Ministry has taught me many leadership lessons. Lessons I’m still learning today, perhaps the first thing we need to learn is that we should never stop learning. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing.
Proverbs 1:5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.
One of the most profound leadership lessons I’ve learned to date occurred when my wife and I were called into ministry for the very first time.
Seven years ago my wife and I were given the opportunity to lead the young people at Grace Point Church in La Grulla, Texas. Where? Yeah, that was my same reaction when I first heard of La Grulla. I had never heard of this town and I had never heard of the Church either. A friend of mine leading worship at this church called me and stated they had been looking for youth pastors, and he thought of me and my wife. He connected me with the pastor whom after several meetings and conversations asked me if I was willing to take on the challenge to be the youth pastor at this church. At the moment I didn't know if me and my wife were physically and spiritually ready for such a big commitment. However after praying we both felt that it was God calling us to lead the young people in this town. So we said yes and quickly got to work.
We soon began planning and meeting with current youth workers at the church. We wanted to start youth services on Wednesday nights, but we wanted our first one to be big, explosive, dynamic, powerful and full of young people. I reached into my many years of experience leading young people at other churches and planned the night accordingly.
I made flyers with cool, in-style, graphics and passed them out during Sunday service to all the youth and even their parents, “check”.
I spoke to my friend leading worship at the church and asked him for help with worship for the youth night, “check”.
I bought prizes and prepared games to play during and after service, “check”.
I ordered every young person's favorite meal, pizza, 15 boxes to be exact, “check”.
I had spent over 2 weeks preparing my message and I felt ready to give the message, “check”.
All was ready for the big night. We waited for 7 o’clock and for the young people to arrive.
7 o'clock came and no young people, we waited till 7:15 still no one, then 7:30 and 2 young people show up. By then we realized that no one else was coming. We had a band, games, prizes and 12 boxes of pizza...what were we going to do with all that pizza.
I felt like a failure, the first youth service and we only get 2 young people to show up.
On the way home I remember crying in self pity before the Lord, saying God I thought it was you calling us to be youth pastors to this church. I thought you would be with us if we obeyed your calling, you betrayed me. At that moment I felt like if I was slapped by the Spirit of God upside the head, and heard him speak into my life the words I will never forget. He said I did not call you to this town be successful, I called you to be obedient. God was showing me that he had bigger plans for me than to just have a successful youth night. He wanted my heart, a full commitment, regardless of the outcome of an event.
God was showing me to obey even when I didn't see immediate results; the Glory belongs to the Lord.
God is not against success, he is against us stealing the Glory that belongs to him.
Later, as the youth ministry gained some momentum and the young people started showing up with their friends, it was easy to give all the Glory to God.
We have to remember that when we are called to serve or lead in any area of ministry it’s to bring Glory to God.
Romans 11:36 (NLT) For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.
This reminded me of the story of Gideon.
Gideon started with an army 32,000 men looking to fight the Midianite army of 100,000. The odds were stacked up against him. But then to top it off God tells Gideon you have too many men. What??? Really God? It’s not necessarily a fair fight to begin with. But God wanted it to be evident that the victory was through his hand only so he tells Gideon have those that are scared leave. 22, 000 men leave at that moment and only 10,000 men were left to fight. God speaks to Gideon again and says there is still too many men and he leads them to a river and tells Gideon have the men drink water. God would choose only the 300 men who cupped the water with their hands.
Judges 7:7 (NLT) The LORD told Gideon, "With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites...
Maybe Gideon would have felt better about the promise of God if he saw a large army on his side, but God wanted to prove to him that his word was enough even when the physical didn’t match the spiritual. He had called Gideon to obey and God would do the rest.
You want to see great things in your ministry; surrender your plans to him. It may not look like much now, but if God spoke it, then believe it, and watch him do it.
Pastor Oziel de la Cruz