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Become a Next-Level Leader

Become a Next-Level Leader

T.W. Wilson never became famous, like the man he served as executive assistant from 1962 to 2000 - Billy Graham. But, as a servant of Christ, his impact on the world has still been powerful.


Just like Wilson, you don't have to be in the spotlight to have God use you in powerful ways. You can follow his model of influencing all the people you meet to consider God in their lives and grow to the next level in their faith. That's next-level leadership.


Here's how you can become a next-level leader:


Look back at spiritual mile markers. Notice how God has directed your steps, orchestrated your schedule, and allowed you to experience certain things to make you more usable and influential. Understand that your only assignment is to be in God's will at all times. Make it the passion of your life to stay in the center of God's will. Be constantly available to God. Trust God's timing, realizing that it creates the environment for real influence to happen. Remember that God often chooses to use improbable people; you don't have to have be particularly smart, strong, rich, or beautiful in the world's eyes in order for God to use you. Know that God looks for faith, purity, holiness, and obedience. Seek to develop those qualities. Realize that you never know what one encouraging word or kind action done in Jesus' name will do in someone's life. Know that even small, simple things can have great power to positively influence a person. Build relationships by investing time and energy into people, even when it's inconvenient. Know that doing so is vital to your effectiveness in God's kingdom. Surround yourself with the very best people, listen to them, learn from them, and make them a part of the process of your work for God. Thank God for how He has worked in your own life in the past, and ask Him to use you to accomplish good things in other people's lives.


Seize divine appointments. Realize that next-level influence occurs most often in the everyday, ordinary, routine days of your life. Expect God to bring you plenty of opportunities to affect other people's lives. Always be yourself. When God presents an opportunity, take it or it will be lost. Don't make the mistake of thinking that prominent people aren't interested in spiritual things; realize that they often have great interest in learning more about God. Pray daily for those in prominent positions, where they exercise significant influence on others (such as political leaders and celebrities). Realize that when you influence people of influence, you are multiplying the power of your own positive influence. Don't be afraid to talk with people about the Bible, no matter what the time or place.


Encourage people. Try to be a little kinder than is necessary in every situation. Treat people the way you want them to treat you. Ask God to give you genuine care and concern for people. Commit to "being there" for people in need and expressing God's love to them. Learn how to say no with sensitivity to people's feelings, so you don't offend them. Refuse to be negative; strive to embrace a positive attitude in all you do. Remember that no problem is beyond God's power to solve. Ask God to help you discern the appropriate way to encourage people in every situation you encounter.


Trust God to help you in our fallen world. Understand that evil is real, but that it can always be overcome with good. Pray for God to deliver you from evil and give you the strength you need to fight it and the grace you need to do good in the face of it. Remember that anytime you attempt something great for God, you will face resistance from Satan. Trust in God's protection and rely on His power. Refuse to allow fear to paralyze you, realizing that God is in control of all circumstances. Pray for God to catapult you into the arena of your greatest influence. Understand that there is no such thing as mere coincidence; all your opportunities to influence others are given to you by God.


Offer other people wise counsel. Live with integrity and strive to become a person who can be trusted. Speak the truth in love. Continually seek God's wisdom. Nurture a passionate devotional life, spending time daily reading and meditating on the Bible. Listen attentively to others. Be sensitive to God's voice urging you to give your time and energy to someone else for a purpose. Be available, even when it's inconvenient.


Use humor to point people toward God. Show people who are watching you that you aren't one of those stereotypical, overly serious and no-fun religious people. Give yourself permission to enjoy life and laugh at your own foibles. Demonstrate the joy that Christians should have in their lives. Understand that people are often more apt to listen to what you have to say if you say it with humor. So use humor to make your points when you're talking about spiritual things. Also use humor to help heal people's hearts by relieving some of their stress and soothing some of their pain.


Keep confidences. Strive to be a person whom others can trust. When someone gives you some information on the condition that you not share it with anyone, make sure that you don't tell anyone else that information. Refuse to sacrifice a confidence for fame, money, or other personal gain. Keep it because it's the right thing to do and your goal is to help people however you can, for Christ. Whenever someone trusts you with confidential information, use that knowledge to intercede in prayer for that person in specific ways. Never use a confidence to lecture someone or give him or her an "I told you so" speech. Despise gossip. And confidences aside, refrain from giving people any information that might cause them to worry unnecessarily. Ask God to help you be discerning, tactful, and kind.


Make yourself accountable. Know that accountability is a sign of strength, not weakness, because it means that you have good character. Understand that no one is beyond the need for accountability. Realize that the more you attempt to do for God, the greater your need for accountability, and that the greater the accountability you have, the greater your influence on others can be. Ask God to help you do the right thing in private as well as in public. Think and pray carefully about other people you can ask to become your accountability partners. As partners, ask each other hard questions and be willing to challenge each other to remain faithful in all areas of your lives. Know that accountability will help protect your testimony as a Christian and help make you a successful witness for Christ. Make sure you're accountable to someone yourself before you ask anyone to be accountable to you. Strive to have a right relationship with God. Make a daily commitment to read and apply the Bible. Repent from sinful thoughts and ask God to cleanse your mind. Make both private and corporate worship a habit. Continually choose to forgive people who have hurt you. Seek to obey God's will as revealed in His Word. Strive to have a right relationship with your spouse and family. Be passionate about purity. Commit to following through on what you promise to do. Defend the truth.


Have courage. Refuse to back down when taking a stand is necessary. Refuse to keep quiet when speaking up is necessary. Refuse to look in the other direction when speaking up is necessary. Face your fears and go on in spite of them. Never compromise your convictions. Be willing to be confront people lovingly when necessary; know that doing so can bring about great change for the better in their lives. Resolve conflicts. Forgive others and seek to be a peacemaker.


Have strong character. Understand that character forms the basis for influence. People will pay attention to your message if they see that you live with integrity. Focus on character above image, education, money, popularity, or position. Ask God to give you the grace you need to make right choices in all situations. Realize that humility is necessary for God's favor. Seek to reflect more of Christ's likeness in your life, rather than just your own. Recognize your weaknesses and seek strength by relying on God's power. Pay attention to life's details, such as returning phone calls and writing thank you notes. Know that if you're great in little things, you will build your credibility with others. Be loyal to Christ and to people with whom you have important relationships, such as your spouse, children, and close friends. Show people that they can rely on you. Work diligently at all your tasks, giving everything you undertake your best effort.


Prioritize relationships. Understand that, through relationships, you can change the world - one person at a time. Make your relationship with Christ your top priority, and after that, your family. Build close friendships. Work to make keep your marriage growing stronger every day. Live to serve. Don't have ulterior motives for building relationships with people; make sure you're doing so only because you want to share God's love with them.

Adapted from Leading with Billy Graham: The Leadership Principles and Life of T.W. Wilson, copyright 2005 by Jay Dennis. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich.,   


Jay Dennis (D. Min., Fuller Theological Seminary) is pastor of the 5,000-member congregation of First Baptist Church in Lakeland, Florida. A popular conference and seminary speaker, Dennis has coauthored three books: The Prayer Experiment, The Prayer Experiment Lab Manual, and Taming Your Private Thoughts. He also hosts a weekly television show and daily radio program. He and his wife, Angie, have two children.