This guest post is written by James Smith, a Young Life leader in Columbia, SC. James is a sophomore at the University of South Carolina. More of his writing can be found here.
I think back a few weeks ago to a conversation I had with another leader while on the ride back to school after a weekend serving at Windy Gap. He posed the question, “Are we really ready to lead when we are placed?” After talking about it for a few minutes and thinking about arguments on both sides, we didn’t come to an answer. I got home from the trip and thought about it more on my own. For many leaders, we have only been seriously walking with the Lord for a few years when we step out into ministry.
I turned to Luke 9:1-2 “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Again, in Luke 10 Jesus sends out seventy-two, giving them power, and this time they come back and report in Luke 10:17, “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” What is so important to note here is that the Twelve and the seventy-two hadn’t been walking with Jesus very long when he sent them out. Now look at Luke 11 where Jesus is teaching the disciples to pray. So Jesus sends these people out, they have great results, then Jesus teaches them to pray.
Something in me is saying, “Hold up Jesus, you send all of these people out to do your work, and when they come back they ask you how to pray.” I’m not sure how equipping your Young Life leader training was, but I’m pretty sure that you knew how to pray before you were placed on a Young Life team.
So I’m wondering, if the disciples went out and had incredible results without being taught how to pray, what does that teach us about our leadership potential?
Flash forward into 1 Corinthians and read some of Paul’s testimony regarding his early ministry. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul writes, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.”
I love it how Paul is so honest with us about his ministry; how it doesn’t come with eloquence or superior wisdom, but simply Christ and him crucified. When I think about this it takes a weight off of my shoulders; the writer of a good bit of the New Testament wasn’t the best speaker. Furthermore Paul writes about being with the Corinthians and being weak and afraid. This isn’t the bold, powerful Paul that we often think of, but scared Paul who is sharing the Gospel with the Corinthians. In this passage of scripture I feel like Paul is just like you and me- He hasn’t been walking with the Lord for very long, he is scared, nervous, and lacks the wisdom that some of the other apostles may have had.
Even though Paul lacked so much of the qualification, he was still obedient. He gave his testimony and relied on the Spirit’s power to reach people’s hearts. And amongst all that could have prevented him from effectively sharing the Gospel, he depended on the Spirit.
And that’s exactly how it is with you and me and how it was with the disciples. They were charged to go out and spread the gospel--they didn’t know how to pray, but they had success. Why did Paul and the disciples and the seventy-two have success but lacked years of training? They had success because they were so dependent on God to come through for them and had been given power through God. They were called rather than qualified and that calling led them to act boldly on behalf of the Gospel. And that’s what we must do: rely so heavily on the Spirit that we know it has nothing to do with our qualification or wisdom. Our most powerful testimony like Paul’s is Jesus Christ and his love for us that led to his crucifixion. The leadership potential that we have comes from obedience in the form of relying on the Holy Spirit and the calling given to us by God. You might not feel ready, but through God’s power you are ready.