|Out front. That is
where leaders always find themselves – rather like my friend
in the photo, pictured high up a perilous mountain in the
Faroe Islands, leading his family to places most of us
wouldn’t even think of going to. No ropes, just trust,
training, experience and plenty of confidence that the Lord
will get them to their destination!
Rather than providing detailed instruction on how to lead a
meeting or direct a fellowship, this is an article that
speaks from the Father heart of God to the hearts of
leaders. Whether or not you are currently in active
leadership, you are sure to find the principles and
challenges we will be exploring relevant. Rather than
serving up too many ready-made ‘answers’, let the large
number of quotations from leaders through the ages drop the
dew of distilled wisdom into your spirit. The multiple
choice questions are likewise designed to give you time to
ponder and reflect on the whole business of ‘doing’
leadership. Many of them are presented from an exaggerated
stance, in order to help you pray into key issues.
There is a lot of talk about the next phase of revival not
being centred around big names. I’m with that all the way,
but Scripture is also very clear that whenever God wants to
do something new, He raises up leaders to bring it about.
Just as He anointed and appointed Moses, Joshua, Samuel and
David, He is always on the lookout to raise up leaders at
local and national level to facilitate and oversee His work.
– anointed men and women who are so much in love with Him
that they will follow wherever He leads, and bring others
closer to Him in the process.
If you feel inadequate for such a task, you are in good
company. Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, and countless other fine
leaders through the ages were decidedly reluctant to take up
the reins the Lord was thrusting into their hands. For love
of God, and the sake of His kingdom, they overcame their
reluctance and embraced the opportunity to serve.
My prayer is that the Lord will meet with you through this
article to sharpen the calling He is already placing on your
life. May He use you mightily, despite the weaknesses you
already know about, and the disappointments and setbacks you
are sure to experience along the way. His hand is on you,
His Spirit works through you – and He is eager to lead you
‘further on and further in.’
Leadership is a Servant Ministry
wish to be a leader you will be frustrated, for very
few people wish to be led.
If you aim to be a servant you will never be
frustrated. (Frank Warren)
that those who are regarded as rulers of the
Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials
exercise authority over them. Not so with you.
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you
must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first
must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did
not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his
life as a ransom for many.
us should please his neighbour for his good, to
build him up. For even Christ did not please
himself. Rom 15:2-3, 7
By any standards, Jesus’
‘manifesto’ was radical. He proclaimed that ‘the last shall
be first,’ that ‘the poor and meek are blessed,’ and that He
was sending His beloved disciples out ‘as lambs in the midst
of wolves’. Remarkably, in this upside down kingdom,
‘servant leadership,’ is the only style that the New
It hardly sounds likely to appeal to today’s upwardly mobile
generation you might think – yet substantial sectors of the
business world are recognising that leaders work best, and
influence most, when they adopt a ‘servant’ model rather
than a hierarchical top down style of leadership. A true
pastor nurtures and protects his sheep. He is even prepared
to lay down his life for his flock. The less godly
concentrate on the way things are done, (what we might call
the rules of procedure) but miss out on considering how best
to lead and inspire the people they are meant to be serving.
Leadership that is only concerned to benefit the
organisation (or belief-system) that it represents, end up
serving its own purposes. All too often ‘leadership’ becomes
dominant and controlling, browbeating those who are ‘under’
us, and sucking up to those who are over us. No wonder that
they often end up imposing conditions, manipulating events
and threatening sanctions.
Selfish and insecure leaders are often driven more by a
desire to ‘shine and succeed’ than out of any real desire to
release other people into their calling. As someone warned,
‘It is easy to love preaching, but do we love the people to
whom we preach?’ By contrast, many of the best leaders are
strongly aware both of what God has placed in their hearts,
and of their inability to complete the task without God’s
help. May the Lord raise up more such leaders after His own
Where would the Church be today without people who have set
their sights high and sought to achieve great things for the
Kingdom of God?
accept the will of God never leads to the miserable
feeling that it is useless to strive any more.
God does not ask for the dull, weak, sleepy
acquiescence of indolence.
He asks for something vivid and strong.
He asks us to cooperate with Him, actively willing
what He wills, our only aim His glory.
We have all seen teachers
laying down the law at the start of the term, determined to
impose themselves from the outset (usually as a result of
bad experiences they have had elsewhere). I have seen all
too many pastors saying things that have no place in a
pastor’s vocabulary, along the lines of ‘if you don’t agree
with me, there’s the door,’ or, ‘You may have been a leader
under the previous pastor, but don’t assume that will
continue to be the case!’ Such attitudes create an
atmosphere of intimidation in which many feel rebuffed. They
may try make one or two attempts to contribute, but then opt
out, suppressing their gifting, before it is rejected.
1) Leaders should give a clear lead from the
front, which people should follow unquestioningly.
2) As servants, leaders shouldn’t expect their work
to be anything other than difficult or menial.
3) Leaders should do whatever the consensus in the
church desires and requires.
4) Leaders should be clear in their aims and
direction, but realize that they will only get the
best out of people if they present them with a
Character speaks louder
wants lovers as well as workers.
God would sooner we did wrong in loving then never
love for fear we should do wrong. (Father Andrew)
Our Lord does not care so much for the importance of
our work but for the love for which they are done.
(Theresa of Avila)
The amount of people you can bless is exactly the
same as the amount of people you can hurt. (Joyce
Character is what God etches
in us; personality may be no more than how we may to look in
other people’s eyes.
Character and example speak louder than words – but words
have power when there is an authentic person behind them.
Think back to the earliest teachers you can remember from
infant school days. Of all the thousands of words that they
must have spoken to you every day, you are unlikely to
remember more than a tiny handful. The chances are, however,
you still have a strong impression of the type of person
that they were: kind and concerned, or distant and
For better or worse, these people have made their mark on
your development. Think now for a moment what the qualities
are that you most respect in other Christians.
Surely kindness, love, consistency, humility, thankfulness,
compassion, gentleness, patience, trustworthiness,
prayerfulness and courage would rank high in your thinking?
Then you are talking about character rather than gifting!
If we prize only a person’s gifting (and choose to overlook
major character defects, it nearly always backfires. Sooner
or later, when the pressure is on, character weaknesses will
be exposed. All too many college courses in the past
focussed almost exclusively on academic studies to the
exclusion both of developing a strong character and
preparing people for the spiritual and pastoral issues they
will come face to face with in their ministries.
I suspect that Christians in bygone ages prayed more about
character issues than most of us do today. Perhaps we are
guilty of having ‘caught’ the world’s emphasis on image and
When I was at university, people used to point out the guy
who went to more church services and prayer meetings than
anyone else. I decided to watch his life to see what
difference God made in his life. Frankly, I couldn’t spot
any. As he grumbled and groaned along, my line of reasoning
went something like this: ‘If your God can’t make you
happier than that at losing a game of table tennis, I don’t
want anything to do with your God.’ Mercifully, the Lord
lent a helping hand. I later met some lovely Christians who
shone with the love of the Father. It was their example that
inspired me to go to the church where I first met Him.
People usually make their mind up about a church long before
the preacher utters a word. It is the quality of welcome,
and the worship, and above all, of our demeanour, that
speaks loudest. There are no second chances to create a
Jesus did not say, ‘Come to my theological training seminar,
sign this membership card and you’re in – you’re a
full-blown disciples now!’ Rather, He said, ‘Come and see,’
and proceeded to model the kingdom of God to them. Jesus
used the ‘Show and Tell’ method. He told them what He was
going to do, He did it for them, and then with them. Later,
when they had got the hang of it, He told them to ‘go and do
likewise.’ But He was still on hand, as good leaders should
always be, to guide and explain.
comfortable would you be to pray with Paul: ‘Join
with others in following my example . . . and take
note of those who live according to the pattern we
gave you? Whatever you have learned or received or
heard from me, or seen in me – put it into
practice.’ (Phil 3:17)
Most of us surely prefer to
say, ‘Don’t look at me – look at Jesus!’ But since truth is
caught at least as much as it is taught, people are bound to
look at us to see if they like the One we are supposed to be
modelling. If I have got measles but preach mumps, what are
people going to catch?
Fathers, Mothers and Mentors
though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ,
you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I
became your father through the gospel. (1 Cor. 4:15)
We learn so much just by
coming alongside those who are being used by the Lord. Think
of someone who served as a mentor to you. What was it about
the way they treated you that built and developed you?
