Am I fit to lead?
...who declares one to be a spiritual leader?
Leadership comes in all forms. If you are a husband, then you are a leader. Whether you are a good leader or a bad leader doesn’t change the fact that you are called to lead because you are in a position of leadership.
The same goes with being a parent, or a boss, or a teacher, or even a Christian in general, given that all Christians are called to preach the gospel and lead lost souls to Christ. But what about leadership in ministry? I’m talking about pastors, Bible teachers, small group leaders, and disciplers. You may be wondering what it takes to become one.
First, understand how leaders are selected. I’ll never forget some of the funny, memorable moments of coaching preteen soccer. It was the second practice of the season, and I wanted to get a feel for which kids on the team had the most influence. Our scrimmage was over, so I called in the two soccer teams and asked them who the leaders of the team were. Without hesitation, my daughter raised her hand and declared that she was.
Smiling, I firmly stated, “We don’t declare ourselves as leaders.” Most of the kids then pointed to two boys on the team. No, they were not the best athletes. It was the good character of these two boys that persuaded the kids to pick them. By the way, my daughter learned a valuable lesson that day: we don’t declare ourselves as leaders. Unfortunately, many grown ups still haven’t grasped this.
So, who declares one to be a spiritual leader? Think about Joshua in the Bible. He was the successor of one of the greatest leaders of all time, Moses. Talk about huge shoes to fill! Numbers 27:18 says, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;” Notice that it wasn’t Moses or Aaron (or even Joshua himself) who picked Joshua to be the next leader. The LORD chose him.
Before we go any further with this thought, I want to ask you four questions:
1. Do you have a burden?
2. Are you already standing in the gap?
3. Who’s currently following you?
4. Can you handle the pressure?
Let’s examine these four aspects of a spiritual leader.
1. Spiritual leaders are burdened.
The sheep’s perfection involves the leader being weak.
Most don’t have a clue about the burden they carry. Did you know that of all things that the Apostle Paul suffered as a minister of Christ (the beatings, shipwrecks, multiple imprisonments), the "care of all the churches" by far caused the most distress to him?
2 Corinthians 11:28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
This was DAILY. Not only was Paul burdened, he was also sacrificial.
2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection.
The sheep’s perfection involves the leader being weak. That’s quite the burden Paul carried!
In Malachi 1:1 the prophet called the heavy sentence he was to deliver to Israel a burden. The burden of the word of the Lord lays heavy on God’s leaders. Are you willing to carry this burden? CAN you carry it? So many are quick to criticize the leader’s decisions, but can they handle the vast responsibilities he or she has?
Nehemiah is a prime example of the leader who began with a burden. When he found out about the condition of Jerusalem (broken down walls and burned gates), he sat down and wept and mourned and fasted for several days while praying. He was burdened (Nehemiah 1:4). This weighed so heavily on Nehemiah’s heart that he couldn’t help but make a move, even if it meant his life was at stake. If you don’t have a burden for the way things presently stand, then you aren’t fit for leadership.
2. Spiritual leaders are willing to stand in the gap.
Are you willing to do what hardly anyone else is doing?
Psalms 106:23 Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.
When Israel made the golden calf, God was getting ready to destroy them. But Moses interceded, effectually and fervently. A few verses later (Psalms 106:30-31) we see another example of a man willing to stand in the gap. Phinehas’ act of executing judgment and stopping a plague was counted as righteousness. This “horrific act” made him a hero in God's eyes. Noah's building a boat was a "horrific act" towards society (Hebrews 11:7). Jesus' death on the cross was a "horrific act.” Yet, these men stood in the breach. When standing in the gap there is nearly always a “horrific act” involved. This is the part of leadership that nobody wants to talk about.
Are you willing to stand in the breach? This means you need to start taking initiative. Now when I say this, please don’t overstep your bounds. Our God is a God of order; He has a structure within the parameters of His church. Always be in communication with your church leadership, and seek their godly counsel as you consider doors the Lord may be opening. There’s no room for independent-minded renegades to start their own ministries. But there’s MUCH room for like-minded believers to stand in the gap—the gap that’s caused by sin. Are you willing to do what hardly anyone else is doing? What are you waiting for? You don’t need anyone’s permission to step up and LEAD people to Jesus.
Because of his burden, Nehemiah took initiative. He prayed for several months, prior to pouring out his heart to the king, a move that could have cost him his life, considering that cupbearers weren’t allowed to be sad in the royal presence. But he did it (Nehemiah 2:5). He stood in the gap that was caused by Israel’s sin! Would you risk your reputation, your comfort, and even your life to obey the Lord’s calling?
3. A spiritual leader has followers.
they’ve never personally moved people to change, which is the essence of leadership.
Having followers requires credibility, and credibility takes time. Paul warned Timothy of the danger of ordaining a novice into the ministry (1 Timothy 3:6). Keep in mind that there is a big difference between having a title and being a true leader. Listen to this passage in 1 Chronicles 11:1-3:
"Then all Israel gathered themselves to David unto Hebron, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. And moreover in time past, even when Saul was king, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD thy God said unto thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be ruler over my people Israel. Therefore came all the elders of Israel to the king to Hebron; and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the LORD; and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the LORD by Samuel."
