I grew up playing simple games like Red Rover, Hide and Seek, Red Light Green Light, and Simon Says during recess and after school with my neighborhood tribe. Simon Says was a fave with us Big Kids. I relished tripping the littles up. The hardest one? Rub your belly and pat your head at the same time, except I’d demand the one and do the opposite; I’d pat my belly and rub my head. This sneaky switcharoo messed with the six-year old’s heads every time. Watching them drop like flies, I’d holler, “You’re out!” I’d usually take it easy on them after that. Poor babies. They would focus so hard on my verbal instructions; they’d fail to recognize my opposing actions. A successful Simon Says leader takes advantage of this rookie mistake.
An entertaining game, Simon Says. The lesson taught? Do as I say, not as I do. Sound familiar? You’ll find this statement highlighted as number one on the list entitled How to Mislead the Masses. This practice of poor leadership permeates our culture, our government, our media, and many of our families. Unfortunately, too many of us have come to accept and embrace this moral code of dishonor.
Why can’t leaders just lead and lead well? Period. For the right of our churches, for the good of our communities, for the good of our country. Just lead, people, lead. Sounds simple, right? Except wisdom and discernment and honor and truth aren’t found in pretty little bottles packaged with curly red ribbons and cute little hand stamped note cards from Michaels. You won’t find Leadership 101 pills in the 50% off bin near the check-out aisle.
You’ve heard people say, “Man, she’s a born leader.” I’ve used this statement myself, usually with sarcasm regarding that stubborn, obnoxious kid on the playground. You know the one. Not the bully, nuh-uh. It’s that little girl, Miss Bossy Pants. The one running around the swings and jungle gym wearing a pink tutu and plastic crown and carrying that ridiculous hand-made fluffy purple wand thingy, reigning over all the
minions little boys and girls who are naively obeying her every command. (Hey, I can be mean. She was me. Except I ruled with kindness and cut-off jeans while riding an orange and black Big Wheel, okay?)
Born Leader, my eye. Does that mean every bull-headed, snot-nosed, crown-wearing Diva is destined to lead the masses just because the doe-eyed soft-hearted quiet kids down the street followed her every ridiculous whim? Good grief, no. Above the mess on my desk, on the right side and under the window, hangs a square pink post-it note. You’ll find this question written in purple ink on the second line from the top.
“Are you fit to lead?”
I asked myself this question weeks ago. Why? Because I’m finally feeling like a grown-up, and I no longer believe in fairy tales. There are no born leaders, y’all. No one pops out of their mama’s womb with a clipboard, yearly planner, and briefcase full of the Best Leadership Tools. Sure, you’ve got strong-willed toddlers and middle schoolers and even forty-year-olds. But hard-headed and intelligent does not equal a good commander or CEO. It makes for Bulldogs and smart people, but not necessarily strong, trustworthy leaders. And here’s the deal. You’re a leader whether you want to be or not. There’s always someone watching, listening, following. Even people you don’t know well or at all. The question then becomes, how well are you leading?
But let’s stick with the first for a moment. Are you fit to lead? Tell me who you are following, and I’ll tell you if you are qualified to lead. I’m still waist-deep in my study of the book of Jeremiah. It’s heavy. God is handing down judgment – complete and utter destruction by the Babylonians – on His people, and Jeremiah, the prophet, is the messenger. The Israelites have behaved so badly that the Lord tells Jeremiah in chapter 7 verse 14, “As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.” That is TOUGH STUFF. One commentary put it like this: “Jeremiah’s prayers without the repentance of the people would not be enough to forestall their destruction.” What exactly did they do?
The Lord reminds the Israelites: “For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them (a) command about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God, and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again, I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.” (Jeremiah 7: 22-26)
The people disobeyed the Lord. They did not walk in His ways, and they gave little attention to His Words. They went backward and not forward, isn’t that what the Scripture says? They chose their way, their desires, their goals and plans and pleasures, and they led their children and all those that watched and came behind to Judgment. So I ask you again, who are you following? Who am I following? Are we following someone who forges their own path? Someone who places zero worth in the Creator and His written Word? Are we walking in the footsteps of a person who bases their code of honor on shallow pleasure and selfish ambition? Our answer will tell us if we are fit to lead others.
There are many marks of a good leader. Excellent communication skills, people skills, listening skills, humility, servanthood, patience, compassion. All of these strengths are necessary to lead well, and developing these attributes are important. But people follow a leader somewhere. Towards someone, some goal. There is always a final destination. Power. Money. Bigger, better business and more affluent friends. Personal health. Self-growth. Status. A certain circle of influence. The list goes on. But I want you to think eternal.
What makes us fit to lead? Following Jesus, soaking up the Word, listening to the Holy Spirit, choosing obedience over self. We do THIS, and we lead people to the Cross. We don’t have to be the best dressed or loudest voice in the room. Look at Jesus. He didn’t wear a flashy three-piece suit and a Rolex on his wrist. He didn’t panic and enroll in some ten-week online course on Most Effective Leadership Styles before He began His ministry. And He certainly didn’t use super smooth ear-tickling words to get His point across. Instead, He consistently spoke Truth and loved on people. He saw needs and met them, one person at a time. And knowing our deepest need, He led us to the Cross. That place of conviction, healing, salvation, and hope. Are your words and actions and choices guiding your friends to this same place?
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Friends, you are leading whether you want to or not. Look at Paul. “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” Can you say the same? Are you imitating Him? Are you headed to the Cross? Are you daily in the Word? Stop tripping people up, insisting they do what you say and not what you do. Jesus doesn’t play Simon Says with our lives. Neither should we. Extrovert, introvert, quiet, bossy, passionate. You don’t have to be loud and proud to lead your friends to Jesus. You don’t have to be in command of the room to love people well. Girls, if you make Lingering at the Cross your number one priority, you are FIT to lead. Start here and move to Micah 6:8. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We can work on fine-tuning those other Good Leader qualities down the road.