It is not that mentors need to know everything. Always be
willing to say, ‘I don’t have the answer (the power or the
experience) to handle that one – but I know someone who
might. Be prepared to call on experts. Draw people in, but
trust your own testimony and experience too.
We are blessed if we have received mentoring and fathering
into our ministries. My pastor in Paris did just that for me
back in the mid 1970’s. He pushed me forward to preach, He
praised what I did well, and showed me how I could do
better. His successor challenged me in other ways, warning
when he sensed my prayer life was in danger of straying from
faith into presumption.
The fact is, however, that most Christians have probably not
had such hands-on mentoring. Honey bees gather nectar from
many flowers, and if we are obliged to snatch help here and
there for help, as best we can, this is how it may have to
be. Often, however, there may be some deep-laid reluctance
in us that stops us from entering into such a heart to heart
relationship. Proverbs 28:26 reminds us in no uncertain
terms that ‘He who trusts in himself is a fool.’ It is
always wise to seek the help of those who have walked the
way before us.
1) I feel as if I am so much a once-off that nobody
would understand me well enough to make such a
2) By God’s grace I am well covered, by the one(s)
the Lord has raised up.
3) God’s anointing is so manifestly on me that I
need nothing of the kind. Who do you think you are?
4) I am praying to be in such a relationship.
More about character
a great man who makes every man feel small. But the
really great man is the man who makes every man feel
great. (G.K. Chesterton)
A good leader takes a little more than his share of
blame; a little less than his share of credit.
Do you want to enter what people call the higher
life? Then go a step lower down. If you are dead to
self you cannot hurt any more. (Andrew Murray)
‘All the steps of God lead downwards. The last shall
be first.’ F.B. Meyer
Ponder. Why did Paul
call himself, effectively, the least and the last of the
apostles? (It seems to me that God has put us apostles on
display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to
die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole
universe, to angels as well as to men. 1 Cor. 4:9)
I love being in the presence of people who walk so closely
to the Lord that they exude His love, and demonstrate His
character. People can be so seriously switched off by the
opposite (arrogant and dismissive attitudes) that they
become enemies of the faith. Karl Marx is a prime example of
this. The way he was treated by members of the Church caused
him to develop the faith-rejecting creed that imposed untold
misery on the millions in the Communist bloc countries who
became the unwilling victims of his theories. How different
it all might have been had he met with more kindness at the
hands of Christians! Ghandi declared that he would only
believe in the Christian faith if he saw more evidence of
the resurrection on individual Christians’ faces!
Some people are blessed with by nature with a kind and
cheerful disposition. Character, however, has to be worked
‘The mark of a man is how he treats a person who can be of
no possible use to him.’ (Anon)
‘Be kind. Remember everyone you meet is fighting a hard
battle.’ (T.H. Thompson)
1) That’s too upside down for me. The way I am
requires something more upbeat and up-front –
especially when it comes to (sport, fashion, earning
and spending money, relating to people, prizing
2) I’m more influenced by the ways of the world than
I would like to be, but I’m longing for the Lord to
3) I don’t give a hoot for what anyone thinks if
they aren’t going my way.
4) Nothing’s ever going to change my character –
it’s a dead loss!
Leaders are prepared in
Moriah it was not Isaac God wanted. It was Abraham.
‘The crucible for silver and
the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.’
(Proverbs 17:3) If gold requires a furnace, don’t
underestimate the temperature the Lord will test us at!
If a bird is flying for pleasure it flies with the wind, but
if it meets danger it turns and faces the wind, in order
that it may rise higher. In order to realise the worth of
the anchor, we need to feel the stress of the storm. (Anon)
If God sends us on stony paths, He provides strong shoes.
The winds howl around the highest peaks. (Corrie Ten Boom)
John the Baptist promised that Jesus would send the Holy
Spirit – and how grateful we can be that He did. At the same
time, however, He declared that the Lord Jesus would also
baptise with fire. (Matt. 3:11). God is so faithful to His
promise that He sends that as part of the deal!
The Lord does not hesitate to plunge our soul into a furnace
of testing in much the same way that a blacksmith plunges a
lump of iron into the furnace (and then into a bucket of
cold water) in order to make the iron malleable enough to
Think of the time when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were
thrown into a fiery furnace and miraculously kept alive by
the presence of the Lord walking amongst them. (Dan. 3)
Watchman Nee described this as ‘enlargement through
‘As sure as ever God puts His children in the furnace,’
Charles Spurgeon declares, ‘He will be in the furnace with
them.’ The reason for this is simple. The powers of darkness
only have so many worthwhile targets to aim at in a region.
Cutting edge churches and leaders are sure to be high on the
list. It is as wrong to underestimate the devil in this
respect as it is to overestimate him. God needs those who
have been tested by fire to withstand him.
1) I’m fed up with being tested. I’ve reached the
point where I’d rather settle for something safe and
2) I’d rather blame the devil than face my own
3) The Lord never asks me to go through anything
that is too tough for Him and me to bear together.
4) I’m fed up with the way I am, Lord. Do whatever
it takes to me better and more fruitful than I
Deacons should be tested. (1 Tim. 3:10) What form do you
think such testing should take?
- By observing how
they handle potentially stressful situations?
- By being given
minimal/medium/maximum opportunity to lead
events to see how they measure up?
- By coming
alongside to mentor them?
Harnessing our sense of
took his morning mail, with all its bad news, and
forwarded it to God. (William Hoven, cf 2 Kings
Tomorrow has two
handles: a handle of fear and a handle of faith. You
can take hold of it by either handle. Faith makes
things possible – it does not make them easy. (Anon)
Anxiety is not only a pain which we must ask God to
assuage, but also a weakness we must ask Him to
pardon – for He has told us to take no care for the
morrow. (C.S. Lewis)
The greatest undeveloped resource of our country is
faith; and the greatest unused power is prayer.
It is impossible for that man to despair who
remembers that his Helper is omnipotent. (Jeremy
There come times when most
leaders come to the conclusion that theirs is the most
stubborn flock in the world, and that God has presented them
with a well nigh impossible task. We are always in trouble!
We have to contend not only the expectations that other
people place on us, but also with our own sense of failure.
No wonder Scripture urges people to pray for their leaders.
Most leaders know only too well what it is like to feel
hopeless. That is why we need to ally our sense of
helplessness to God’s infinite power.
One plus God is still a majority – but the Lord is so
gracious that He does not usually leave us on our own for
very long. He delights to link us to at least one other
like-minded person who we can pray and share with from our
hearts. When we pray with people we trust, we pray from the
heart, without worrying about how we are coming across. God
uses such prayer partnerships to turn impossible situations
around and to win great victories of faith. Pray to use such
times of prayer for His glory!
When I feel helpless I . . .
1) run away and hide until things get easier.
2) run to friends or family for comfort and
reassurance but keep well away from God.
3) round up people to pray, and cry out to Him to
turn matters round for His glory.
Have you ever felt so low that you had to reach up to touch
Pray for leaders who feel so discouraged they are nearly
ready to quit.
Praise in the face of Adversity
and praise God for everything that happens to you.
For it is certain that for every seeming calamity
that happens to you, if you thank and praise God for
it, you turn it into a blessing. (William Law)
Pressure squeezes things out
of us that we did not even know were there. That is why
Scripture calls us to do something that we find very hard to
do: namely, to continue to trust and rejoice, even when we
are in the midst of tests and trouble.
What causes diamonds? Extreme pressure! The more significant
the calling God has placed on you, the greater will be the
pressures that you face – along with the temptation to give
up and settle for something less demanding. But greater too
will be the grace and power that the Lord supplies to get
you to the destination He has in mind.
To follow on from the William Law quote, take the ten most
difficult things you are facing at the moment and resolutely
choose to praise God for them. (Hannah Whittal-Smith’s
'The Secret of a happy life’ and Catherine Marshall’s
Something More contain excellent and challenging
teaching on this subject. Because He is enthroned on the
praises of His people, special power is released by such
1) Trust and rejoice? Whenever I experience
adversity it always makes me feel there must be
something wrong with me!
2) I’m afraid to praise because deep down I’m afraid
that God will one day give up on me.
