Qualifications for Leadership

The key to carrying out world evangelisation is to set the leaders free; because leaders are the first to move. This is the simplest definition of leadership: someone who goes to the front and leads. For anything more to happen, somebody has to be in front.

1. What qualifications does a leader require? First of all, they must be capable of being led themselves.

We don't learn to be leaders when we are independent. There are no shortcuts; there are only years of learning. Often I speak in Bible schools and seminars, and the students ask me, "How do I gain an office?" and I answer, "Find somebody who is doing something and serve them. Do not be independent."

Organisations are important too. God needs movements and He puts them at the forefront of history. Structure is also important. We are led by the Holy Spirit, but the Bible shows structure as well. There is the hierarchy of church leadership with elders, bishops and deacons - then there is the structure of gifts and services. I don't have to be involved in all services. The body of Christ is described in the Bible as a real body with eyes, hands and feet - dependent upon each other. We are created to be dependent on each other. We learn leadership through following. You learn, for example, to be a father by being a son. This is very simple advice, but it is astonishing how many people are very unwilling to take this advice.

"The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall" (PROVERBS 10:8). We start off not knowing what our gifts and services are. To find this out, we become part of a "service project": Serve somebody who is doing something that is obviously blessed by God. However, in doing this there should not be any element of striving for a personal goal involved. It is not so important what my place is, but it is important that the work is being done, and that Jesus is lifted up. One of the services God gave to me is teaching. However, I cannot be proud of these gifts and become full of self-importance. For example, I cannot say, "I will not clean the toilets because I am a prophet."

King Josiah is one of the greatest heroes of the Bible; a man who didn't mess up anything, but who still, at the end of his life, made a mistake. The Bible says: "As long as he was king, the children of Israel lived in righteousness." What a fantastic statement! But still he died in a tragic way. There was a king in Egypt and his name was Pharaoh Necho. He had a huge army and wanted to cross through Israel's area to the Euphrates river. He met Josiah and said: "I don't want to do anything against you and God is with me. My destination is in the North. Don't fight with me. Let me go through. I don't want to do you any harm." But Josiah took his vocation too seriously. Over all these years he had been the protector of Israel and that made him blind to God's greater plan. He could only see God's plan in relation to his own area and he went out to fight with Pharaoh and died. A righteous king who never made any other mistake. Therein is a great lesson for us all.

2. The next principle is: to be teachable. What is the proof of a teachable spirit?

A hearing ear. There are many scriptures about this. "When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge" (PROVERBS 21:11). "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath..." (JAMES 1:19).  "Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge" (PROVERBS 22:17).

We listen to three things. First of all, to personal correction. To be humble means to see yourself as you are. How do you know what you look like - physically? I can see all of your faces. Remind yourself of your own face. What does it look like? Can you imagine it? No problem, is it? Why? Because you have spent much time looking at it; especially when you were a teenager. For hours you examined your face in the mirror. What is the mirror of your soul? The Bible says that the Word of God is one of these mirrors and in there we can see our selves.

Another mirror is conviction through the Holy Spirit. God tells us what He sees. Another mirror is when our brethren who love us, correct us. If we want to lead, it is necessary that we are close to someone who corrects us. Do you know who you really are? You can only know by looking in the mirror. The Bible says: "The pride of your heart can make you err." We cannot see ourselves naturally: we have to look in the mirror.

The first time I was involved in leadership with YWAM I was twenty years old. A few of us lived in a house belonging to a couple. On the last day of our stay, the woman came to me and said: "I want to talk to you before you go." She said, "You know I love you as a brother in Christ, however, you've stayed for four days in our house and I have seen a few things which really concern me. First, your attitude towards others shows you are not really interested in their opinion." Then she went from one point to the next, going through a whole list of things. What should I do? I wanted to defend myself. That's the natural impulse. "Oh, you're judging me. I'm not really like this, you don't know me." But I kept one thing in mind: "For her it is uncomfortable. It's no fun for her. It would be easier for her not to do something like this. It can really only be because she loves me." And I saw how Jesus was looking over her shoulder; not like in a vision, but in my imagination. And he was looking at my reaction. Would I really look in the mirror and accept the rebuke? Or would I push it away? And on this day, He decided whether He would give me more responsibility. I asked her to pray for me, that God would have grace and mercy upon me. I never saw this woman again and I would rather not. It is a hurtful memory, although I know that she meant well.

