Have you ever been a reluctant leader? I was. I have always identified with Joshua, who was apparently pretty nervous after Moses’ death, when Joshua discovered that the buck stopped with him. I am still amazed that God does not often place the most obvious people (at least to human eyes) in positions of leadership.
Look at Samuel’s selection of David over his brothers. It was not clear physically why God chose David, but “the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7, NKJV). Consider also that Elijah discovered Elisha while Elisha was plowing a field. Scripture proves leaders can arise from any place, at any time.
While I hesitate to imply that I am a great leader, I am a leader who has enjoyed the incredible blessing of the Lord in the past 40 years of ministry. From my own life and experience, I can tell you that the key to the release from fear and reluctance to lead came from a strong mentor named Harvey Oxner. Harvey was a senior pastor in Grants Pass, Ore., in 1970, and he invited my wife and me to join his church staff as youth pastors.
While Harvey was a really good leader and a very talented person on so many levels, I think that his greatest gift to me was believing in me and helping me develop first as a man, and then as a leader. Harvey saw something in me that I could not see in myself, and he was determined that the gifts God had placed in my life would be strengthened and nurtured to maturity.
Harvey was tenacious. I was included in virtually every area of ministry: I visited sick people in the hospital; with Harvey’s sponsorship, I joined the local Rotary Club; I assisted with funerals; I assisted in church services; and I helped lead the three radio programs and the half-hour telecast we did each week.
Harvey could have done all of those things without me—and I am sure he could have done a much better job. I talked too fast, and I was clueless about how to manage both the spiritual and the administrative side of a growing church. I had never even given a thought to how to get the church connected in the community.
Harvey did, however, think of all those things and many more. He knew the value of investing in the next generation of leaders. He chose to help me learn to lead, even though it would have been easier in the short term for him to continue to do ministry without me.
In his blog, Lead on Purpose, Michael Ray Hopkin stated: “One of the key tenets of leadership is the need to pass on the knowledge and experience to others. Most great leaders throughout history have made it a priority to grow and develop other leaders who can come in, take the reins and lead more effectively” (Mar. 13, 2009). Harvey Oxner certainly did that for me, and I encourage you to find someone to invest in as well.
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