Society & Politics

Article Series: Leadership Lessons from the Public Life of Jesus


Preston Manning, Senior Fellow

For thirty years, from his birth to early adulthood, Jesus of Nazareth lived and worked in obscurity. Then for three short years he taught and worked in public, his public life well documented in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Jesus never sought nor held public office, yet he and his followers have been influential and controversial politically for twenty centuries. While his ultimate mission was a spiritual one, he nevertheless chose to use a political word—the “kingdom” of God—to define it.

Those of us who believe that Jesus was in fact the one he claimed to be—the Son of God sent by him to reconcile human beings to himself and each other—will tend to attribute the uniqueness and impact of his public life to the presence and power of the supernatural. But even those who do not acknowledge his deity should be drawn to examine the nature and lessons of his public ministry by virtue of its unique and enormous impact from that day to this.

In this regard, I once provided a small group of my political friends who were visiting Israel with a “sealed memorandum” to be opened, read, and discussed only after they had completed their first visit to the Galilean region where Jesus spent much of his life. The memorandum read as follows:

A Special Assignment

Imagine that you have just been parachuted into the Galilee region of Israel to carry out the following Special Assignment:

  • Go into the towns and villages around the lake and recruit a team of twelve people.
  • Persuade them to leave whatever they are doing and join you in a venture to change themselves, their community, and the world.
  • By formal teaching and example, transform their pursuit of self-interest into the self-sacrificial service of others.
  • Equip them to share with others what you will impart to them, so that 2000 years afterwards more than one billion people will profess to be guided in some way by your teachings and example.
  • Fiscal constraints require you to raise your own financial support for this assignment.
  • Your initial base of operations will be a carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, not far from here.
  • You have three years to complete this assignment before you must leave the region and entrust the follow-up to your recruits.
  • Good luck and God bless your efforts.

Note: Jesus of Nazareth undertook and successfully completed such an assignment, which is why, if for no other reason, we believe that his life and teachings deserve serious personal examination, especially by those of us who know how difficult it is to create and sustain a public movement of any kind, even on a limited scale and for only a brief moment in time. May this time of visiting the region where he actually lived and taught be an inspiration and blessing to each of you.

So, whether we are believers or not, if we are engaged in public life of any kind there is much to learn and profit to gain from examining the public life of Jesus.  And if we are operating publicly at the interface of faith and politics this is doubly so.

Let us then consider “Lessons in Leadership from the Public Life of Jesus” under headings that include:

Lesson 1: Incarnational Communication

Lesson 2 Part 1: The Temptation of Spiritual and Political Leadership

Lesson 2 Part 2: The Temptation of Spiritual and Political Leadership

Lesson 2 Part 3: The Temptation of Spiritual and Political Leadership

Lesson 3 Part 1: The Training of the Twelve - Ethical Leadership

Lesson 3 Part 2: The Training of the Twelve - Harnessing of Ambition

Lesson 4:  The Great Guideline: Wise as Serpents and Gracious as Doves

Lesson 5 Part 1: Christ-like Wisdom and Grace in Action

Lesson 5 Part 2: Christ-like Wisdom and Grace in Action

Lesson 6 Part 1:  The Ministry of Reconciliation

Lesson 6 Part 2:  The Ministry of Reconciliation

Lesson 7:   Follow Me!

Preston Manning works with the MI on the development and communication of faith-informed approaches to political leadership and public policy, including new approaches to the intersection of faith with democratic governance, the market economy, pluralism and multiculturalism, science and technology, and environmental stewardship.

Preston served as a member of the Canadian House of Commons from 1993 to 2001, part of which he served as his party’s critic for Science, Technology and Innovation. He founded two new political parties—the Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance—and was the Leader of the Official Opposition from 1997 to 2000. Preston also has 20 years of experience as an owner and manager of a consulting firm specializing mainly in strategic planning and communications advice to the energy sector. In 2005, he founded the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, which supports research, educational, and communications initiatives designed to achieve a more democratic society in Canada guided by conservative principles.

Source: Marketplace Institute

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