I thank God for this memory of when I looked in the mirror, because since then God has used me in many ways. Often people express how thankful they are to me, but then I think of the true statement of this woman and I know who I really am. If there is really something nice and good in me, Jesus has put it there.

We have to be teachable. It is necessary that we listen to others' service gifts. We should never think that it is only us who have revelations, and should realise the services of others reveal parts of God's character. We really need each other. We have to be in subjection to each other in our services. Not only because they are different in function, not only because the pastor needs a steward, but because the services reveal something of how God really is.

Another part of hearing occurs in our reading. We have to read the Word of God. We have to read Christian literature and we have to be informed about the things that are happening in the world. We must be people who know what is happening. We have to know about the worldly culture around us. Last night, I didn't sleep much, as I had read some German history. For me it is important to know history in order to be a spiritual leader. I read the history of each nation where I am, because God acts on nations. As I am in the course of history, I can't know where we are going to before I see where we came from. I am thirty-one; most of you are in your twenties. God has a purpose for us and a role for us in human history. To be a spiritual leader you have to understand the big picture. How can you motivate people if you are not able to show them their place in the big picture?

3. Another point: to be cleansed from pride and selfish motives.

That's easier said than done. We all have the need to be part of something, to be appreciated. We develop certain customs because we have need of bodily contact and affection.

It's similar to the need for sleep. There is nothing wrong with it, but it can turn into laziness. Similarly, we have an appetite for sex. There is nothing wrong with that either. God gave us these needs so that He can bless us, not torment us. We are tormented by our needs because they are swollen and twisted through past sins. We are hungry for food, and I've got a big appetite for food, but this can turn into voraciousness. Our hunger for appreciation is like all the others. If the hunger for appreciation is the main motive in our life, then this is the sin of pride.

Certain things can greatly tempt us to have pride, because the need of appreciation is fed through this. Jesus said: "A prophet is not without honour." In other words: a prophet gets prestige and appreciation. Therefore, God cares for those whom He is going to use in official services, and makes sure they have a long training period. During this training time, we are cleansed of this lust for appreciation.

Think about the story of Joseph. This story is similar to that of Jesus. All spiritual leaders in the Bible went through a long training period: Abraham, Moses, David, Joseph, etc. For Joseph, the cleansing started with the test of rejection. When he was seventeen years old, he was rejected by his brethren. First, he had a dream. Many of us have similar experiences. We also have dreams from God of how we will be used, and often it is our closest friends who push us down into the pit. This pit is the refusal by our brethren in Christ. This is a very hard test, isn't it?

Joseph went through this test. Afterwards he became a slave. What does slavery mean? A work without pay. Something like this can happen in your life as well. You have a dream of serving Jesus. You become part of an organisation. And what do they expect from you? A service which has nothing to do with your gifts, nor with your wishes. Why? It is God's way of dealing with you. This trial of Joseph has a big similarity to the trials we have to go through.

What was the next trial? The test of unrighteousness. This is the stage where many leave God's plan. I've recognised something interesting; many organisations which are lively and oriented around the Word of God have many critics - in fact, former members who have left the fellowship. People who are bitter don't want to have anything to do with this group anymore. It is very easy to get bitter in a Christian organisation. We are much more sensitive to bitterness than people in the world. How can this be? The people in the world are protected by their cynicism. Their expectations of the world are not that high.

The test of unrighteousness can happen in a 'Youth With A Mission' organisation as well. I've experienced deep hurts in YWAM. This hurts much more because this organisation represents my ideals. God showed me that I had a trust in one of the leaders of YWAM like that of an idol, a trust that should only be shown to God. I should be loyal to my organisation, but also have to realise that it is only a circumstance that God has placed me in.

