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I've been thinking about how the growth of this Israelite nation seems to parallel the growth of a human. The Hebrew people developed and grew into a nation in Egypt. God saw fit to deliver the Israelites out of slavery through His servant Moses. As Moses led them through the wanderings in the wilderness, they mostly remind us of a child. They were led, fed and moved totally at God's command. Their every need was met by a loving Father. They had moments of total obedience and reliance upon God and God's servant, Moses. Every now and then that ugly, spoiled child would reveal itself in the form of grumbling and complaining and whining.

In the book of Joshua, they appear much like a young teenager. They learn and put to use God's power and support by taking city after city. They make some mistakes, but they show some powerful signs of maturity at times. But they are still under the leadership and guidance of a parent-figure in Joshua.

Now in the book of Judges, they remind me of an older, rebellious teenager or young adult out sowing their wild oats. As they move into a more settled, agricultural society, they no longer have a humanly father-figure to lead them and shield them from the wiles of the Devil. There is no central leader to unify them, to guide them, and shepherd them as a parent would do.

I've heard some of you question why God didn't continue to provide them with a leader, or why Joshua didn't train a successor. Even if they had appointed themselves a leader, it is likely they would have rebelled against that leader, much as many college age students tend to rebel against society. There is just something about that age, whether it is a child or a people, that says, "Leave me alone. I can handle myself! I'm tired of others doing my thinking for me!"

Perhaps in God's wisdom, He saw it was time to let them discover for themselves just how mature they really were. It was time for them to learn if their past obedience had been internalized by the nation, or if it was only there superficially, to escape punishment and placate authorities. Let them see that independence, without an authority figure demanding that you do the right thing. Independence requires mature judgements. Since you reap what you sow, these Israelites pay the consequences for their immature disobedience and rejection of their earlier teaching.

But, from God's wisdom and Mercy, He raises up Judges to save them from their servitude to sin and invaders. These judges, as a whole, are not the best examples of godliness, but they are submissive enough to be used by God. These judges were not judges in a judicial, legal sense, but from the sense that they were involved in God's judgement on the invaders, and God's judging that the Israelites were humbled and repentant enough to receive His intervention.

Who was chosen to do this judging? There is a great variety of types chosen to lead these individual tribes as they come under duress. (Usually each episode involves just a small section of Israel, a tribe or two, at a time.) So how did God choose whom He chose? As I mentioned before, I feel the judges were submissive enough to be used by God, but they also probably had some things in common. They probably all had some leadership skills whether they recognized them as leadership skills or not. All of them probably did not have ALL of the leadership qualities and certainly not to the same degree. Gideon wasn't sure he had any. But somewhere along the line they developed enough to be effective for God.

Over the weekend I started pulling all of my lists from various places on leadership skills. Different lists will use different terminology and go into various depths in explanation. On the board are some typical lists of leadership skills. But, basically, I think we can boil those all down and put them into one of three categories:

  1. COMMITTED TO A GOAL(s).  If you don't think an undertaking is worthwhile, you are likely not to undertake it. Leading others to accomplish a goal takes a great commitment from the leader. A leader must be so committed that he can inspire others to rally to the cause to the extent that they are willing to give of their time and energy to the same cause. Leaders quite often feel DRIVEN. They see a need and find a way to get it accomplished. Even corrupt leaders or "con artists" are committed. They may be committed to self-glory or money, but they are committed to achieving their goal.

  2. FOCUSED.  A good leader has a sharp mind, the inner strength and self-discipline to STAY ON TASK (education terminology). "Stick-to-it-iveness." A good leader has learned that worthwhile projects often take time or are totally ongoing and seemingly never ending. This requires organizational, prioritizing and management skills. Promptness is a must. Workers have more important things to do than to wait on someone or some bit of information. If the leader is focused on the task, he will be on time and will be prepared and expect the same out of others. The leader sees the big picture, yet is able to break the goal down into separate, manageable tasks and delegate them to others and still keep the big picture in mind. It takes a lot of fortitude to see the task to the end or until it can be passed on to a successor. The path is often filled with distractions and side paths. It takes a focused leader to ignore the distractions and keep the goal in mind and to keep that goal in focus for everyone else.

