There is much written and said today about leadership and that has been the focus of my articles as of late. While training leaders in Guarda, Portugal last week I was asked, “How do you remain humble and still be a strong leader?” That is a great question that expresses the delicate balance needed to be a godly leader. We must remain humble, realizing that our authority comes from Him, but that does not mean cowering or hiding from confrontation. This balance can only be achieved through the Word of God, the leadership of the Holy Spirit and by dying to self daily and in every situation.
One element in leading with balance is being able to say “no.” You cannot do everything, fix everything or handle everything, and here is some great news — God never asked you to! Being a fixer myself, I always believe that I can help and make things better. My heart is usually in the right place because I really do love helping and serving, but it is very easy to overextend myself. A very good friend of mine loves to say, “Under promise and over-deliver.” The weight and burden of ministry is greatly amplified and intensified when you over-promise and under-deliver. Striving to overachieve can greatly complicate your life.
Another element of leading with balance is designing your life to be focused on what is important instead of being driven by what is urgent. All too often, we lead reactively and feel like we are always running from one brush fire to the next, trying to put them out before they get out of control. This style of leadership has very little planning and way too much shooting from the hip as you go. It can be exhilarating and even provide an adrenaline rush, but the crash at the end can be very painful and even debilitating. Emergencies are real in the ministry and will occur, but they should not be the daily practice of how leaders function.
Leading with balance requires accepting responsibility to change what you can and accepting what you cannot. You are responsible to people, but you are not responsible for people. God told Ezekiel what to tell the people but then said, “They will not listen to you because they did not listen to me either.”
In The Stressless Life, Vance Pitman describes the difference between genuine concern and fearful concern: “Genuine concern is expressed through a dependence on God. It causes us to ask, ‘What will He do?’ Fearful concern is expressed through a dependence on self. It causes us to ask, ‘What am I going to do?’”
Leading with balance requires functioning primarily in your area of giftedness and recruiting others on your team who are strong where you are not. If you are not strong in administration, then find someone who is and shares your vision for the ministry God has called you to. Be reminded again of how, in I Corinthians 12, every member of the church body has a very different role but also an equally important one. Moses had Aaron, then he had Joshua. Barnabas had Paul, then Paul had Timothy. The ministry is the greatest team sport of all and was never meant to be journeyed alone.
Leading with balance will demand listening to criticism but not being incapacitated by it. This is not easy, because the pain and hurt are real, but criticism will crush you if you allow it. Another good friend likes to remind me that the reason certain people are dominating my time and thoughts is because I allow them to do so. Yes, we should listen to constructive criticism and learn from the counsel of many, but you cannot allow critical people to define who you are and where you are headed as you strive to faithfully follow the Lord. Here is the truth — everyone has critics, and we need to learn how to navigate criticism well.
Leading with balance means that you are focused on being faithful day after day and not looking for the magical “silver bullet” that will fix everything. In The Anatomy of a Revived Church, Thom Rainersays, “If you depend on a silver bullet solution for revitalization, it is guaranteed not to happen.” He continues, “Do this (waiting on silver bullets to turn the church around) and this (the church will continue to decline) will happen.” Take the time to prayerfully figure out what needs to be worked on, then spend the time finding a solution and applying yourself to the task. Obediently carry out the vision God has given you.
Leading with balance also requires a radical (maybe even imbalanced) dedication to being rooted in the truth of the Word of God, saturated in prayer with a conviction for every step to be God-initiated and the overwhelming reality that you cannot do this without the Lord. This is more than you are capable of and bigger than you can handle. All of us are totally dependent upon the Lord. You can plant and you can water, but only God can give the increase. That is why we must remember that obedience to His calling requires hard work. Paul challenged us to walk worthy of our calling and to give all of our efforts to His calling.
Leadership demands followship and a complete, 100% surrender to the Lord. Balance is important, but it begins by determining that you are all in. Balance is not holding back on our commitment to Him because, in the beginning, God knew we would need to rest and that is why He instituted a sabbath for us. You need rest, you need help, you need counsel and most of all you need to abide in Him. Paul used strong terminology of commitment like, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).