God loves reluctant leaders and, even better, he loves reluctant leaders who know they are frightened, confused, and broken. In fact, he seems to have a special fondness for rebels and fools. Does God choose troubled leaders because few other people are foolish enough to say yes, or does he choose weak, troubled people because they serve a unique purpose in their broken state? The answer is yes.
Here is God’s leadership model: he chooses fools to live foolishly in order to reveal the economy of heaven, which reverses and inverts the wisdom of this world. He calls us to brokenness, not performance; to relationships, not commotion; to grace, not success. It is no wonder that this kind of leadership is neither spoken of nor admired in our business schools or even our seminaries.
Paul calls leaders not merely to be humble and self-effacing but to be desperate and honest. It is not enough to be self-revealing, authentic, and transparent. Our calling goes far beyond that. We are called to be reluctant, limping, chief-sinner leaders, and even more, to be stories.
The leader who fails to face her darkness must live with fear and hypocrisy. The result will be a defensiveness that places saving face and controlling others as higher goods than blessing others and doing good work.
We assume that if God spoke to us out of a burning bush and told us to do something, we would bow before him and then immediately do as he bid. Not Moses. He stood his ground and fought God’s plan.
Most leaders had no intention or desire to lead; instead they were thrown into the mess by being discontent. If they had been willing to endure life as it was, then they would never have become leaders. The person who merely puts up with life becomes a manager or a bureaucrat, not a leader. The difference between a manager and a leader is the internal urge to alter the status quo to create a different world.
A good leader will, in time, disappoint everyone. Leadership requires a willingness to not be liked, in fact, a willingness to be hated.
But it is impossible to lead people who doubt you and hate you. So the constant tug is to make the decision that is the least offensive to the greatest number and then to align yourself with those who have the most power to sustain your position and reputation in the organization.
Doubt is the context for surrender. And flight is the path for obedience. When we’re reluctant to lead, doubting ourselves and our call, we are ripe for growth as a leader.
We should bless men and women who have done their level best to escape leadership but who have been compelled to return and put their hand on the tiller. We should expect anyone who remains in a formal leadership context to experience repeated bouts of flight, doubt, surrender, and return. Why would this be God’s plan? Why does God love the reluctant leader? Here is one reason: the reluctant leader is not easily seduced by power, pride, or ambition.
The reluctant leader detoxifies power by empowering others to bring their vision, passion, and gifts to the enterprise. She creates an environment of open debate that honours differences and where no one fears reprisal.
A reluctant leader knows that her calling to lead is ridiculous, but she bears the high glory of God’s decision to call weak fools into the work of leading others. Consequently, a reluctant leader smiles at the striving ambition of power- hungry leaders to make more and keep more.
I have recently been reading a book by Dan and have found some of what he says very helpful indeed.
The joy of leadership
The bottom line is simple: it is in extremity that you meet not only yourself but, more important, the God who has written your life. It is through leading that I’ve known the greatest need for a deep, personal, and abiding relationship with Jesus. I wouldn’t trade that for all the money, fame, glory, and honour in this life. I suspect the same is true for you.
Leading is very likely the most costly thing you will ever do. And the chances are very good that it will never bring you riches or fame or praise in exchange for your great sacrifices. But if you want to love God and others, and if you long to live your life now for the sake of eternity, then there is nothing better than being a leader.
The challenge of leadership
To the degree you face and name and deal with your failures as a leader, to that same extent you will create an environment conducive to growing and retaining productive and committed colleagues.
This is the strange paradox of leading: to the degree you attempt to hide or dissemble your weaknesses, the more you will need to control those you lead, the more insecure you will become, and the more rigidity you will impose— prompting the ultimate departure of your best people.
Paradoxically, when we muster the courage to name our fears, we gain greater confidence and far greater trust from others.
So if you love truth and are bound to its proclamation, flee the cults of pretence and Christian artifice. Seek out a new context in which to lead. If you find a church or organization that is not bound to pretence but might simply be ill equipped to admit what the Scriptures teach about our struggle with sin, you will be in a place where honesty has the greatest potential to alter the culture of latent deceit.
True core strength is willing to feel helpless and disturbed, and it results in a self- disciplined and passionate life rather than in a controlling life that fears what may surprisingly arise.
