Former IVCF President of U.W.I St. Augustine gives a talk on "What it means to be a leader."
Let me begin by describing my own experience as IVCF President at the UWI St. Augustine Campus, 2013-2014. It was one I will never forget and has helped mould me into the person I am today. It nearly drove me crazy at times, but as most of us know, the greatest challenges are the most important ones and the ones we hold nearest after are overcome and seen through to the end. There was a huge responsibility on my shoulders, which was understandable; leading a group that varied from about eighty (80) to one hundred and fifty (150) people was no easy task. It did feel that my responsibility was a job in itself. Doing my Mechanical Engineering degree was hard enough on its own, but at the time it felt like I had two demanding jobs. However, being a leader is not about dealing with a lot of work; it comes with the post but that is not the point.
I was shocked when I got the phone call from Mrs. Roxanne Mahadeo, one of our beloved tertiary staff workers, telling me that I was being considered for president and that I was the third choice! It took me by surprise as I had no ambition for this position. I wanted to serve the body but not as the leader; indeed, I doubted my abilities to act in that capacity (especially was after being told that I was more or less the third choice). I had never served in a position with so many responsibilities; I was accustomed to helping where I was needed and doing what was required to get the job done. While not a stranger to leadership, it was always in a significantly smaller capacity. I was always a background guy and played it well, but God called me to be under that spotlight for my final year at U.W.I.
After prayer and much counsel I came to the conclusion that although I was not the body’s first choice, I was God’s FIRST CHOICE. He had a purpose for me and had called me to leadership. Little did I know that hauling the club’s sound equipment across campus every Thursday afternoon (through trini hot sun!) would put me right where God wanted me, getting me the right attention and surrounding me with the right people, several of whom have impacted my life tremendously and were responsible for backing me for the position. Matthew 25:21 states exactly this, “His master said to Him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ ” What I recognized even more is that my competency as a leader stemmed from my ability to serve, and that is what leadership is really about; being a servant.
The Real Picture
The leader isn’t held up by the body, but holds up the body. Similarly to God’s relationship with us, we don’t hold up God; He holds us up!
The point I am making is that you do not have to be an exceptional individual with a special touch to be a leader. In fact, being a Christian means that you are a leader. The Great Commission given to us by Jesus Christ tells us that we are to go and make disciples of all the nations. We are called to lead other people and they in turn, are called to do the same.
When it came to youth leadership I made it my duty to read the books of Daniel and Timothy. These young men were called by God to work in their societies and were both young and wise.
Be an Opportunist
It is important to recognise that we have an opportunity like no other as we live in a society where we are free to spread the gospel! Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are being killed and have to hide underground. We are in a position to make a difference and the worst that can happen is that people tell us “No” or “Go away”. Yet we remain safely behind our walls of comfort. So let us use our time to go and tell the world that Jesus lives and be the example; let us make the first step, reach out to others and build them up.
Know Your Stuff
In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter tells us that we must have our act together. The verse states “...but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defence to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (NASB). We need to be ready, not just to step out and take the gospel to the ends of the earth, but we must be able to defend our faith, therefore we need to be in the word! We must be knowledgeable of the scriptures in order to ably defend our faith.
Living a Balanced Lifestyle
1 Timothy 3:1-13 describes what is required from leaders in the church. It paints a picture of humility, gentleness and good character in both public and personal spheres. To put this simply, a balanced life is a necessity in leadership, with as much effort put into your personal life as into your ministry. Indeed, how can a leader go out into the world trying to instil discipline and spread the gospel when his/her own household is not being attended to? We can also take this further with respect to our school work. We must be able to balance our academic duties with our external responsibilities and be diligent in all aspects of our life, as our God is a God of order and has made a time and place for everything.
To again draw reference to one of my favourite books, 1 Timothy 1:18-19, tells us to “fight the good fight keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (NASB). We recognise that being a leader is not easy and that sacrifices must be made in order to have victory. Yet let us continue to fight, recognising that God has called us according to His purpose and that it is through the recollection of the plan that He has for us, that we push forward not losing faith.
Another important scripture I use as encouragement is 1 Timothy 4:12:
“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (NASB). This speaks for itself; recognise that your youth is a blessing and take full advantage of it. Another twist to that scripture is that we must recognise that our age is no excuse for turning away from the Lord’s work.
Sacrifice is Necessary
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?’” (NASB)
That scripture comes from Matthew 16:24-26 and this is our reality. The big picture is that life is not really about us, it is about God and if we are to profit anything from it, we must die to flesh. We must carry the load of our Saviour and follow Him with everything we have.
Sacrifice is necessary in leadership positions. You have responsibilities that are bigger than yourself and that means you need to prioritise your actions. Your social life may take a hit, or you may lose a couple of hours of sleep each night… but so what? If you are going to do anything for the Lord you need to do it to the best of your ability. Our God is a God of excellence and He deserves our very best at all times. There is no “off duty” when you are in a leadership position, even more so when you are a Christian. Sacrifices are required at times, but that is part of the job. Remember, when you are a Christian you are already a leader by definition.
Following on my previous point of sacrifice, when we model Christ by picking up our cross and following Him, we begin to live not for ourselves but as servants, to provide a service for those around us who need what we have! Matthew 20: 26-28 says just that:
It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (NASB)
Leaders stand to lead by serving. We provide a service to others, to lead by example and make the sacrifices to develop the body of Christ while studying the word and living a balanced lifestyle. And that’s just it.