In John 1.19-23, Priests and Levites are sent to John the Baptist to ask one question, “who are you?”
He immediately tells them he isn’t the Christ, Jesus. They begin with the follow up questions. “Are you Elijah?” “Are you the Prophet?” His answer is still “no.” So they ask again, “Who are you?…What do you say about yourself?” John responds by quoting Isaiah, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord."
Every leader has to answer this question, “who are you?” And the second is equally important, “what do you say about yourself?” I wonder if God brought these Pharisees early in John’s ministry to make sure he knew who he was and what he was called to do. In the time when this occurred the Pharisees are surely hoping this man isn’t claiming to be a great leader of the past for that would be blasphemy. In our day and age, the opposite is quite true. By and large, those that are following or simply watching a leader taking on influence are desiring for Tim Cook to live up to the brilliance of Steve Jobs; for Andrew Luck to fill Peyton Manning’s shoes. In my context as a pastor, and probably yours too, there is so much external pressure intentionally and unintentionally applied to BE who THEY think you ought to be. The two questions laid out begin to converge at this point. "Who are you?” is a question of BEing. And the “what do you say about yourself?" question is one of KNOWing. Not who THEY think you are but who you KNOW you are. These are the questions that every leader must answer. Let’s digest them a little more fully together.
Who are you? It's a simple question until you move past the surface and attempt to describe the complexity of our desires, dreams and fears then it becomes less simple. How would you answer that today? Maybe by process of elimination you would describe who you aren’t as John did. Or maybe, instead of diving into the complexities of each individual leader the takeaway is in John’s final response, a quote in fact, of Isaiah 40.3. It's an obscure picture, a vague identity with one very clear mission. I am but “a voice” crying in the wilderness pointing others to Christ. Who are we as Chrstian leaders? People with “a voice”, with influence even, to point to Christ.