Finally, the beleaguered leader can easily isolate himself and fill his loneliness with the cancers of addictive substances and behaviours, ranging from sex to alcohol to simple workaholism.
Few leaders operate out of confidence built on anything but the crumbling foundation of arrogance. Few know peace that is not dependent on performance. Few exercise freedom and creativity that are not bound to conventionality. And few possess the capacity to care for people that is not shadowed by either the urge to please others or to knuckle under to the tyranny of “should.”
All I can do is say amen to all this. May we seek to accept the challenge to admit our inadequacies, disown arrogance and rely on our God.
The Israelites have just been liberated from captivity of the Egyptians. They were being led by Moses into the promise of God. Then God instructed his newly liberated people to go backwards and asked them to wait there. He asked them to go back towards where they just escaped after years of captivity and camp there! That sounds like the most absurd, impractical thing you could do.
After that, God then went and hardened their captivator’s heart so that he could rally up his army and pursue after the newly liberated, former slaves. The Israelites after a while look up whilst in the desert, only to see the Egyptians charging at them. They naturally begin to panic and start to question the point of the rescue mission, when they were still going to be hunted by their wicked captors.
In retrospect, to them, it was better, more comforting to live under the level of oppression they were in, than to face what looked like certain death. Fear and panic kicked in and they lost sight of all God had done to bring them out of slavery. Loosing sight due to fear and panic, disabled them from rationalising that if God did all of that to get us out, surely he can’t leave us out here to die.
Then God simply asked Moses why he was crying out to him and that he should tell every one to get a move on. Moses, before hearing from God, told the people to be still in their time of panic. God then said, “start moving”. Rationally, God’s instruction makes sense. You see the enemy fast approaching so the natural response is you get up and start moving. Moses however thought the better option was to be still, something you wouldn’t opt to do naturally in the face of danger. The Israelites opted to panic and assume the end.
It makes you question, did Moses suggest to be still to hear first from God. If that’s the case then I understand why he would say that and I admire him for thinking about hearing first from God rather than acting on impulse.
Reflecting on this scripture and my current circumstances, it makes me realise that God has the power and will do whatever he wants to with my life, in order to glorify himself and to make me understand that the glory belongs to him. By default, I think life should be peachy and everything should be straight forward. However my past experiences in life and present ones say otherwise.
It’s interesting that God purposefully made the situation more difficult for the traumatised former slaves. But in doing so, the Israelites were able to see that, no one could snatch them from the hand of God. They were able to see God raise them up, in the presence of their enemies and after, crush their enemies before their very eyes. They were able to see God make a way where there seemed to be no way. They had no choice but to look to God because it was only him that could deliver them from this predicament.
Situations like this build faith. They make me have an appreciation for God. Many times when I feel like I’ve been liberated and it’s smooth sailing from here, I find myself moving backwards and suddenly in the middle of a storm. Before, I’d think God was punishing me for sinning and for being bad. But after many storms, I’ve realised it helps me see God clearly. Sticky situations help me understand my limitations and God’s omnipotence.
They make me understand God’s love for me and his faithfulness as well as commitment to me. From this scripture, I know that fear and panic will only make me forget and lose hope. Which makes no sense when the God of hope is my God. So as God commanded the Israelites to “Get Moving!” while they panicked and concluded it was over because of their great enemy, I too, will get moving because God is about to do the impossible in front of my enemy. He is about to make a way where there is no way. He is about to crush my enemy before my very eyes for his glory. I will give him the glory and glorify his name with my life.
During the Autumn we had many prophetic words. It feels like an important time for us.
These words include promises of what God will do and the impact we will have. However, as leaders we feel the key word for the year is “strengthening the body”. The prophetic word said that the arms of our body are strong, (we feel they represent the work we our doing reaching out to the community through Open House and 4pm service, and building friendship with Muslims through Holiday Club and in other ways) so need to focus on building the body as the arms cannot function without a strong body. The body is currently weaker than the arms.
This word, and others were shared at our half night of prayer and another word came, inspired by a song, that new wine is produced by crushing. That strengthening, new wine may require crushing. You can listen to the song:
This and subsequent blogs and sermons will seek to explore how the body can be strengthened.
There are different elements of strengthening, as individuals but also as a church family.
