Choosing the Path to Leadership
Choosing the Path to Leadership
The Leadership Vacuum/A Common Problem
- “And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30).
- “O My people! Their oppressors are children, and women rule over them” (Isaiah 3:12).
Must Everyone Be a Leader?
On the one hand, concerning leadership in the local congregation, there are specific qualifications that will exclude a number of people (1 Timothy 3:1ff), including single men and married men who have no children. Yet on the other hand, each man is expected to lead his own family:
- “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19).
- “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
- “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
- “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Even when it comes to the other gender, obviously women are to lead or teach their own children about God, and bring others to Christ (1 Peter 3:15). In fact, older women are told to teach or encourage younger women in a number of areas (Titus 2:3-5). The worthy woman in Proverbs 31 definitely demonstrating leaderhip in a number of areas.
Our True Leader
Even those who lead among God’s people, like the apostle Paul clearly recognized that he was equally a follower, that is of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). In like manner, the elders or shepherds among God’s people who lead and rule (Hebrews 13:17), are to be followers of the chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). Thus, there is a sense in which every Christian is a follower (i.e. the biblical images of us being sheep or disciples), and at the same time leading in some capacity.
The Leadership Model to Avoid
Jesus made it very clear that He is not looking for leaders among His people who desire power, want to dominate others, spread their own agenda or who expect to be served (Matthew 20:25-26; 1 Peter 5:3).
Steps Toward Leadership
If you have fallen into the prolonged adolescence category or have been simply been spending your time and life on yourself, here are some practical steps in the right direction towards maturity and leadership:
- First: govern yourself: Matthew 7:4; Proverbs 16:32: Make your will stronger than your feelings. Make your mind stronger than your body. Lead with your head always. "He that would govern others, first should be the master of himself” (Philip Massinger). In light of 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul would tell us, “Do not follow me unless I am following Christ”.
- Take charge of your own spiritual growth. Spend serious time in prayer and reading God’s word. Nothing will equip you better for leadership than being richly filled with God’s word (Psalm 119:9; Colossians 3:16).
- Be involved in a local congregation. Remember being a member is far more than just attending. Become comfortable leading public prayer, serving on the Lord's table or giving an invitation. Help teach a class, and invite a friend to have a one-on-one Bible study. Plan a bible study for kids your age, plan a social event, ask your parent if you can have some people over for a dinner and a study. You plan the meal, you plan the study.
- Seek out the company of spiritual adults: Proverbs 13:20: Do not spend all your time around people your own age. Spend time with older, knowledgeable and mature Christians. Ask them questions, listen carefully when they speak.
- Don’t waste a lot of time: Ephesians 5:16: Surf the Web for a definite purpose. Read relevant books at the same time as your friends do and talk about your opinions and reactions to what you have read. Consider starting a blog to write about the life-improving, world-improving things you are reading and learning. Real leaders always lead a disciplined life. They are focused. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27; Philippians 3:13. Personal discipline keeps you who you are, and so keep doing what got you to this level of spiritual growth and maturity.
- Write out a list of things you want in a spouse and, more importantly, a list of spiritual and career goals and the specific steps you must take in order to prepare yourself for marriage.
- Write Your Obituary: Be honest. What have you really accomplished thus far? Are you currently on the road to eternal life? Are you presently doing anything that would disqualify or hinder you? (Hebrews 12:1ff).
- Have Definite Spiritual Goals and Targets: You will get where you try to go or at least close to it. You must be intentional. Having a target is like sending up a group of missiles that destroy any incoming ones from the enemy. Having a spiritual goal is one way that you destroy all the bad options. In other words, what can I do now to eliminate or seriously cut down on the possibility of something like divorce, addiction, falling away, or being deceived by false doctrine in your future?
- Do Something Every Day that Reinforces Your Commitment to God. Such things as daily Bible Reading, Prayer, attending some sort of study, teaching your children or seeking to share your faith.
Being an Effective Leader
- Be careful about walking in with a bag of solutions. Listen (James 1:19), gather information, formulate possible solutions, and formulate solutions where people will get on board. You want more than just the appearance of compliance.
- You identify the problem, you find the solution, you implement it, you own it and it brings motivation.
- Even the best leaders are flawed (Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, etc), so do not let that discourage you. Rather be the most spiritual, focused, and dedicated to Christ individual as you can presently muster. People will follow that. Do not expect other people to buy in if you are not fully invested.
- At the end of every day, in spite of whatever failures occurred, always return to God. You will be broken from time to time, but keep on coming back to the well (God) (Jeremiah 2:13).
