The Bible is one of the best books that I know on leadership. Whenever God wanted to get something done, He usually raised up a leader or a group of leaders to achieve His purposes. These people were not necessarily the most obvious choices at times, but God didn’t always see people as we are conditioned to see people.
Accordingly, it is possible for a person to be in a position of leadership without having the influence of a leader and it is possible to be a leader without being in the position of a leader. Ultimately, spiritual leadership has to do with the acceptance of responsibility and being a person of influence who achieves God given purposes.
And even if a person with leadership potential and leadership qualities does not start out in a leadership position, my experience is that such a person will usually end up in a leadership position because THE CREAM RISES TO THE TOP. Our challenge is to identify the early signs in such people and create an environment that allows them to grow to realise their full leadership potential. For if we don’t, God may still sovereignly work in such a person’s life to use them to fulfil His kingdom purposes elsewhere.
A good example of this principle can be seen in the influence of Barnabus on the life of Paul (Saul) as he was starting out his ministry. It was Barnabus the encourager who saw Paul’s potential at an early stage when others were far from impressed with Paul’s early attempts at ministry. It was Barnabus who took a risk with Paul and brought him to the apostles (Acts9:27) and it was Barnabus who later on went to Tarsus to look for Paul when he needed help to lead the newly established church at Antioch (Acts11:25). The leadership eyes of Barnabus saw something in Paul that others had failed to see and was used by God to ensure that in Paul, THE CREAM WOULD RISE TO THE TOP.
However, it is in a later incident in the life of Paul where we see this principle at work in a dramatic way. In this incident Paul would rise up to a position of leadership at a critical time even though he was a prisoner under the authority of recognised leaders.
Paul was being taken to Rome by ship to have his trial heard before Caesar, the highest court of appeal. (Acts 27) On the journey to Rome the ship was caught up in a violent storm. Prior to the storm, Paul had warned all those in authority on the ship not to set sail, but his warnings were ignored. His leadership act was unsuccessful. After all, Paul was only a prisoner in the company of the following authority figures, the Roman Centurion, the ship’s owner and the ship’s captain.
Now in the midst of the storm, Paul speaks up again, and this is where we see his leadership authority recognised. What an amazing turn around. THE CREAM RISES TO THE TOP.
After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourself this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said,” ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ “So keep up your courage, men for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27:21-26
What a great example of THE CREAM RISING TO THE TOP. In this one LEADERSHIP ACT we learn much about understanding and observing the characteristics of spiritual leaders. How critical this is for those who are entrusted with the responsibility of building a leadership culture in their organisation and identifying the necessary spiritual leaders needed to come alongside to make the God-sized vision that has been entrusted to them become a reality.
Consequently, Paul helps us to see how spiritual leaders identify themselves in the midst of the experiences of life.
SPIRITUAL LEADERS :
- stand up and take initiatives.
- perform leadership acts.
- don’t necessarily start out having titles of leadership or stand in positions of leadership or are defined by years of service.
- accept responsibility for the situations in which they find themselves.
- define reality.
- often surface in difficult and unexpected moments.
- hear from God.
- have God’s perspective and see the big picture.
- live selflessly and prioritise the interests of others ahead of their own. They have a servant heart.
- gradually develop the trust and respect of those around them.
- fear God and not people.
- achieve results in spite of difficulties that may arise.
- are gradually entrusted with greater things as they prove faithful in smaller things. In other words, like cream, they gradually rise toward the top.
- are given positions of leadership to confirm their already existing leadership qualities and experiences.
How critical it is for spiritual leaders to understand this principle of leadership emergence and selection. Carey Nieuwhof in an article entitled 7 Ways to Build Teams of Great Leaders (When You Feel Like Your Team is Lacking) writes “According to a survey I did of over 1400 senior church leaders, developing teams was their number one pain point. They just didn’t feel like they have enough great people………… While it can feel like all is lost in situations like that, it’s not. Great leaders don’t randomly assemble. The reason your people aren’t like the people of the churches you admire is that you haven’t led them there. Get on your knees, look in the mirror and start leading or find someone who can.
When you lead with all diligence, you call something out in people that God planted within them. People who have lived ‘ordinarily’ can begin to live ‘extraordinarily’ under the right leadership.”
PRAYER : Lord…..Give me leadership eyes to recognise emerging leaders that you are raising up for your kingdom purpose, like it was recorded of Barnabus…….. “When Paul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was really a disciple. But Barnabus took him and brought him to the apostles.” Acts 9:26-27
Help me to believe in the emerging leaders you bring across my path by seeing them as you see them, people with great potential, and grant that I would give priority time investing my life in them that they too will live a life of impact in the world in which you place them.
May I see in the emergence of many spiritual leaders the CREAM RISING TO THE TOP and leave a trail of many ordinary people living out extraordinary lives of influence in this world, for the glory of Your name.