We are reviewing our structures, our organisation to strengthen them. Over the year we will be giving more information on this.
We also need to grow as individuals within the church.
The Parable of the talents or bags of gold, Matthew 25:14-30, describes servants being given 5, 3 and 1 bags of gold. Those with the 5 and 3 bags invested the gold to produce more, the person with 1 buried it to keep it safe. Those who invested their money were commended, the person who buried the money was condemned.
The important and relevant truths from this parable are –
It is not about how big we are, how much you have, what is important is what we do with what we are given. Human instinct causes the person with 3 bags from God to feel bad compared to 5 bag people but superior to the person with just 1 bag. We look at the gifting of others and ask, why didn’t you give me the gifts like….. Similarly, we can look at other churches in other towns or nations that maybe richer, full of people with greater gifts and complain to God why don’t you give us what you have given them?
The parable says it not about how much you have been given; God holds you responsible for what you do with what he has given you.
In the context of strengthening the body we need to take responsibility for strengthening ourselves, growing ourselves, allowing God to turn us into wine. Whoever you are, whatever gift we have been given.
This is true for individuals as well as corporately.
Example of how we can take responsibility to strengthen ourselves amid challenges.
A Kairos moment is when something significant happens in your life, maybe a crushing like in the song or maybe just general circumstances. Taking responsibility, being strengthened through the event depends on how we respond to it. This picture gives a healthy way to respond and grow. –
Observe (describe the moment)
Reflect (what went on in you – thoughts, feelings, choices) Importance of understanding feelings. Many different feelings – anger, sadness, fear, enjoyment, love, surprise, disgust, shame.
So easy to ignore them – especially those we consider more difficult, fear, sadness, anger. Yet God speaks to us through our feelings. Understood properly, it is part of us taking responsibility for strengthening ourselves. God “feels” – our feelings are part of being made in the image of God.
Discuss (talk with someone about your reflections, talk about what could change for the future, what can you learn about God, the world and yourself)
Plan (think of a simple achievable step(s) you can carry out in the next week – you will be surprised about how much change can happen with a series of small steps.)
Account (ask someone you trust to hold you accountable to what you have planned.) THEN ACT.
Below is a sermon that expands on the thoughts in this blog.
The Christian life is full of challenges and change. We walk a lifelong journey of being changed to be more like Jesus. (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Recently at Hope Church we have had a series on recognising and removing idols in our lives. Idols are sometimes good things which have subtly taken the place of God in our lives. We may need help to recognise them as they can be hidden from us. They do not want to give up the ground they have gained in us and we may experience a battle as they seek to take back control. Thankfully we know we have victory in Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit and the support of His body the Church.
During the the series I found I was challenged by the preach on the Idol of power and glory. I recognised that although I know that I am totally reliant on God, when things go well I can easily take credit for them or look to be validated by others instead of giving God the glory. During the service I stood to respond and repented of this idol. What I didn’t expect was the battle in my mind that started 2 days later. As a mature christian I have overcome many battles but the lies thrown at me felt real and tapped into my emotions leaving me an emotional mess. It was as if many past hurts that had been dealt with and forgiven came bubbling up, all of them made me feel unvalidated. Fortunately for me I have sisters and brothers in the body of Christ that love me, don’t judge me when I struggle and help me through to final victory. Victory involved standing on forgiveness, forgiving anything new and announcing the truth that Jesus is the only one to be glorified and I live to serve Him and don’t need that validation from others. My relationship as His child is the most important one. I chose to put to death the earthly desires I struggled with. The next day I felt completely different. None of the pain of the previous day was there. the old scars healed as before.
Why do I share this? Because when we respond to God identifying an idol or an ungodly belief we may hope for immediate freedom in our lives, but often a further battle follows as we put in place new ways of thinking and behaving. As part of the body of Christ I encourage you to find a trusted brother or sister to help you recognise things that need to be prayerfully dealt with and lies you may be believing. (Ephesians 6:12) Find someone you can be accountable to. It can help to have someone alongside you as you establish your life in a way that puts God in His rightful place as first in your life. We replace the idol with Christ and line up our lives with the truth in God’s word. (Colossians 5) This may take ongoing effort on our part until victory is secured but with his Spirit living in us our victory is assured.