I was a “late-bloomer” when it came to my physical development—skinny, short, and with noodles for arms. Then in, my senior year of high school, the growth spurts finally kicked in and my height increased and my body filled out. Growing up, however, I had none of the physical requirements necessary for sports—consequently, always the last one picked at our neighborhood games of football, basketball or baseball. You can imagine the credentials I carried for being “the most unlikely person to succeed” in any role as a leader. I preferred to follow. I had no choice.
But later I got saved; two weeks before I turned twenty-one. A year later after that, God called me to become a leader and shepherd his people. At twenty-five I planted and pastored my first congregation. Me! The last guy picked for a team. The one who preferred to follow. To the world, a joke. To my peers, a surprise. To me, a wonder. In my spirit, however, a compelling, coupled with peace, because I knew only God could make a leader out of someone with my meager credentials.
Look at the apostles he chose. Most of them came from the cosmopolitan region of Galilee, where the people were open to new ideas. Among them were no statesmen, financial planners, athletic stars, socialites, philosophers, professors, scholars, rabbis or priests. They were formally uneducated, unschooled, young men with latent, yet developed talents and traits. Latent until their leadership abilities would become fashioned and shaped under the watchful eye of the Teacher’s skillful training. They didn’t know they had it in them. I didn’t know I had it in me. But Jesus can show the potential we have when he lives his life through us. His life in us is our potential.
The qualities of natural leadership are not being ignored here, but natural qualities must be bridled and tempered by the fruit of the Spirit. Without them, the unregenerate natural leader can use their temperament and strengths to exploit, manipulate and control others to serve their own self-interests; and along the way, use their power and influence to gratify the desires of their sinful nature in areas of sexual immorality, impurity, excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred and discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like(1). How far do you have to search to find or know of a leader who hasn’t exhibited such traits? In the kingdom of men, expected. In the kingdom of Christ, rejected.
A regenerate leader who is yoked to Christ and wholly devoted to following the Lord’s leadership traits, will demonstrate in action and speech the fruit of the Spirit—which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentle firmness and self-control (2). The leader who walks in step with the Holy Spirit will lead people with God’s agenda, not their own. These traits drew people to Jesus. And if we maintain our focus on Jesus and not just our “mission,” then people will be drawn to follow him in us, and they’ll care about fulfilling his mission through us. That’s how I, an unlikely leader came to be used at a young age to lead others. On my own, I had no visible evidence of natural leadership traits, until I let his life flow through me, his leadership skills grow in me, and his life work through me.
1 Galatians 5:16-18
2 Galatians 5:22-25