An image that stood out during the recent Olympics came at the end of the gold medal mens football match. Neymar, the captain, scored the winning penalty before running off, falling to the ground and crying in celebration. Now I know what football means in Brazil. This was the only major competition Brazil hadn’t won. Winning meant everything especially at home. But in that moment Neymar forgot he was captain. Instead of celebrating together, he celebrated by himself.
Following Jesus should be a celebration. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. God celebrates over us with singing. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. His ministry was set in the context of celebrating together at parties. The picture Jesus uses to describe the relationship between himself and his followers is a wedding banquet.
Christianity is a faith of celebration because we follow the master of celebration. But we follow Jesus together. Paul describes Jesus followers as being part of a body. We are each distinctive. But somehow broken when we aren’t together. Therefore the picture of celebrating is celebrating together.
I’m not naturally an outgoing person. I know all of this stuff about togetherness. But I find myself most refreshed when I’m alone. So, how do I even begin all of this celebrating together? I need a leader. I need someone to invite me into the celebration. Here’s where it gets back to Neymar.
It has been said that a leader without followers is just someone taking a walk. One of the first rules of leadership is to never forget you are part of a team. Another is that a leader share the victories but takes responsibility for defeats. In celebrating by himself Neymar separated himself from his team and left it to others to bring everyone together. Neymar didn’t lead his team. His emotions stopped him from seeing his team.
The church needs leaders but not like Neymar. We need people who encourage us to follow Jesus. Worship leaders who help us see the depths of God. Preachers who equip us to have Godly lives. Missional leaders who expand our vision to see God at work in the everyday stuff of life. Pastors who enable the lonely to join the celebration. This is what we need from our leaders.
What do you do if your leaders are more like Neymar?
While Neymar was celebrating by himself, other team mates stepped up. They went and collected team mates and brought them to together. The significance of the achievement was greater than themselves as individuals. They realised that celebrating meant celebrating together. They even went to Neymar, helped him up and brought him to the team. Joy was not diminished but unified.
Do you see your role? If no one else goes, you can. You can bring people together. Leaders don’t always have a title. The essential point is that the Christian life is a celebration and you’re invited. But you also get to invite others as well.