Leadership God's Way
One of the most repeated prayers we hear is, “Lord, lead, guide, and direct, that we may go in the way You would have us to go.” Do you ever wonder if there is really a difference between God leading, God guiding, and God directing?
The dictionary shows “lead” to mean “position at the front.” So, to ask God to lead us is to ask that He take the front position, and wherever He leads, we will follow. “Guide” means very much the same as “lead.” But interestingly, “direct” means “to regulate the activities or course of a person or group.” In the theater, the director is the one who supervises the production of a show. He is usually responsible for action, lighting, music, and rehearsals. Just as the show is totally dependent on the director, our lives are like that with God. We can't go on without the direction of the One who wrote the script and who has a part for each of us to play. So we ask Him to “direct” us.
The reason we use such prayer is that it expresses the intense desire of our hearts to be led in God's way and not in our own. We don't want to go astray. As an expression of our dependence upon Him we ask God to lead, guide, and direct not only our activities but even our thoughts.
Many of our Christian hymns express the desire for or the acknowledgement of God's leadership in our lives: “God Leads Us Along”; “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”; “He Leadeth Me”; “If Jesus Goes with Me”; “It Is Glory Just to Walk with Him”; “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee”; and “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”
God's Way of Leading in the Old Testament
As we read through the Old Testament, we learn that God led Israel with power, with compassion, with tenderness, even taking “them [Israel] by the hand” (Jer. 31:32). The psalmist speaks of being led by the Lord “into paths of righteousness” and “by the still waters.” God leads His people not from a distance but is present and involved in their lives daily. God loved, cared for, and led His people Israel through leaders whom He appointed over them.
All of the appointed leaders had to learn to lead God's way and, with few exceptions, they were slow learners. Some tried to lead by human reason, without seeking God's way; and, as a result, failed in their efforts. Some tried to lead by fleshly might, not relying on God's power, and they suffered great loss. Some tried to substitute their own plans for God's plans, only to end up frustrated. But those who had a heart for God emerged as outstanding leaders.
Gideon Led God's Way
Gideon is a good example of someone who led God's people in God's way. In Gideon's day, because Israel had forsaken God, they were overrun by their enemies, the Midianites, who terrorized them, robbed them of their harvest, and left the land desolate. This made life intolerable for the people (Judg. 6:1–5), but in the midst of their distress, “the children of Israel cried out to the Lord” (v. 6). As a result, God answered their cry and called Gideon to deliver them from the tyranny of the Midianites, and he proved to be a leader who led God's way. In Judges 6–8 you can trace the steps of Gideon's leadership, from the time of his call to his subduing of the Midianites.
God reduced Gideon's army from 32,000 soldiers down to 300. He was not encouraging risk-taking, He was building trust. God is able to save by many or by few, and in this case He chose few. This runs counter to our success-oriented culture that believes bigger is better.
Note a time in your life when God led you to do something, the accomplishment of which required complete trust in Him. You obeyed, and the outcome was even beyond your expectations.
Abimelech Resisted God's Way
Although Gideon proved to be a leader who led God's way, his son Abimelech did not follow in his footsteps. Whereas Gideon refused when the people of Israel asked him to rule over them (Judg. 8:22, 23), Abimelech, his son, had a lust for power and wanted to be king. After his father's death, Abimelech immediately took steps to gain rulership over Israel. Judges 9:1–6 reveals Abimelech's conspiracy. Describe what he did.
The reading of Judges 9:7–21 reveals the courage it took for Jotham to stand up to his brother Abimelech. Jotham was enraged at the injustice done to his father's house and was ready to speak out against it. He presented himself before Abimelech and the men of Shechem at the risk of losing his life, and in prophetic parabolic language he declared the wickedness of Abimelech and told of his downfall that was forthcoming. Relate the message Jotham declared.
Record a time in your life when you had to speak out against unfairness or wrong, perhaps even at the risk of retaliation. What was the issue? Where did you get the motivation to speak out? What was the outcome?
God's Way of Leading in the New Testament
God's way of leading His people changes when we come to the New Testament. Whereas He led through the patriarchs, prophets, judges, and kings in the Old Testament, in the New He leads through a variety of gifts and ministry offices that He has placed in the church. (Although the gifts of the Spirit have been considered in Lesson 5, you will view them from a different perspective in this lesson.)
Some see the gifts of the Holy Spirit as being given to the church by each member of the Trinity. Gifts that are listed in Romans 12:6–8 are seen as being given by the Father (basic life purpose and motivation); those in Ephesians 4:11, as being given by the Son (to equip and facilitate the church body); and those in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, the charismata, as being given by the Holy Spirit.
