The One Thing a Leader Must Know

At the center of a spiritual leader’s competencies is an unshakable belief that God is sovereign.

Even (or maybe especially) in the midst of difficult or even tragic situations, a leader knows that God is in control and will work for the good.

“As the princess opened [the basket that she found in the river], she found the baby boy. His helpless cries touched her heart.”
– Exodus 2:6, NLT

Exodus 1 recounts the terrible suffering in Egypt of the Israelites, God’s chosen people. They were being worked to death as slaves by brutal, ruthless slave drivers and their newborn baby boys were being killed. When all seemed hopeless, Moses entered the scene and we see God’s sovereignty at work. Through a series of dramatic, made-for-TV situations and circumstances, God used Moses to save his people. You probably know the rest of the story (if you don’t, buckle up and read Exodus).

God had a plan for his people through all of their trials and tribulations. There’s no way they could have seen or understood it in the midst of their tremendous sufferings. But God was at work; He had a plan. He even used the daughter of the one who was inflicting the pain to bring about his purposes.

Faith is based upon the understanding that God is in control over all his creation, including every circumstance in which you as a Christ-follower find yourself. Today, if you are conflicted or hurting or confused, know that God is indeed sovereign. Rather than looking at the circumstances, keep your eyes on Christ. Ask what God is doing in the midst of this. What does God want me to learn through this? How is he at work behind the scenes? Who might he send to help walk me through this? Read Philippians 4 today.

God is sovereign. He really is!

Great Humility = Great Leadership

It takes great humility to be a great leader. Moses was a great leader because he was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (in his own words! See Numbers 12:3.). It takes humility as a leader to listen to others’ advice, especially when they tell you that the way you are leading is not right, and even more especially when that person is your father-in-law!

“Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.”
– Exodus 18:24
Earlier in this chapter, Moses had recounted all God had done for the Israelite people. Moses’ words focused on God’s provision, not his own greatness, but still, Moses knew that he was the man God had chosen to lead the people.
If that would have been me (and probably you!) standing there before my father-in-law, I’m not sure I would have been so quick to listen to his unsolicited advice. After all, Jethro was not one of God’s people. He had not been “through the wilderness” with Moses. He was not a certified organizational strategist. Moses had every reason to say, “Hey Jethro, why don’t you take your high-falutin’ sixth-grade-educatiun double-naught-spy-actin’ five-gozinta-ten-countin’ britches back the hills …” Oh, sorry, wrong Jethro.
My point is, we can learn something from Moses here. He listened and followed Jethro’s advice because he was humble enough to know that he did not know it all. Moses was flexible to change “his” way of doing things, so he could be more effective and productive in his leadership.
Lord, I recognize that I lack this kind of humility. I need your help to become the person you want me to be. Help me to be flexible and to adjust my “organizational structure” and way of doing things so that the ministry you’ve given me will grow and flourish. Send me a “Jethro,” Lord, who can help me see better ways of carrying out the work of which you’ve given me stewardship. Help me to delegate responsibilities and share the ownership and leadership of my group, ministry, church, whatever you’ve called me to.

3 Vital Leadership Principles in the Wilderness

“Then Moses pleaded with the Lord, “What should I do with these people? … The Lord said to Moses … Moses did just as he was told …”
– Exodus 17:4-6

As the Northeast church campus undergoes a lot of messy construction, our senior pastor, Bob Cherry, has compared it to the Israelite’s journey in Exodus. It’s a good analogy. We’re on our way to the “promised land” of a new, bigger auditorium and state-of-the-art student areas. But when parking and exiting and everything in between is inconvenient and sometimes downright difficult, the people are apt to groan and complain. Not only that, but the long walk from the other end of our campus, through mud and snow, winding around through the construction, is a lot like a walk through the wilderness!

And that’s why Bob asked the staff to read through Exodus now. I’m enjoying reading this book again and applying it to our current realities. But I’m seeing much more than what I was looking for. Exodus is a true-to-life parable of our journey as Christ-followers–and as spiritual leaders.

Moses displayed three great spiritual leadership principles in this passage in chapter 17. The principles are pretty simple, yet so vital to leading effectively.

  1. When faced with a problem, Moses went immediately and directly to God for help. On this occasion, at least, he did not try to figure it out himself or come up with a solution by his own power. Recognizing God as the real leader is the most important attribute of leading successfully. You and I must understand our leadership role as a matter of stewardship.
  2. When God spoke, Moses listened. Moses had become attuned to God’s voice and leadership. He did not argue with God here as he had earlier (e.g. Ex. 3:11; 4:1, 10, 13; 5:22; 6:12). Moses had learned to to trust God. He knew now that apart from God, he could do nothing (John 15:5).
  3. Moses obeyed God, even if it didn’t make a lot of common sense. A leader after God’s heart does not suggest to God a better, more logical way to carry out His plans. He or she does just what God tells the leader to do … with an eager expectation of seeing God do His work in a way only He can do.

Father, I want to be a leader after your own heart, just as Moses modeled here–just as Jesus modeled throughout his earthly ministry. Help me to go directly to you before doing or saying anything. Not my will, but yours be done! Help me to hear your voice clearly today, Lord. Help me to distinguish your voice from all the competing voices out there. I want to listen to you and follow you each step of the Way. Give me strength to obey you, Lord, even if it may not make sense from my own small point of view. As I obey you, I eagerly expect you to do what only you can do.

5 Ships Every Small Group Needs

A healthy small group needs 5 ships to carry out its mission:

  1. Fellowship: This one’s the flagship. A group needs authentic Christ-centered community to be healthy. But how do you get there? The other 4 ships flank and reinforce the flagship..
  2. Ownership: Share ownership of the group by making sure every member of the crew has a role in the group. I discussed this one in the January 28 post.
  3. Leadership: Share leadership with a Core Team of about 2-3 others. Don’t lead alone! I discussed this one on January 27.
  4. Partnership: Partnership sails together with Leadership. The Core Team partners with God and one another to lead the group. Partnership means you make decisions together, as a team. You partner together to shepherd the group. You each take on responsibility for discipling other members. You work together to develop other leaders. I discuss how to do this in much more detail in The Pocket Guide to Burnout-Free Small Group Leadership.
  5. Discipleship: This is the battleship of the fleet. Discipleship is the reason you need the other 4 ships. The Core Leadership Team partners with one another to disciple the rest of the group, and the whole group should eventually take ownership of the the group’s mission to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Ships are of no use sitting in the harbor. A “ship shape” (healthy) small group ships out to carry out the Commander’s mission!