As I have served in various ministry leadership capacities over the last decade of my life, I’ve encountered many people that have expressed interest in becoming a leader. With some of those people it’s obvious that their motives are off and only desire leadership for the title or position. For others, while they may have pure hearts, are honestly not gifted to lead. Still others may have the dream or desire to lead, but aren’t willing to pay the price to lead.
I think for anyone desiring leadership, that they should take a good long look at the life of Stephen (Acts 6-8). There are some things that really stick out about his life that provides a beautiful picture of true, biblical leadership:
- Stephen was a servant (Acts 6:1-7)
The first time we see Stephen mentioned, he’s being called upon to serve food. He was a waiter (one filled with the Spirit, I might add). He was a servant. Literally. With that in mind, it’s important to note, him serving wasn’t the route to leadership, rather it WAS leadership. Him serving was leading.I think we have the misconstrued idea that the way to become a leader is to serve first and then we get promoted to leadership. Not so in the Kingdom. Serving IS leading. If you don’t believe me, go back and read the Gospels and just take a solid look at how Jesus lived.
- Stephen was himself (Acts 6:3,8-10)
Often times, in our culture, the way up is working hard, having a degree, and knowing someone important, with a bit of brown-nosing thrown in. Again, a bit contrary to Kingdom leadership.In Acts 6:3, we see the requirements to be: “…of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” We then see the Spirit literally “spilling out” of Stephen just a few verses later (see 8-10). It’s important to note his position or title wasn’t prayer team or apostle or evangelist or bishop reverend holiness. He was a man of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom who was called to serve tables. And as he operated as he was gifted and called, people were being impacted.
He wasn’t trying to be something or someone he wasn’t. Stephen was himself. He operated within the gifting and ability that the Spirit had given him. And when he did, he did amazing things for the Kingdom.
If you’ve been gifted to lead, then lead. But if you haven’t been, then don’t. It’s that simple. Not everyone has been gifted by God to lead. That may come as shock to our American dreams, but it’s the truth. I wouldn’t ever want to do something that God hasn’t given me the ability to do.
Be yourself. Be who God has created and gifted you to be. Only then will you be most satisfied.
- Stephen was faithful even to death (Acts 6-8)
Something else we see in Stephen’s story is faithfulness. Stephen was faithful to the Gospel and he was faithful to do what he was asked to do. He was even faithful all the way to death. He was willing to lay down his life for the Gospel (sound like anyone else!?).Leadership isn’t a joy ride. It’s a call to be faithful, even when it’s not easy. It’s a call to lay down our life.There have been many, many times that I wanted to walk away because it was hard. But I didn’t because I knew I was called by God to do ___ and I had to be faithful to what He asked me to do.
You want to be a leader? BE FAITHFUL. Keep your word. Complete a task, even if it seems insignificant. Be faithful with giving. Be faithful with attending gatherings and events. Be faithful to lay down your life for the sake of the Gospel.
So often in our instant culture, we want a title now or a position now. It’s important that we take time to count the cost, to see if we’re truly willing to pay the price of faithfulness.
If you desire to lead and/or if you are in a leadership position currently, I would encourage you to get before the LORD, read through Stephen’s story and ask Holy Spirit to point out any way you can learn from Stephen. It’s important that we always lay our lives before the Father and allow Him to prune… especially as leaders.