Written by Robbie Down 

“Don’t lead because you’re gifted, lead because you’re anointed,” Dave Jonsson told me at Catalyst Conference. That was an exhortation I have clung to much longer than I might have anticipated. 

A group of about 15 youth from my church in BC were a part of a new leadership group kicked off 2016. Once a month, we would meet and drink from a firehose of information on how to grow deeper in our own faith, and then how to strategically lead others along that same path. The primary reason many of us joined was for the big trip. We were going to Cincinnati, Ohio for the biggest conference any of us had ever been to. 

Fast forward to May 2017, we arrived in humid Cincinnati, feeling and looking (and probably smelling) like zombies after our delayed flights, which had deprived us of much needed sleep. We also lost our luggage on the way and so made a stop at Target to have fresh clothes for the day. All in all, we made it, and oh was it worth it. We quickly became immersed in the largest Christian atmosphere we had ever experienced. The hosts, the speakers, the worship—it was all engineered to engage. 

While I was at the front worshipping with my peers, I saw Dave Jonsson, who was a speaker at the Bible camp I had worked at. I couldn’t believe the odds of this coincidence, so I went over to say hello. After briefly catching up, he said he wanted to pray an exhortation over me. Between the worship I was hearing and the words Dave was praying over me, I started to cry (or sweat out of my eyes, as us guys call it) as I was overwhelmed by God’s presence. 

Dave prayed something that was parallel to my current place in faith and in my worship leading. I had been struggling with my pride getting in the way of my authenticity and the Spirit leading through me. But of course, he had no idea of that. “God, I pray that Robbie leads not because he is gifted, but because he is anointed by You.” That hit me like a wall, a wall of understanding and encouragement that it’s not about what we have, but about Who gives. I continue to remind myself of this truth day by day. 

Although the conference itself was memorable, the most impactful time was our leadership group debriefing about our personal experiences at the conference. The leaders and students sat in a circle as we cried and laughed, sharing how we had been changed so much in one week. In those five hours, we shared more vulnerable things than ever before, even in one-on-one’s with others. Our youth pastor kept affirming that sharing intimate things wasn’t showing weakness. In fact, the more vulnerable we got, the more we could risk and trust, and that would reveal our true measurement of courage; that this empathy we were feeling for each other would be the antidote to any shame we felt about the things being shared. Once those secrets were released into safe and loving hands, we were free to live the life God wants us to.

So I shared. I shared how inauthentic I felt leading worship, and leading conversations about Jesus out of my own selfish desires to be seen. I was met with profound acceptance from the group. I later learned that this was an Ebenezer moment, like in 1 Samuel 7, this was a milestone on a victory that God has won. 

God is never done with you, even when you think there is too much going wrong (Isaiah 30:18). He moves in ways that we won’t always understand, and only sometimes get the joy of seeing it all in the light after the fact. My prayer for all who desire to bring Jesus to those around them, is that you lead not because you’re gifted, but because you’re anointed.