Every believer has been gifted in some way (Eph. 4:7) so as to be able to participate in ministry to the body of Christ. The abundance of gifts to the church reflects the love and care that God has for each of us. He cares for us and leads us through His Word, His Spirit, and through the gifts He has given to the church. It is His will that each believer enjoy the fullness of the Spirit, grow to full stature in Christ, and be equipped to minister.
Leading God's way means different things to different people. There are differences of opinion as to the way leadership is to be implemented in the church and also with regard to the role of the laity in leadership.
While some hold to a pastor-centered institutional leadership model, others see the pastor as a “player coach,” e.g., one who disciples and equips others for ministry while he is involved in ministry alongside them.
Some see the sheep (congregation) as dependent upon the shepherd (pastor). The shepherd leads, waters, pastures, and protects the flock. He does everything for them, so they become dependent upon him. As a result, there is little opportunity for the sheep to develop their own leadership gifts. If they lead at all, it is usually in the “nonspiritual” areas of church life.
Every Believer is a Priest
There are those who, though they recognize the role of and need for pastors, hold to the teaching that every member of Christ's body is a priest before God and to one another. This view decentralizes the focus of spiritual leadership. It sees Christ's ministry gifts to the church—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph. 4:11)—as equipping in nature. These leaders are Jesus' gifts to the church, to equip members of the church so that they may do the work of the ministry.
The every-believer-a-priest view encourages all believers to prayerfully ascertain what gifts they possess and to function in ministry accordingly. To assist them, spiritual profile tests and spiritual gifts inventories may be administered. In addition, training seminars are provided on how the gifts function.
Those who hold this view of church ministry testify to growth that takes place in the individual believer's life, as well as the dynamic spiritual relationships that develop within the body and an increase in the number of new believers added to the church.
What are the spiritual gifts that function in your personal ministry?
How did you become aware of those gifts being present in your life and ministry?
How would you describe your church's ministry model? Pastor-centered? People-centered? Other?
What are the advantages of the ministry model used in your church?
What are the disadvantages, if any?
What God's Leading is Not
True spiritual leadership is not by false charisma, that is, not by human magnetism or genius. Personal charm may get a leader a following for a while, but charm alone can wear thin quickly if not accompanied by substantive ministry that feeds the soul and gives direction for life. The Greeks came to the disciples and said, “We would see Jesus” (John 12:20, 21). People of discernment hunger for Jesus and need leaders who can so minister to them, not charm or manipulate them.
The leaders of the seven churches of Asia, whom Jesus addressed in letters recorded in Revelation 2 and 3, are referred to as “stars” (1:20). They are portrayed as stars being held in Jesus' right hand (v. 16). Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes, “He had in his right hand seven stars, that is, the ministers of the seven churches, who are under his direction, have all their light and influence from him, and are secured and preserved by him.” [Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. VI (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company), 1122. ]
What a blessed condition: not our light and influence but His, not our holding power but His. Not our direction but His, not our charm but His anointing and calling that is leading God's way!
John the Baptist was a great prophet. Multitudes of people came to hear his call to repentance and to be baptized by him. When some began to wonder if he was the Christ, he made it quite clear to them that he was not. John's gospel records John the Baptist's response to the people. Read John 3:28–30.
One person cannot be all things to all people. We all have blind spots. Teamwork is needed if adequate leadership is to be provided. Jesus and His disciples worked as a team. He taught them and trained them, and when He left earth to return to heaven He was able to leave His work in their hands.
Where there is personality-centered leadership there is weak structure, but where there is team leadership the church structure will be strengthened. The apostle Paul said, “For we are labourers together with God” (1 Cor. 3:9, kjv. Read also Phil. 1:27; Col. 2:2). If teamwork is to exist, then there can be no loners or “Lone Rangers.”
Here are some tips for those who desire to lead God's way.
• Develop an intimate relationship and walk with God.
• Live a life focused on doing the thing God has called you to do, and do it God's way. Be led by the Holy Spirit. Let Him set the agenda. Live a disciplined life so as to yield maximum fruitage.
• Pray about the type of ministry God would have you develop. Will it be a leader-centered or every-believer-a-priest ministry? In either case, seek to enable each believer you lead to reach his or her full potential of growth and ministry in Christ.
• Be an emissary of love to a world that is hurting.
• Let it be known that your sufficiency is not of yourself but of God. The miracles you have experienced and the achievement of things thought impossible all point to the One who gave the grace and who released His power to bring it all about.
• Be one through whom the Spirit of God can speak a fresh word to the church. Preach and teach the Word with the anointing of the Spirit and be a vessel ready to speak the extemporaneous word of prophecy when it is the will of the Spirit to do so.
• Be rich in the knowledge of the Bible.
John W. Worley, Ph.D.
44 Farmers Row
Groton, MA 01450-1802