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How Do You Spot True Leaders In Your Church?

If you’re looking for an example of the perfect Christian—this blog is going to let you down faster than you can say “La La Land wins Best Picture…”

If you’re looking for a blog about a guy who never misses church, who never swears, who never screams at God, who never hits rock bottom—you should probably go find a website with more puppy videos and unicorn memes.

If you’re looking for someone innocent, sinless, quiet, pious, always expelling the J-O-Y of C-H-R-I-S-T with jazz hands—feel free to unsubscribe. As much as I want to be, I’m just not that cup of decaffeinated orange blossom tea.

I don’t have a peppy 12 life-changing reasons list for you today. I don’t have any strategic words about millennials or Hungry Hungry Hippos. I don’t have a delightful anecdote of finding some beautiful message from God in a fortune cookie or an elephant turd.

I just have these words of struggle. I just have a long list of unanswered prayers. I just have a litany of “why God” questions. I just have 56 started blog posts without conclusions. I just have a revised book proposal that never resolves. I just have a seminary acceptance letter and no plan. I just have a house on the market that isn’t selling. I just have a weary soul and a restless heart.

I mean, I’ve been around Christians long enough to know the right phrases to say:

“God always has a plan.” “Sometimes everything has to fall apart for the right things to fall into place.” “You just need to pray more, read the bible, work harder at your faith.”

The truth is, I just can’t do that crap right now; I can’t do the cliche religion stuff.

Tell me why losing a friend to suicide was “meant to be” or “part of God’s plan” and I will smack you in the face… even if you’re the Pope. That’s real life and real life is just plain hard sometimes.

I shared a few weeks ago that I’m quietly having one of the hardest years of my life. One of my mentors finally said, “Wow, you’re having a Job year, aren’t ya.”

Not exactly the bible character you want to emulate.

I am having a year of no. A year of exodus. A year of goodbyes and loss. A year of “you’re not welcome here.” A year of floods and disastrous projects. A year of stress and illness. A year of giants who’ve come back from the dead. A year of rejection. A year of zapped energy, lab tests that come back worse and worse. A year of “seems like you’re always having a bad year.” A year of why. A year of don’t hope for good things, they’re not part of your story. A year of fog and confusion. A year of what’s the point. A year of sorry I forgot about you. A year of angry words incessantly hurled in my direction. A year of “when are you ever going to get that done.” A year of waiting. A year of “get me out of here.”

I keep trying to muscle through, I mean heck, I’m the “Recklessly Alive” guy. I am supposed to be a bright shining example of how to do this whole following Jesus thing.

But what it’s taken me 28 years to realize is that this image I have of what the perfect Christian should look like is a steaming pile of poo-poo.

I haven’t written much these past few months because I don’t know how to lead in a place of desolation. No part of me feels connected to God or faith or church. No part of me feels like a leader.

What I’m learning is that an authentic follower of Jesus, a true leader in the Kingdom of God, isn’t as easy to spot as the people in power want you to believe. What if leadership isn’t about who has the title and the microphone, what if it’s about something more?

If you want to find the greatest leaders in your church, follow this one piece of advice:

Turn around.

  1. Stop looking to the stage for the ones screaming FOLLOW ME.

  2. Stop watching for the most gregarious personality, the center of attention, the who says exactly what everyone wants to hear.

  3. Stop looking for leaders in the way our celebrity culture has trained us to—the most attractive, the most talented, the most charming, with the most Instagram followers—and start looking for the type of leaders God picks.

Turn around.

  1. Look for the quiet ones in the back row who aren’t in it for the attention or the accolades.

  2. Look for ones who could care less about the perfect rituals or the way things should look.

  3. Look for the ones putting themselves in danger’s way, traveling to the places of the world the elite class would never step foot in.

  4. Look for the ones who are drawn to the marginalized, the disabled, the untouchables of the world.

  5. Look for the ones who make it their mission to exist in the tension of the chaos around us.

  6. Look for the ones who are rough around the edges, who’ve survived horrible traumas, and are challenging the status quo.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:25

Leadership—at its purest form—is about humbling yourself before men and before God. It’s choosing to be authentic in the mess and real about the struggles we face. It’s about leading by example long before you tell anyone else how to live their life.

Sometimes the greatest act of leadership is simply letting the world see you for who you truly are—scars, tears, bruises, moles, and all— and choosing to serve in whatever way you can.

So today, in a year of no’s, in a season where no part of me feels like a leader, I’m choosing one very important yes. I am saying yes to all of you, to showing up in these words when almost nothing is going right. I’m saying yes to this post in hopes that we can all just freaking stop.

  1. Stop pretending.

  2. Stop hiding.

  3. Stop showering the power-hungry with admiration and start elevating the servant leaders among us.

  4. Stop running from the tension of life’s inevitable pain and just be ourselves before the world and before God.

If you want to find the true leaders in your church, turn around. They’re there, crying in the back row, probably hoping you never notice them.

They are ones that fully grasp what it means to pick up their cross and follow Jesus.

They are the real leaders among us; let’s all be more like them.


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