"Ascending" may give some the idea that Ascending Leaders is about climbing a ladder of power, authority, and recognition - the "ladder of success." In truth, we encourage Christ followers to seek precisely the opposite: to become a servant leader, descending rather than ascending, serving rather than seeking to be served. One's position on any "ladder" of power is irrelevant.
Rather, "ascending" in our name refers to ascending, or growing, in our likeness to Christ, in our understanding of God and his works, and in our own ability to effectively lead in the kingdom of God. People who have been lifted from the deep pits of life - often with the help of the recovery movement - understand ascending not as a climb to status, but to increased living, serving, relating, and leading in company with Jesus. It is an ascent to "life to the full" (John 10:10).
The ancient Israelites sang "songs of ascent" (Psalms 121:134) as they went up to Jerusalem to sacrifice and worship. Jerusalem - the symbol of God's presence and protection - was rich in memories for God's people. While these Psalms express praise for God's reign, they also speak of humility and of humiliation. They speak of service and servant-hood, along with joy, blessing, fortune, and protection, all gifts from God. The Songs of Ascent teach that ascending in knowledge and skills, and especially in character, involves serving, working, and, yes, even struggling.
Christian discipleship calls us to look up, to "set our minds on things above, not earthly things (Colossians 3:1). Because Christ has rescued us from sin and restored our relationship with him, our lives have a new, higher focus. We set our hearts, our minds, our eyes on Christ and set out to be more like him. A disciple of Jesus Christ is ascending in Christ likeness.
The image of Ascending Leaders comes from climbing ice-encrusted mountains such as Rainier, McKinley, and Everest. Mountaineering is a far different task than rock climbing. Rock climbing can be done alone or with others, with or without equipment, by relying primarily on one's own skills and strength. Not so in mountaineering. Mountain climbers encounter dangerous, often deadly hazards, such as glaciers, crevasses, and avalanches. Success in mountaineering requires discipline and teamwork, and not a little courage. Mountaineering team members literally entrust their lives to each other.
As disciples and leaders, we are called to pass over and through many dangerous places. We need each other to succeed. The life of a disciple is not a solitary undertaking, but a commitment to be a part of a closely-knit, mutually committed team. Ascending Leaders is about living and learning in community, growing discipled leaders of whom the world will say, "these people have been with Jesus."
What is leadership? Some see it as position or status to be sought after. For others it is a headache that they are careful to avoid. Though leadership is defined in many ways, the most concise definition is simply influence. Leadership is influence - causing others to do something or to change in some manner.
We often underestimate the degree to which we influence. Whenever we cause others to act in a certain manner, we influence - and influence is leadership. Bill Hybels refers to levels of leadership. Leading a Cub Scout pack is influencing others every bit as much as the President of the United States influences others. The difference is a matter of scale, but both lead. One has wider scope and more difficult challenges, but both lead.
Think of situations in which you exert influence.
Listening and responding to your daughter as she tells you about some mean girls at school and how she is thinking of responding.
- Responding to a co-worker who is complaining to you about a fellow worker.
- Ensuring that a Cub Scout meeting happens in a manner most beneficial to the boys.
As we are faithful in our present situations, God often gives future leadership opportunities that require higher leadership skills. God intends that we grow. The future will require more patience, ingenuity, delegation, focus, discipline, and better people skills. Ascending Leaders is about helping you grow in your leadership skills, enabling you to more effectively influence others: your family, your small group, your co-workers, and most importantly, yourself.
Ascending Leaders is focused on growing leaders with Christ-like character, and to ministering to the community of Christ by training and enhancing present and future leaders. An essential feature of leadership is self-leadership. Before we can lead others effectively, we are called to lead or disciple ourselves, as we develop our own Christ-like character.
If you desire to lead like Jesus, take your cue from him, both his teaching and his example. In