Leadership is influence! To the extent we influence others, we lead them. Paul understood the importance of influence when he said, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). In other words, follow my footsteps, as I follow the footsteps of Christ. There is no greater influence than one life touching another.
Women are looking for godly role models who will set a new level of spiritual leadership. Deborah was one of those women who made you want to follow her--she did it all. She was a wife, a prophetess, a government official, a judge, and a worship leader. Who could ask for more? Her strength of character and her godly confidence won her a place of unprecedented leadership in the nation of Israel and proved what God can accomplish when our trust is in Him.
God is still calling women to this level of leadership--leadership with character. How a leader handles the daily circumstances of life reveals a lot about her character. Adversity alone doesn't develop character, but it certainly brings it to light. Reggie McNeal, in his book The Work of Heart, proposes that "spiritual leadership is a work of heart." The development of a leader's character is central to how God desires to shape who we are.
I will never forget the night we walked out of the restaurant without paying our bill! Our family had joined other church friends at the local 24-hour-ice-cream-hamburger-hangout for the usual Sunday evening fellowship. The waitress had brought our bill and my husband had nonchalantly stuck it in his shirt pocket. After a few more cups of coffee and a couple more stories, we hugged our friends goodnight and headed for home.
Then It Hit Me
We were a block from our driveway when the thought struck me, "I don't remember paying for our food." As soon as I mentioned it, Steve grabbed his pocket and groaned, "Oh, no! I forgot to pay the bill!" The kids gasped and immediately the backseat chatter stopped, "Dad, you are in big trouble...you stole their money!"
It was the end of a long day. We were tired, the kids had school in the morning, and surely it could wait until tomorrow. For a moment we were tempted to let it slide--certainly God would understand! Steve made the decision--he turned the car around and headed right back to the restaurant. The manager was shocked when he discovered why we had returned. In fact, he remembered this incident for a long time.
Someone has said, "Real character is who you are when no one is looking." Life has a way of putting our integrity on the witness stand. It's not the big crisis, but often the small tests, that prove our motives and purity of heart. Who will notice the extra copy paper that I borrow from the office, or the graphic movie that I view in the privacy of my hotel room, or the distorted story that I repeat about a co-worker? Perhaps no one else will notice--but God!
God is still calling women to leadership with character! Real character springs from a devotion to God. Just as Enoch was a man who "walked with God" (Genesis 5:24) and "pleased God" (Hebrews 11:5), so we need to live a life that is pleasing to God. As the leadership proverb says, "If you think you are leading and no one is following you, then you are only taking a walk."
About the Author
Reverend Lillian is the author of Tough Cookie, Parents Cry Too, and newly released Don't Cry for Me. They tell the story of her eldest son, Bryon, and his lifelong battle with a rare skin disease. Bryon went to be with the Lord in 1995 at the age of 21. Sparks holds a B.A. in Biblical Literature from Northwest College of the Assemblies of God and a diploma in Sacred Music from Zion Bible Institute. She and her husband, Reverend Stephen Sparks, have three children and reside in Springfield, Missouri.