This morning in church, my dad told the true story of a young man whose normal appearance was disheveled. His hair was a mess and he did not wear shoes. One Sunday he decided to attend a certain church that sported an entirely different dress code. As the young man made his way in, he discovered that there were no more seats left. Arriving at the front of the sanctuary, he casually found a spot on the floor and plopped down. It was an unusual situation.
Noticeably uncomfortable, the congregation watched as an elderly deacon dressed in a three-piece suit slowly made his way to the front where the young man sat. Each click of his cane made the congregation sit in anxious expectation of what would take place. After all, it was understandable what he must do.
As the deacon arrived at the front of the sanctuary, the cane dropped loudly to the floor and with great difficulty, he sat down next to the young disheveled man to worship with him. There was hardly a dry eye in the place. Greatly moved, the pastor stood up and said, “What I preach today, you will not remember. What you have seen today, you will never forget.”
What is a leader? The easy answer is this: someone that people follow. What is a godly leader? I would argue that at times it is someone that is willing to step out and do the right thing, no matter how uncomfortable it might be and despite the fact that no one else is doing it. It may mean breaking a “social rule” here and there. In the very sense of the word, it is someone who guides others with his/her example. A leader’s convictions are more important than the reputation he/she desires.
Am I a leader? This is the question I am asking myself today. I am a pastor and I am a manager, but am I a leader? You see, a certain position or earned accolade does not make you a leader. Integrity, consistency, and honor make you a leader. Position really has little to do with anything.
There are certain things that if God asked me to do them in a church service, it would make me very uncomfortable. Being the first one to go to the altar would be one of them, especially if it was not during “open altar time.” Being very expressive in worship when everyone else around me is standing still would be another one. And yet, if I cannot worship God freely and openly in church, how will I ever be bold and fearless about Him at my work, in businesses in the community, or with my non-Christian friends?
When I started to think about things further, I realized how most of us are all waiting for a leader. Think about it: a catchy song comes on at church or in a concert, and there is a little stretch of music that is uncomfortable until someone steps up and starts the clap. Then others join in and people start to stand on their feet. The rest is history.
I have also been in church services where a catchy song came on, and the uncomfortable part of the song dragged on and on as everyone wondered who was going to start the clap…and it never happens. Everyone was thinking the same thing, but no one was willing to be the first one.
I wonder how many altar calls have gone by where several would have liked to go forward but no one ever made the first move. I think about all the times that I have felt God nudge me to step out, but I was too afraid to be the first one. So I waited, and then never went.
This is such a simple example – but it has really made me think about all areas of my life. Am I a leader? Traditionally, I have rarely been unafraid of others’ opinions of me; I have been afraid to be the odd one. This is not the person that I want to be.
I want to be like that deacon who sat down with the outcast. I want to be used by God to give others around me permission to openly express their needs and their worship. And I want to have the boldness when I am outside the walls of the church to be just as passionate about my faith as I am within the church building.
If we truly want to reach our community for Christ, we need to be willing to feel uncomfortable and at times be the only one. We need to be willing to ditch our reputation at the foot of the cross, go out and simply do what is right. Our pride must die its rightful death and Jesus must be all we want.
The world is waiting for a leader. They are waiting for you and me.