When I was in my early twenties, if you would have asked me if I desired to have my own company or even to be in business, I would have said with full confidence, “No.” Business seemed so foreign to me. I grew up in a ministry home and had no role model for what it even meant to be in business.
As I continued to grow in ministry, God also began to show me my gift in the area of business. Some of us were raised to think being in the marketplace, media, politics, community outreach, education or entertainment is not about purpose in the same way being in vocational ministry is. I used to think if I wanted to truly serve God, I would have to do it through some type of ministry. My aspirations were to be the worship leader at a church or to marry a pastor. Never did I even imagine God could use my desire to serve through marketplace leadership or in my entrepreneur endeavors.
I think many of us have this mentality. While my parents didn’t hand down business expertise, their heart to serve taught us so much. Also, being ministry leaders, having to live completely trusting God for our resources, they gave us one of the greatest tools for entrepreneurship: the gift of faith. I am the oldest of five, and all of us work for ourselves, run companies and have a true heart to serve in some way—all as a result of them modeling what living by faith looks like. Today, our kids are following our lead, opening their own companies and stepping out in faith.
God knew what I was capable of. He saw in me things I didn’t see in myself. He knows more than anyone what we are fully capable of, what our strengths are, what will work in our lives and what will not. If we completely surrender our plans for His, if we walk out our life holding loosely to what we think, what we feel we know, staying completely open to all He knows, He will blow us away with His plans. The plans He has for us are greater than the plans we have for ourselves.
I started by serving. If we are faithful with little, He will give us much. If you want to find yourself, the best way to do so is to lose yourself in the service of others. I was intentional about looking for great leaders in ministry to serve. As I served great leaders, I gleaned from them.
Sometimes the place God starts us may not be where we ultimately desire to be. I see life as one assignment after another. In every assignment be faithful and grateful, and do unto those you serve as you would do unto God. We work for Him even when we have an earthly boss.
Those whom I was serving began to see the leadership potential in me and would ask me to take on more and more responsibility. I am so grateful for that season of learning in my life. I saw their strengths as leaders, and I also saw their weaknesses. I saw their mistakes, and I saw their successes. I was able to learn something from all of it.
The more I served and learned, the more God shed light on the things keeping me from my purpose. Remaining teachable is the quality of a great leader. The leaders I observed who didn’t get this part of leadership were the ones I saw hurt in the long run. Everything I have learned has been a result of what others have poured into me, and it all began with my willingness to serve.
There are three principles I’ve learned for cultivating a heart for servant leadership:
Ego vs. Teachability—Let go of your ego. Why? Because it keeps you from hearing truth and becoming all that God has purposed you to be. When we get wrapped up in ego, we remain unteachable, and unteachable people do not experience growth. Titles don’t make you; status doesn’t make you; money doesn’t make you. God makes you. Let Him raise you up. What He raises up, no man can tear down. When I gather my leaders, I let them know to leave their ego outside the door. Don’t let your ego get in the way of serving and ultimately growing.
Godfidence vs. Arrogance—“Godfidence” is the having a sense of humility and confidence rooted not in our ego or our accomplishments but instead in our value based on who we are in Christ. I share more about this in my most recent book SHINE Like a B.O.S.S., which is focused on helping readers become God-made women not a self-made women. When we think of a boss we think of someone in control, someone who is on it, someone who won’t mess it up. A true B.O.S.S. builds others, sows into their lives and serves those he or she is called to.
Arrogance, a not-so-pretty trait on anyone, says, “Instead of acknowledging God, I will acknowledge me and elevate me to be like God.” Arrogance is a fruit of the mindset that says, “I” every time. “I did this, I did that, I am this, I am all that. “Don’t strive to get a title. Invest in getting a life of meaning, a life of purpose in Christ, which always begins with serving and the fruit of serving is life.
Humility vs. Pride—Our culture confuses humility with weakness, especially because humility is a characteristic not often found or nurtured in people. We are encouraged to be the best, do the best and be proud of those accomplishments. When we think of being a boss the word humility doesn’t come to mind, and yet in order to truly serve, humility is required. Until we learn humility, it is hard to keep our egos in check.
False humility can be as much of a distraction from the things God has for you as anything else. We may have been taught to believe we are undeserving of credit or attention of any kind, thinking we are less than everyone, and this thinking can cripple us when God calls us forward in our faith. If we tend to say, “I’m not able to do that,” we are (1) relying on our ability and not on God’s ability and (2) practicing a false sense of humility that turns us away from the opportunity to serve instead of turning us toward God’s purpose for us.
If we call ourselves “nothing” and reinforce this everywhere we go, then we are not reflecting our mighty Lord and Savior. However, when we say, “By God’s grace and strength I was able to do this task because my own strength was not enough,” then we bring glory to God, and our humility does not take away from what has been done for Him. Embracing the challenges that God lays out before us is our way to humbly use the gifting He has imparted to each and every one of us. Arrogance comes from resting in our abilities. Faith grows in leaps and bounds when we cling to confidence in Christ alone.
Or what about those who are always doing, going, helping, serving and taking care of people and situations—even to the point of exhaustion. They express humility and obligation as they uphold this moral code of theirs, but in their hearts, they are resentful and don’t enjoy a moment of their service. Have you ever played the martyr in your life? I think we all have. I believe it’s easy for Christians to fall into the trap of thinking that good works equal good faith.
But what is going on inside us while we are jetting from the youth group to the school program to the church meeting or charity function? Are we using our gifting and feeling energized by serving as God’s hands? Or are we muttering under our breath how nobody else seems to want to help, nobody else steps up, and—here’s a good one—nobody else can do it as well as we can. When we serve out of a heart of love, it should bring us joy not frustration. Sure, we will have moments of frustration, but ultimately joy will be at the forefront of our minds and heart.
Remember, God sees the heart. If we never speak up for ourselves, never walk in the authority God has given us and only demonstrate our humility through physical expressions like a quiet voice, timid smile, hunched shoulders or a constant shrug because this is the mental picture we have of humility, we are forgetting that humility is born and resides in the heart. And only true humility honors God.
Jesus walked in authority from God. His focus was on the heavenly kingdom, not on exerting the world’s version of power. While His response to people spitting on Him, insulting Him and abusing Him could have been seen as weakness, it was the ultimate show of great power and humility. He knew His purpose and was passionate about truth.
On the other hand, He was gentle in spirit and had love and compassion for those around Him. This same Jesus was not tolerant of those who were hurtful to others. He was not tolerant of the Pharisees, who were made up of mainly very self-righteous people. Jesus knew who He was. He understood His mission and His heart was pure.
For us to adopt a spirit of humility, we must know who we are in Christ and be willing to walk in the power He has given us as heirs of the kingdom. We must know our mission and stay focused on the things He gives us to do. We must understand the impoverished state we are in without Christ so that we can embrace the power of the resurrection daily.
Focus on building what God has put into your hands. The process forces you to grow, and builds you into a position of strength rooted in Christ and able to withstand the storms of this world as well as the temptations that escalate as you grow in your leadership.
The Bible has the full strategy on how we should live our lives. If we would just rely on His principles that He has laid out so clearly for us, we would see the fruit of those choices and realize He has our best interest in mind.
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