Snoopy was right when he opined, “It’s tough being Lead Beagle.” Whether the canine philosopher was speaking about leadership in general or more specifically about pastoring a church is not clear.
Either way, being top dog in a congregation is not an easy assignment. That’s exactly how God meant it to be. Our strength to lead never was intended to come from our gift to lead, but rather from the One who called us to lead.
The best leaders on any level are visionaries who see life through unorthodox keyholes…who follow a road less traveled. Notre Dame University, for example, teaches their A students to learn to appreciate the D students because the school’s research shows their honor students are quite likely to be employed by their dropouts.
Biblical leadership often is developed in the same way. God rarely picks His leaders from the most-likely-to-succeed crowd. Samson and King Saul were two exceptions; but in the final analysis, they were eaten alive by leadership. Both had tremendous curb appeal, but neither Samson nor Saul was a closer.
God’s modus operandi is to pick the least-likely, never the wanna-be, to lead His charge.
He chose Ehud for no better reason than he was left-handed. Gideon was picked though he’d shown chronic signs of cowardice. Nehemiah was an expendable food taster. Each recruit broke the mold, a second-stringer at best. Jonah was picked though he had no stomach for his assignment (fortunately the great fish did).
On occasion, God will pick someone from the upper crust only to be retooled in His mandatory boot camp. Saul of Tarsus was a high profile bounty hunter, a rising star within Judaism until his divine appointment en route to Damascus. His next stop was the Arabian Desert for three years of schooling. His work couldn’t begin until the worker was prepared.
The elite are ready only when they discover who’s who and who’s not. Nobility rarely steps into greatness without first earning an advanced degree from Servanthood University.
Biblical leadership is unlike any other. Its obstacles are bigger, the stakes are higher, and the cost is greater.
Put yourself in Moses’ pressurized sandals. Your assignment is to lead God’s people from Egypt to the Promised Land. You’re equipped with supernatural wonders, explicit instructions and God’s public declaration of your executive role. You have unlimited access to His counsel, and you’ve personally delivered His autographed stone tablets to a stunned nation.
Leadership such as that would be a snap. Nothing could go wrong. No one would dare question your authority. Right? Wrong!
A simple word-search during Moses’ assignment illustrates the enormous difficulty he faced—the proof is in the text. For example:
• The words wonderful, laugh, smile and content are never used in Exodus, but panic, pity, pluck and plague are.
• Pleasant and patient are never used, but unpleasant and impatient are.
• Kiss is never used, but spit and venom are.
• Thanks is never used, but cursed is.
• The only place in the entire Bible you’ll find scab, scar, scapegoat and dump.
• Yes is never used, but no is used 185 times.
• Friendship is never used, but enemy is.
• Sleeping is never used, but working is.
• Borrowed is never used, but stolen is.
• Sober is never used, but drunk is.
• Bath is never used, but smell is.
• Forgiven is used 15 times, but sin is used 156 times.
• The phrase, “Happy am I,” is never used; but “Woe to me,” is.
I’m not saying leadership is all bad (although bad is used 10 times in Exodus). Leadership does have its just rewards (although rewards never is used.)
I’m saying our tours of duty may be more unpleasant than pleasant, and our congregations may offer more venom than kisses. The reason we followed God’s call to leadership isn’t to hear people laugh and tell us we’re wonderful or to smile and say thanks.
We joined this work to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”