3) I’m going through the mill right now, but that
doesn’t mean the Lord won’t break through tomorrow!
If You had been going to give up on me, God, You
would have done so long ago. Help me to praise You
with all my heart – yes, even for the things that I
am finding so difficult now.
Beware the Green Eyed Monster!
cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand
before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:4).
Blessed is he who has
learnt to admire but not envy, to follow but not
imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but
not manipulate. (William Ward)
If you think it is easy to be
a leader, you have probably never been one. People who are
striving for power, rank or position within the church do
immense damage by grasping after something that God has not
In a day that prizes achievement, it is so easy to envy
those who appear to have got ‘more’ than us. All to many
leaders are envious themselves, whilst, in turn, being
envied by others.
Envy can take wings and bring real spiritual bondage. It is
the root of nearly every relationship split in the body of
Christ. A well-known Christian leader had been ill for a
year and was not recovering, despite being repeatedly prayed
for. A fellow minister came along and diagnosed it thus: ‘It
is not witchcraft you are up against, but something much
stronger than that . . . it is envy from within the Body of
Christ!’ The moment this was diagnosed, its power was broken
in prayer, and the woman immediately began to recover.
from being envious of those in our charge who have
more obvious gifts than we ourselves do.
May we release them in ways that will bless and
develop new ministries.
Help us not to retain the reins of power longer than
for if we hang on,
we run the risk of holding others back.
Lord, it is so easy for You to work where there is
real love and co-operation!
1) I never let feelings of jealousy or envy affect
me in the slightest. How dare you?
2) I’m forever comparing myself to others.
3) I’m doing my best to bless and pray for those I
You are in a position that someone else would like to be in.
Rather than bemoaning what you do not have, and envying what
others have, use what you have.
Ponder the following nuggets
who makes no mistakes does not usually make
anything. (William Magee)
He is always right who suspects that he makes
mistakes. (Spanish Proverb)
I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it
possible you may be mistaken. (Oliver Cromwell)
Failure is rarely fatal any more than success is
final. Failure only becomes terminal when we fail to
learn from it.
Men do not fail; they just give up trying. (Anon)
I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can
give you the formula for failure: try to please
everybody. (Herbert Swope)
Failure is not sin. Faithlessness is. (Henrietta
It is when a man strikes rock bottom in his sense of
nothingness that he suddenly finds he has struck the
Rock of Ages. (James Stewart)
Christianity is the place
where souls can begin again. May our churches also be such
Every leader knows the feeling in the pit of the stomach
that comes as the result of having ‘underperformed,’ or
watching something going horribly, embarrassingly wrong. If
we make a mistake once and learn from it, we take our place
in the long line of people whose success was built on the
ruin of previous failures. If we pay insufficient attention
to our failings, however, we are highly likely to repeat the
same mistake again further down the road – and quite
possibly with more serious consequences.
Think of times when you have gone deeper with the Lord as
the result of having to cry out to the Lord at a time of
1) Failures make me sink into troughs of despair. I
2) I treat my failures as once-off blips. I never
let them get me down!
3) I come before God, ask forgiveness for what has
happened and ask Him why I have failed. After that,
I pray that He will deal with any structural
weaknesses in my life so that this weakness will not
trip me up again.
Broken in spirit or just
of every four Americans is mentally ill. If three of
your friends are ok, you may be in trouble! (Anon.)
Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom. (Bayle Roche)
To be crucified means, first, the man on the cross
is facing only one direction; second, he is not
going back; and third, he has no further plans of
His own. (A.W.Tozer)
Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger
people. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers.
Pray for powers equal to your tasks. (Phillip
A friend said to me recently
that he felt like a waste of space. Most people, however,
regard him as one of the finest worship leaders they know,
because he ‘stands aside’ to let the Lord minister through
him. Immediately, I saw in my spirit a picture of a
slide-bar, rather like the ones that are used to measure the
score on pool and snooker tables. One end of the scale was
‘brokenness’ (in the sense of feeling a failure). The other
end of the spectrum was a very different kind of
‘brokenness: more a yieldedness that is ‘dead to self but
alive with the Spirit.’ May our hearts become stronger and
not harder through the things we suffer along the way.
- However broken
you feel, remember that God is close to the
broken-hearted. (Ps. 34:18, Ps, 147:3)
- People who
declare truth without brokenness, do I present
it in a harsh and callous way?
- Has my
‘brokenness’ produced authenticity or just loss
Many leaders keep on a
professional mask of competency. Tom Marshall points out
that most people are actually more inclined to trust a
leader who takes responsibility for his mistakes. It is
their problem if they expect perfection from us. There has
only ever been one leader in history who never made a
1) I expect leaders to present an outwardly
confident facade, because it ‘preserves the image’.
2) If I reveal my weaknesses, people will despise
me. It’s safer not to risk it.
3) I never admit my failings to anyone: they are
between me and God.
4) I am quite prepared to reveal my weaknesses to
all and sundry in the hope that someone may be able
to help me – and that they will relate more honestly
5) I share my weaknesses carefully, with people I
can really trust.
George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization, said
that condemnation is the enemy’s number one weapon against
Christians. A major part of our task as leaders is to help
people see where they are giving in to condemnation and what
they need to repent of. But how about ourselves?
Lord, when doors open and things are going well, it is easy
to give You thanks and praise. But when things snag up it’s
easy to blame myself and to berate others. Lord, keep me
from believing that You are not interested in what I am
going through. It hurts You when I doubt Your love and
mistrust Your purposes.
I know I am called to show mercy and forgiveness to others,
but I need to show it to myself as well. I get so many
things wrong! Keep me from remorse. The more I give in to
it, the more the enemy piles in. Strengthen me to resist –
and overcome – this persistent tactic the enemy used to get
me looking inwards instead of upwards. In the name of the
One who has overcome the accuser of the brethren.
- In what ways are
you susceptible to condemnation?
- Are there
particular times and places where you are at
your most vulnerable? Late at night for example?
Or directly before or after some significant
- How can you tell
the difference between genuine ‘conviction’
(that prompts you to repent of something) and
false guilt, which merely leaves you feeling
- What strategies
do you use for dealing with condemnation?
Keep alert, and lift high the
shield of faith as you step out on kingdom business.
Leaders must be people of prayer
Prayer is the tool God works with. Give Him something to
We all know that Jesus communed with His Father during His
life on earth, but you may not have realised that this has
also been His main ministry since the Resurrection. Romans
8:34 and Hebrews 7:25 remind us that He is still at the
right hand of the Father, interceding for us. When we give
ourselves to prayer, therefore, we are sharing in the
ministry of heaven.
Every time we meet with people we have opportunity to turn
the thoughts and information we have been talking about into
prayer. It is as simple as saying, ‘Let’s pray together.’
In our fellowships, there is an enormous amount we can do to
harness the potential of prayer. Don’t fob God off with a
‘word of prayer’ at the beginning and end of proceedings!
Many doors open when we turn to God, rather than just talk
Lead the people of God into corporate prayer. It is a vital,
and by no means easy task. It certainly will not happen
unless you make a conscious decision to make a framework to
seek God. But when you do make the framework, God adds His
The dynamics of prayer meetings can be complicated. As
surely as we suffer when meetings are dominated by strong
and insensitive personalities, there are also occasions when
helpful steering touches are absolutely necessary to bring a
meeting back on course, or to hold a particular theme longer
There may also be times when it is necessary to correct some
wrong emphasis that has been raised by someone’s prayer,
especially if it has taken us into realms of error,
divination or magic. Not to intervene at such times may be
both to grieve the Holy Spirit and to leave everyone else
One of my guiding principles is ‘Get real people doing real
things!’ It is always a challenge to make the leap from
genuine insight to specific practice.
Make frameworks for prayer – but have safety filters in
place when prophecy and intercession is involved so that
contributions that would change the direction of the meeting
can be assessed. Dividing groups into one-on-one, threes,
sixes or altogether times, when everyone is calling on the
Lord together, can all be powerful frameworks, depending on
the leading of the Spirit and the maturity of those present.
Don’t forget that silence can be powerful too!
1) I am always looking for opportunities to bring
God in on the act, and to pray about situations.
2) I rarely think of turning from conversation to
prayer. But I’m going to in the future!
