Have you noticed how leadership lessons can be discovered in the most unlikely or unfamiliar places? This just happened to me again this past week. I, along with several other dear pastors, had the privilege of being in the immense country of India and doing some teaching with a tremendous group of men and women “from a whole different world,” but in the same ministry. What a trip filled with a mixture of sadness and joy. Sadness because of the overwhelming physical and spiritual needs in a country of 1.38 billion souls that largely have no relationship with Jesus. Joy because of the work that the one true God is doing through many faithful believers young and seasoned.
As we stood on this particular Bible college campus, its founder shared how God had raised up a place responsible for over 4,000 graduates, 1,000 church plants, and multiple other ministry initiatives! He shared how God has provided, in middle of nowhere, everything from sustainable water to immense financial needs. What a blessing to see a godly man and ministry just willing to faithfully do their part with the Gospel of the only Way, Truth, and Life!
It was striking to me how much the Lord has used him over the past four decades. Decades that included a journey from transportation in the form of an oxen cart and housing that involved a former chicken coop surrounded by snakes of every variety. The question I had was, “How can I learn from this man’s dynamic leadership that is guided by the same Book and empowered by the same Spirit?”
As I observed His spirit and words throughout the week, I picked up upon a refrain that he mentioned several times-one that seems to be the central theme of his pioneering and highly effective leadership:
“Any successful ministry is led by a band of brothers whose hearts God has touched.”
Here are a few takeaways that God impressed upon me through this tried-and-true hero of the faith:
“Any”-God can bless anyone anywhere that is willing to trust and obey Him.
This dear leader did not start out as a “somebody”; he was just an “anybody.” He began with nothing and now testifies that God can do anything! Could your style and tone of leadership convey that divine power and provision is only for an elite few-nothing could discourage new potential leaders more than that subliminal message! God’s blessings and favor are not for just a select few that are arbitrarily chosen or highly educated. They are for any and all who are willing to surrender to His sovereignty and direction-a surrender that unleashes the potential of heaven itself.
“Successful”-God yearns to bless those willing to dream and depend upon Him.
The ministry that I frequented this past week had vision–they are prepared to grow and reach many. (An example would be their facility’s ability to serve more rice to more people than I can imagine.) Instead of retreating, they are hoping to double next year’s conference attendance. Are you dreaming big enough dreams to inspire and engage others around you? People don’t go all-in on initiatives not aimed at sanctified achievement of God-sized proportions. Of all of the takeaways that God gave me on this trip, I was most challenged to get back to tackling big things for God. As the William Carey, the father of modern missions who did most of his work in India, declared, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
“Ministry”-God’s greatest call is to a life of service to Him and others.
One of the greatest joys of my time in India was the meals regularly shared in the home of the Bible college’s founder. Especially notable was the humble spirit of he and his wife as they served us meal after meal in a humble and gracious manner for over a week. Could the reason you are still leading alone be that you have never truly realized or modeled servant leadership. If you have forgotten, all spiritual leadership is servant leadership! This kind of leadership is not only Christlike but allows others to more easily integrate onto your leadership team. This ministry mindset also enhances unity and collaboration where pride and ego cannot. The greatest leadership teams are comprised of humble servants, not ambitious, competitive platform-seekers.
“Is Led”-God will always work through a top-down vision and direction.
While the ministry I observed in India was humble and gracious in demeanor, the leadership was not a pushover to say the least. There was distinct and direct leadership that was unmistakable. One example would be prominent signage along the main campus road that confronted a common practice in Indian culture-spitting. To often in our democratic culture, we overvalue a bottom-up flow of decision making and direction. Clearly in the home and the church, all authority begins with God and flows through His men down to the wife, children, church member. Could the passivity or timidity in your leadership model be undercutting the expansion of your leadership team? Without a commitment to the biblical flowchart of leadership, it is impossible to successfully place new, growing leaders OVER anything or anyone in the ministry!
“By A Band of Brothers”-God intended leadership to be a plural team of accountability and edification.
While I have referred primarily to the founder of this Indian ministry, it was a joy to observe his interaction with the “others” in his ministry. This was characterized by mutual respect, warm affection, and a shared sense of humor-something that every leader should pray for in his own leadership team. Could your insecurities and autonomy as an influencer be crowding out instead of connecting with those whom God intended you to build an enduring bond of shared tears, sweat, and shouts? While pastoral authority is important in the ministry, it is undeniable that biblical, gospel-oriented leadership is always PLURAL. (Here is an additional post on this team mindset especially for the leader involved in church planting or revitalization.) I would submit to you, no matter how small or large your context, you are not truly leading until you have followers AND PARTNERS.
“Whose Hearts God Has Touched”-God directs His leaders from the inside out with a collective, authentic anointing that is unmistakable.
It was striking to hear how God was working in those around this dear ministry leader. Ultimately leadership is all about the leadership of God’s Spirit, NOT YOU! Could your tendency of superficial analysis and priorities be crowding out the deeper, substantive work of God’s Spirit where you right now only have fleshly, sight-based influence? People will not only follow you but lead with you…if you will simply let the Spirit touch their hearts. Instead of trying micromanage the ministry God has laid upon your heart; pray for/look for leaders that God has found who can partner with you! According to 2 Chronicles 16:9, God is always looking, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”
After this statement took hold in my mind and heart in a new place, I finally realized it sounded really familiar…even biblical. While King Saul was by no means a perfect leader, God did give him every resource he needed to successfully lead God’s people. One of those advantageous gifts is mentioned in 1 Samuel 10:26, “And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.” This verse reminded me of how grateful I am for my God-given wife and church leadership team; my influence is nothing without them!
While the spiritual needs in not only India but our country are immense and overwhelming, may I remind you that God can turn the world upside down with just a few Gospel-directed visionaries like you and those with whom He has called you to lead. While according to multiple resources Christianity (with a somewhat broad definition) is only India’s third-largest religion after Hinduism and Islam, that 2.3 percent of India’s population adds up to approximately 28 million followers! Little truly is much when God is in it and in them!
Stop trying to push on in leadership alone. Ask God to touch the hearts of those with whom you are currently in leadership. Open your heart and influence up for additional partners and alliances. Who knows what God could do not only in India but your neck of the woods! As John Wesley wisely concluded, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.”