Why are we connected with YWAM today? Is it because we examined every Christian organisation in the world and came to the conclusion that this one is the best? No. We just followed Jesus. A door opened for us and He said: "Enter. Make something of the situation." It was subjective guidance; a circumstance that God has put us in.

The test of unrighteousness is followed by the test of stagnation. Joseph was put in prison. The prison is a place of darkness. There is no progress. Your career comes to a halt. You are unfruitful. You are in abeyance. That's a difficult trial. Have you ever been in such a hanging situation and been misunderstood? You've got no idea what God is doing with you. What is it all about for Him? I've given myself to God: "Here I am God. Let's go." And now I am doing nothing. I'm tired of waiting. If I would know what God wants to say to me. In the book of Isaiah it says: "Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of the servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God" (ISAIAH 50:10). This is a very heavy test.

It is similar to when your hopes are postponed. It says in Proverbs: "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick" (PROVERBS 13:12). Joseph was in prison and beside him was a friend and this friend was promoted before him - a very hard test. Have you seen a friend being promoted before you? Joseph had a lot more potential than this man and he knew it, but he didn't become bitter. In his heart was always forgiveness. There is a direct connection between forgiveness and how high your position is. How much you forgive is a measure of the size of your sphere of influence.

In truth, the pain of power is much stronger than the pain of service. How is it if you have authority? Your followers will hurt you. You are going to be betrayed, criticised and depersonalised. Everybody has the right to criticise you. The need for forgiveness is much greater.

The last lesson we can learn from Joseph's life is his promotion. In only one day he came out of prison and became the second most important man in Egypt. That is a lesson for every young Christian. It does not matter what kind of reputation you have. The promotion doesn't come from the east or from the west, but from the Lord. How does He see you? Don't care what people think about you. Live to please God.

4. The next qualification is a disciplined tongue.

"He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend" (PROVERBS 22:11). The Bible says that we shouldn't search for promotion because it shall be given to us: I've got 157 colleagues and more than 100 students. Often we have work meetings and I listen to how everybody talks. Are they able to keep their tongue? If they are really impulsive in their speech, I'm very wary of them. It is very important that we first of all get control of ourselves, before God can give us control of others. There is a very radical statement in JAMES 3:2: "For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."

Being reserved is the first lesson. God is not going to fill your mouth with wisdom if you are still filled with foolishness. First of all He wants to make you quiet. On a journey to Paris twelve years ago, I sat at the back of the bus with two young Christian girls. We told each other funny stories and laughed and laughed. But our stories became more and more unrighteous and continually less upbuilding. Eventually we arrived in Paris and went into a service where Loren Cunningham was preaching. He made an altar call and all three of us went to the front and repented. We felt very dirty because of the way we had been talking before. In Proverbs it says: "In many words there is evil."

On the way back I sat with the same girls on the bus and I thought: "I won't do it again." I opened my Bible and this scripture was staring out at me: "Shut your mouth". It was not exactly in these words, but this was the meaning. It seemed like every scripture I opened up said: "Be quiet." It frightened me; I sat there and was quiet. For hours I said nothing, and the people around me didn't feel very comfortable as they didn't know what was wrong with me. I had nothing else to do and started praying. In the end, we all started praising God and singing in the Spirit. We had a revival on that bus. The Holy Spirit worked mightily. For hours the gifts of the Spirit were manifesting themselves. There was a real brokenness amongst the students. We began to bring things into order between us. We prayed to God like never before. That taught me an important lesson, because all of this came out of quietness.

What does the Bible say about the tongue? It says that it is like a rudder that steers a boat, or like a rein on a horse. A tongue that is controlled is a sign of the rulership within you. There are two sides: it doesn't only mean not talking, because many of us are introverted. It means to talk when God commands you to; to give testimonies and to witness and to have no fear.

5. The next principle is: "Fear God and not man."

"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. Many seek the ruler's favour; but every man's judgment cometh from the LORD" (PROVERBS 29:25-26).