Battlers or Builders
At the end of the First World War, 22,000 fighter planes
were hastily scrapped. People soon forgot the vital role the
fledgling Air Force had played in supporting Allied forces
abroad on the continent – not to mention defending the home
country against intense bombing raids.
In Duel of Eagles, a history of the RAF, Pete Townsend shows
that Britain owed its freedom ultimately (under the Lord) to
men like Churchill, Trenchard and Air Marshall Dowding.
Almost alone, these men saw the crucial need to boost air
power. Their requests for more planes were met with
opposition at every stage. They faced prolonged battles with
short-sighted staff at the Air Ministry who did all they
could to oppose them. Almost to a man, Britain allowed
itself to be hoodwinked by meaningless reassurances that the
Germans had no plans to build an air-force – and this at the
very time when the Germans were building up the Luftwaffe.
When Dowding requested bulletproof windscreens for his
Hurricane and Spitfire fighters, all present dissolved into
guffaws of laughter, as though he had asked for something
absurd. Undaunted, Dowding continued, ‘If Chicago gangsters
can have bullet-proof glass in their cars, I see no reason
why my pilots should not have the same.’ How many pilots’
lives were saved as a result of Dowding’s courageous
persistence? The whole nation was ultimately saved because
of his determination to expand Fighter Command – just in
time to win the crucial air battle for Britain.
Leaders who see the bigger picture, and who are prepared to
take enormous flak in order to achieve crucial goals are
central to God’s purposes in every generation. Just as we
owe these courageous and visionary men a huge debt of
gratitude, their example reminds us how much we need to be
people of vision in our own day. Without vision, evil
prospers, and the Church goes round and round in circles.
But when we wait on the Lord, He releases the battlers who
will initiate His strategy, (like Churchill and King David)
and the builders who will develop it (like King Solomon).
Pioneers and reformers inevitably find themselves confronted
by ill-informed and narrow-minded opposition. Whether
through fear, prejudice, self-interest or ignorance the
devil can always find people to oppose the very thing that
is most needed.
May you, who are called to pioneer change and challenge
vested interests, be given strength and persistence for the
task ahead. Whether or not you fully achieve your goals, you
are laying vital foundations. You are like the people who
laid the first railway tracks out west, inspired by the
vision that one day a railroad would run all the way from
the East Coast to the West.
I came across an example of this in Ronald Dunn’s excellent
book When Heaven is Silent (Word). Everyone praised
him as the pastor of a fellowship that was growing both
quickly and harmoniously. But Ronald knew that his success
was due to his predecessor, who had had the courage to ‘take
on’ the group who had been running the church, and ‘running
out’ previous pastors. By meeting the challenge head on the
trouble makers eventually moved on, preparing the way for a
first class church to emerge. As so often, however, the
‘battling’ pastor did not stay in office long enough to see
the fruit of his labours himself. It was the ‘building’
pastor who inherited the blessing.
1) Are you a pioneer, called to battle to overcome
vested interests and spiritual strongholds in order
to establish new foundations? If so, you will need
the support and encouragement of praying friends.
May you build according to the pattern that the Lord
2) Or are you a ‘builder’, developing on the
foundations that others have laid? If so, you are
blessed: builders tend to have an easier ride than
Grace and Gratitude
getting another chance even though you haven’t
earned it or deserved it. (Fritz Ridenour)
Gratitude is borne in hearts that take time to count
up past mercies. (Charles Jefferson)
You may not have received all that you want, but
have you tried thanking God for the things you do
have? Whether we are happy or not in life depends to
a great extent upon the depths of our gratitude.
One thing scientists have discovered is that
often-praised children become more intelligent than
often-blamed ones. There is a creative element in
praise. (Thomas Dreier)
I have never seen a man who could do real work
except under the stimulus of encouragement and
enthusiasm and the approval of the people for who he
is working. (Charles Schwab)
‘The best way to trust somebody is to trust them.’
Leadership is all about the
ability to impart encouragement. No matter how drained and
discouraged we may often feel, leaders have to encourage
Think again about people who have encouraged you. What is it
about their manner and their words that has touched your
Father, as surely as You find ways to encourage me, let me
be creative in encouraging others into all You have in store
for them. In Jesus’ name.
Leaders need Discernment
villainy there is none more base than that of the
hypocrite, who, at the moment he is most false,
takes care to appear most virtuous. (Cicero)
The Formula 1 racing car
commentator, Murray Walker, boldly declared, ‘I am a
prophet. I make predictions which are instantly
unfulfilled!’ Even New Wine leader Kenny Borthwick quipped
that he has a wonderful gift of discernment whereby almost
everything he convinces himself is not of God turns out to
It is easy to assume that the gift of discernment is
something that we either do or do not have. But discernment
is both something to seek, (as a spiritual gift), and to
cultivate (as the fruit of wisdom). That is why leaders
always need to be asking God questions. ‘What are you doing
here, Lord?’ ‘Is this of You?’ ‘Which way should we go?’ ‘Is
this the right time to do the thing that You have shown us,
or should we wait and pray about it some more?’
The following is not a multiple choice exercise – and
neither are these exclusively leadership specific issues.
- The practical
side says you need to go shopping. The
- The romantic
side wants some time together holding hands with
- The lazy side
encourages you to put your feet up and leave
everything till another day.
- The faintly
guilty side reminds you that you are leading
something soon, so you ought to spend some time
with the Lord.
- The genuinely
spiritual side really wants to meet with the
Lord. A quiet time awaits!
All these activities are
perfectly valid in their time and place – but we can’t do
all of them simultaneously. Whilst some decisions require
serious waiting on the Lord, on most issues we learn to
sense fairly quickly what our priorities should be.
Following the Lord’s leading in this way day by day, and
even hour by hour, makes all the difference to our spiritual
effectiveness. It is how the Lord Jesus Himself lived,
seeking always to do what He saw His Father doing. (John
We must learn to see, as it were, out of the corner of our
eye to discern the ways by which God may be leading us. Our
part is to recognise the clues that he gives – and then to
act on them.
The waking moments are especially important in this respect.
This is often the time when the Lord slips important
marching orders for the day into our consciousness.
It is equally as important to learn to sense when your
‘anointing’ for something that you are doing is running out.
We will not always get this right, but God is pleased that
we make the effort.
I do not want to give the devil over much attention, for
that would be to fix our eyes in quite the wrong direction.
There are times, however, when the Lord will use our
spiritual discernment to show us see the ways in which the
powers of darkness are working in a given situation. When
relationships come under attack, meetings feel like treacle,
and confusion reigns – guess what’s going on?! We need to be
wise on the uptake, and then quick on the draw.
Occasionally the Lord may have something much more serious
to say to us: that someone we trusted in is indulging in
immoral or inappropriate behaviour, for instance. Especially
in times of revival, God shows how He really feels about
wrong practices, and lifts the lid on ‘private’ sins. But we
should be equally as aware that there in nothing the devil
likes more than slipping in false accusations, and getting
Christians mistrusting each other. Remember the Scriptural
principle: ‘Do not entertain an accusation against an elder
unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who
sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take
warning.’ (1 Tim 5:19-20)
1) I haven’t the foggiest idea what you mean:
‘seeing out of the corner of your eye!’ Are you
insinuating that I need to consult an occulist?
2) I only seek the Lord about the big things in
3) I only seek the Lord about the small things in
4) I’m doing my best to seek the Lord about
Concerning the things that we take on: compare the following
- The awareness of
a need and the capacity to meet that need – this
constitutes a call. (Anon)
- Not every burden
that we see is ours to respond to. We do not go
into action when Goliath shouts but only when
the Spirit prompts.
Which do you feel, is closer
to your own experience?
Much depends on the condition of our heart – in which case,
the expectations that fuel the heart are all important.
- Would you say
that your expectations are higher or lower now
than they were five years ago. Why is this?
improperly indulged must end in disappointment.
- If they are too
low, you are settling for mediocrity; too high
you are setting yourself up for a
- Do your
expectations veer more towards Paul, who
believed that God could turn everything around
for God’s glory, or towards Ahab, who replied
(sulkily) that the Lord never had anything good
to say about him?
Too many fellowship meetings consist of teaching which,
though true in itself, leaves people’s deepest needs unmet,
and their prophetic abilities on hold. 17+15 does indeed =
32 – but it is not particularly relevant to most people’s
immediate situations. No wonder if the more spiritually
attuned eventually weary and become reluctant to devote
precious time to something that neither meets their personal
needs nor enables them to make any significant contribution.
