In some ways, looking back over the last 15 years, I realize that I have been a reluctant leader. In 1 Timothy 4:14, Paul shares with Timothy this challenge, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you …”
I feel that I have done exactly that. It was at the Catalyst Conference two years ago, when I really started thinking about my leadership. Although I can look back and realize that God has gifted me with leadership ability, I was neglecting that gift. I didn’t read any books to help me grow and develop my leadership skills, I didn’t learn from my relational mistakes, and I didn’t take seriously the call of leading others.
I think the first time I realized that I was a leader was in a freshman engineering class at Virginia Tech. I was in a special “scholarship” section of a class that all new freshman had to take. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was in over my head. On the first day of class, the professor asked, “How many students were valedictorians of their class?” I think almost half of the classed raised their hands. He then topped it off with the big question, “How many of you had a perfect score on the SAT?” When several raised their hands, I honestly questioned why I was in the class. You see, I grew up attending a small school in the mountains of Virginia. While I did good academically, I didn’t know how I would compare to students from larger schools. So it came as a huge surprise to me when it came time to do group projects. I was assigned to work with several other students and on both projects, I ended up leading the group. That was huge for me, realizing not only that I could hang with these guys and girls, but that I could contribute and lead.
Looking back, I see God showing me that I had leadership ability. But I didn’t listen. I was asked to lead a mission trip, but I still didn’t recognize I was a leader. I led weekly devotions at the college Baptist Student Union, but I didn’t take the leadership seriously. Why has it taken me 35 years to realize that God wants me to bring others along for the journey? That my influence and legacy can impact many more lives if I get serious about helping and leading others.
Over the past two years in ministry, I feel that I have grown tremendously as a leader, but I also realize that I have much to learn. I am learning by reading great books, by learning from great leaders at conferences I attend, and by listening to some trusted people in my life.
I’m meeting this week with a group of young pastors as we are mentored and challenged by pastor Allen Jessee from Richlands, Virginia. I pray that I will not neglect the gift that God has given me. And I pray that you won’t neglect the gift that God has given you.
and by the way, I ended up making an A+ in the engineering class. So don’t let your past set limits on your future.