As a pastor, you most likely work hard to make a positive impact on the lives of those in your church. But no amount of hard work will prove effective if God's power isn't working through you as you lead.
No matter what your background or current circumstances, God wants to use you. He wants to turn you into a powerful leader - just as He transformed Joshua in biblical times from a slave in Egypt to Israel's first highly successful general.
Here's how you can follow Joshua's example to become the leader God wants you to be:
Don't let your past determine your future. Keep in mind that no amount of suffering or lack of abilities or opportunities can stop you from becoming a great leader if you place your life in God's hands. Remember that Joshua had no freedom, education, or military training when he was young - yet he became an outstanding leader. Believe that anything is possible with God.
Make obedience your top priority. Realize that God is not as interested in your origins as He is in your obedience. Be patient as He methodically lays a foundation of character in you to properly prepare you to fulfill His purposes for your life.
Use your transition time well. Know that there is no such thing as born leader; becoming a good leader is a process. While you wait for God to bring your leadership into full bloom, make the most of the opportunities you have instead of squandering your time. Ask God to help you overcome obstacles and learn from mistakes. Stay hopeful, expecting God to keep working in your life to bring about good results.
Be faithful in the little things. As you demonstrate faithfulness in the little things God asks you to do, He will entrust with you with more. Let God set the agenda for your life. Be more concerned about your character than your career. Be humble, and don't worry about building your own reputation or gaining recognition for your achievements. Be willing to do whatever God asks you to do. Whenever you work for God, give it your best effort. Stay faithful to God's Word, regardless of the cost. Heed God's warnings. Don't pick and choose which of God's commands to obey; strive to follow all of them. Don't let other people negatively influence you. Instead, build a habit of listening and obeying God.
Let the Holy Spirit lead you. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide your decisions and empower your actions. Focus on God's voice rather than your own. If He calls you to work as an assistant when you'd rather be a senior pastor, accept His assignment. If He calls you to step up to a higher position to serve, be bold enough to do so. Don't let yourself become complacent; strive to always be growing as the Spirit leads you. Trust in God's wisdom rather than your own knowledge. Meditate on Scripture until its full implication becomes clear to you. Be willing to wait for God's timing rather than rushing to make a decision before you've heard from Him. Pray often, and ask God to meet your specific needs. Don't be satisfied with anything less than God's manifest presence in your life.
Give it all you've got. Don't be halfhearted in your walk with God. Be passionate! Rather than being primarily concerned with safety or convenience, focus on obedience. Accept hard assignments, knowing that God's commands are always motivated by love and meant for your good. Instead of negotiating, delaying, or revising when God calls you to do something, have faith in His righteous wisdom and respond with obedience. Don't underestimate your own vulnerability to sin. Instead, constantly pray for God's grace to help you remain faithful.
Invite God to build your character. Understand that you must have strong character in order to be a strong leader. Know that even though there are limits to how much you can improve your physical and mental abilities, there is no limit to how much your character can grow. Respond to suffering by turning to God so your trials will build strength, humility, and compassion in you. Whenever you make promises, do all you can to keep them. Stay humble when you experience success, recognizing that it was God who made it possible. Be sensitive to the needs of the people you lead. Stay accountable to other people as you go about your work. Wholly submit yourself to God's will.
Invite God to build your faith. Decide to trust God regardless of your circumstances. Believe that God will keep His promises, and live your life in anticipation of that. Rather than basing your life on the situations you encounter, base it on your knowledge of who God is. No matter what you fear as a pastor - failure, being misunderstood, humiliation, criticism, or being responsible for other people's suffering - don't let your fears defeat you. Instead, ask God for the courage and peace you need.
Earn your influence on those you lead. Strive to be accessible to your staff and congregation. Remain confident, optimistic, and trustworthy. Work well with your associates, listening to their feedback and taking their advice when it's wise. Remember that what you do today helps determine what will happen in the future. Work for positive influence that will outlive you. Don't disparage the work of other pastors who came before you; build on it instead. Teach the people you lead what God wants them to do and explain why. Use symbols or stories to clearly communicate the values and mission of your church. Stay focused on the goals God give you. Remain passionate about Christ. Keep worship your top priority in life so you can maintain your intimacy with the Lord. Seek to bless the people in your church whenever and however you can.
Adapted from Called to be God's Leader: How God Prepares His Servants for Leadership, copyright 2004 by Henry and Richard Blackaby. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Dr. Henry T. Blackaby is the author of the best-selling Experiencing God Bible studies and is the president of Henry Blackaby Ministries. Blackaby speaks worldwide and regularly consults with Christian CEOs in America on issues related to spiritual leadership.
Richard Blackaby previously authored eight books with his father, including Experiencing God: Day-by-Day, Spiritual Leadership, and Hearing God's Voice. Richard is the president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Alberta, Canada. He travels widely speaking on the subject of spiritual leadership.