What does this mean? Sometimes we think that "fear of man" has something to do with giving testimonies; that we have the fear of being refused by unbelievers. That is a problem, but we are speaking here about the relationship between leaders. Much has been said on how many live to please authorities rather than God. When it says, "Many are searching to please the king," this means that many try to please human authorities. "The one who trusts in the Lord is going to be exalted." This means being promoted: Righteousness comes only from the Lord.

6. We are going to look at another principle: to have no other gods.

That includes man and organisations. In an organisation like YWAM, there are bigger temptations. It is a big privilege for me to be part of YWAM because of the quality of leadership. I like to follow these men. I read the biographies of heroes from the past, like the Herrnhuters, John Wesleys, William Careys and Hudson Taylors and I can see the same qualities in Floyd, Don and Loren.

But I am still somebody who follows Jesus Christ in the first place. If I ever make heroes out of men instead of Jesus, God would allow me to fail and get hurt, because my trust should be in Jesus Christ. One day God gave me the scripture PSALM 146:3: "Put not your trust in princes..." These princes are men in authority. Does this mean that we should not trust our leadership? No, but there is a trust which in the end we should reserve only for Jesus.

7. The next principle is to be capable of motivating others.

The leader should go first, but that doesn't mean that they are able to do everything better. Leaders are often the dependent people in the group. We don't lead because we are more capable than everybody else. The fact is that the leader often doesn't have as many specific talents as the people around him. The definition of an apostle is somebody who has a general service. Apostles are not good in specialising.

I know what it is like. There are experts all around me. I know a little about mechanics, but just enough to know what is going on. When I see how a mechanic is working I feel real appreciation. I know what good work he is doing because I have done it before, but that convinced me that this is not one of my strong points! My secretary types my letters much quicker than I do. I'm specialised in general things. I can do everything a little bit, but I am not an expert in anything.

To be a leader you don't have to be perfect. Certain capabilities are necessary. Jesus is the real leader of each project: For your service, your family, for YWAM and your assembly. We should make men dependent on Jesus and not on us. We are a human point of reference, but they shouldn't be dependent on us. It is very important, as a leader, to be broken, open and honest and to show from the beginning who you are. You are somebody with problems, a half-formed creation. Why do I know this? Because you are not dead yet. When you die God brings your training to an end.

I had a great friend named Keith Green. He was a singer. We had a concert; he sang and I preached. God used us wonderfully. I was very sad when he died. Keith was only a Christian for seven years. He was only twenty-eight years old with a Jewish background, but he still influenced millions of people in this short time. Often he said things which were very extreme and he felt sorry about them later on... His fire was bigger than his knowledge, but he was very teachable. Just before he died he wrote an article titled "Only for prophets". He asked the body of Christ for forgiveness for all of the things he had said before. It was astonishing to see the difference during the last four months of his life. And then he went into the presence of Jesus Christ. He was prepared.

We can't wait until we are able to guide people. We have to lead men as we are. We have to reveal our weaknesses. We ask for forgiveness and we never hide how we really are. When we paint a picture of victory; when we never allow anyone else to see our faults; sooner or later they are going to be very disappointed because we will fall. Then they will be bitter against us and will betray and criticise us. We are going to be deeply hurt. It is better to be open and honest from the beginning.

There are two parts to you; your own image and your anointing. John Dawson is not very wise, but God gave me a leadership. I am the leader of YWAM in California and there is an anointing for this work. I don't trust my mind, but I trust my intuition. When I have a very strong idea, it might be from God over my own understanding. Maybe it is God's faithfulness to the ones who follow me.

Do you understand what I mean when I talk about intuition? A few say: "God has spoken to me", and God can speak with an audible voice when He wants to; but most of the time God speaks to us by putting His thoughts into our minds. When you are in leadership, you learn that God speaks to you. You don't understand why you feel like this, but you learn to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit. Men don't follow you because you are acknowledged, or because you know the Bible better, or because you have an understanding of the Christian principles. Their biggest hope is that you hear from God, and that you are sensitive enough to God's voice.

by John Dawson

Translated from the German: "Qualifikationen für Leiterschaft"

Source: 'Der Auftrag'