Our world cares a lot about people who are leaders or show leadership capabilities. We want to train them and give them opportunities and make sure they create successful companies or communities. This is all well and good. But I think in the church we are not supposed to do it quite the same way.
The spiritual gift of leadership is found in Romans 12 among other gifts like teaching and mercy. I have always been taught that these gifts are given by God to be used for His kingdom. It has, therefore, always seemed a bit off to me that the US church focuses so much on leadership development. If God gives the gifts, then will he not also qualify the one to whom he has given the gift?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t work to raise up leaders in the church or impart knowledge, but we shouldn’t prize leadership as the ultimate spiritual gift. I once heard Bill Hybels, during his Global Leadership Summit, thank God that he had the gift of leadership and not lesser gifts like hospitality and mercy. That sounds like a mouth that has forgotten that he needs a whole body to work! I have been wondering what leadership development looks like as my church talks about how to do it. I think helping students find and develop their spiritual gifts is incredibly important for me as a youth pastor.
All of that said, this morning I’m reading in the book of Joshua. We hear about Joshua all through the story of Moses. He is around Moses, helping Moses, going places with Moses. Then, near the end of Moses’ life, God declares that Joshua is to be the next leader of the Israelites. His first major task will be to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River and into the promised land. He leads them across the river on dry ground as God stops the flow of the Jordan for the entire nation to get across. Here is what Joshua 4:14 says about that day and Joshua becoming a leader:
That day the Lord made Joshua a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites, and for the rest of his life they revered him as much as they had revered Moses.
Although I’m sure hanging out with Moses helped Joshua as a leader, Moses did not make Joshua a great leader. Joshua didn’t get a certificate from any leadership institutes. Joshua didn’t even make himself a great leader. It wasn’t some inherent quality that people wanted to follow. God used Joshua to perform a miracle and then he was a great leader. No classes, no ceremonies, just God. Joshua was called to obedience and faithfulness and he listened to the call of God to act.
Maybe that is what leaders of the Church are still being called to today. Not fancy techniques, not more classes, not any human thing. We are called to faithful obedience as we wait on God to act and then to lead people in the direction of His action.