You have heard us say that one of the benefits of the new church plant is that it will cause a leadership vacuum. In other words there will be places of opportunity for some of you to take a step of faith and fill in areas that need leadership. That being said, all us want to lead well if given the opportunity.
But sometimes we forget that leading others begins by leading ourselves. And the way we lead ourselves can ignite the ministry flame in others, or douse it. Here are a few important lessons to help us consider what that might look like.
WALK WITH GOD
Spiritual leadership is primarily about walking or abiding with God.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
It is His Kingdom, and His reign that we are seeking to establish, not our own. We must keep our hearts daily submissive to His Word and rule in our lives. We should seek to know Him more and more and then make Him known to those we have been entrusted with to lead.
One of the primary ways we walk with God is through consistent engagement with His Word—reading, meditating, applying His eternal wisdom to our daily lives of spiritual leadership.
Spiritual leaders need to seek God more than they seek ministry. Their first priority everyday should be to know God more, to follow Him more wholeheartedly, to grow in a dynamic relationship with Him.
God may have called you as a leader to influence others for the sake of the gospel, but we need to know closeness to and obedience to God is the prize the people we lead need to see in our lives as a leader. That is what I believe people are truly after. If Jesus isn’t the prize, you are running the wrong race.
WALK IN HUMILITY
As spiritual leaders, we need to follow Jesus’ example. Jesus purposefully chose a path of humility. Jesus chose to be born in a manger and to live in obscurity in Nazareth. You could say His first miracle was a miracle of humility as he joined us in the human race in the deep waters of repentance at the hand of John the Baptist. In fact, the center of his ministry took place in the backwoods of Galilee and not strategically in Jerusalem.
How do we grow in humility? Most people who follow you for a given period of time already know some of your flaws and weaknesses, but it pays off in a big way for a leader to admit where they fail, where they went wrong, and where they are weak.
I have known leaders in the past who were amazingly gifted, but were never willing to admit their weaknesses. They always wanted to cover up weaknesses and wouldn’t let people in. If these leaders would’ve simply admitted their flaws and known they were loved in spite of them, they would’ve been able to impact others for a longer time.
I’m a very trusting person by nature. Over the years I’ve come to realize that spiritual leaders who want to make an impact must be people who “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:16) and “don’t think more highly of themselves than they ought, but rather with sober judgement.” (Romans 12:3)
Spiritual leadership is less about how spiritual you sound, and more about keeping your word when it hurts, doing things for people who can do nothing for you, and watching for how subtly you undermine your leadership by saying one thing and doing another. Guard yourself, and grow in Christ to become more and more a spiritual leader with true character worth following.
Another mark of humility is being teachable. Do we ask others questions who are willing to give us hard answers? I came across these questions by Ron Edmondson, a writer for Christian Leadership, that I found helpful.
- Am I asking the right questions? Successful leadership isn’t about having all the answers. It’s about being able to find them by asking better questions.
- Am I listening for the best answers? We all know what it’s like to work for “know it all leaders.” The only way to avoid this is by disciplining ourselves to listen to the ideas of others.
- Am I taking time to think about our biggest problems and opportunities? This can feel weird, especially if we’ve been primarily in a “doer” role. It can feel lazy. However, this is an essential part of leadership. It’s the leader’s responsibility to look up and ask, “Are we even on the right road?”
- Am I effectively communicating the plan to our team and setting expectations? Successful teams are built on clear communication and direction. If we don’t communicate the plan or set expectations we force the team to make assumptions.
- Am I stepping back to evaluate the strategy and observe the impact? Evaluation and experimentation are two words that are an essential part of leadership vocabulary. Are the things we’re doing working? Is our hypothesis right? Are the things we’re doing moving us closer toward achieving our goals? These are the types of questions leaders ask.
A Word of Encouragement Before You Step Into Leadership
Stepping into a leadership role for the first time isn’t easy. It could be a big shift from where you’ve been.
- Put your whole heart into it. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)
- Find others to help you along the way. Do not believe you have to do it perfectly? Find a mentor. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." (Proverbs 13:20) A high value of New Hope is to disciple others and to be discipled. Find a “wise” person to help you. Secondly, I was taught that reading or listening to recorded talks by wise people is like walking with the “wise”. There are plenty of good resources in The Greenhouse library, our website, and/or our Resource Table.
- Learn to be yourself. One reason people do not know their gifting is they never give themselves opportunities to discover who they are and who they are not. We are never going to learn much in life if we are unwilling to fail.
You’re not in leadership because you have all the answers. You’re in leadership because you’re willing to help solve problems. My hope is that after a couple of years of doing it, leading others will feel as natural for you as putting your clothes on in the morning.
I like what John Maxwell said, “Leaders develop daily, not in a day.”
Again the need for a leader is not for perfection but rather someone willing to place him or herself on a course that will help them become an instrument of God to help change people for the glory of God.
Our prayer is that you will be willing to take the opportunity that is present to consider filling the role as a leader. The Christian life was never designed to sit on the sidelines while only a few carry the load. Getting into the mix is where the action is and where your faith is more tested because of the blessing to see the hearts of people changed. What’s your next move? Talk with your LIFE Group leader or a staff person to understand how you can move in the path of taking on more of a leadership role. The time we are in as a church with the start of the new church plant is going to be exciting and challenging for us all. I hope you will pray that our gracious Father will open your eyes to see the place for you to step into. Perhaps the leadership vacuum will suck you into leadership!