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Seeing the Glory—Anointed, Effective Leadership

Nancie Carmichael

In our fractured and problem-laden society leadership is difficult. Life is filled with conflict. Sometimes the challenges seem too great, and I’m tempted to opt out and take up something like herbal gardening. Then I see the rewards—people finding Christ, marriages and families restored, the Word of God having its powerful impact—and I realize nothing is more fulfilling than being involved in ministry.

I lost two friends recently: Gen Rose, former head of the Oregon District Women’s Ministries, and Mattie Ann Collier-Spears, of Portland, Oregon, who was a gifted musician and very involved in her church, community, and the women’s prison. Both Gen and Mattie Ann, ironically, had pancreatic and liver cancer. (We three had been involved in a mutual ministry outreach.)

It’s difficult to understand why these things happen, and I feel their loss keenly—not only because we were friends but because they were outstanding women leaders of courage, vision, and compassion. Through their lives I saw effective leadership demonstrated, the kind that makes a difference in our world.

Effective ministry anointed by the Holy Spirit has several key ingredients.

An effective leader is under obedience to God.

Joshua got his marching orders from God (Joshua 1:2–9). "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (verse 9*). If we are called by the Almighty, He will equip us (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

It is absolutely essential to hear what God is saying to us personally. He deals with us in unique ways and knows us intimately. The only way we can hear His voice is to spend time in His Word and on our knees, not just to give out to others but for ourselves—to know that He is Lord of our lives in all aspects.

An effective leader is not threatened by previous leaders.

After Moses died, Joshua went on to follow in his steps. Good leadership builds on the godly work of others who have preceded us and moves forward. Why not start where you are and build on others’ successes? Often when a leader takes the helm for the first time, she is tempted to start everything new, to make it her program. Building on the solid, Christ-centered, biblically based work of the one we’re following, however, is a great way to take some positive steps of faith and go on to greater things. (See Deuteronomy 30,31.)

An effective leader has vision and knows how to communicate it to others.

After we spend time with God—the priority for leaders—He can expand our vision and help us to dream new dreams with Him. I’ve pursued some dreams I shouldn’t have, that weren’t mine. When we became pastors of a church, I discovered that the previous pastor’s wife, a gifted woman, had developed an effective outreach for women in the community. Not waiting on God to see if this was for me, I plunged in and carried on her dream.

The outreaches under my direction fizzled and flopped. Devastated, I felt like a failure and wondered what went wrong. Later I had to admit that taking on her ministry had felt forced and artificial to me. It wasn’t the vision God had for me. I did it because it was a good idea, and because it worked for her I thought others expected it of me.

Humbled, I began a Bible study with two other women which, to my surprise, thrived and became a successful ministry of the church. The Bible studies I began built on the evangelistic outreaches of my predecessor, and ministry moved forward.

An effective leader knows her own pain, her own humanity.

Shortly before Mattie Ann died, I spoke with her on the phone and shared some of the pressures I was facing—feeling overwhelmed, as usual. "Of course you can’t do it!" she said. "The best way to minister is to keep your heart broken and soft before Him, knowing how much you need Him. Then He’ll use you."

I jotted down her comments and tucked them in my Bible under Psalm 51. I pray continuously for a soft, broken heart before God as I minister in His name. Mattie Ann’s simple advice has revolutionized my approach in ministry—from a strength-oriented position to a place of weakness, knowing my strength in Him.

A few months before Gen died, she asked me to speak to the women leaders in her district. After she passed away, I spoke at her conference using her Bible. In it I found a note she’d written: "God’s greatest gifts to us often are disguised—wrapped in problems, trials, and sufferings." Gen clearly understood her own trials and struggles, but in knowing her humanity she saw her risen Lord and incredible strength.

An effective leader nurtures herself.

The night before Joshua led his army across the Jordan to great victory, he went to the officers of the camp and told them, "Prepare provisions for yourselves" (Joshua 1:11).

Women are often very good at taking care of everyone but themselves. Some of us have gotten the idea that it isn’t spiritual to do good things for ourselves. If Jesus needed to get away frequently to the mountains and the seashore to be quiet and listen to the Father, how much more we need to take quiet time.

I went through a difficult time of illness 3 years ago. Diagnosed with a chronic condition, I experienced much pain. The bottom line of wisdom from my doctor was this: "You are sick because you have so much stress in your life."

I thought, What’s wrong? How is it that I, a follower of Christ—whose yoke is supposed to be easy and burden light—have so much stress that I’m in this much pain?

Through several months of honest evaluation I realized I was badly out of balance. I did not nurture myself. I spent time in prayer and Bible study, but in taking care of my physical body, my emotions, and mind, I had not provided the balance I needed. (Maybe some occasional gardening is a good idea.)

I have learned the hard way the importance of taking responsibility for my own needs. If I am giving out to others, I must have something to give. The battle is the Lord’s, but His Word teaches us that we are to prepare ourselves.

An effective leader sees God’s awesome glory.

Jacob said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it…. How awesome is this place!" (Genesis 28:16,17). Under the stars in that lonely, isolated place, Jacob found God was awesome.

Shortly before Mattie Ann died, she told me, "Well, it’s God-time! Doctors have told me they’ve done everything possible for me. So now I am in His hands." As hard as the impossible places are, to be in the hands of our awesome God is a good place to be.

Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through a great victory at the Red Sea. At a mountaintop retreat with God, he received the Ten Commandments. However, as he came down from the mountain, he was stunned to see his people worshiping a golden calf. His plea to God: "If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us?" (Exodus 33:15,16). God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock, and as Moses saw His glory pass by he was able to continue.

Discouraging times come to those in ministry leadership. We sometimes face impossible situations, give it all we have, and still fail. We can identify with Moses, "God, we can’t go one more step if we don’t have a concept of Your glory!"

God is faithful, though, and as we sit in His presence His glory is reflected from us (2 Corinthians 3:18).

A leader remembers why she’s leading.

Why do we do the things we do, assume certain roles? The things that motivate us, the great quests in our lives, often are like chasing rainbows. They are illusionary and evaporate before our eyes even as we move toward them. We want to be loved, to have significance, to make a difference for God. Sometimes our motives get all blurred between doing things for love and doing things out of love.

We do enormous things to make love happen—marry the right person, engage ourselves in ministry, get our biblical doctrines straight, attend seminars, and read books on how to love. However, love cannot be forced. It is like the blossoming of a beautiful rose. God plants the seed of love and encourages, "Learn of Me." It is in the learning, in letting myself be drawn to Him, that it happens. When I am all caught up in the doing, I expect results—payment due for service rendered. Real love is a by-product of relationship: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:18,19).

We must realize the debt is paid. God said, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" (Jeremiah 31:3). I find myself arguing, "I must learn to accept Christ’s love so I can love in return." However, as I study His Word, He says to me in a myriad of ways, "No, that is not the way of love. You do not accept this love to do more. Only accept this love. As you abide in the vine, you will bear fruit—out of humility, gratitude, and fullness." This is how compassion is born: love experienced, that reaches out to touch another with that love. "For the love of Christ constrains us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).

*Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.

Nancie Carmichael is former editor at large of Virtue magazine and publisher of Christian Parenting Today. She lives in Sisters, Oregon.