“Wow, so that’s how leadership happens?” was my first reaction to reading Robert Clinton’s book The Making of a Leader. For me, Clinton was the very first to explain some of the predictable lessons every leader must learn and some consistent developmental stages every leader will go thru. Since reproducing leaders is so important I want to build on the foundation that Clinton gave us and spend some time on this topic of how God makes a leader. For those of you who are brand new to leadership and ready to do whatever God wants this will be helpful because it will give you some insight and direction into what you can expect as you grow in leadership. Others of you who are veteran leaders and have been leading for a few years I believe what I’m about to share will be an affirmation of your leadership journey and a tool you can use for developing more leaders. Finally, some of you are emerging leaders. What God wants is to expand your influence and difference-making capacity and my hope is that I will give you the courage to take the next step.
As a preface to this conversation know this – long before we ever say “yes” to a leadership role God has been at work! He is at work preparing you for leadership and influence. In Ephesians 2:10 it tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Did you catch that? There is a “good work” that God prepared in advance for you to do! And here is the first of five phases that emerging leaders go through as God prepares them for leadership and the good work they are to do.
PHASE 1: THE SOVEREIGN FOUNDATION
When I was in 6th Grade I ran for President of the student council. And I knew that in order for me to win I had to get the majority of the votes of all the 4th, 5th and 6th graders at Hickory Elementary School. I began to strategize my campaign: Since I was in 6th grade I would make sure I got the sixth grade vote…but who could I get to be my 4th grade campaign manager? Jon (my brother) is in fourth grade! When I started my first “business” as a kid it was a lawn mowing business called D & J Lawn Mowing. D & J stood for Dave and Jon. As I look back now, I can see that God was already at work laying sovereign foundations for the “good work” he wanted to do in my life. And a big part of my leadership would come in partnership with my brother Jon. When we started Community Christian Church, it was in partnership with Jon. When we started the NewThing Network, it was in partnership with Jon.
Often it is the bad stuff of life, or what appears to be a total disaster that God uses as a sovereign foundation for the leadership he is developing in you. It was about mid-way through my senior year of college that I got into a relational nightmare with the college administration. I was not only a student but also the Director of Recruitment for this small college. We were setting all kinds of records for new student recruitment and I was totally loving it. But when I came to an impasse with the administration it was clear that I would lose a job that I loved and leave a school that was like home to me. It felt like a total disaster. But God was at work. If it had not been for that disaster, I would have never learned some very important lessons. I never would have gone to southern California where I met Tim Sutherland 20 years ago who is now the point person on the CCC teaching team. I might never have started a church in Chicagoland. Some of you come from broken homes where some really bad stuff happened. Others of you have survived struggling marriages or been through the disaster of divorce and some of us live “one day at a time” as we recover from addictions. All this stuff will be used and redeemed by God as part of His sovereign foundations for the “good work He prepared in advance for you to do.”