God Knows Us Inside Out – And Lets Us Lead Anyway
An excerpt from our latest ebook, ‘Becoming a Leader of No Reputation’
We have just published a booklet entitled, ‘Becoming a Leader of No Reputation.’ It is currently available as a free ebook through Kingdom Life Publishing and will soon be made into a paperback pamphlet. Below is an excerpt from the article. We hope it blesses you this week!
One of the greatest gifts I received during my term as a seminary president came from my colleague Ron Sider in the form of a book entitled, “Leadership Prayers” by Richard Kriegbaum. The honesty and humility in these prayers bear witness to the heart of a godly leader. In his prayer for trust, Kriegbaum offers these words,
I love you, God. You know I do. How natural it is to love you. You are perfect. You are beautiful, pure, powerful, absolutely truthful, and kind. You have been so generous to me that just saying thank you seems pitiful sometimes. But far more powerful in my life is knowing and feeling that you love me. You know exactly and completely who I am – all my ugly thoughts, my mangled motivations, my pretending, my irrational fears, my pride, and my unfaithfulness – and you still love me. I know you love me. You know me, and yet, because you love me, you let me lead others. I do not understand it, but I am grateful.
In reading these words back through the lenses of my experience I have come to the conclusion that when God uses any of us to lead effectively, it is nothing short of a miracle. When we place the complex and demanding role of a godly leader next to an honest self-awareness of our own sinfulness and incompetence, we are thrown wholly upon the grace of God and his faithfulness if we are ever to lead anyone anywhere.
There is a corollary here to the miracle that occurs in both the efficacy of Scripture and in the effectiveness of our preaching. In both, human words are taken up by the power of the Holy Spirit to become the words of God. In both its inspiration and its interpretation, the words of Scripture are completely reliant on the activity of the Spirit of God. When the Spirit illumines the human word, hearts are changed, people are transformed and God’s work is done. The same is true in our preaching. We study and prepare as we are trained to do, but in the end, our preaching only becomes effective when the Spirit of God takes up our feeble human words and uses them to touch hearts and change lives. When it happens it is a miracle!
Conversely, when we seek to have the written words of Scripture or the spoken words of the preacher stand alone apart from the work of the Spirit, our ministry loses its power. It becomes our words, our interpretation, our exegesis and our proclamation. And slowly and naturally into these words of ours will seep the ugly thoughts, mangled motivations, pretending, irrational fears, pride and unfaithfulness of Kriegbaum’s prayer.
I have come to learn that we must approach leadership in dependent humility.
Throughout history God looked to the least, the weakest, the outcast, the untalented, the sinful and the rejected to give great leadership at historic times. And He hasn’t changed that approach today.
If we are honest as leaders, we know that we are not capable of leading as the size and complexity of our call demands. We know that there are others more talented, more prepared, more spiritual and more courageous than are we. But great godly leaders have always worked at that miraculous intersection where humility and faith meet the awesome presence and power of God’s Spirit. And the miracle of leadership happens. It doesn’t mean that we don’t prepare ourselves, hone our skills and seek to be the best we can be for the kingdom. What it does mean is that in the end, all that we bring will fall woefully short of what is required, and we will be ever thrown again into the grace and faithfulness of God to work the miracle of leadership in and through and even in spite of our small pile of skills and talents.
When God uses us to lead, and lead effectively, we should fall on our knees in wonder and thanksgiving that we have seen again this miracle worked in our midst. However, it is far too easy for us to take ownership of this miracle and to believe that these results are due to our own wonderful abilities and leadership qualities. If and when we make this subtle yet devastating shift, the efficacy of our leadership for the kingdom is over. We are on our own, cut off from the power and preservation of the Spirit. Every leader finds himself or herself there at some point in their work, and it is a terrifying place to be!
Godly leadership is the miracle of God’s use of our earthen vessels for the glorious work of His kingdom.
To miss this miraculous aspect of leadership will threaten everything we do as leaders, and our office or study will be the loneliest place on earth. I have come to understand the miracle of godly leadership, and its connection with self-awareness, the need to decrease and the power of God’s anointing. This is the intersection of our humble service with God’s almighty power where we become leaders of no reputation.
Richard Kriegbaum, Leadership Prayers (Tyndale House: Wheaton, 1998), p. 22. (italics mine)