Words by Shawn Naylor
The phrase you are about read is important. It is a phrase I wish I had been given earlier in my life.
Not that I would have listened, I’m not sure. Regardless of my willingness to heed instruction, today the reminder echoes in my mind and heart: “Your leadership must be set apart.” In other words, I cannot lead like the world leads.
If we are going to positively impact younger generations and put them into a position where they can powerfully change mindsets and hearts, we must lead by example. If gospel-centred world-change is our goal, we need to lead from a Jesus-oriented position in our leadership. It is also important that we have a solid understanding of how the world operates. Sadly, a lot of Christian leaders choose to lead like the world. This is where the cracks break the foundation.
Leading like the world, relying on our brains and charisma for the ultimate solution, lends to spiritual failure. This is the case as trusting in ourselves can set us in one of two directions. One: we see positive results on the exterior. There are significantly more attendees at our conferences and rippling laughter at our perfectly timed jokes. Our Instagram page is multiplying like Jesus’ fish and loaves. But we are relying on ourselves for outcomes. Our outwards “success” bloats us with plenty-o-pride. Two: no one comes to our talks. No one reads about us in a magazine. No one cares. Despite the effort we put in, we see zero results. This can lead to self-pity and dejection, “Well, I suck.” Either way, we’re making the gospel about us and that is wrong.
I take wisdom from the early church. In particular, I am inspired when the disciples realize and accept they would be set apart. It was the first realization they had. It was also the first of Jesus’ calls that they accepted. They trusted him, acted in faith and left behind all they had ever known.
Matthew 4:19 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
In this story, we see young people who clearly have a set way of life. Despite cultural expectations, these young men respond to Christ’s way. Most of us know how the end of the story goes. The rest of the world received the Gospel message This is the power of following Christ’s first call to us.
Most of us are familiar with videos on YouTube of big-name pastors who continually fail to answer the tough questions. As a result, we do not trust their intentions. On the contrary, Jesus did not focus his message on fashionable topics; instead, He expressed true love by providing what was needed for the situation. He even taught us to simply ask our Heavenly Father for “daily bread.” It tends to be much easier to live this thought out theoretically. But if we are going to be effective, efficient and making a difference we must be Christ-focused, or evangelical, in our approach. The term “evangelical” is defined by the teachings of the gospel. In other words, each one of our decisions need to be based upon the teachings of the Gospels.
In a time of plurality, the Word of God is the only constant that has continuously stood against the ways of the times. The Word of God is not dead. As a result, leadership examples found inside the word of God are effective. If we are to follow the leadership found in the Scriptures our leadership will not be dead. It will have impact that far exceeds our physical existence. Young people are dying for their leaders to stand firm in the face of adversity and opposing worldviews. They look to us to leave the secular worldview and lead by the evangelical standard. The following verse is one that has challenged and grown me in my leadership of youth.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
After every decision, we must not evaluate the success, or perceived success, by worldly standards. Instead, we must go back to the word of God and evaluate by the living eternal standard found within its pages. Leaving everything else behind, the disciples were able to lead into one of the greatest transformations in human history. Those men are dead and gone. Yet, what they have done continues to have immense impact. My challenge to you is this: Open your heart to God’s leading, leave the nets of this world and lead by the power of the God who created galaxies.