It’s amazing how something very small can eventually have a huge influence. Think of the tipping of a domino, the movement of a butterfly’s wings, the momentum of a snowball rolling down a hill or the spark of a small flame. Jesus understood this and told his disciples that they were like “salt and light” in the world - two small things that can have a powerful influence (Matthew 5:13-16). It was a call to be an influence for God’s kingdom.
Me, a Leader?
There are many ways to influence. Today we’ll be looking at leadership. What comes to mind when you hear the word “leader” or “leadership”? Most people think that leadership is about having a position or a title but leadership is much broader than that. At its very essence, leadership is about influence. All of us influence others and all of us are influenced by others. The question is not whether we will influence others but what kind of influence we will be.
The world needs more and better leaders - in the home, in the community, in business, in education, in government and in the church. Why? Because most things rise and fall on leadership. Yet, unfortunately, there is often a lack of good leaders (Luke 10:2. Ezekiel 22:30). Some people aspire to leadership for the wrong reasons , such as personal pride or ambition (Jeremiah 45:5. Mark 10:42-45), while others have no aspiration to lead at all, even though it is to be considered a noble task (1 Timothy 3:1).
Myths about Leadership
There are a number of myths about leadership that need exposing, as they have a powerful affect on why many people never see themselves as a leader.
1. “Only a few people are called to be leaders.”
True, some people may have a gift of leadership (Romans 12:7) but every follower of Jesus Christ is called to lead to some degree, in some manner, and in one or more spheres of life. Every follower of Christ is called to be salt and light and influence their environment. We are called to be thermostats, people who proactively affect the atmosphere around us, not thermometers, people who merely react to the existing conditions.
2. “You have to have it all together in order to be a leader.”
Many people are reluctant to get involved in leadership because of personal feelings of inadequacy. They don’t feel they have what it takes. They are afraid of not doing well and being embarrassed in the process.
True, leaders are called to be examples but this does not mean perfection. In fact, if you make a list of all of the qualities and traits that you think are essential for an effective leader then compare them to a list of the most famous leaders of history, you will see that the lists don’t match! There is no definitive list of leadership traits. Exceptions abound. Moses was not articulate, Jonah had no desire to lead, and Paul and Barnabas had such a strong argument that they went their separate ways. So much for relational skills! Traits are related to leadership but not essential to it. We all have the potential to lead and often it is the very act of leading that provides us with opportunities for growth. Rise above fear and see yourself as God does.
For a bit of fun, imagine a management consultant's report to Jesus on the resumes of his disciples.
3. “To be a leader, you need an extrovert personality.”
The truth is that leaders come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, there is no connection between the personality of an individual and their effectiveness as a leader. The same is true with other aspects such as spiritual gifting, gender, age, martial status, occupation or education. When it comes to small group leadership in a church community, often it is qualities such as prayerfulness, setting goals, and empowering others that lead to the highest levels of fruitfulness.
See BLOG post: Quiet - The Power of Introverts
4. “It’s not really worth all the hard work it takes to be a leader.”
True, leadership can be difficult, challenging and it’s often hard work. Leadership is not easy - there’s more responsibility (for others, not just yourself), more pressure, and more vulnerability (to criticism, misunderstanding and discouragement). However, the rewards can be great. There is great joy and fulfilment in knowing you have been a positive influence on other people (see 2 Corinthians 4:7-12). It’s worth the effort. We become better people and we often receive more than we give.
What Leaders Do
Leadership is a gift or skill that can be developed. Born leaders may emerge but every leader must develop their leadership skills in order to be effective. We can learn by watching other leaders (models or mentors), through training, and most often through the very act of leading.
The apostle Paul once said, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We can glean three insights about what leaders do from this statement:
1. Leaders have a sense of direction. They are heading somewhere and following someone or something. They are not satisfied with ‘what is’ but are moving forward toward a better ideal or a worthy cause. They have a vision of an improved future.
2. Leaders lead by example. They give people something to follow - a model to imitate.
3. Leaders initiate change. They call people to follow, to move from where they are now towards God’s purpose of their lives. It’s about taking steps to where we need to be.
Here at CityLife we are committed to motivate and equip people to be “fervent followers of Jesus Christ who reach out and impact communities, cities and nations for the kingdom of God.” That’s leadership - leaders raising up more leaders. We do this by providing opportunity, coaching and training (e.g. LIFETRAX). One of the best environments to learn leadership is in a small group, such as a Life Group. Imagine what would happen if everyone currently in the church stepped up to lead! Imagine the impact. You can lead! Yes, you can.
Sample Discussion Questions
1. What do you think of when you hear the word “leader”?
2. Discuss the various myths about leadership. How prevalent are they? Which one(s) has affected your thinking the most? Are there other myths?
3. Think of someone you know who you see as a good leader. What is it about them that makes them so?
4. What do you think are the keys to being an effective Life Group Leader or leader of a team of some sort?
5. In what ways can we think of ourselves more as ‘leaders’ in our daily lives?
6. What could the future potential impact of our Life Group be IF we saw 2-3 more leaders emerge and more groups started? What can we do to make this a reality? What are the potential barriers?