Recently, mission leader Dr. Henry Deneen and his wife, Celia, came and spoke to the national and regional leadership of our ministry. They spoke on the heart of a leader, the marriage of a leader, and the practices of a leader. Powerful messages for which we were very thankful. The issue they spoke most about was that of character in each of the arenas of life. We must guard our hearts, nourish our marriages, and watch for blind spots in our leadership practices. It is always about who we are… and not just about what we do (or what we can hide).
When Nathan confronted King David about his adultery and murder, he focused his analogy to convict David on issues of character. Thankfully David was a man with a tender heart for God and readily confessed his failures of character.
Guarding the heart requires several positive steps. Howard Hendrick’s famous study of 246 pastors who failed morally revealed that they did not have any kind of real personal accountability, they had ceased intimacy with God through personal Bible study and prayer, they did not have personal protections in place when counseling women, and they all never thought it would happen to them.
As we focus on next-level leadership this year in all arenas of our ministry, we take these warnings to heart. Several focuses are necessary as we develop student leaders and ourselves.
Intimacy with our Savior and Lord is first—worshipping him, confessing our weaknesses and sins to him, learning from him, hiding his Word in our hearts, depending upon him in prayer for everything, seeking his counsel and leadership, and praising him with deep gratitude in our hearts. There is no substitute for time each day in intimate fellowship with Jesus.
Leaders face all kinds of temptations. They are real, they are daily, and toying with temptations will inevitably lead to sin. Transparency with one’s spouse and with personal accountability partners is critical. Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in everything, but without sin. He is able to help us. We must model it for the folks we are discipling.
Jesus modeled humility for us. “Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross,” (Phil. 2:5-8, NLT).
Jesus modeled servant-leadership also. He said the disciples would not understand at the time the full meaning of the foot-washing, but that it was the path to blessing. “And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing,” (John 13:14-17, NLT).
As we become people of solid character, people will see we have been with Jesus and learned from him. They will see our wisdom and discernment from having spent time with Jesus. They will see our strength in dealing with the normal temptations of life. They will see our humility and servant heart as we follow Jesus’ lead each day in our interactions with others.
Please pray for our World Changers Conference in May. We have invited 30 of our believing student leaders who will be taught these truths and trained to be next-level leaders here and in their home countries.
Principles cited in this blog: The heart of leadership is character; developing character requires intentionality about many things; intimacy with Christ daily is critical, but so is surrounding ourselves with people of character who want to grow as Jesus leads.
Application for ISI ministry: As we care for one another, we must be willing to be transparent and to ask for help in developing character; studying and focusing on Jesus helps us teach and train the next generation of student leaders how to grow in Christ.
Next blog topic: A special Easter message: From Fear and Failure to Power and Purpose
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson