By Michael Mack
Read Michael Mack’s sidebar, “Life in All Its Fullness.”
What do you want to be known for? What would you want people to say about you when you die? What do you want written in your obituary?
At different stages of my life I would have responded to that question differently. But today, I want to be like Enoch. You don’t hear too many people say that, do you? People will say they want to have the faith of Abraham or the power of Moses or the wisdom of Solomon. But Enoch?
I love what Genesis 5:22-24 says about Enoch. He “lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years. . . . Then one day he disappeared, because God took him” (New Living Translation).
No, I don’t want to live another 300 years! And it’s not at all necessary to just disappear without dying, unless it’s the rapture, of course. But I do want to live in close fellowship with God throughout what’s left of my life, and then for God to take me when he’s ready.
Enoch had a heart for God, and leadership starts with your heart. It starts with your relationship with God—seeking after him.
One of the key attributes from 1 Peter 5:2-4 is that you are an example to the flock. That is why it is so critical that you are, first of all, a man or woman after God’s heart. It’s why the most important thing you can do as a leader is to earnestly seek God every day.
Actually, you don’t have to conjecture what Jesus would have looked for in leaders. When he invited some folks to be part of his group, he was calling future leaders. “The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out” (Mark 3:14, The Message).
If Jesus would have recruited future leaders who looked good by outward appearances, he probably would have picked some of the religious leaders of the day. They were all about outward appearances, which is what frustrated Jesus the most about them. These leaders had skills and abilities and giftedness. They had knowledge and holiness and piety above almost everyone around. They were highly disciplined in spiritual practices. But there was something missing on the inside.
Leadership starts with your relationship with God—seeking after him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
The best leader ever is a perfect model for us. Jesus’ priority was his relationship with his Father. He said and did and taught only what his Father had given him. Henri Nouwen once pointed out that Jesus spent about 50 percent of his time in solitude with the Father, about 40 percent building community with the twelve, and about 10 percent “doing ministry.”1 How does that match up with your life?
In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby and Claude King also describe Jesus—and godly leaders today—spending abundant amounts of time seeking God. These leaders have discerned the difference between activity for God and the activity of God. Jesus never ran ahead of God. Instead, before making any decisions or starting any new ministry work, he spent time with his Father, maybe days on end, waiting on God to show him exactly what to do next.
Joel Comiskey’s survey of more than 700 small group leaders in eight countries revealed that the biggest factor in their “success” was not their gender, social status, education, personality type, or skills. Rather, it was the leader’s devotional life. He found that those who spent 90 minutes or more in devotions (prayer, Bible study, etc.) a day multiplied their groups twice as much as those who spent less than 30 minutes.2 Comiskey says the correlation is logical. “During quiet times alone with the living God, the leader hears God’s voice and receives His guidance. . . . Group members respond to a leader who hears from God and knows the way.”3
Jesus modeled seeking and following God for us. As our Leader and Savior, he is our Good Shepherd who calls us by name and is waiting to lead us (John 10:3, 4). Are you quiet and still enough to hear his voice?
Go Away to Get Inside
How do you get to a place where you can hear God’s voice? The only way is to spend time alone with him. I fear leaders sometimes miss this vital point. Most leaders are busy people, busy with jobs, families, churches, and small groups. We’re all community junkies. We love spending time with other people. But, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, solitude and community go hand in hand for spiritually healthy people and groups.
Jesus modeled this for us as well. “One day soon afterward Jesus went to a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles.” Before Jesus did anything, he spent time alone with the Father. In fact, Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
My sense is that, as Christian leaders, we talk about this a lot, but not many of us really slow our lives down enough to actually do it. However, there are a few exceptions.
Senior minister Bob Cherry takes a break every July to pray, listen to God, and plan out the next year.
David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the recorded history of the church, attributes the tremendous growth of his church to prayer. In 1984, when the church was averaging 12,000 new converts a month, he wrote a book titled, Prayer: Key to Revival.
Joel Comiskey shares the story of Ray Prior, president of the Borden Corporation, one of the largest business structures in America. Someone asked him how he led such a large company. He said, “Each morning when I wake up, I meet with the Lord and begin to listen to His voice. In that period of time, I ask Him to bring to my mind the needs of the key men who report directly to me. As I think about their weaknesses, I plan my day.”4
I don’t get away for solitude with God often enough, but when I do, I spend a day in the woods, especially a woods with a creek or near a lake. I feel particularly close to God there. I plan on either hiking or taking my mountain bike, but only as a way to get to a solitary place. These times are refreshing to my own soul, they remind me of the calling God has placed on my life, and they revive me for the ministry God has called me to do. More than anything else, during these times I sense God’s presence and power, and I realize that he really is pursuing me and leading me.
Don’t miss this! God is either pursuing you, trying to draw you closer to him, or he is leading you, walking in front of you to guide you (John 10:4). When you belong to him, he does whatever you need at the time, as your Good Shepherd.
God desires leaders who seek him earnestly, know his voice, and know his heart—leaders who respond to him and walk in close fellowship with him every day. Leaders like that are ones who are experiencing the abundant life.
Living an Overflowing Life
Of course, Jesus was the perfect example of someone living this superabundant life. He taught his disciples how to live by intentionally letting his life overflow into theirs over time.
For three years the disciples followed Jesus everywhere. He taught them, showed them, modeled it for them, and prayed for them.
But even after three years, they did not look like world changers. But that, of course, is exactly what they became.
How did Jesus do it? How were these uneducated, ragtag disciples transformed? There were several key ingredients: prayer, authentic community, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, for starters. And these are huge, of course. But the thing that people noticed most was that these uneducated idiots had been with Jesus.
The discipline of “remaining” is vital for the disciple’s life. Jesus spoke little to his followers about spiritual exercises or disciplines. Instead, Jesus called them to come and see (John 1:39), come and follow me (Mark 1:16-20), come and be with me (Mark 3:13, 14), and remain in me (John 15:7, 8). Jesus did many things in his three-year earthly ministry, but the one constant was his presence with the disciples.
Nothing is more vital to spiritual leadership than being with Jesus—connected to him, remaining in him, abiding in him.
What Jesus pours into your life he intends to overflow into the lives of those all around you—your family, neighbors, co-workers, and yes, your small group. That’s why it is critical that you are living the abundant life yourself.
When you remain connected to him, you will produce much fruit—abundant fruit that overflows the containers, fruit that will last.
1Leadership, Spring 1995.
2Joel Comiskey, Home Cell Group Explosion (Houston: TOUCH Outreach Ministries, 1998), 26-36.
4Joel Comiskey, Leadership Explosion (Houston: TOUCH Publications, 2000), 46.
Michael Mack is minister of small groups at Northeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky and the founder of SmallGroups.com. This article is adapted from his Small Group Help Guide titled I’m a Leader . . . Now What?
I’m a Leader . . . Now What?
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