Over the last fortnight the Public Leadership team at the Evangelical Alliance has delivered nine seminars at Spring Harvest conferences, run a weekend training retreat and facilitated a day long workshop for a group of churches in Essex. It’s been a busy period, but also an exciting one as we’ve met people passionate about developing their public leadership and see how they can become voices for good and for God wherever they are.
Living bravely in public live
At Skegness, Harrogate and Minehead we led a stream of sessions for Spring Harvest focusing on what it looks like to ‘live bravely in public life’, as part of the overall theme of discipleship rooted in the book of James which was explored each day across the festival.
Discipleship is key to the life of a public leader, knowing that it is as we grow in likeness to Christ that we are equipped to step out and take on responsibility and influence in the world around us. For those that weren’t at Spring Harvest, here are some key points from the seminars.
Whenever we step out into something new it’s likely we will have fears, but God is with us, and through looking at our situation from His perspective rather than ours we can be filled with hope for what can be done rather than despair at what might be.
At the core of rooting ourselves in God is knowing that we are created in His image, and given his mandate to act in creation. We reflect God’s image when we act to create and cultivate in the world around us. We have authority because we are under the authority of God, and that inspires us to act.
Fear-conquering leadership doesn’t mean that we have to conquer our fears and then lead – we are often called to lead despite our fears. The ‘list of heroes’ in Hebrews 11 are perfect examples of this.
Leadership is not just the pursuit of those at the very top of society, or in high profile positions – we have leadership opportunities all around us, in our workplaces and in our communities, opportunities to influence other people, take on responsibility and change the culture. If we refuse to take these opportunities we are in effect saying we are happy to follow the direction others might take our society in.
Standing up as godly leaders in our society is a counter-cultural thing to do. We don’t trust leaders, and leadership is not easy, but it is very much needed, and incredibly worthwhile. We may face the need to counter worldviews that don’t fit with our beliefs, or challenge damaging ideas that persist in our society. This will require us to speak with courage and grace – the use of our voice is a key aspect of leadership, when we speak things change.
Perhaps the most fundamental area where we should be counter cultural is through the witness of our lives. We should lead with lives that demonstrate the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in our words and actions. For as James says in chapter 3, “the tongue is a small part of the body but it makes great boasts”. One moment of selfish or spiteful thinking can undo a lifetime of relationship building. We should seek to conform our character to that of Christ.
Looking at the Bible we see numerous times that leaders were called and commissioned for a role, but it took many years for them to see it to fruition. Whether this is Noah building the arch, Abraham and Sarah waiting for a child, Moses bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, or Joseph serving in the court of the Pharaoh. Leadership that changes society takes time, and we have to be committed to the long term. If we expect instant transformation, we will likely be disappointed.
Another lesson we can learn from the Bible and the witness of evangelical engagement in public life through history is that leaders are not lone rangers. Moses may have led the people out of Egypt but Joshua took them into the promised land, David had the vision for the temple in Jerusalem, but Solomon saw it built. Elijah is considered greater than Elisha even though the latter went on to do greater miracles – Elijah passed on the baton. William Wilberforce didn’t end slavery alone, he worked as part of a wider group committed to the cause.
We achieve more when we have a long-term vision for the future and when we work with others to achieve it. Knowing what we want to see happen in the long term enables us to see what to do next. If we look around us at our skills, our opportunities and the context we are living and working in, what steps can we take today and tomorrow to take leadership?
The first step might be an internal one, it may be conquering your fears, it may be a small act you can do to make a difference, but by being intentional about our leadership and the vision for society that we want to see, we can become voices for good and for God.
If you want someone from the Public Leadership team to speak at your church or event, if you want to be inspired about how we can be leaders for the sake of the world get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: twitter.com/springharvest