What can be more appropriate than creating suitable
frameworks to help draw people into attempting new things?
We have hinted already at the importance of corporate
intercession. ‘Body ministry’ is another such example. It is
so important that people have the choice to prayerfully
address the issues that are most on their hearts. This can
only happen if the meeting has not been too rigorously
pre-scheduled. Giving thought to how we can be more
inclusive without allowing things to become a complete
free-for-all is a top priority.
One thing I often do in workshops and seminars is to end
with extended question times. This makes sure that the
teaching ‘itches where it scratches’, by addressing people’s
real concerns. Otherwise I risk firing off piles of
principles in the hope that people will get watered by
sitting under the general spray.
Consider dividing into small groups so that people who might
not have the courage to speak in a plenary meeting can have
the chance to contribute. This encourages the shy and those
who are uncertain of the value of what they have to say–
which is particularly important if the central participants
are ‘experienced’ leaders, who may not even realize how the
sound of their own voice regularly drowns out real gems from
The devil works hard to convince people that they are too
old or too young for their contribution to be taken
seriously – or that women are the wrong sex to contribute in
public at all. This leaves only a few strong bucks around –
who may be more than happy for things to continue like this!
If we are among those who feel excluded (or, alternatively,
who have been only too willing to be in the limelight) are
we prepared to make radical changes?
As a male leader I ask forgiveness from those we have
squeezed out and shut down – and pray that your spirit may
not have been so badly damaged in the meantime that you are
no longer willing to risk speaking out and bringing your
James Rutz’s book Megashift (Empowerment Press,
Colorado) powerfully and attractively outlines ways to
release the highest degree of participation possible. One of
its main contentions is the need to transfer power ‘away
from the centre.’ God wants more than a few privileged
individuals doing all the talking to a group of largely
The speed at which the church is growing in many parts of
the world is quite extraordinary. As Rutz puts it, ‘the
empowerment of the laity that we are seeing today represents
the ‘greatest megashift in the history of the church.’ (see
pages 63-64). Why is this? Because ministers are recognising
the call to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.
At the same time, Rutz warns against usurping what God is
doing. There was great spontaneity in the early days of the
Azusa Street meetings in California. The Holy Spirit showed
what a capable leader He is when He is allowed to work in
such ways. But it soon came about, as it has done so often
in church history, that meetings had to run according to an
appointed order. When some poor illiterate Mexicans wanted
to testify, they were ruthlessly crushed by the leader.
Every meeting was pre-programmed and the fire gradually went
out. How sad.
Embracing new models
For some strange reason, we no longer drive Ford Model T
cars. The automobile industry has moved on since those days!
Churches that are basically a one-man show, where the same
person (or small group) does all the leading and the
teaching eventually reaches a point of saturation. But if
the congregation were enlisted, great wealth can be shared.
Encourage people to prepare their own mini statement of
their goals and help them to put into words the things that
are on their hearts. For many, this may be the first time
they have seriously ‘given voice’ to these things, even
though they may have thought about them a great deal. Once
they speak them out, it will help both them and others to
own the vision.
Take the matter of the way people give testimonies in
church. A large percentage of them focus on how the person
came to know the Lord. This helps to understand where the
person is coming from. At the right time, it can be powerful
and effective tool for evangelism, but our testimony of what
the Lord is doing in our lives involves so much more than
this. Encourage people to give testimonies that highlight
particular aspects of where they are up to now. This, more
than anything, will draw people alongside to support and
share with them in their journey.
People likewise often give a testimony when the Lord has
brought them through an issue. It can often be helpful to
share a matter before it is resolved. This again draws
people in and helps them to feel much more a part of their
Simple structural changes can have a huge impact on the way
we church together. Why should the sermon always be preached
at the end of the meeting? The service may finish at the
very moment when people have been challenged and need time
to respond. Advancing the sermon to give time for a proper
response can do wonders!
Likewise, why keep prayer times separate from the worship?
Why not let the praise (proclamation and declaration) lead
to intimate worship and from then reach onwards and outwards
in prayer and intercession? Let the musicians continue to
play while the prayers are happening. Find (or better still
improvise) music that reflects the country or topic you are
praying for. This can draw us much closer to the Lord’s own
heart. These are all things that we can explore and
Leaders often feel obliged to
‘keep people’s spirits up.’ They therefore tend to shy away
from anything too heavy. There are times, however, when it
is can be far more meaningful to share sorrow together.
You probably know people who can rejoice with those who
rejoice, but who, most emphatically, are quite unable to
weep with those who are weeping. The acid test of character
is that we are able to enter fully into whatever the
situation calls for. Just as we genuinely rejoice for those
who are doing well, so we mourn deeply and sincerely for
those who are in grief or turmoil.
At best, mourning is a profoundly spiritual response that
provides a ‘bass clef’ to our spirituality that balances and
completes the ‘treble clef’ of our more exuberant praise. It
is the very opposite of self-absorbed grief that thinks only
of itself. Mourning enables us to experience the depths of
the human condition and that comfort which only the Lord can
Think of all the times when Jesus experiences compassion in
the Gospels. Invariably we see His power touching lives
immediately afterwards with astonishing effect. The widow’s
son is raised from the dead at Nain, the multitudes are fed
– and Lazarus is raised from the dead. All this stems from
compassionate spiritual mourning.
When Jesus saw Mary weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit
and troubled. (John 11:33) The word is a very strong one in
Greek. Do you allow yourself to be moved by people’s hurts
and needs? Likewise, He was deeply troubled in spirit at the
last supper, knowing what Judas was about to do. He wasn’t
taken by surprise by it. He had warned his disciples about
it a whole year before – but it weighed heavily on Him. Many
things weigh heavily on our hearts as leaders too.
May we have the grace to share the Lord’s heart over things
that are wrong, but to let the burden flow through us in the
Spirit to the cross, rather than getting ‘stuck’ in our
Leaders must be Learners
- Lord, what I
most want to model is . . .
- What do I need
to work on in order for this to happen?
We often feel that we have
made too many mistakes and missed the boat. By the time we
have gained enough experience as parents to be much good at
parenting. Many a leader feels much the same way. There are
so many traps we can fall into which might well not trip us
up if we were to face the same situation in a few years
time. You can’t put an old head on young shoulders; God and
His people have to put up with us in our half-formed state!
If ‘life-long learning’ is increasingly being urged on
people in the work place, it should be no less the case for
those of us who are in leadership positions. Take the matter
of which topics you feel you should be majoring on, either
in your private study, or for leading your fellowship into.
Are you setting aside enough time to get your teeth into
- Like honeybees
who gather their pollen from many flowers, we
learn from many sources. (Solomon is an
excellent example of this, compiling sayings
from Egypt and further afield. The book of
Proverbs is full of international sayings
gleaned from the wise men of other nations, as
well as from Solomon’s own tradition.) We cannot
afford to be doctrinally or denominationally
narrow-minded, or to assume that secular
teachers have nothing of value to teach us.
- Like Solomon,
can draw from the best of their learning, whilst
‘adding’ the spiritual ingredients that make the
picture complete. But how much richer if we have
sought the Lord and the wisdom He has entrusted
to His servants to approach these topics more
directly from His perspective. There are so many
resources available to help us these days. See
http://www.e-sword.net for two examples of
useful and free software.
God has raised up a wealth of
teachers and prophets through the centuries whose writings
will benefit us so much. If we do not take time for serious
reading, our teaching will soon become circular (though we
may not realise that this is happening) and our emphases
narrow. In all this, the Lord Jesus is our teacher and His
Spirit our counsellor – and it is right to dedicate serious
resources for appropriate training, and to fund learning
Are there aspects of the kingdom of God that you would like
to know more about? You can be sure that someone, somewhere
will have written on the subject. Books are such a blessing!
Those that are heavily underlined and scribbled in, not to
mention peppered with curled pages and book marks, can
rightly claim to be good friends.
Ask the Lord to direct you to the people and resources that
will help you most.
1) I never seem to get around to studying much – I’m
always too busy.
2) I can’t see much point in studying – what’s wrong
with the University of Life?
