Summary: If we want to be effective leaders under fire, then we must be spiritually mature shepherds and overseers, who serve as willing, eager examples for others to follow.
Stuart Briscoe, in his book Everyday Discipleship for Ordinary People, tells the story about a fellow pastor who was officiating at the funeral of a war veteran. The dead man's military friends wanted to have a part in the service at the funeral home, so they requested that the pastor lead them down to the casket, stand with them for a solemn moment of remembrance, and then lead them out through the side door. Things went well until the pastor picked the wrong door. As a result they all marched with military precision into a broom closet, in full view of the mourners, and beat a hasty retreat covered with confusion. (www.PreachingToday.com)
Sometimes, people are called to lead in difficult times, but it takes a special leader to lead in such times without embarrassing himself and those who follow.
So then what kind of leader DOES it take to lead people effectively in difficult times? What kind of leader DOES it take to lead people under fire?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Peter 5, 1 Peter 5, where Peter talks to some church leaders who were leading people that were going through the fires of persecution, some of them quite literally.
1 Peter 5:1-2a To the ELDERS among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be SHEPHERDS of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as OVERSEERS… (NIV)
Peter uses three different terms to describe the church leaders to whom he appeals. He calls them “elders,” “shepherds,” and “overseers,” terms which describe both their maturity and their responsibilities.
The term for “elders” was sometimes used of “old men” in contrast to “young men” (Acts 2:17), but more often it described the spiritual maturity of those who were called to lead the church. Leadership is not for novices! Effective leadership takes maturity, especially if we’re going to lead people in difficult times. So if we want to lead people under fire, then we must…
BE SPIRITUALLY MATURE.
We must have a depth of experience walking with God in dependence upon His Spirit. We must be followers of Christ who have plenty of experience putting into practice the principles of God’s Word.
That’s what spiritual maturity is – It’s not just being a Christian for a little while. It’s being able to discern the difference between right and wrong, because you have practiced applying the principles of God’s Word in your every-day life. It’s being able to discern the difference between the better and the best course of action, because you have learned to follow the lead of God’s Spirit through His Word.
I like the way Kevin Miller, one of the editors of Leadership journal, described this kind of leadership recently. He talks about his days as a kid driving down the street to Hooper Wolfe’s hardware store with his dad. “Hooper Wolfe's,” he says, “had an old wood door, painted white – except where the paint was worn off near the handle. You walked in, and you could hardly move. There were two narrow aisles. The counters were filled with merchandise, shelves were overflowing, and stuff was hanging from the ceiling. You'd think, ‘No way am I going to find anything in here.’
“But you didn't need to. As soon as you walked in, Clarence from behind the counter would say, ‘Help you today?’ My dad would say something like, ‘I want to hang a light out back.’
“Clarence would come out from behind the counter and ask questions. ‘Where you going to hang it? Over the patio? Well then’ – and he would start rummaging through shelves until he pulled off just the right light – ‘you want a light like this. And don't use these bolts here; they're good for indoor stuff, but for outdoor, you want something galvanized.’
“Then Clarence would pull a flat carpenter's pencil off his ear and get out a little piece of paper and sketch it all out. ‘The conduit goes here… and make sure you don't mount the light too close to the soffit,’ etc.
Then Kevin Miller compares that experience in his childhood to going to Home Depot today as an adult. He says, “Unlike Hooper Wolfe's, where you had to parallel park on the street, there's an ocean of parking. And inside, Home Depot is huge. The ceilings are 30 feet high. Home Depot has forty times the inventory of Hooper Wolfe's. It all looks great under bright, argon lights.
“There is a guy in an orange apron—a block away. If you run him down, he's likely to say, ‘Sorry. I usually work in paints. I'm just covering in electrical because someone called in sick.’ So you're pretty much on your own.” (Kevin Miller, Wheaton, Illinois; www.PreachingToday.com)