The Gladiator Leadership Principle

Posted: January 16, 2012 in Church Leadership, Life & Times
Tags: , , , ,

In the movie Gladiator, Proximo tells Maximus “Win the crowd, and you’ll win your freedom”. In the story, Maximus has been ‘stuck’ in the worst of all possible circumstances.  He is betrayed & imprisoned. Stripped of his rank & honor. Unable to exact revenge for destruction of his home and the killing of his family.  He is forced to fight for his life against all odds in the center of the arena.  But what he sees as an obstacle, Proximo sees as an opportunity.  Play to the crowd.  Win them over.  Let the crowd fight FOR YOU. The crowd is power.  I call it the Gladiator Leadership Principle: “Win the crowd and you’ll win your freedom.”

How many times do we neglect this?

In life, you can see this in action.  Win your boss by doing a good job and you get promoted.  Work at your relationship, and you win the girl.  Win with your friends, and they’ll respect your values, trust your judgement, welcome your input, honor your decision, and tolerate your mistakes.  As an employer, when you win the crowd employees will be happier and work harder.  Winning the crowd is important.

In ministry, I have used this as my battlecry.  I inherited a hurting church (among other things).  The church was only a couple years old and the founding pastor had been caught in an affair (again).  After paying for marriage counseling, he was removed from leadership by the elders.  Later, the elders resigned and a ‘makeshift’ leadership group was put in place. I was given the opportunity to take leadership of this church.  What most of my colleagues in ministry saw as an obstacle, I saw as an opportunity.

I knew it was important for me to “win the crowd”.  I knew it was paramount to get to know the few people who had remained (we lost over 400 people in 4 months).  Even though I lived on the opposite side of town at the time, my wife and I made it a point to meet with and visit as many people as we could.  We went out to dinners and visited small groups, I went to countless lunches and golf outings–to build relationships with the crowd.  One time, I even sacrificed front-row tickets to U2  concert so we could visit of our bible study groups. Why? Because the crowd matters.

I have realized the gravity of the phrase “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  I wanted our people to know we cared about them.  We wanted them to get to know us.  I wanted to communicate hope and a clear vision for the church. The crowd matters.

1. The crowd matters.  Ministry is all about people.  If we fail at people, we fail at ministry.  The crowd matters!

2. When you win the crowd, they fight for you.  Soon, we started to see things happen.  Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven Church” says that “Nothing revitalizes a church faster than clarifying it’s purpose.”  Over time, we saw our ideas take traction.  Leaders began to surface.  New volunteers started to sign up. People started to attend with consistency.  People started to get excited for what God was doing through our church.

3. Sometimes, ‘winning the crowd’ is painful.  It requires sweat & blood. In the church, we saw that as we communicated a new vision and direction for the church, several decided they didn’t want to be a part of the crowd.  Pruning is painful.  But if the end result is a cohesive crowd that is totally committed to Jesus Christ and are unified in their mission, the pain is worth it.  I love the quote from the movie “300”.  King Leonitus says, “Let it be known that here, few stood against many”.  I’d rather have 300 fighting in unison for one common cause and purpose, than 1000 people going in their own direction.

4. Win the crowd and you’ll win your freedom.  As we have invested so much into the crowd, we have more freedom now than ever.  Through God’s power, we have healed the wounds from our past. We have hired a new staff; rallied our people to rebuild our facility; established a new eldership; renamed the church; and are currently undertaking an adventure to move into a new venue.   We couldn’t have accomplished any of this at the beginning.  We’ve only been able to make strides WHILE winning the crowd.  IT IS TRUE:  Win the crowd, and you’ll win you’re freedom.

See any parallels to Jesus’ life?

1. The crowd matters.  Jesus was a master at “seeing the crowd”.  Do you see the crowd as a nuisance to be managed, an irritant to be ignored, or an army to be unleashed?

Matthew 9:36-38 (NIV)
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

 2.  Win the crowd and they fight for you.  Jesus devoted his life to mentoring and pouring himself into a few individuals. Upon his resurrection and ascension, these ordinary men spread the Good News and turned the world upside down for Jesus.

Acts 1:8 (NIV) 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

3.  Winning the crowd can be painful.  Jesus knew that sweat & blood were required to win the crowd.  Blood needed to be spilled to free us from sin.  To win the crowd, Jesus knew it was worth it!

John 15:13 (NIV) “Greater love has no one than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

4.  Winning the crowd brings freedom. 

The freedom that Jesus offers in life is multi-faceted. Freedom from the [death] penalty of sin; freedom from guilt, from shame.  Jesus gives us a life with purpose, fulfillment, security, meaning.  He has equipped us to be gladiators, conquerors.

Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I challenge you to find fulfillment in this leadership principle. I have.

Be a gladiator.  Win the crowd.

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