Nineteen years ago, I almost quit as the senior pastor of our church. My immaturity as a leader and my inability to communicate clearly the things that I felt God was showing me led to my frustration. After serving as a senior pastor for twelve years, I was ready to “throw in the towel.” I felt misunderstood, and I was not sure if it was worth all the hassle. I was frustrated, exhausted and overworked. In a misguided attempt to try to please everyone, I was listening to dozens of voices that seemed to be giving conflicting advice and direction. I felt unable to get back on track. I was tired and was encouraged to take a sabbatical.
It was during the sabbatical, spending time with God in the mountains, that I remembered the original call from God to lead this church. And the call had not changed! God never told me to quit! I went back to my original call from God, and led our church through a transition to decentralize into eight churches and then start a family of churches scattered all over the world. Today, by the grace of God, I am extremely fulfilled in my call and role of leadership. But it is important for me to know that I am called by God to the role I am in.
The first leadership principle to be taught to a new generation of leaders is to help them to know that they have been called by God to be a leader. Paul the apostle tells us in Galatians 1:1, 10; “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Every leader needs to know he is called by God and not by man. Although men and women often confirm their call from God, we need to be sure we are leading because God has called us, not because man has called us. If someone talks us into becoming a leader, someone else can talk us out of it. We all need to learn to know how to hear the voice of God for ourselves regarding our call to leadership.
God’s call comes in different ways to different people. Biblical accounts of God’s call vary greatly. It would be so much easier if God called us all in the same predictable way. Instead, He expects us to be sensitive and obedient to His direction as He leads step by step.
Sometimes fellow Christians have an important role in confirming or correcting their perception of God’s call. Because everyone will not understand your response to God’s call, you should prayerfully listen to fellow believers who encourage or question your pursuit of a particular calling. God may be speaking through them.
The Bible records that most leaders were not seeking a position of leadership when God intervened in their lives and called them. Some leaders that God called, like Moses, Jeremiah and Gideon, did not think they could lead. Some leaders felt that other people would be better leaders. Yet if God calls us, whoever we are, we should be ready and willing to accept that call. In fact, my personal observation is that God is glorified by using people that the world perceives as weak or unlikely leaders. Take Peter, for example. In modern terms, he was a blue collar worker; an uneducated fisherman. He was not a part of the priesthood, and moreover, he often put his foot in his mouth and jumped to conclusions. Yet, God used him in a major way!
As a leader, you must know you are called. For example, if you are a pastor, you have heard God’s call and have an inner conviction and desire to lead the family of God in your local church. This desire requires a passion and calling from God or you will want to give up when the task becomes difficult and demanding.
Young leaders need to be mentored and taught by mature leaders who are vulnerable and open with their lives. They need to be servants, giving their lives for the next generation.