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When you look around at the environment of the world today, it is very clear that we are in need of more good Christian leaders.
If you’re reading this now I’m sure that you can attest to the statement above and further than that, you may be feeling a call to leadership in some way. This may be in your life group, church, or another area within your community at large.
Leadership is hard, it’s a much greater challenge than simply following, and when you step out as a leader there most likely will be multiple times when you don’t feel ready or qualified to a task that lies ahead. God, however, has a knack of equipping the unqualified for incredible roles, but even still, we need to go through a process of preparation and refinement before starting to lead and then continue learning on the journey as we become more effective leaders.
In our modern and fast paced world we often want to hit the ground running, influencing, leading, and having our voices heard, but I want to encourage you to make the most of the process of preparation for leadership, particularly when we are talking about shepherding others in Christ, as the stakes are high.
Build your foundation first, and build it on rock so that it can withstand the waves…
“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock…” Matthew 7:25.
…and build your foundation so that in all things your heart is for God and for people.
Below you will find SIX characteristics that I believe are essential for young Christians on their journey to becoming steadfast leaders.
When you consider going into leadership, take some time to think about your standing with God, how long have you been a Christian for? Is your relationship with Him consistent? Is it stable? Is it alive? Is your lifestyle consistent with the biblical traits? Does your lifestyle produce good fruits? Why do you want to become a leader?
People in Christian leadership positions will have the eyes of others on them all the time, and so we should have made a decision to follow Jesus and stick to it consistently, maturing in it as times goes on, and having a stable relationship with Jesus that isn’t hot and then cold. I remember seeing youth leaders at church who spoke “Christianese” very well, they knew what to say and could capture an audience, but once they were done with youth ministry on a Friday night their lives would appear different to what they had just been preaching about. This then would confuse the kids in youth, giving them an inaccurate idea of what Christianity is about and actually pushed some of them away from God.
We’ll never have it all figured out but taking time to do an honest self-analysis is a great way to figure out if you’re ready to take on a new role. Keep in mind that, although you may be feeling a little fearful at this stage, as anyone would, don’t let fear hold you back!
With that being said, even if you’re not quite ready to lead a group of people, that’s perfectly ok, there are many other ways to get involved and help out and use your diverse God-given talents while spending some time getting to know God more.
There is so much depth to God, the Bible and His creation that we will never stop having something to learn. A quality of a good leader is to be teachable and to be someone who is a seeker of the truth. When you have difficult questions about God, seek out answers – for many, you may find answers, other times we may need to accept that there are things that we cannot know until we reach Heaven. But when tricky questions come up, spend time learning from the Bible and reputable sources, seek to understand more, this will be a blessing to you and to others by helping them when they have similar questions.
Speak about what you know, if you don’t know something and someone asks a tough question, tell that person you’re not sure. But then go and do your research and come back with what you have found out the next time that you meet. Or discuss it personally with the person asking the question. If you realise that you’ve said something incorrect after the fact, correct yourself at the next meeting, don’t just carry on without saying anything. By doing this you’ll demonstrate humility, that you are seeking truth, and that they are a high priority to you.
None of us can know everything and so in no way am I saying that you should wait until you know EVERYTHING before getting into leadership, however we do need to be prepared. So give yourself time to develop and grow. Spend time analysing yourself, think about where you can grow and improve. Read books on developing leadership traits and speak to God first and foremost in leading you as you lead others.
As we mature in Christ we get to know Him better, there are certain truths that God has built into the universe, certain natural laws that God has put in place and when we deviate from those then we cause ourselves harm.
Something that I have noticed about legit mature Christians is that they understand God’s natural law and that He designed things to work in a certain way, often lovingly for our own benefit. Once we understand God’s natural law it becomes a part of who we are and sometimes more tricky questions can be answered by looking at God’s design and Scripture. For example it says in 1 Cor 6:19 that “Your body is temple” so by fitting in with God’s natural law and Scripture we know that that means we should respect our bodies by caring for it, nourishing it, keeping it healthy, not overdoing things like food or alcohol, avoiding toxins like smoking, harsh chemicals, keeping it holy, respecting our bodies as well as those of others because their body is a temple too. Something like this is not randomly said, they are meaningful words from God and by following God’s natural law we both give honour to Him and actually live a life that is best and healthiest for us. By understanding and living in God’s natural design we give honour to Him and it also better prepares us to speak to and disciple others.
Prayer is our lifeline to God, and we need to be in constant communication with Him. When we are in leadership positions we have to be connected to our source of life and knowledge first for ourselves because out of that we can disciple others. Prayer is what keeps our relationship alive, those frequent chats with God, that earnest prayer, those heart filled praises.
Prayer also chases out fear when we are starting something new, and it is our tool in asking God to equip us with wisdom in handling our roles ahead. James 1:5 says “if any of you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Before Paul became one of our most powerful Christian leaders, he experienced the most radical encounter with God on the road one day, literally stopping him in his tracks with a blinding light. God called him to preach the message to the Gentile world, but, Paul didn’t go straight into ministry, he first left everything and went into the wilderness for 3 years to prepare himself for the great calling that God had put on his life.
“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after 3 years I went up to Jesusalem…” Galatians 1:15-18a
Paul secluded himself from the general population and spent time alone with God, so that God could groom him, teach him and prepare him.
There are many others in the Bible who went out into the wilderness to prepare for their roles; John the Baptist, Joseph, Moses, even Jesus spent 30 years in preparation for His ministry, and then another 40 days in the desert before the epitome of His time on earth.
I’m not suggesting that you should literally find a desert (unless God calls you too), but here, in many ways the wilderness can be referred to as a time when we had to put our trust in God and learned that our strength is not our own and we learnt the extent of how dependent we are on God. This is also a time when we separate ourselves from the noise of this world and learn to listen and understand God’s voice. These are the times that James 1 speaks about where he says “the testing of your faith produces perseverance, let perseverance finish its work so that you may become mature and complete.”
We might not necessarily always be able to plan for these times, but it’s important to have gone through trials like this before leading others, because it’s the trials, the extended time alone with Him that God uses to show us who He is, and where He validates us to show us who we are in Him. And having gone through times like this our faith becomes our own with God our anchor, and helps us to teach others, lead by example and empathise better with those in our care.
Last but certainly not least: you love people well. The greatest transformation to occur in people’s lives often comes through relationships and modeling Jesus to others.
Lead for the good of those whom you lead.
Let that be your focus.
Love them for who they were created to be, and the unique design and place that God has given them.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16
Great leaders are the ones who can lift others up, by caring for them, inspiring them and empowering them, so that in their right time they too can multiply that love to others.
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