By Liz Cutler Gates
Editor, FGBC World
I’d convinced myself I wasn’t a leader. I wasn’t a visionary, life-of-the-party person whom people would follow to their deaths, if necessary. Still, a former boss would encourage me to look beyond my then-current position.
“I’m a really good number two,” I’d tell her. “I’ll support you. I’ll stand behind you. I’ll even let you get the credit. I don’t want to be the one in charge.” When denied several times of a senior administrative role in an organization, I saw it as confirmation that I wasn’t a leader.
That was until my college professor started talking to me about following him in a denominational leadership position.
Sure, I had experience – 4-H junior leader, Kosciusko Leadership Academy, and servant-leadership teams at church. I’d held organizational leadership positions. I’d planned events for hundreds of people. I’d even supervised a few employees. I just wasn’t the one at the top.
I kept putting up the road blocks until I realized I wasn’t hearing Terry White or a member of the BMH board asking me to be a leader. It was that still, small voice that says, “Follow me.”
I’ve thought a lot about leadership since I realized I needed to allow myself to be used of God in a way I’d thought was not possible. I realized that being obedient to leadership doesn’t mean jumping in at once (though it could). For me, it was taking baby steps and seeing doors opened one by one.
I’ve come to learn that leadership may not always be a natural gift, but it is one that can be learned. But more importantly, I’ve realized that when you are obedient to the call of leadership in the faith, you’ll be gifted by the Holy Spirit beyond imagine. God will direct you in ways that you once thought weren’t possible.
That’s why I’m excited about this issue of FGBC World. In the pages that follow, you’ll find a return to the first tenent of the Charis Commitment to Common Mission discussed earlier this year in these pages-leadership development. (Check out the January-February 2010 issue at fgbcworld.org. Also, the complete Charis document is online at commoncommitment.us.)
Join me in visiting leadership development programs across the country. They go by various names. At Florida’s Great Commission Bible Institute, it’s a formal curriculum. More informal are the mentoring or discipleship relationships found in weekly meetings with teen girls in southern California or lay-elder training in Pennsylvania, to name a few. Regardless of the label, it’s building up the body of Christ so men and women can minister more effectively for the kingdom.
Just as this issue was nearly closed, I listened to Tom Julien, a senior statesman for our fellowship and executive director emeritus of Grace Brethren International Missions, teach on being an effective leader. His insights resonated with many of us in the room that evening and I’m delighted that he agreed to share some of his thoughts in this issue of FGBC World. (See page ?????.)
I write this at the risk of being exposed – someone will realize I’m really not a leader. But I rest in the knowledge that my role as executive director of the Brethren Missionary Herald Company, just six months old, is not in my hands, but God’s. Taking the step of faith and submitting to His guidance was life-altering.
Perhaps John Ortberg Jr. described it best when speaking at the recent conference of the Christian Leadership Alliance, “You are not your handiwork,” he said. “You are God’s. Only God knows what the best version of you is.”