22 Oct Called to Lead
As women, God is constantly asking us to lead different people in different ways. If you’re like me, you might struggle at times with accepting the mission. I’ve found that women who feel confident to lead are often not ready or teachable. On the other hand, those who don’t “feel” ready become humble leaders who are open to being coached up. How do we not reject the path God is pointing us toward and take steps to discern how to lead well?
Leadership was not an inviting topic for much of my life. I was afraid to lead and enjoyed being “in the background” unseen. Held captive to my insecurities and unhealed emotional wounds from childhood, I would often say, “I’m not a leader, I’m comfortable behind the scenes.” I grew to understand that leaders are people who influence others, serve others, and are willing to step up to face challenges, which can be behind the scenes or out in front of people. I was leading people without realizing it, but wasn’t doing a great job because I was fearful. God patiently taught me, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ“ (Col. 3:23-24 ESV). Wait, what?!?! I wasn’t working for man’s approval and didn’t need to fear disapproval. That was a new way of thinking for this pastor’s kid who lived in a fish bowl of fear and hiding in my youth! It still amazes me how God can use a single verse to open our eyes. That launched me to a place of considering what being a leader looked like, and most importantly what God’s will was for me as a leader (employee, wife, mom, friend, and eventually women’s ministry director).
I was set on a course to stop my people pleasing and pivot to seeking God’s plan and Him equipping me along the way. I had to first work through my unhealed emotional pains with prayer, Bible, and wise counsel. None of these areas of my life were stellar but I knew God wanted to help me grow, so I started increasing my prayer life and Bible reading. The enemy continually tried to shame me that “you should already be an expert at those things since you’ve been a Christian so long,” but God encouraged me with truth to refute the lies. This took some years (total healing comes in eternity) and hard work empowered by the Holy Spirit to unburden, repent, forgive, and ask the Lord for courage to step out of my comfort zone. This also helped my marriage as we desired to walk in singular headship (the husband lovingly leads the home) and plural leadership (we were created with equal value and have roles and gifts to contribute to our marriage relationship).
I remember one night during a conversation with my husband (Mark) I said, “I’m not a leader, I can’t lead.” Lies had flooded in again and I was doubting God’s work in me. Mark quickly said, “You lead the kids!” He was right, but somehow I had discounted that as real leadership. I had 5 kids that gave me challenges to resolve every day over and over, but didn’t consider that I was in their life to influence them, serve them, and step up to face challenges…lead them. Somehow I still had a picture in my mind that a leader needed to “know everything” and publicly direct peoples’ lives. In that moment I realized leaders need to be learning and teachable so they can help others grow in ways that God has grown them. I’ve often said, “A sign of maturity isn’t that we know everything, but that we are teachable and able to see our sin more quickly so we can change.” Proverbs 19:20-21 says, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
Fast forward to today, I teach and direct Flourish Women’s Ministry at our church. Wait, what?!?! How did that happen Lord? I’m the last person You want to pick for that! Well, His will was to stretch me beyond my limits and have me live in front of others without shame. I’m not flashy or polished, but most of us women aren’t and we want other real women to give us some wisdom along the way. My two biggest fears were teaching and leading, but God didn’t want me to stay captive to my fears. As Paul says, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24 ESV). We all have a ministry that the Lord has given us, and He faithfully blesses our journey of walking in His will. I know not to get ahead of Him (Ps. 27:14 ESV) or lag behind. I know that it’s not about a title or peoples’ opinions. I know He will continue to equip me if I remain teachable. I know how amazing it is to serve and encourage others whether they lead in the forefront or the background. We learn in 1 Corinthians 12 that all parts of the body are needed and must be led by the Holy Spirit! “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (verses 4-7 ESV). We must stay connected to God no matter where He calls us to lead if we want to be godly and use the gifts He gives us.
Paul helps us as well when he writes Jesus’ words, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9 ESV). Also, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-7ESV).
How can you serve people as you lead them? How can you invest in the long-term growth of people you are leading? I’m praying for us to be godly, real women who lead those God entrusts to us by the power of the Holy Spirit!