3) So many other people have taught and written on
this subject – what would be the point of me getting
Leadership helps others to
reach the place God has in mind for them
Michelangelo saw in a piece of marble in a quarry junkyard
potential that the quarry master could not see. From this
lump, he fashioned a brilliant sculpture of David.
God sees things that others do not. He takes an unstable
person like Peter and calls him a rock. Leadership is all
about releasing people to fulfil the potential that God has
invested in them. There are ex-terrorists who are being
greatly used in the Kingdom of God – but they need to be
given the trust, encouragement and right context in which to
If God gives you glimpses over the horizon, be prepared to
go out of your way to nurture and develop that person. You
never know what they may become!
years ago the Lord said to me, ‘You must be prepared
to watch many people going further and faster than
It is the aim of any good
teacher that their pupils should excel above themselves.
John the Baptist declared that he must become less and Jesus
greater. God wants the next generation of believers to be
more on fire than we were and to go further with Him.
Insecure leaders find ways to block promising people,
effectively stunting everyone’s development by trying to
drag them down to their own level. Don’t let the enemy
neutralise our potential. The answer to being ‘kept down’ is
not to settle for less, but to be resilient. We are called
to shine like the stars in the sky. Keep going, despite the
pain. The Lord can find ways to bring about something
Nothing can help us grow so quickly as having a good mentor,
but the converse can also be true: we can also grow by
serving under bad leaders, because we identify the traps,
pitfalls and shortcomings we must avoid when our turn comes
to be in some more senior leadership position. What a
contrast between Saul, who envied and persecuted David, and
Elijah, who did all he could to nurture the young Elisha.
Who would the Lord have you reach out to mentor and
Leaders know where they are going
us from hot heads who would lead us foolishly, and
from cold feet which would keep us from adventuring
at all. (Peter Marshall)
‘We are the people who belong
to the future and to whom the future belongs, because we
belong to the Lord who holds the future.’ Tom Marshall puts
it in his excellent book Understanding Leadership
(Sovereign World). As leaders we need goals for our private
and personal life as well as for our public ministry.
Vision is all about being able to see ahead, and to lead
people to the place that you have already seen in your
spirit. Bob Gass quotes a famous ice hockey star who
commented that he always ‘skates to where the puck is going
to be, rather than where it is now’. Getting to where we
need to be, however, may make us unpopular in the short
To return to the example we used earlier, Churchill saw
precisely what needed to be done to protect Britain from
German Air power but most other people did not agree with
him. In fact, they criticised him ferociously. The House of
Commons accused Churchill of being a ‘medieval baron’, and
of being caught up with ridiculous notions of Armageddon. In
the House of Lords, no one could see what all the fuss was
about. After all, Germany had promised not to develop an Air
Force! How right Churchill was. Quite simply, Britain would
not have survived in 1940 without the strengthening
Churchill injected into the Royal Air Force.
Prophets say things that the body of Christ does not want to
hear. Revival is going to come, but not necessarily in the
way we hoped it would not. It will surely come out of times
of difficulty and judgement. People’s confidence in
themselves and their own self-sufficiency have to be shaken
first. But ‘tell the righteous it will be well with them,
for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.’ (Is. 3:10)
At some point in our walk with Him, the Lord gives us a
mission statement. This serves as the blueprint for our
Often, in Scripture, we can see that this coincides with the
call of God. The call may stay the same, but the means by
which we are to fulfil it may change radically. Any church
or organisation that is continuing to do things in the way
it was doing them ten years ago is probably a long way from
God’s cutting edge.
important for us to be able to identify and define
our mission. Try making a list of your goals,
priorities and mission statement.
Advancing through Retreat
Are there any exceptions to this principle of ‘knowing your
goals?’ Quite possibly. Sometimes, only the Lord knows the
goals that He is setting us, and we must be patient until He
chooses to reveal them. There are also times when He
deliberately takes us into wilderness experiences – in which
case we almost invariably lose all sense of bearing and
direction for a season.
It may be that the Lord is declaring ‘closed season’ on one
phase of our life, and uses some sort of a wilderness
experience as a ‘tunnel’ to prepare us for something new. He
may also simply be testing and refining us, to make sure
that our security really is in the Lord Jesus, rather than
in any role or vision.
Either way, these will not be times when we are able to
focus much on our goals and visions, let alone achieve them.
This is the time when we must find contentment in being
rather than doing – something that is much easier said than
done when the pressure is on, and there is little we can do
for the moment except to survive.
Ponder Elijah hiding from King Ahab by the brook Cherith. (1
Kings 17:5f). Here was a leader with no one to lead. Quite
apart from having to trust God for ‘meals on ravens’, this
alone is enough to provoke an outsized identity crisis for
most leaders that I know. Most of us derive a very large
part of our identity from what we do rather than through our
relationship with Him.
The confusion that these times bring can be horrible: may
the Lord use them nonetheless to develop more respect and
love in our hearts for those we are called to serve.
Alternating our lifestyle
Leadership is so demanding that it can be very wise to have
rotational rather than fixed leadership, and to allow
leaders ‘fallow’ times, when they do not need to be up
front. Why should all position of leadership be forever? If
we are ‘stale,’ perhaps from feeling ‘indispensable’ for too
long – we might well benefit from the principle ‘rotational
Jesus was serious when He said, ‘Come with Me and get some
rest!’ God uses time away to refresh our vision and to bring
yourself times of respite: build them into your life
They are essential for your spiritual well being.
Find out whether you benefit
most by going on private retreat or to those led by others.
Whatever you do, make sure of two things, firstly that there
is adequate time for meeting the Lord (rather than just
receiving teaching) and also to give you the rest and repose
your soul requires.
I think I can see why God allows ‘transitional’ wilderness
times. But how can I tell the difference between God
changing the focus of my life and the wildernesses I stumble
into through my own inadequacies?
What do you do when you cannot understand what God is doing?
Do you become insecure and tetchy?
Or are you content to trust that He knows what He is doing?
Leaders must be willing to obey before they fully
troops will be willing on Your day of battle. Psalm
Knowledge is strong, but love is sweet. (Christina
Things human must be known to be loved; things
divine must be loved to be known. (Blaise Pascal)
I have come to appreciate
that, in the kingdom of God, obedience often comes before
understanding. The Lord asked Ananias to minister to a man
known to the disciples only as their most dangerous
opponent. (Acts 9:10f) If he had obeyed this improbable
word, would the persecutor Saul ever have become the apostle
Paul? Just think of all the churches that would never have
been planted if Ananias had refused what, on the face of it,
sounded like a kamikaze mission.
Only heaven knows the full loss when we hold back from
obeying what He has told us to do. Our understanding often
lags behind: may we not allow unbelief or half-heartedness
to creep in.
When we are doing a degree, the particular module that we
are studying may not make much sense in isolation. It may
only be when all the modules are complete that we begin to
understand the broader picture. In other words, the overview
comes later. For the meantime we must just push on and
attend to the details.
There is a wonderful moment in The Morning Star, a film
about the life of the early English reformer John Wycliffe.
Weighed down by much persecution from the ecclesiastical
authorities, the bemused academic is finally able to make
sense of why God has allowed him to be driven from his
beloved university. Now he knows what his life calling has
been all about: it is to translate the Scriptures into the
The call of God may well lead us to serve in places where we
receive a hostile welcome. Are we still willing to go? There
is nobody more empty in the whole world than the person who
holds back when God calls!
1) I need to know before I am prepared to trust.
It’s just the way I am.
2) My mind goes skitty-kitty if I don’t know what is
3) I’m going to do my best to keep trusting and
following, despite the circumstances.
Anointing and Authority
spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the
nearer we get to him the more intensely missionary
we must become. (Henry Martyn)
You are either a missionary or a mission field: one
of the two. Olaf Skinsnes)
When there is a special
calling on somebody’s life, they are able to do things that
the rest of us cannot do. I remember hearing Nicky Cruz
evangelising in broken English and seeing the way people
turned to the Lord as he spoke, I had the feeling he could
have been reciting Spanish irregular verbs and the power of
God would still have touched people’s lives!
Many years ago I was staying with a delightfully eccentric
old lady. I had gone out to mow her lawn, and ripped my back
pulling the starter cord. She saw it happening from the
kitchen window and bustled out immediately. ‘Young man,’ she
said, ‘I never fail with backs. In Jesus’ name, be healed!’
