Prior to COVID, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life as a leader. I had the privilege of flying to Dallas to participate in the passing of a leadership baton. My mentor for the last decade, Steve Stroope, transitioned his position of leadership to my good friend, Josh Howerton. In a day and time when very few leaders finish strong, Steve ran the good race all the way to the end. He would be the first to tell you that he is far from perfect, but no one could argue about his level of faithfulness. For 40 years he served with integrity at one church. He modeled consistent leadership in his home, his church, and the lives of countless younger leaders.
When given the opportunity to speak and pass the baton, instead of speaking about himself, he used his last moments as a senior pastor to thank the team. He said, “Quarterbacks get more attention, but it doesn’t mean they are more significant or more important.”
God gives leaders an entrustment. It might be a team at your business or a small group in your church. If you hold a position of leadership, you are commissioned by God to care. A good shepherd shows care and concern for the sheep. Like a good parent, a shepherd wakes up each day with his sheep in mind. No one tells them to set the alarm. No one pushes them. That sense of leadership comes from within.
For those of you who are part of Echo Church, you are never far from my heart and mind. I often wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how to help you and our church flourish. Sometimes thoughts about a problem or future ministry opportunity swirl around in my mind. These thoughts usually turn to prayers, in which I ask God for the wisdom to lead well. COVID has been one of the most unique seasons of leadership I’ve experienced. I’m used to seeing people in the flesh. I love to hug and high five. I love to be with people. Video chats have been great, but I miss being with the flock God has called Stacie and I to lead.
Peter says that we should be eager and willing. No hidden agenda. The goal is to please God and care for people. Sometimes you get noticed by others; sometimes only Jesus sees. Sometimes the sheep even complain when you care for them, but the Great Shepherd sees.
The longer I lead, the more I see this whole thing as a sacred trust. I have had many moments in my life where I felt like my attitude and actions were not the best example. If I’m honest, I still have times when I feel like God could have easily chosen someone else who would have done a better job and been a better example. I am more confident in my eagerness than I am about being the model example of a Christ follower.
Like Peter, we are all in process—growing and changing. By the grace of God and through His process of sanctification, we’re becoming more like Jesus as the years pass. These gray hairs that keep popping up remind me that I’m not getting any younger, but I hope that by grace I’m getting better.
For any of you who want to take the plunge with me, I am recommitting myself today to give the rest of my life to lead eagerly and humbly with passion and conviction. I’m in for another round of loving and caring for people. Let’s acknowledge our weaknesses and keep pursuing Jesus. Let’s work on our lives with God’s help in a way that we become examples in our homes and our businesses. May our churches become examples of great kingdom leadership.
Soon our churches will gather again physically. I look forward to hugs even if we have to wear masks. I look forward to seeing tears in peoples’ eyes again as they sing praises to Jesus. We are coming through this season stronger. Recent challenges have strengthened you and made you better leaders. This season has tested your motivation and burned off some of that old self-promotion. We’re learning that life is all about loving Jesus and blessing people.
I pray that one day many tens of thousands of people in the Bay Area will turn to Jesus as our churches come together. I pray that, as scope grows and ministry increases, we would maintain humility and passion. I pray that we would realize that it’s only by grace. After all, God could easily have chosen someone else for our roles. Leading is a sacred privilege!
His plan is beyond what we could think, ask, or imagine. He has called us, and He’s leading us to have faith to believe that He wants to increase the scope of our impact, and yet, at the same time, to stay grounded in the reality of His return. When He comes back, He will test our work. And He will show us our work for what it’s worth. We will receive a never-ending crown of glory and honor, all because we were willing to follow the example of the One who was crowned with thorns!