Although Saul was king, it was DAVID who led Israel. David was the one who “went out and came in before them” (1 Samuel 18:16); therefore, David was the rightful shepherd and king. This is a great example of how leadership isn’t merely a position. I’ve known men with high ranking positions in society who have felt like they should be on our church leadership team. The problem is that they’ve never personally moved people to change, which is the essence of leadership.
In Acts 27, Paul (the lowest ranking man on the ship) is clearly the one who had the influence to give the commands. That’s exactly what’s going on with David here. He was so influential to the people that all the upper ranked warriors came with a “perfect heart” to make him king, and all of Israel was of one heart towards him (1 Chronicles 12:38). Doctrinally, David is a type of Christ, while Saul is a type of the coming Antichrist. The Antichrist will be Israel’s “positional” king; however, it will be JESUS who leads Israel out of their Tribulation. They will be of one heart and will finally make Him King! Whereas the Antichrist is all about positional leadership. True leaders care about people, and the people know it.
Before he knew it, Nehemiah had a team of faithful men who saw his vision. They trusted Nehemiah’s character and wisdom, which is why they didn’t only buy in to the vision, they bought in to THE LEADER (Nehemiah 2:18).
4. Spiritual leaders have more pressure than normal.
MMA fighters say it’s often much easier to handle defeat than victory. Most leaders would agree with that. Think about King Saul prior to the establishment of his kingdom. He actually seemed like a great guy in 1 Samuel 9-11. He displayed genuine character and humility that any great leader should have. He gave credit to the Lord. He even held his peace when some of the sons of Belial mocked him. It wasn't until he became king that he began to fall.
Power changes everything. There is a pattern in the Old Testament of kings who began their reign relying on the Lord, but when they got mighty, it all went downhill. In 2 Chronicles 26:15-16, King Uzziah became powerful when he made catapult engines that shot arrows and huge stones. He was strong when his heart was “lifted up to his destruction.” That’s when he began to deteriorate.
When we become strong, we are tempted to think too highly of ourselves and we stop needing God. After reading passages such as this, I’m thankful that I lack the skills, the money, the ability to make people laugh, the high degree of education that many others have. I’m afraid I would end up leaning on my own understanding much too often if I possessed all those characteristics. My heart would be lifted up in pride.
Uzziah’s heart was so exalted that he thought he could do what only priests were allowed to do. Because he allowed his heart to be lifted up, this king went from being a mighty and powerful leader to a leper. I believe the biggest danger one has when he or she gets into a position of power is leaning on their own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The devil is crafty and knows to target leaders. Are you willing to be attacked?
Nehemiah was attacked by the enemy numerous times, and in various forms. They attacked his identity, his authority, and even his reputation (Nehemiah 2:19; 6:5). But because Nehemiah was man given to prayer, he was always quick to give it to the Lord. He proved himself fit to be God’s leader.
Are you burdened for the souls of people? Are you standing in the gap? Who’s currently following you? Can you handle the pressure?
May you not lean on your own understanding, but rather, trust in the Lord with ALL your heart.
If anyone needs to know how to discern the voice of the Lord, it’s leaders. So how do you know God’s in it? How do you know if the Lord is calling you to leadership in ministry? Well, there are three things Jesus gave us after He ascended into Heaven: the word of God, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. We fail when we don’t line up our decisions with these three resources.
God’s primary way of speaking to us is first through His word. And this shouldn’t only be on Sunday mornings; it’s got to be daily. He also uses His Spirit to speak—through circumstances, prayer, situations, works of the Lord, etc. Regardless, the Spirit’s leading will always line up with His word. Too many times I’ve heard people justify sin because they “prayed” and God seemed to answer. Any time our praying is out of alignment with His Word, we’re out of his will, period! And third, God’s Church is the safety net He uses to keep us in alignment with His will. Beware of seeking council from just anyone who agrees with you. Go to the men and women who walk with Jesus, who fear Him, who use God’s word as their standard, who are willing to bathe your situation in prayer, and who will be honest with you.
May you not lean on your own understanding, but rather, trust in the Lord with ALL your heart. May you learn to acknowledge Him in ALL your ways (big decisions and small)! Find out what the Lord is calling you to do, and do it with all your heart. I want to close with 2 Chronicles 31:21:
“And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.”
Everything King Hezekiah did regarding work for the service of the house of God he did with all his heart and prospered. Whatever you do in ministry, do it with ALL your heart. That is prosperity. That is true success. It's not just obedience that brings success (Joshua 1:9), but obedience with all our heart. Believe it or not, the Lord isn’t concerned as with how many people you are influencing as he is with your willingness to obey Him with all your heart. If he calls you to be a school janitor, you’d better be a school janitor with all your heart. If he calls you to be an engineer, you’d better be an engineer with all your heart. If he calls you to be a leader, you’d better lead with all your heart. Be ready to answer those four questions, and be ready to count the cost!