And I was – immediately.’ ‘Now then,’ she went on, ‘if it
had been your teeth, I couldn’t have done much about it!’
Well, the Scriptures do talk about gifts of healing in the
plural. (1 Cor 12:9,28,30) I figured that she has had eighty
years to find out where God did and did not use her!
When the Lord Jesus spoke, things happened. He prayed for
the sick and they were healed, for the demonically afflicted
and they were delivered. When we pray in faith, something of
His power is released through our words too.
- Jesus marvelled
that a gentile Centurion should understand
authority much better than the covenant people.
The Centurion, who had the full weight of the
hierarchical strength of the Roman Empire behind
him, discerned the strength that was behind
Jesus’ ministry – and trusted it. (Matt 8:5-11)
Jesus said, ‘I do nothing by my own authority
but only what the Father shows Me.’ (John 5:19,
cf Jer 5:31) A leader must be prepared both to
submit to authority and to use it.
- Our wisdom is
often our biggest problem. We can do so much by
our natural gifting. Pray for more of the Lord’s
- God will always
give us what we really need.
Present your material in
By definition, leaders live with the visions God has given
them. They then have to impart them to people who only hear
them occasionally. Keeping them to the fore of people’s
minds, without sounding repetitious or nagging, is a skilled
art. Presentation (‘the way we pass things on to others’) is
enormously important. Far too many truths and even
prophecies are ‘dumped’ on people in ways that make them
passive recipients, rather than inviting them to become
participators in some project. Unpacking this concept would
revolutionise a certain type of church leadership that we
might rather callously describe as ‘one-man’ centred, even
if a whole group of people speak for the ‘one-man’ at the
I can say something one way and it leaves you unimpressed.
But if I can find another way to bring the same truth to
your attention, you can’t wait to learn more about it.
In life, our aim is for people to be proactive rather than
passive. In creative writing, it is better to keep in the
active tense and to avoid the passive voice. If I write,
‘The baby was caught by Rosalind,’ the phrase sounds rather
boring – just a purely factual report of one of my wife’s
deliveries. The moment I turn that round to the active
voice, however, and say ‘Rosalind caught the baby,’ the
whole scene begins to liven up. It lines the reader up for
an exciting context in which the midwife rushes through the
door, finds the lady already pushing and gets there just in
time to catch the baby.
The risk of exposing people too early to new things is acute
– yet it is only by having a go that people learn. People
are usually more prepared to have a go at new things if
there is a certain degree of privacy around, or a ‘mentor’
to guide them through it. Fear of (public) humiliation
deters many people away when they first begin to develop
‘participatory’ church practices. It is a delicate balance
between protecting people from the risk of embarrassing
failure, whilst wanting to stretch and develop them.
In all this, being ‘right’ isn’t enough. We have to be
gracious in the way we demonstrate our ‘rightness’ – which
is difficult if we’re feeling insecure and under pressure to
perform ourselves. By choosing to be courteous, and to offer
much praise, we may appear to run the risk of making people
feel that they are further on that they really are, but
encouragement is so important, and the Lord can find ways to
swing the pendulum back again.
Leaders need peer support
||If a man
does not make new acquaintances as he advances
through life, He will soon find himself left alone.
A man, sir, should keep his friendship in constant
repair. (Samuel Johnson)
After the friendship of God, a friend’s affection is
the greatest treasure here below. (Anon)
The firmest friendships are formed in mutual
adversity, just as iron is most strongly united by
the fiercest flames. (Charles Colton)
Every one of us needs at
least one person we can relate to closely who will sharpen,
encourage, and, if need be, correct us. The pressures of
life are such that we must actively take time out to meet
with such people.
We soon find out in leadership that the enemy tries to wear
us out by sending certain types of people our way to drain
us. This is a diary matter. Are we allowing our schedules to
be dictated for us by others? Are we making enough time to
reach out to train the potential-filled?
spent in reconnaissance is rarely wasted (Army
In Old Testament times,
preparing and offering the sacrifice took a long time; the
actual moment of eating it was much quicker. (Incidentally,
aren’t meals a wonderful time for going deeper with people!)
Nehemiah spent 120 days preparing to ask the governor for
permission to return to Jerusalem; the actual moment of
asking only took a moment. Even the walls were rebuilt in a
surprisingly short time.
In our instant generation, many things need preparing for
diligently. We must be wise concerning the timing of the
things we pray for too. The best generals only reveal
certain parts of their orders at the right moment – and that
may be quite close to the moment when they need to be
obeyed. On other occasions, much notice may need to be given
in order to provide people with the maximum chance to
prepare for change.
Leaders protect their marriages by identifying their top
to say, ‘Guys, avoid setting out to conquer (a
woman’s heart) unless you are prepared to take
responsibility for it afterwards.’
‘Women, beware your desire to have a strong man –
you can end up with the wrong kind of strongman.’
What is so remarkable about love at first sight? It
is when people have been looking at each other for
years that it becomes remarkable. (Anon)
Choose a wife rather by your ear than your eye.
[After all, you will hear her voice a great deal!]
In marriage, being the right person is as important
as finding the right person. (Wilbert Gough)
One of the great similarities between Christianity
and marriage is that for Christians, they both get
better as we get older. (Jean Rees)
In marriage seminars we have sometimes conducted a simple
but surprisingly effective exercise. We invite people to
choose from a list of ten qualities, and then to select the
three or four we feel we need most, in order of their
importance to us. We then try to gauge our partner’s primary
needs. It never ceases to astonish how far off target even
mature and experienced couples can prove to be at this
The great value of the exercise is that understanding our
own, and our partner’s real needs will cause us to
reappraise the way we relate to them. To summarize the
process – which can be done with any close-knit group –
1: From the list below, take time out as a
couple for you and your partner to work out your top
three or four needs. Keep these lists to yourselves
for the time being.
Admiration & Appreciation
Care, Comfort & Affection
Step 2: Write down what you imagine your
partner's top needs are.
Step 3: This is where it gets really
interesting: compare your notes! Again and again, we
find that even people who thought they knew each
other really well end up missing or mistaking their
partner’s top needs altogether.
To take an example and to
push it to absurd levels. Suppose a man’s chief need is for
financial security. Presuming this also to be his wife’s top
need, he rushes out to provide her with a new Daimler every
month for whole year. He then sits back, assuming she will
be grateful to him forever for his incredible largesse. The
trouble was – she had never wanted a line of Daimlers
stretching down the street. She would have been more
grateful for some help with the household chores and with
more vocal praise and appreciation for all she was doing.
After some years of doing he starts wondering (and perhaps
resenting) why so much output has yielded so little return –
almost as though these considerable efforts have not been
appreciated. It may take him a long time to realise that the
size of the gift is no substitute for daily care and
Over a period of time, the effects of ‘missing the mark’ in
this way can cause attritional damage. Partner X may have
put in a huge amount of effort giving quality ‘y’ to Partner
Z. In the same way, much teaching – and even prophecy – can
miss the hearts of the people for whose edification it was
By the way, if you think you are too busy, or too ‘together’
to need to do this exercise, it may be a sign that you
really do need to do it!
Leaders must work to overcome their prejudices
people take the trouble to use their brains as long
as their prejudices are in working condition. (Roy
No person is strong enough to carry a cross and a
prejudice at the same time. (William Ward)
Keep praying, but be thankful that God’s answers are
wiser than our prayers! (William Culbertson)
If we could read the secret history of our enemies,
we should find in each man’s life sorrow and
suffering enough to disarm all hostility. (Henry
Prejudice is a huge problem
in the Church. It keeps many from endorsing legitimate
ministries and quagmires others in woefully inadequate
worldviews. God is always looking to explode or unravel our
prejudices! Whilst His word itself can never change, our
perception of it may suffer from too narrow an
interpretation of it.
It is often God’s delight to put us together with people who
we initially do not get on well with. His Spirit works like
sandpaper to smooth rough edges, and to release the blessing
hat is in both parties to come to the surface.
Some however are neither teachable nor befriendable,
especially if they are so locked into their way of seeing
things that they may never be able to see things in a
different light. There is nothing so tragic as seeing good
people burying themselves in legalistic attitudes and
Leaders cannot afford to major on minors. It is so easy to
get sucked into someone else’s deception and end up seeing
things through distorted lenses. Neither should we expect
God automatically to work in the way that He did last time.
