By Dr. Chuck Lawless
I write this post with some hesitance. I have studied spiritual warfare for many years, and I don’t want to suggest that the devil should be our role model for anything. He is a liar who is bent on destruction. He seeks to keep non-believers from following God and believers from being faithful to God. He is in no way a friend.
On the other hand, it seems to me that the devil is, in some ways, a more effective leader than many leaders today. Contrast these characteristics of the devil with tendencies that too often mark leaders today:
1. Satan knows he isn’t God. To be clear, he learned this fact the hard way. Scholars differ on this conclusion, but it’s likely Satan was an angel who attempted to take over the throne of God (Isa. 14:12-15, also 2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 6). God cast him to the earth, where God judged him when he led Adam and Eve into sin. He learned again in the temptation of Jesus that he was not God, and he will eventually be bound eternally in the lake of fire.
I know no leader who verbally claims to be God today, but I do know leaders who act as if they were deity. They are never wrong. They build their own kingdom. They view their way as the only right way. If we’re honest, most of us sometimes fall into these traps. Seemingly, we forget we are still human.
2. Satan knows his limits. He will push as far as he can push to bring destruction and death, but he knows he can do only so much and go only so far. In the story of Job, he recognized that God had placed a protective hedge around Job (Job 1:9-11). He could attack Simon Peter and the other disciples only with the permission of God (Luke 22:31). His demons know they are defeated when Jesus shows up (see Mark 5:7).
Our limits are different, of course, but too many leaders fail to recognize or admit their limits. They push themselves to the point of harming their bodies, failing to get adequate exercise or sufficient rest. They assume they must have all the answers to every question a congregation may raise. The word “no” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary; after all, they can do all things. Again, most of us act this way sometimes.
3. Satan spreads his influence through the efforts of others. Surely he does so because he is neither omnipresent nor omnipotent. Through his demons, false teachers, and all his followers (including unbelievers, who are already in the devil’s kingdom – Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13), he spreads his influence. His schemes are effective enough that he continues to keep much of the world in darkness.
The issue for contemporary leaders is related to the previous ones in this post. Leaders who assume they can do it all generally do not invite others to be part of the team. They somehow forget that God puts His body together as He wishes, building it in such a way that all members are necessary and no single member is the team (1 Cor. 12:12-31). Thus, they actually limit their influence.
4. Satan is a strategist. The apostle Paul warned believers to put on the full armor of God so “you can stand against the tactics of the Devil” (Eph. 6:11). The word “tactics” means wily strategies or cunning methods. While his methods are deceitful and sly – hence, evil – he nevertheless has strategies. He does not just aim his arrows at the wind.
Meanwhile, too many church leaders do not strategize. They operate from Sunday to Sunday, with no long-term plans to reach non-believers and disciple new believers. They have little vision and no forward thinking. Any great movement of God is more a surprise than a faith expectation.
So, am I suggesting we model our leadership after Satan? Of course not. I’m simply stating some of Satan’s subtle tactics against leaders: he delights when we act as if we’re God, assume we can do all things, refuse to raise up other leaders, and ignore strategizing. Apparently, even he knows better.
This article was originally posted on thomrainer.com. Permission to use was given by the author.
Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
For access to more writing by Dr. Lawless, visit chucklawless.com.