  3. HEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM.  Of all the leaders and workers I have known, I believe this one is most obviously the deciding factor in whether a person will always remain a worker ('cause even workers have to have these first two qualities to some degree) or will go on to develop into a leader. A good leader has to think enough of herself that she is not crushed when things go wrong. And things will go wrong when you are working with humans. Good leaders are more concerned with accomplishing the goal than how they look in the eyes of others. The leader leads others into feeling good about themselves, partly because they feel they are working with a competent leader and because they have contributed to the goal. A good leader will allow herself to make mistakes without mentally beating herself up. A leader knows his own limitations, his weaknesses and his strengths. He is not afraid to allow others to see the same. That takes courage. When you make a mistake, do you make statements like: "I should have...," If only I had...," I'll never do that again," etc.? Or do you say things like "Next time, I'll..."? The "should haves" and "if onlys" are backward looking and destructive to self-image and to the goal. It is condemning the actor of his action. The "next time" statement is forward and onward looking and self-adjusting. It acknowledges the mistake, corrects, but keeps the focus on the goal instead of the focus on the person.

    So much of this is internalized during childhood. One of my personal goals as a mother has been to make "next time" statements to my children. Every now and then I realize I am using a "should have" statement with them, so I quickly follow up with a "next time" statement to keep them thinking forward and not dwelling on the mistake. It transforms the mistake into a learning experience. It gives them permission and encourages them to attempt the task again. It keeps the self-image intact.

Why is it important to keep our self-image intact? Because self-damaged images do not function well. They are debilitating. People with damaged self-images seldom feel compelled to reach out and assist with any project. They have to be dragged into helping. They don't even consider leading.

In talking about a healthy self-image, I am not talking about a proud self-image. A healthy self-image says, "I am ready to SERVE. I may serve as a follower or as a leader. Whichever, I'll give it my best." That means that a good leader is also a good follower. Contrary to some politicians, they are not there to satisfy their egos, but because the job needs to be done. When that person is in a leadership role, he will not see himself as the first man or first woman of the organization, but as a SERVANT who has been called upon to direct and guide the others.

I was working on this lecture a week ago when I got a call from the Fort Smith City Council PTA Nominating Committee. They were asking me to be President of City Council for the 1994-95 school year. I told them I didn't feel ready to take that job on. I have been vice-president this year and the by-laws say a person can serve in the same office for two years. So I felt like I would be better staying where I was as vice-president. I felt like I needed another year to figure this whole system out. Please find someone else to take President and let me stay where I feel comfortable. I'm not ready. I did not win. Ready or not, I got the job.

In case you have forgotten the big picture, we have been talking about leadership skills, because we are going to be looking at a lot of God's leaders over the next several weeks. Not all of them felt ready. Not all of them felt like they had been groomed for leadership. Today YOU must lead for God. There are no more Moseses or Joshuas, just you. You are left to lead others to salvation, whether you are ready or not. You are to be God's spokeswoman.

God may not ask you to lead a whole nation, or even a part of a nation, but if He should, you must be ready and willing to do so. For sure, He has given us the responsibility to lead our families into His fold. Contrary to what our society says today, the scriptures tell us we must be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us to ANYONE who may ask. That is a BIG RESPONSIBILITY. Will you be like me and say, "I'm not ready! Give me another year." That excuse didn't work for me. I doubt if it will work for you. Get ready to meet the challenge today.

It is fine to speak out against sin - abortion, drunkenness, etc., on occasion. That won't change many attitudes, but it will reaffirm and reconvict the faithful and some who are wavering. Hopefully, it will shape the attitude of our young who are bombarded with humanism daily. But the real changes in our Nation must only come when we change the nation - as individuals.

CONVERT NEW CHRISTIANS.  It is called good ol' fashion evangelism. We must be so committed that we cause others to rally to the cause. We must stay on task and focused until He comes. Our self-esteem should be ready to support us in our task. We must be ready to show the lost our love for them and for God. We must tell them of the Love of God and the Sacrifice of Christ and the significance of His resurrection. We must help them to want to be what God wants them to be. We must lead our people and our nation back to God - one at a time. We must yearn and crave to become evangelistic ourselves and recognize and seize every opportunity to share the Gospel.

We must do this because God is still in the Judging business and He still needs LEADERS to lead people back to God.

Jeannie Cole

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Spring 1994

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