“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”–Vince Lombardi
There are countless times that I’ve wanted to give up …
Being an effective spiritual leader isn’t easy. The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. It is always challenging to lead, regardless of the arena. Nevertheless, spiritual leaders face the real and difficult challenges of spiritual opposition. God is real, and His love and affection for you are real. Similarly, Satan and the rebellious fallen angels aligned with him are real, and their desire is to destroy and neutralize. The answer is found in Paul’s exhortation, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10).
Paul’s reference to “finally,” reminds us of what he wrote in the preceding chapters. To summarize, Paul encourages Christians about their unique blessings and identity in Christ (Ch. 1-3). Then he exhorts us to live like followers of Christ in the various realms of life: personal, community, calling, marriage, family and career (4:1-6:9). The Christian life is experienced by being yielded to the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and by being strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (6:10).
Why do you need to strengthen yourself in the Lord? We must stand strong in the whole armor of God in order to stand against the wiles of the devil (6:11). Self-discipline and determination will be inadequate for the task. What are the wiles of the devil? The Greek word that we translate “wiles” is “methodeia,” from which we derive our English methods and could be translated schemes or strategies.
Let’s consider five of the enemy’s tactics and five tactical responses:
Existing and emerging leaders will be distracted from the mission of leadership development. There are so many matters that matter to leaders. Leaders are pulled in several directions by their spouse, family, career, personal and ministry (calling) needs.
A tactical response: Devote a fixed amount of time each week to the calling of developing spiritual leaders. Set appointments in the calendar and create patterns of time devoted to leadership development each week. Use the time to learn from others and also to mentor others. Preserve and protect that time from distractions by remaining strong in the Lord.
If you seek to lead and develop other leaders, you will be discouraged. The good news, developing leaders will have great influence for the kingdom. The difficult news, many people will be reluctant to lead and will resist accountability. There have been countless times when I wanted to give up, and I felt so discouraged. Times when the enemy seemed to whisper in my ear, “You’re wasting your time, energy and life. And you’re not making any difference.” It seems that the devil is particularly interested in discouraging leadership development. The devil realizes that when shepherds and leaders are struck, the sheep tend to scatter (Zech. 13:7). If the enemy neutralizes a leader, then those who follow tend to be neutralized.
A tactical response: In the midst of discouragement, cling to the encouraging truth that, as a leader, you are called to develop leaders, and the Lord’s strength is sufficient for this task. Then consider whether your expectations of others are reasonable. Since you are leading them, it is presumed that you are ahead of the curve. Therefore, it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect those who you lead to perform at the same level that you do or to necessarily be as motivated. Finally, take some time to reflect on what is going well and rejoice in those victories for a while.
This is characterized by anxiety, sorrow, pain, agony, torment, heartache and heartbreak. As a leader who develops emerging leaders, you will discover that people in a fallen world experience distress. Chances are, if you don’t personally experience distress, the people you are developing will.
A tactical response: Be sensitive to how you and others that you influence are feeling. Ask people, “How are you (really) doing?” Create an environment through relationship that encourages you and those that you are developing to communicate with vulnerability. Let people know that you care and pray with and for them. Ask, “How can I help?” Don’t ignore distress. Recognize when you and others are overwhelmed, and avoid pushing forward when people need time to be strengthened in the Lord before advancing.
All leaders will, at one time or another, doubt whether they have the right stuff. We wonder whether we are really called to lead and whether we have exceeded the scope of our God-given capacity. Leadership is a spiritual gift (Rom. 12:8) and is likely distributed in varying measures, such that some are called to lead 1,000s, 100s, 50s and 10s of people (Ex. 18:25). Like all gifts, they are to be cultivated and developed towards God-given capacity. For example, someone who is gifted to teach the Bible will presumably be more effective after five or 10 years of experience, than they were in their first year. Nevertheless, there is doubt at all the varying stages.
A tactical response: Use doubt as an opportunity to be strengthened by the Lord. Doubt helps us realize our inadequacies and cultivates dependence upon the Lord. There is nothing wrong with being affirmed by others. But rather than seeking affirmation from people to reduce our insecurities, let’s seek the Lord’s strength as we continue our calling.
Leaders want to lead. This is generally a good thing, but occasionally; leaders sense a different or divergent sense of direction from each other. That can lead to division and disunity. The enemy loves to divide, because; Christ has united us and called us to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).
A tactical response: The answer is to avoid reacting to differences in the flesh and respond in the Spirit as strengthened by the Lord. Seek to work through differences and establish consensus whenever possible. When differences cannot be resolved, look to the situation as an opportunity to advance God’s kingdom rather than a cause to divide (Ac. 15:36-41). Whenever possible, see how the different plans can be reconciled. Or consider how each can be advanced, while minimizing adverse consequences to the other.
1. Which of the enemy’s tactics have you experienced?
2. How can awareness of the enemy’s tactics encourage and prepare you to be strong in the Lord?
3. Which of the tactical responses do you find most helpful in this season of ministry and why?