did you hear Jesus? Did you assume He was exaggerating for effect or overstating to make a point, or did you realize the Truth conveyed by what Jesus revealed in the heart of His highest leader? Did you recognize that Jesus would move on without Simon if the apostle refused his foot washing lesson?

Why do we so foolishly assume Jesus cares so little about these issues now? Why do we totally ignore the reality that we fill our pulpits with disqualified leaders who can impress the people?  Jesus would say have no part in representing Him because they cannot pass the most basic test of leadership. We make heroes of them.

We measure the talents set and gift mix, anointing display, and preaching postures when Jesus looks at what only becomes visible when someone removes their socks.

Jesus asks, “Where have you been walking?” We ask dumb questions about previous experience in event planning and business success as if the way forward in the kingdom is the same as the way forward in a hedge fund. We want to accumulate more believers and please our children and teenagers. Jesus wants to take over the world.

We focus on the miraculous power of God but skim over the personal marriage issues. Jesus starts with the personal marriage issues. We focus on the preaching presentation. Jesus focuses upon the heart condition.

Ask the fallen preacher, “How was your spirit and ministry at the time you fell into sin? How was your physical body and appearance?”

“Great!” he answers truthfully. “My preaching was at its best. My body was just fine.”

But, the dirty feet syndrome requires a closer look that the highest of a leader’s life. It requires that you pull up the robe enough to reveal where his feet have been walking.

Jesus moves from the face to the feet. He starts with the least to discover the highest. He never ignores the weakness at the expense of the strength. He is not testing our highest to qualify us to represent Him. He tests our lowest to uncover our fatal flaw.

We do the most ridiculous things when we measure how well the leader perform or preach, how he can sing or play or write songs, or how well his Affliction shirt fits. We are amazed that someone gets healed or set free in Jesus’ Name when the power and capacity to do that has nothing to do with dirty feet. We act as if all we say we believe is just wallpaper for the library of our souls. We say, “God’s power does this, not us,” but we act as if this proves they are amazing. We say, “Talent does not make character,” but we act like talented people are superior to spiritual ones.

Then, we brush by the warning signs and make heroes of slobs, slinky sex addicts, and unhealed souls as if “loving them as they are” and “accepting people where they are” means making them leaders who will fail thousands of fragile followers. We act as if Jesus wants to be represented by professionals when He made apostles out of fishermen, tax collectors, and nobodies.

In every process, start with the least to problem solve the process.

“We want to live stream,” you say. OK, begin with the least, not the highest.

“We will buy the most expensive equipment known to man so we will have excellence,” you say. Go ahead. I’ll get as good a picture with my iPhone.

“We will spend $100,000 on lights, background, smoke and mirrors, and hire somebody with experience in television,” you say. Yeah, but the whole thing will fail if a breaker stops working on the panel in the closet you have no key to open. The camera person will focus on his girlfriend on row eight while your million dollar preacher reaches his million dollar closing statement, and the giggle she makes will be seen by more people than the appeal for people to visit your event machine.

Someone tells you how you can do this great thing, but you know the real issue isn’t the highest but the least. It is not what you can do that makes the difference; it is what you can sustain.

Spend $150,000 training a missionary that comes home after two years and never returns to the assignment. You focused upon the highest but ignored the least. You filled them full of cross-cultural ministry theory but forgot to deal with their broken heart or rejection spirit. You sent a failure out to fail, wasted a ton of money, and left the people you sent them to help with less hope than they had before you intervened.

Pastors last an average of 1.7 years on assignments in your denomination. They stay long enough to find out everybody’s name before they are replaced because a deacon-possessed board is running your churches. You kill a hundred pastors and overlook the spirit of stupid that leads your sorry excuse for a church. You put makeup on pigs when you should be washing feet. You throw your highest pearls before swine who turn and gut your pastors. You offer your inheritors on the altar like sacrifices to Baal and wonder why 65% of them are addicted.

You fill your choir with homosexuals because you need high male voices who can yodel like a trilling locust in the Sound of Music.You perpetuate a subcultural sound instead of worshiping the Father. Your dancers use poles on Saturdays but shout on Sundays. You want appearances of the highest without washing feet to remove the fatal flaws in the least.

You fill your event planning leadership team with creative people related to the senior pastor’s family because you overlook their fatal flaws while picking everybody’s else children to pieces for having a skin blemish on their elbows. If your family’s kids have an addiction, it is a mistake they fell into. When someone else’s children have an addiction, they are poor parents.

Conclusion

You can go wrong overthinking everything and never taking any risks. You can miss the point of what washing feet is all about. It is Jesus washing the feet of otherwise perfect leaders!

We could labor the point of people’s imperfection, but it is not the real issue of the story. The point is that He was teaching them to deal with the least so they wouldn’t become eclipsed by the highest at the expense of the purpose.

The point of Acts 6 and the feeding controversy is that the apostles did solve the problem. They didn’t ignore it because the front door of the ministry was big and the back door was little. (The growth trend was up. They were gaining more members than they were losing.)  Every day they saw hundreds of people born of and filled with the Spirit. Yet, the apostles stopped and washed feet. They sent some really anointed men to provide leadership. They produced just and fair distribution of food.

Modern church-anity in this kind of growth mode will never do that for one minute.

It will say, “Listen staff, we have hundreds of new members coming every week, and we do not have time to deal with that squeaky wheel. Let’s get the big things done, and we can worry about the little stuff when things slow down. Now, on to the planning for Sunday morning big show-time event issues. Did we solve the problem with the backup lights on the left side…”

If someone actually looked into the Greek widows not being treated fairly, the professionals would say, “Find some person with no spiritual gifts, anointing, or miracle-working ministry to look into it.” The apostles had washed feet, so they understood that the least becomes the deficit that invalidates the highest.

If hell is happy when our strengths get stronger as long as our weaknesses get weaker.

Don Lynch

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