He loves to take us by surprise!
tell evil of a man if you do not know it for a
certainty; and if you do know it for a certainty,
then ask yourself: ‘Why should I tell it?' (Johann
Never believe anything bad about anybody unless you
positively know it to be true; never tell even that
unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary –
and that God is listening while you tell it. (Henry
Unless we are willing to help a person overcome his
faults, there is little value in pointing them out.
Walk softly, speak tenderly lest you find you have
to eat the harsh words that you say; pray fervently,
do not run before you can walk, and most of all do
not run down God’s people. (Anon, adapted)
matter of what we, as leaders, hear about people.
How much do we allow this to influence us?
1) I never believe a word of what I hear.
2) I believe every word I am told.
3) When I hear bad things about someone, I try to
remember that there may be another side to this
story. (Pvbs. 18:17)
Keep me open to heed godly
warnings (or praise), but help me to bear in mind that the
person speaking to me may themselves be prejudiced or
Leaders must be willing to confront but quick to forgive
church that is married to the spirit of the age will
find itself a widow in the next generation. (Anon)
Most of us instinctively go a
long way out of our way to avoid unnecessary confrontation
and disputes – but most of us also get caught up in at least
some of these time-absorbing, relationship-souring and
faith-deadening conflicts. If only we would engage our brain
before opening our mouth and remember that ‘a soft answer
still turns away wrath!’ (Prov 15:1)
There come times, however, when the right and prophetic
course of action is to take a stand against the conventional
or the counterfeit. In 1 Kings 18:17-18 we find Ahab the
Shifty accusing Elijah of being the cause of all the trouble
Elijah flung the taunt back in the king’s face. ‘You've got
it wrong, Ahab. This drought has come upon the nation
because you chose to worship the Baals. You're the real
cause of all the trouble, not me!’
The king was dumbfounded. Nobody had ever had the nerve to
speak to him like this. The prophet’s bravery struck him as
forcibly as the truth he was speaking. The truth of the
accusation led him almost meekly to agree to the terms of
the challenge Elijah proposed: an unprecedented contest to
demonstrate to the nation whether God or Baal was really
Lord. The stage was set for a showdown in which the power of
God would come so dramatically that the nation was set free
from the grip of the Baals.
Father, forgive us for all the foolish quarrels we get
caught up in. Forgive us when we have allowed arguments to
dominate and pride to separate us. Grant us grace not to
feed these divisive and judgemental spirits in ourselves or
in others, but to sow such peace as defuses anger and
reduces the spirit of competition. But when we have to
confront, grant us grace to do so wisely and lovingly, not
regarding the other as our enemy but as a fellow pilgrim on
the path. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1) I go miles out of my way to avoid confrontation.
2) I am always on the lookout to confront anyone who
is out of line!
3) I really want to learn how Jesus confronted
‘sinners’ and to listen to the Lord for each
4) I keep my distance from people who have failed.
forgives ends the quarrel. (African proverb)
A fault confessed is a new virtue added to a man.
A Christian will find it cheaper to pardon than to
resent. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the
cost of hatred, the waste of spirit. (Hannah More)
‘I can forgive, but I cannot forget,’ is only
another way of saying, I will not forgive.’ (Henry
Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until
they have something to forgive. (C.S. Lewis)
For him who confesses, shams are over and realities
have begun. (Williams James)
Perseverance (2 Cor 4:16-18)
You have probably heard about the remarkable type of bamboo
seed that requires watering for five long years. During this
time there is no sign of growth. It is impossible to tell by
the naked eye whether the seed is alive or not, but, in
faith, people keep watering it. After five years, in the
space of just a few weeks it grows an astonishing five to
We need considerable faith to keep holding onto something
that is only visible to the eye of faith – and to take hold
of it again when we temporarily lose hold of it. We do not
need to lie down when we do wobble and wait for a lorry to
put us out of our misery! If children get up when they
tumble over, why are we sometimes reluctant to do the same
in the realm of the Spirit?
We are often overly hard on ourselves – and there are bound
to be others who will be even harder on us. Faith holds on,
therefore, until we see the fulfilment of all that we have
been called to do. ‘Blessed is she who believed that what
the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!’ (Luke1:45)
We must continue on the course God has launched us, even
when we feel as though we are not getting much reward. We
are in good company. The great Vincent Van Goth only sold
one painting in his lifetime. The first Protestant
missionaries to China saw only one convert in ten years
labour, and then only one more in the next ten. But just
look at the millions there are today – in what has been
described as the fastest growing Church in history. There
would have been no hint in those early years of danger and
struggle of the mighty harvest that is being reaped today.
would you place yourself on that spectrum?
1) ‘I just hunker down and hope that everything
will work out okay in the end.’
2) I am a pessimistic-realist. I’ve seen enough
broken bones to know that the worst can happen.
3) God has called me to . . . so He will find a way
for it to be fulfilled.
Leaders trust God to find
a way through
Obstacles are those terrifying things we see when we
take our eyes off our goals. (Anon)
What God sends is better than what men ask for.
Again and again the path
ahead will look impossible. The Lord is wonderful in opening
doors where previously all we had seen was a solid wall. As
Armin Gesswein put it,
When God is about to do something great he starts with a
difficulty. When He is about to do something truly
magnificent, He starts with an impossibility.
There is a well known verse, Jeremiah 33:3: ‘Call to me and
I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things
you do not know.’ But not everyone is so familiar with the
context of that verse. It was while Jeremiah was in close
confinement in prison that the Lord gave him that wonderful
promise. It is good to remember times when you have felt
completely hemmed, and when the Lord has given you a promise
to sustain you before sending the deliverances you were
longing for. We cry out loudly enough concerning these
difficulties at the time but can often barely remember them
a month or two later unless we make a note of them. God is
is accomplished without courage.
Behold the turtle: He makes progress only when he
sticks his neck out. (James Conant)
Leaders, watch your minds!
We will end with something we could well have made our
starting point. The direction of our heart and mind is the
thing will, in the last resort, play a major part in
determining how well we lead others.
Mind management is not much more than a matter of keeping us
away from dangerous chains of thought that lead to wrong
courses of action. It is all about understanding, nurturing
and developing the desires that God has placed within our
all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring
of life. (Prov 4:23)
What do you do to bring your thoughts captive to
Christ? (2 Cor 10:5)
What are the times
when your mind is at its least alert and protected?
Meditate on how George Müller set about his daily
life of faith.
The first thing I do, after
having asked the Lord’s blessing upon his precious Word is
to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching into
every verse to get blessing and . . . food for my soul. The
result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after
a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to
thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so
that, though I did not give myself to prayer but to
meditation, it turned almost immediately into prayer.
your mind or it will rule you. (Horace)
The sins of the mind are the last habitation of the
devil. (Jarol Johnson)
Every man has a train of thought on which he rides
when he is alone. The dignity and nobility of his
life as well as his happiness, depend upon the
direction in which that train is going, the baggage
it carries, and the scenery through which it
travels. (Joseph Fort Newton)
Nothing is easier than self-deceit, for what each
man wishes, that he also believes to be true. (Anon)
Sometimes an open mind is one that is too porous to
hold a conviction. (Norman MacFarlane)
Impossible desires are punished in the desire
itself. (Philip Sidney)
Cultivate an eternal
If you read history, you will find that the Christians who
did most for the present world were precisely those who
thought most of the next. It is since Christians have
largely ceased to think of the other world that they have
become so ineffective in this. C.S.Lewis wrote, ‘Aim at
heaven and you’ll get the earth thrown in . . . Aim at earth
and you’ll get neither.’
We are so tempted to think only in the ‘here and now’. There
was a man who came back after serving the Lord in Africa for
forty years. He was very poor and had no pension to look
forward to. When his ship berthed in New York, all the rich
people on board were feted home with great parties – but
there was no reception committee waiting for him. ‘Lord,’ he
cried, ‘why is there nothing for me when I have served you
for so long?’ And then a great conviction was borne upon him
and the word of the Lord came to him: ‘My son, you have not
yet come home.’ God wants us to maintain this eternal
Spirit lead you, and His love and power shine
through you always.
Of one thing I am certain: the One who started the
good work in you will bring it to completion by the
day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NEB)
Material in this book may be freely used if properly
©November 2006, Robert Weston,
Ruach (Breath of Life) Ministries