a. Depend on the power of Christ rather than your own ability: Your confidence is either in Christ or yourself. Effective spiritual leaders have discovered the need for dependence on the power of Christ rather than the strength of man’s flesh. Sooner or later [preferably sooner] you will discover and rediscover that apart from Him that you can do nothing that will bring forth spiritual value. Nevertheless, Jesus assures us that if we are connected with Him that we will bear much fruit [John.15:5]. That verse has been a theme warning and promise throughout my ministry experience.
…you will discover and rediscover that apart from Him that you can do nothing that will bring forth spiritual value.
The first time I prepared to teach a Bible study I remember having volumes of notes. I’d been an attorney already for years and it was easy to study the commentaries and gather information. Yet, something was missing… I had failed to really seek to hear from God or depend upon Him rather than my perceived abilities. As I read John 15 I discovered the problem and the solution. During the subsequent years of ministry, God has sought to help me to rediscover the truth that I need to rely on Him.
b. We must be emptied of self-confidence: Moses was chosen by God to lead His people and he sensed the call of God upon his life. Moses began with a lot of self-confidence that the Lord systematically removed. Moses initially expected that the people would see his ability and calling as a deliverer, as a prince, and follow [Ac.7; Ex. 2]. Yet, in his own abilities he was ineffective, but after spending 40 years being emptied in the desert Moses was called as a humble and humbled shepherd. As God called from the burning bush, Moses responded, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt” [Ex. 3:11]. Moses came to the place where he realized that his own ability was incapable of bringing forth success. That is where God needed Moses and needs you and me to be – dependent upon Him.
Similarly, Peter needed to be emptied of self-confidence before he could be truly used by God as a leader. In the Garden of Gethsemane, hours before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus foretold that all the disciples would stumble at the events. Nevertheless, Peter declared, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” [Mt.26:33]. Peter sincerely believed that even if all the others denied their relationship with Jesus that he would stand firm; and Peter was even willing to die to defend Jesus. Unfortunately, that self-confidence would actually hinder Peter’s effectiveness as a leader, because it would keep him from appropriating the power of the Holy Spirit rather than his own strength. Once Peter was humbled and realized he didn’t love the Lord more than the others, Jesus could restore him and begin to use him for the next level of influence and leadership [Jn.21:1-17].
The need to be emptied of self-confidence is rarely learned after only the first lesson.
The need to be emptied of self-confidence is rarely learned after only the first lesson. When our church plant was about five years old it was thriving! We were expanding exponentially, we were buying land and building, hosting epic events, and pastors were contacting me for counsel. That year, I had a “coming to Jesus meeting” that humbled me, and made me realize that “I’m not all that.” We were hosting a conference and typically we would have three to four hundred attendees at our conferences. This time, we had no one, literally not a single person. The people responsible for planning wondered what happened. There was no problem with the theme, the promotion, the date, etc. That’s when I explained that I was sure that God allowed these circumstances to remind me that, “apart from Him that I can do nothing.” I explained to my friends and fellow-laborers that I was sure that in the long-run this would be a very valuable experience for me and for our church.
c. The need for a thriving spiritual life: Spiritual leaders are most effective when they have a thriving spiritual life rather than simply ministry skills per se [people you lead can often discern whether you are close to God or not [e.g. Moses reflecting the glory of God Ex.34:29-35], and if you have wrestled with God and been broken of the flesh to create dependency [e.g. Jacob Gen.33-34]. Dependence is reflected in prayer life, devotion life, peace and trust in Christ, and a lack of scheming and manipulation.
Your job is to trust Him and His plan for His church rather than relying on your ideas that are independent of Him.
Proverbs 3:5-6 is a key passage, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Your job is to trust Him and His plan for His church rather than relying on your ideas that are independent of Him. If you depend on Him and seek to bring glory to Him then He will direct your path, remove obstacles, and get you to the destination He desires for His church. Are you willing to have confident trust in His plan?