Stealth Leaders

By Randall Bach

The disciples did not tour alone. There was a team  that accompanied them, which included Joanna.

One of the most formidable contemporary military weapons is stealth aircraft. Instead of drawing attention they are designed to avoid attention. Radar can’t “see” them. They seem to appear out of nowhere without announcing themselves, and carry out their mission. That is because their focus is on mission, not on visibility or attention. 

Leaders who have crucified their egos know how to influence and lead like stealth aircraft, without the motivation to draw attention to themselves. It was former President Harry S. Truman who said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Some laudable people are like that, often unsung heroes who care more about getting the job done than receiving credit. They are committed more to the cause than to their own acclaim.

Throughout history, women in particular have often assumed strategic, stealth-like ministry roles frequently with little visibility, sometimes to the point they could be overlooked and undervalued. Compared to men, women are often more accomplished at leading without ego. The cause of serving Christ surpasses their desires for recognition, if they even have any. Sometimes their roles can almost be lost in storylines and the importance of their contributions overlooked. Joanna was such a woman, a fascinating figure who was center stage with Jesus and His disciples. You can almost miss her, yet she played a significant role in Jesus’ ministry: 

Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples (Luke 8:1-3, NLT).

How Did She Do It?

Scholars conjecture about how Joanna, married to an insider of Herod’s court, could manage to have freedom to hang out with Jesus and the disciples. It is likely she had insider knowledge about Herod’s doings! And although Jesus’ disciples had left their career livelihoods, some, for example, leaving fish on the shore to follow Jesus, they still had road expenses. Ministry almost always involves money to some extent. Joanna was one of the teams’ bankrollers. Whether she had independent wealth we do not know, but we do know her husband’s position generated wealth. How was she able to spend that money on Jesus and His crew? Some scholars suggest she was divorced from Chuza, although still referred to as his wife, and her money came from a divorce contract or settlement. However she was able to do it, Joanna helped support ministry operations out of her own pocket. This was a dedicated woman who did not care about visibility. She had experienced miracle-performing power; she had been delivered from evil spirits and had been healed from some malady. The disciples did not tour alone. There was a team that accompanied them, which included Joanna. The disciples drew attention; the team helped to accomplish the mission, often stealthily. Joanna was completely sold out for Jesus and gave herself to accompanying and supporting the team.

Faithful to the End, and Beyond

Joanna remained true and faithful. At Jesus’ crucifixion, His male followers were all absent, fearful, and hiding. However, it was that same group of supporting women, likely including Joanna, who were on the scene as Jesus suffered on the cross. They also prepared His body for burial.

Joanna was one of the women who first saw the tomb was empty and heard angels announcing that Jesus had risen from the dead. The men, however, were not kind in how they received the women’s report. I suspect Joanna was not surprised at that reception. She was accustomed to an in-the-shadow, discounted role, even though she helped to make the “Jesus and His Rocking Disciples Tour” possible:

So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples – and everyone else – what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it ” (Luke 24:9-11, NLT).

It would be inconsistent with her record if Joanna were not among the people who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection. Although not identified by name, she was likely with the 120 believers who tarried for and received the promise of the Holy Spirit. She would not have missed it!

Joanna’s name is not prominent in New Testament headlines. She served within the strictures of her culture. She gave everything she had for the sake of ministry. She was a financier but willingly played the part of a lowly servant even though her contributions were deserving of greater recognition. 

Women Today

Many women capably serve at the visible point of leadership today in title and stature. They have earned it. Joanna represents untold numbers of women who also serve in ministry today playing strategic and vital roles often with little recognition and without acclaim. Unsung heroes! I salute all of our contemporary Joannas upon whom so many ministries are absolutely dependent. Although they graciously assume stealth missions, we need to honor and recognize them instead of assigning them to invisibility.

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