Leaders are just servants, who serve God by serving His people. To serve them well, we all need more wisdom than we have currently got.
‘Wisdom’ is frequently personified (in the feminine form) in the book of Proverbs. Listen to the invitation that ‘She’ shouts out to people, in the streets and public places: “How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simple minded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? How long will you fools hate knowledge? Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.” (Proverbs 1.22-23).
Wisdom does not favour the privileged, the successful or the experienced. She is available to all. However, in spite of this open invitation, she is often ignored and rejected, to her great grief and indignation. She warns us against these things in the strongest possible terms, in order to help us take her seriously:
“I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you.” (Proverbs 1.24-27).
This may sound a little extreme, but bad things often happen – in both personal and church situations – which could have been avoided. When the wisdom which is on offer (from various sources) is overlooked, things do not go well. We are not directly ‘punished’ for our pride, but we do suffer its consequences.
So, we would all do well to pay attention to such strong language as we find in the book of Proverbs. We really should do what we are told to do, and earnestly avoid doing what we are told not to do. To know the difference, we will need to ‘get’ Wisdom, and we must do so at any cost. As we are later instructed:
“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown” (Proverbs 4.7-10).
But how exactly do we do this? How do we ‘get wisdom’?
The answer is very straight-forward – we ask for it! “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1.5). All we need to do is to pray. It’s as simple (and as hard!) as that. Wise leadership comes about when our praying precedes our planning, and when we value discernment more than we value making shrewd and strategic decisions.
Once we have prayed, we can then forge ahead and make plans. We can then do so with confidence that, having prayed for wisdom, we will now be given what wisdom we need. Many of us know that “unless the Lord builds the house, the workers labour in vain” (Psalm 127.1-2), but we should not forget that the opposite is also true – if the Lord is building our congregations, then they will be far more fruitful than we could make them on our own.
Let’s move on from just agreeing with these principles in theory, to demonstrating our agreement through what we actually do.
This blog contains the third principle taught to all new congregation leaders in the Joshua Centre’s Leadership Development Program (within the theme: ‘Lead Yourself’).