Have you ever come to a place that caused you to wonder and pray, “God, where are you taking me in life? Where are you calling me? Where are you leading me? What is your will for me from here on out?” For decades, Leighton Ford served with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, preaching the gospel around the world. And then, as the Lord often does, he redirected and deepened the call on Leighton’s life. Specifically, God was calling Leighton to be a spiritual mentor helping people pay attention to what God is doing in their lives–and then to respond. Could one, or more, of these seven speak to where you are with God and the flock he’s given you to shepherd?
The Seven Touchstones
1. Let your roots deepen and spread like an Aspen tree
“Some Christian leaders are like the Banyan tree in India whose branches spread wide and block the sun’s light needed to nurture growth. Like the Banyan, they take up a lot of space and energy in a room. Conversely, there’s the Aspen tree. Tall and slender, its roots spread and form a network of hundreds, allowing its golden leaves to glimmer in the sun come fall. Our Lord spread his message far and wide, because of his deep rootedness in his Father.”
Is that the kind of leader you desire to be?
2. Put your arm around the next generation
“I was a high schooler when I met Billy Graham at a local crusade. He put his arm around me and said, ‘God has given you the desire for others to know Christ. I’m going to pray for you; if you stay humble, I think God will use you.’ I never forgot Billy Graham’s encouraging arm around my shoulder.”
How can you specifically encourage and mentor an emerging leader God has placed in your life?
3. Value—and share–your unique life experience
“I meet older people who tell me, ‘I don’t have anything to pass on to people much younger than me.'” I reply, You’ve got a lot to share: your life, your experience, your sorrows, your mistakes, and what you’ve learned along the way.”
How might you share a piece of your life experience that can bless a colleague, a ministry partner, or someone new to your organization?
We can miss so much in our life, including our leadership, when we don’t stop, look, and listen to what God is doing.”
4. Be attentive to God
“The writer Thomas Friedman says we are living in a state of continuing, partial attention, today. We’re attached to multiple devices and their noise. Consider the alternative: In The Message, this is how Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’ words, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God.’: ‘Give your full attention to what God is doing now.’”
What would that look like for you, after you read this article?
5. Stop . . .
“We can miss so much in our life, including our leadership, when we don’t stop, look, and listen to what God is doing. Here was Moses, going through the wilderness, fleeing from Egypt, leaving his father-in-law’s sheep, when he saw a bush burning. When he stopped and turned aside, God said, ‘This is holy ground.’ What if Moses had not stopped and turned aside and rushed on? What would have happened to the Israelites and to Moses himself? He would have missed his calling!”
Where is God calling you to stop and pay attention to him?
“I once met with a retiring seminary dean who was receiving a well-deserved citation. ‘Tell me your story, Steve.’ For the next hours he did, including the women who prayed for him as a youth, the pastor who had encouraged him in school, the people who opposed him in ministry. I’ll never forget when he said, ‘Never in my entire life has anyone given me the time to tell my whole story.’”
Would you make time for someone this week to tell you their story if it meant your listening would help them see themselves in a new way and appreciate how God may be leading and directing them, now?
7. And notice…
“A common missing piece of today’s emerging leaders is a deep sense of where they are and who they are in God. Look at Jesus. In the gospel of Mark before he is identified as a servant and a storyteller and a healer, before he taught or preached or healed, Jesus is a son. At his baptism, God says to Jesus, ‘You are my beloved.’”
Imagine God saying these words to you? What might happen if you were to stop and receive these words?
To that end, may these words Leighton shared with me at the tail end of our conversation, inspire and equip you in your leadership:
“I remember sitting in front of a church in Vancouver, British Columbia with a young man who had become like a son to me, who was called to serve a church that was dying. They had 20 some pastors in 20 years. He said, ‘I know I’m called, but I’m scared. I feel like I may not be adequate.’”
“I said to him, ‘Remember God is an artist. He doesn’t do copies, he does originals. Isn’t that what Jesus did when he saw Simon and said, ‘I know who you are, you’re Simon. You’re going to be Peter, and I can see the potential. I’m going to be looking for that.’”
“This young man led a dying church, and by the grace of God the church grew and touched the city in many ways. God is the mentor. God is the leader. God is the artist. When you talk about flourishing cultures, God is the One who wants us to flourish. He wants the church to flourish; he wants his world to flourish. And for that to happen, I need to let him continue to flourish in my own heart.”
It’s Your Turn!
Which of these Seven Touchstones of Godly Leadership causes you to smile, pause, reflect, and/or want to know more?
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