I was recently asked “Wayne, after 40 years of ministry, what do you think is the greatest spiritual leadership principle?” My answer applies to all of life as well as leadership, and is not original with me, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34 quoted in James 4:6, ESV).
When I am proud, God stands against me. When I am humble, I have access to grace and favor that far exceed anything that can be humanly generated. It’s a transformative truth.
In the last decade I’ve learned so much more about 360-degree leadership — not only leading those I have authority over but leading laterally (influencing peers) and leading up (influencing those who have authority over me). I’m learning that leading followers requires less humility than leading laterally and leading up. Humility is essential to well-rounded leadership. And a well-rounded life.
When I authored Surrender it jumped out to me how profoundly my life had been shaped by moments requiring humility, submitting completely to God and practicing mutual voluntary submission in relation to others. I’ve come to call them “offering plate moments” of “crisis” in the “process” of God’s sanctifying work in my life. These defining moments are scattered among daily moments.
I am wired to be a daily person. Others have different rhythms. I am at my best when I am in God’s Word each day, praying each day and exercising each day. I fully relate to the challenge of Jesus in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” I am profoundly shaped the by cumulative effect of daily moments, and they keep me from becoming addicted to the next big defining moment — living for the next big experience, the next great spiritual high.
At The Gathering in January 2019, Dr. Kevin Myers, senior pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, said this: “When our ministry is stuck, it may not be a ‘leadership lid’ but a ‘Lordship lid.’” The answer may not be a new ministry practice but rooting out pride that keeps me from listening to God or learning from others. The answer is fresh surrender, receiving God’s grace as I humble myself before him.
As I reflect on the ten lessons I’ve shared in celebration of 40 years in ministry, I am reminded that my ability to lead, whether professionally or personally, must be rooted in the abundant grace and humility offered by our God. After all, he is the ultimate leader we must all strive to emulate if we desire for The Wesleyan Church to have a Kingdom Force impact across the globe in the next 40 years.