- Honest people are looking for people who have a direction. People who can maintain control over anxiety, worry and fear. Who have an ethos of confidence, commitment, patience and peace, even during stressful times. When there is chaos, the leader is the person that people look to for a reference “How should I react in this situation?” Thus, in a stressful situation, your wife and kids are looking to the husband and father for “do we panic or do we remain calm?”
Those who lead must have a well articulated message: Titus 1:9-11
The Rewards of Leadership
Leadership does involve a lot of work, but of course anything worthwhile involves work, and a life worth living will demand work (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Reap for yourself the countless rewards of opting for the path of doing hard things and leading.
- Leading will fulfill the reason why you were created by God as a man: To honor Him and to make eternity life on earth better for those with whom you have influence.
- By leading, you will gradually gain confidence to do things of more and more significance. You will discover a greater sense of self worth and personal accomplishment.
- You will be respected not for the world's shallow reasons of having the fastest car, the biggest muscles, or the most dates, but for what is truly honorable: Character that is one in a million.
- You will draw other motivated people into your circle; you will discover some wonderful friendships that will sharpen you all the more.
- As your courage grows you will find that what stresses you now – will in the future seem like a small thing. You'll know a molehill when you see it, and never again mistake it for a mountain. Your perspective of problems will be clear as you gain the skills in solving them.
Why People Avoid Leadership
Here are the excuses for opting out of being a leader that one person noted:
- “I can’t lead, I don’t have a position of authority”: The truth is, there are many areas in which one can lead and must lead that have no title or position.
- “I am just not a natural take-charge person.” There is room in this world for all personality types, but for men, opting out of taking charge of one's family and other responsibilities is simply not an option. Gradually assuming more and more responsibilities will prepare you for greater and greater leadership opportunities.
- “But I am not an extrovert – so I don’t really influence others”. Think again. We all are influencing people, either in a positive or negative way. In fact, sociologists tell us that even the most introverted person will have an effect upon 10,000 other people in an average lifetime.
- “If everyone is a leader – then who is following?” Every person leads in some capcities and follows in others. You may be a husband, but an employee. You may be a manager, but under the authority of an eldership. You may be an elder, but under the authority of a boss. The truth is, we all follow and we all lead, and we should do what we can to be skilled at both.
- “Leadership means power and power corrupts.” Power is an opportunity that will bring with it unique temptations, as well as unique opportunities to make this world and the next a better place. Someone has once said "The most dangerous thing about power is to employ it where it is not applicable". As a man leading by Christian principles, you have an opportunity to give leadership a better name.
- “Leaders are in the public-eye and are quite scrutinized. I want to avoid such attention”. While it is noble to not seek the spotlight, being scrutinized by the pubic is good practice for the ultimate scrutiny of standing before God in judgment. Accountability is always a good thing, and besides people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.
- “Everyone can see when leaders fail and I don’t want to fail publicly”. Yet if you lead with honesty and humility, those whose hearts and lives you've touched, who follow your leadership, will empathize when things do not go as well as intended. We must serve not to be seen as powerful or perfect or infallible, but because, as George Bush put it, "There is but one just use of power, and it is to serve people."
- “Leaders are criticized and I don’t take criticism well.” While it is true that anyone leading will be second-guessed and often the subject of criticism, but we must remember, learning to take criticism on the chin is admirable, and sometimes a better course of action is attained when an element of truth can be found in a criticism. When you are criticized for doing the right thing, remember: "If a man has acted right he has done well, though alone. If wrong, the sanction of all mankind will not justify him." Henry Fielding. George Washington expressed a good balance in this area when he stated "Though I prize, as I ought, the good opinion of my fellow citizens; yet, if I know myself, I would not seek or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty or moral virtue." Keep in mind, however, if you are being criticized by the ungodly, that is a good indication you are right where you need to be. "Especially in an age as corrupt and ignorant as this, the good opinion of the people is a dishonor". Or, as Jesus put it, "Whoa to you when all men speak well of you."
- “Being a leader isn’t cool. Leaders have to not only be responsible, they also must remind everyone else of their responsibilities.” Norman F. Dixon has a better handle on coolness when he says "One good measure of ego-strength and inner confidence is the degree to which a person can risk unpopularity when the occasion demands." Be cool enough to not dependant on others for your sense of self-worth. Yes, leaders must be responsible and at times remind others of their responsibilities, yet what a blessing and what could be more rewarding than the opportunity to motivate and encourage people and thus affect their lives for good.
- “There is a lot of work in being a leader.” Yep. And hard work is quite rewarding. You may even find, like, Oliver Wendell Holmes that "The root of joy, as of duty, is to put all one's powers toward some great end. " or like Phil Jackson has said "…what brings me real joy is the experience of being fully engaged in whatever I'm doing." Hard work can be quite fulfilling when you see its meaningful results.
Mark Dunagan | email@example.com
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017