This article by John Lanferman was published in The Link, a NewfrontiersUSA publication. John is the team leader for NewfrontiersUSA. Read The Link here.
One of the great questions we often ask is “are leaders born or made?” The answer is both. It is evident that some people seem to demonstrate a natural gift of leadership. On the other hand, it is also true that there are factors within our control that, if cultivated, can enable us to develop into leaders. Of course Christ has set apart those who are to lead His Church; however, the Great Commission is for everyone. Everyone leads, as we are all called to influence others for the Kingdom.
Our traditional view of leaders as gifted, charismatic people seems to cause many to limit both God and themselves. Too often we disqualify ourselves from having leadership ability if we do not possess certain characteristics.
Leaders are ordinary people.
Take a moment and consider this simple but significant truth!
In his book The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge writes: “Most of the outstanding leaders I have worked with are neither tall nor especially handsome; they are often mediocre public speakers; they do not stand out in a crowd; they do not mesmerize an attending audience with their brilliance or eloquence.”
We see this “ordinary factor” of leadership in many biblical examples. The great Old Testament leader David in fact, was so ordinary that even his own father didn’t realize his potential!
1 Corinthians 1:26-29 has always been helpful to me in regard to the type of people God often calls as leaders. Whether it’s a shepherd boy like David, or a church full of immature but enthusiastic believers like those in Corinth, God seems to delight in using the weak and foolish to accomplish His plans.
How do people become leaders?
Amazing as it is, one often becomes a leader through home life, failure and crisis.
The influence of one’s home life is a part of God’s process. Many leaders have had difficulties growing up, but God is redemptive. Our childhood shapes us as we experience God’s healing grace, which transforms us and leads us to have compassion toward others.
Failure is not the issue. The issue is how one responds to failure, and our response is determinative in our leadership development. George Washington lost four out of five major battles he fought. Lincoln suffered bankruptcy and was a West Point reject. Failure is a tool in God’s hand for shaping leaders.
Crisis also shapes us as we’re either crushed by it, or develop character through it. We can choose to resolve within ourselves to reach for greater heights. Churchill, famous for eloquence, had a speech impediment as a boy. Peter often stuck his foot in his mouth. Moses had problems speaking and asked God to have his brother Aaron speak for him. People that not only use crisis experiences as learning tools, but gain motivation from their failures as well, demonstrate leadership. Leaders are not people who escape failure…they’re people who overcome adversity.
With faithful service comes greater responsibility.
“One who is faithful in very little, is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10).
Leaders are diligent in the task assigned, even if the task seems insignificant. You may feel a sense that you should help out even if you feel inadequate. Sensitivity to the needs around you and a willingness to serve faithfully demonstrates leadership potential. Availability and faithfulness in one’s task mark a leader. During this stage you will develop skills and spiritual gifts as you learn to relate to people in ways that will motivate and influence them. Faithfulness in your assignments while developing skills leads to even greater responsibility.
Some questions to ask yourself: Do you see these tasks as coming from God? Do you view these tasks as a job that has to be done out of duty, or done for the sake of personal recognition?
Leaders are learners.
Learners assume an attitude of being teachable and trainable. Solomon said, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5).
It is vital to connect with other leaders who are willing to come alongside you. It is not the accomplishments of a mentor or coach that makes them a valuable ally, but what they observe in others that counts. Paul’s year at Antioch with Barnabas, which included “on the job” experience, was a springboard for Paul’s apostolic ministry. Leaders are called to receive input, as well as give helpful input to others.
The process of leadership development hinges upon current leaders who are willing to invest in others, just as Barnabas did with Paul: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Paul also followed Barnabas’ model in developing other willing learners. Paul told Timothy, “You… have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings…” (2 Timothy 3:10).
God has intentions for this earth. He commanded us to pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. He commissioned us to go and make disciples of all nations. God has designs for the nations and He has designs for you!
“Whom shall we send and who will go?”
The need is great in our local churches and communities. As we look to plant reproducing churches in the top 100 cities, I am praying for people who will answer, “Here am I, send me!”