The subject of “leadership” has been trampling through my mind in recent weeks. It started out there as a mostly tame creature more than 20 years ago but has rumbled into maturity over the past few years. It seems appropriate that now I turn my attention to it since I currently carry the title of “church planter.” I’m still not sure what that means exactly, and every day I feel as if I’m failing to live up to my role in our fledgling church.
Meanwhile, “leadership” has been on a rampage. As I work desperately to finish my seminary education this year I have found myself completely immersed in the subject of leadership. Ministry Leadership, Conflict in Ministry, and a Leadership Practicum have all challenged me from various angles, exposing my own shortcomings while at times also applying salve for my wounds.
This morning as I persevered through my time in the Bible I read 1 Kings 3. It wasn’t until some time later as I prayed and began my work day that that Old Testament story came to my mind again.
Do you remember it? God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give you.” Hello! If only God would appear to me and write me that blank check! I imagine Solomon was fairly amazed at the offer, as well. But here’s how he responded:
And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:6–9, ESV)
Allow me to offer a clumsy paraphrase:
“God, you’ve always taken care of me and my family. You did more for my father than he deserved, and he did the best he could to follow you faithfully. Now you’ve placed me in his position to lead your people. But I don’t know how to lead them. They are too great, too many for me to take care of. Give me wisdom, God! Who can do this?!”
Solomon obviously realized that in his situation he would not be able to lead God’s people without divine help. He needed more than the standard anecdotes, conferences, videos, podcasts and books. Without the wisdom from God all the rest is just hot air.
I feel like I’m in the same place right now. I’ve been encouraged by a multitude of sources of “leadership” training, and I’m certainly not opposed to the help they offer. But what I need more than anything else is God’s help to lead God’s people. Like Solomon, I want to be a great leader of God’s people. I doubt I’ll ever have great influence over thousands of people, but I want to lead well, nonetheless. I thank God for the wisdom he gives for the task! Short of receiving divine offers in a dream I have only to ask God for wisdom, “who gives generously to all without reproach” (James 1:5, ESV). And I’ll need to keep on asking, since I need a lot of wisdom and am slow to learn.