As a leader you are not expected to do everything that comes your way. This is a common misconception. What you are expected to do — what God asks you to do is fulfill your calling and to do it well. Whenever we take on more at the expense of the essential things to which we are called, it can be harmful to our organizations, hurtful the people we serve, and possibly even sinful against God.
Our strategy as leaders in the Kingdom of God must be built around knowing our calling and then being willing to do only that which is essential to fulfill that calling with excellence.
The Apostle Paul, writing to a young pastor named Timothy, gives this advice:
“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering,
do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:5)
Consider three things Paul is saying as it applies to leadership.
1. Know Your Calling
At the end of his statement, Paul tells Timothy to fulfill his ministry. It is assumed that Timothy knew he had a specific role in the Kingdom of God and it was expected of him to do that one thing well. Timothy was the lead pastor in the church of Ephesus. His primary roles were teaching the Word of God, shepherding the people through counseling and prayer, and raising up other leaders in the congregation. His was a very specific calling; if Timothy did not keep this in mind, he would never succeed as a leader.
Not every person in the Kingdom of God is called to pastoring or church ministry. As we read through the Bible, we learn people are called to all kinds of things. Some are called to politics and government; Joseph ruling over Egypt and Daniel serving in Babylon come to mind. Some people are called to skilled labor just like Oholiab and Bezalel who were craftsmen possessing unique gifts given by the Spirit of God and whose talents were used to build the Tabernacle in the wilderness (see Exodus 31).
It is biblical to say that God calls people to be doctors and lawyers and business owners and educators as well as many other things, all for His glory. The questions is, do you know what you are called to in your own life, ministry and career? If not, ask yourself questions like these to begin to discover your true calling:
- What things are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing? Unless your mind goes to sinful habits or temptations, it is likely that the things you enjoy will lead you to discover what God created you to do with your life.
- What are your gifts? What are the things you are naturally good at or that the Holy Spirit has placed in you, and how can you use those things in the service of others?
- What needs do you see around you? What do you see happening about which you continue to think that something should be done? Perhaps the reason you see the need is that you are the one called to get involved.
2. Make Good Decisions
When Paul wrote his letter, Timothy was a young man. As with all young and inexperienced leaders, Timothy was probably zealous to build his reputation and to show he was a hard worker with a servant’s heart, and who always kept his word.
Many in Timothy’s position would be tempted to go out of the way to please everybody, saying yes to every opportunity presented. After all, we frequently see it in pastors who get weighed down with many obligations which have little or nothing to do with their calling. Eventually they burn themselves out, their church suffers and/or their families become neglected.
Not all outside opportunities are bad and should not be considered. It’s important we be deliberate in our decision-making process before choosing to say yes. Even the apostles in Jerusalem had to say no to good church service opportunities:
And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2-4)
Not only do the apostles say no to taking on more work despite the need. they also used it as a platform to enable other believers to fulfill their own callings. Stephen, one of the seven men in the above passage, went on to be the first martyr in the church as he boldly declared the Word of God during his trial. Fulfilling his calling even meant laying down his life for the Gospel.
To be sober-minded in our decision-making we must learn to ask good questions about every opportunity before saying yes, even when saying no could be the cause of persecution.
- How does this opportunity fulfill my calling?
- If I take on this new responsibility, what will it require me to give up? What else may suffer if I do take on this new thing? Will another project get abandoned? Will it mean my family doesn’t spend time with me this week? Is it worth the cost to say yes?
- How much do I really want to do this? If it lies outside of fulfilling our calling, and we really do not desire to do it, then the default answer must be “no” unless other circumstances absolutely require a “yes”.
3. Do All Things with God’s Kingdom in Mind
Each of us has a unique calling and although they may have similarities to others, no two are exactly alike. Fulfilling the role to which we are called will always point people to Jesus. This is why Paul says, “do the work of an evangelist” right before he says “fulfill your ministry.”
There is a way to be a teacher, a doctor, a construction worker, or a janitor that points to the glory of God and becomes the leavening agent for the Kingdom of God to spread through the world.
No matter where you are called to serve and lead, this one thing is certain: God has placed you there to point people to His Son. The opportunity to lead people in anything is an opportunity to lead them to Jesus. This is what leadership in the Kingdom of God is all about.
© 2015 A. Scott Ingram
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