Seriously: You don’t need God to be a leader in his kingdom.
Let’s consider my statement from a few different perspectives:
Theologically. God can use anyone for his purpose. He calls us to be faithful, but he’s not limited to working with obedient leaders. If God can use the evil Assyrian empire to accomplish his will, he can use a leader who has wandered from the truth. When we fail to believe this truth, our devotional life becomes transactional and entitled. Here’s what I mean: although we’d never say it out loud, we believe in the silence of hearts, “God owes me his power, protection, and blessing. I’ve completed my spiritual checklist, therefore God owes me… ”
Experientially. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and in a coma, on a deserted island located on a planet in another galaxy), you’ve seen a great ministry leader fall from influence due to a game-changing sin lifestyle–decisions which often ran the course of decades while having an “effective” ministry. God can do great things through people with great sin secrets.
Practically. Take a moment to consider your own experience, have you ever been tempted to “cut corners” with your personal devotions so that you can get “more” things done? You don’t need to lead for very long before facing the realities that fight against your spiritual growth. Here are two:
Ministry leadership is increasingly difficult. There is always more to do, the job of ministry never ends. There’s always another call to make, a program to create, a message to prep, student to counsel, and for some of your churches, an elder who needs to hear the gospel. Ministry leadership can feel like sinking to the bottom of the ocean. The further you go, the greater the pressure. If failure can be crippling, success can increase the pressure exponentially. Both failure and success can make us bow down to fear.
A failure fear: “What if I make another mistake?”
A success fear: “How can I deliver even more?”
Ministry leadership is on display. The results of what you do are under constant scrutiny by the people you are leading, work with, and report to. The feedback–positive or negative–is focused on the externals like your messages, event, or camp. Nobody cares if you prayed before you wrote the message or divided the students into cabins.
It’s your leadership that is on display, not the condition of your heart.
THIS TRAGIC. AND DEVASTATING. AND TERRIBLE. AND HEARTBREAKING.
Personally: We can lead without God, but this misses the whole point. As God is working through us, he is also working in us. In fact, his work in our hearts is the more important work. We need a vibrant and authentic and growing relationship with God.
In his day, Jeremiah criticised the leadership for losing their connection to God:
The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols. Jeremiah 2:8
We can learn from their mistakes. Let us take the time to pray and think and consider and ask where God is working.
Let us take time to know God–for who he really is–more and more, for the rest of our lives.
Let us be resolved to follow his leading, even when we want to go another way.
Finally, let us speak the words he puts give us, for anything less is idol worship.