The Leadership Challenge
Leaders pursue a calling beyond themselves. They solve problems they didn’t create, and bear burdens not theirs. To do this, they must develop and deploy relevant resources. People who are still overwhelmed by personal issues cannot be effective as leaders.
Resourceful leaders hold the key to the final harvest: leaders at every stratum everywhere ready to confront this incredulous generation, and missionaries equipped to face every challenge in “the dark places of the earth” (Psalm 74:20). We must have the great provision for the Great Commission. Vision without provision equals frustration. We cannot face “Goliath” empty-handed.
Leaders are subject to relentless pressure. Personal issues apart, leaders must provide vision and direction, generate resources to fund the vision, do member care, and still manage to stay focused on their primary objective. They must feed the sheep, balance the budget, and conquer new territories. Leaders must have something. Adoring multitudes place leaders on pedestals, making it anathema for them to be bereft of relevant resources.
A Head on Your Shoulders!
Isaiah 3:5-7 reads,
People will oppress each other—man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the base against the honorable. A man will seize one of his brothers at his father's home, and say, “You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!” But in that day he will cry out, “I have no remedy. I have no food or clothing in my house; do not make me the leader of the people.”
To address the anarchy, new leadership was sought: “A man will seize one of his brothers at his father's home, and say, ‘You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!’” This is just the point: leaders look like they’ve got heads on their shoulders! What people don’t realize is that often that head is as confused as their own.
So how do leaders meet the myriad needs of followers who think them panaceas? From what secret fountain do they draw? This has been a very personal challenge. I believe the abiding challenge of Christian leadership is how to motivate, inspire, and feed followers, nurturing them to their highest potentials, while still managing to keep one’s own feet firmly planted on the rock and maximize one’s God-given vision.
God does not expect us to fulfil divine agenda without divine resources. I Corinthians 9:7 says, “Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?” Leaders can learn to tap God’s boundless resources by studying Jesus’ parable of the three friends (Luke 11:5-8):
Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”
Friend A is content at home, in no personal need, danger, or hunger. He has two friends—one insufficient, the other all-sufficient.
Friend B is on a journey (akin to the journey of life); he just “turned up” at Friend A’s home, without prior notice, desperate, with biting hunger that couldn’t wait until morning. He has no access to Friend C, who could have met his needs directly. He doesn’t know Friend C and doesn’t have his address! If he had ended up directly at Friend C’s house, Friend A would have had no need to go seeking help for him at midnight. People won’t need us much if they know how to reach God.
Friend C is content at home and all-sufficient all the time with no possibility of scarcity. He is at total rest in his all-sufficiency with his children. He has children, but no wife is mentioned—a perfect picture of our heavenly Father and his family! He knows Friend A quite well—so well in fact, that he didn’t ask, “Who are you?” when Friend A came calling at midnight.
Although they seem like reservoirs of solutions, leaders are like Friend A, with many demands made on us, but with “nothing to set before them.” Behind the façade of all-sufficiency, honest leaders will admit they are often at a loss as to how to meet the multi-faceted demands of ministry and the myriad needs of people—spiritual, marital, physical, financial, etc. In their journey through life, many “turn up”—often uninvited and at midnight for that matter! The vicissitudes of life have taken their toll on them. They are “wearied from their journeys,” (see John 4:6) and see hope of refreshment in us. Thank God that we have a connection to an all-sufficient Friend. But he must know us so well that we wouldn’t need any further identification when we come at midnight.
Friend A went to Friend C at midnight. He used his access on behalf of another—at a desperate hour! He didn’t carry the burden himself. This is the open secret of leaders: they maximize their connection to the omnipotent Sovereign of the universe, and thereby “download” resources. Leaders live stress-free by transferring the demands of their ministry to the Friend who can handle them. First Peter 5:7 reads, “Casting the whole of your care on him, for he cares for you.”
Lend Me Three Loaves…
I see tripartite humans covered in this request—one loaf for the spirit, another for the soul, and another for the body. Three loaves: spiritual, physical, financial—a holistic request for the whole of humans! The loaves are borrowed and must be accounted for. Friend A is not the source of what he uses to meet the needs of Friend B. Since we are not the source of the “three loaves” that can answer the cry of our generation, pride is excluded. All we give is what was given us: freely we have received, freely we must give.
The three loaves being requested are not for Friend A. His request is not to be consumed on himself and his own desires. He is driven to go out at midnight (at great personal cost and possible danger) by something other than self. This is quintessential intercession: he is standing in the gap for another. Many receive nothing because they ask amiss—to consume it on their own lusts. God desires to rain grace upon a thirsty, famished world, but where are the selfless conduits for his manifold blessings?
“Do not disturb me” was the seemingly negative initial response from within. He didn’t say, “I don’t have what you are asking for…” There is nothing we need to fulfil the Great Commission that Father doesn’t have. We must knock until the answer comes. Where friendship fails, shameless persistence and insistence will unlock the store. We are to take no rest and give him no rest until he releases all we need. Luke 11:9-11 reads,
So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened.
This Is the Way
The testimonies of friends who had desperate friends but who knew the Friend—from Moses to the Lord Jesus himself and following—prove that this is the way. Moses knew that whether dealing with the novel propositions of the daughters of Zelophehad, or confronting rebellious Korah & Company, there was but one recourse: to call upon the God who called him.
When inexperienced Solomon laced the over-sized shoes of his father David, with his heart pounding at his patent insufficiency for the task of ruling Israel, he called upon the God that enthroned him. Jesus knew that to feed a multitude in the wilderness, looking up (not around) was the only option. The apostles knew the only answer to the threats of Herod and the Sanhedrin was power from above (not abroad!).
Leaders must call upon the God who called them. They must maximize their access to all-sufficient omnipotence if they will ever have anything to “set before” this generation. There is no other way to meet the desperate demands of a needy, moribund world.
Since our sufficiency is not of ourselves but of the Lord, not to pray is to jeopardize the harvest. Leaders who don’t pray are a liability to the people they lead: they cut them off from divine supplies, thus short-changing them from God’s best. They are cogs in the wheel of God’s purpose on earth. Where else do they hope to source supernatural assistance for a supernatural assignment? Prayer generates the strength that fulfils divine purpose.
Prayer “uploads” our gratitude, worship, and challenges to heaven and “downloads” God’s boundless supply to us on earth. Jabez was more honourable than his brothers because he called on the God of Israel (see 1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Leaders who pray cannot be like those who do not. Those who pray will be more honourable and more holy, receive more supplies, and experience greater accomplishments than those who do not pray.
Prayer invites divine omnipotence into human impotence: where we cannot, God can. It is the open secret of rest: the burdens that would otherwise make the leader restless have been cast on the Lord by fervent intercession! It will release God’s power, unveil divine strategies, and distil wisdom for speedy accomplishment of God’s purpose. No wonder the apostles declared in Acts 6, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Whosoever will, let him or her come to the fountain that cannot run dry, to the throne of grace where we can find mercy and grace to help us in this hour of need.
“O Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come.” – Psalm 65:2