Are you harbouring any unforgiveness and disappointment towards your leaders today?
I had been told from a young age that my life was a blank canvas — I had the liberty and expanse to do whatever I wanted within God’s well-intentioned parameters. So armed with a fleet of colour pencils, crayons, and paint brushes, I was determined to leave a noticeable mark: to love people to Jesus.
It has been eight years shouldering this goal now, serving as a leader in the youth ministry in my home church. This journey began with a half-foot in leadership: uncertain, afraid and inadequate. I was a 13 year-old, sitting under the wing of leaders who were five to seven years older, and leading a group of kids only one year younger than me. However, my stint as a potential leader was short lived as my parents insisted that I focus on my academics. I did manage to return back to leadership a year later, serving in my own cell group and have continued walking in obedience to His call till today.
Unfortunately, these years of “faithful serving” seemed to have amounted to a lot less than I had hoped for. Recently, a cell member from three years ago stopped me in my tracks and asked: “Nat, why is it that when you were my leader, you never met (discipled) me?” My heart felt like it was hit by a 5-tonne truck, with failure and discouragement ravenously picking at the wound. I am that leader who left her in the lurch.
You might be thinking right now… “Wah, win liao lor. You were a leader yet you never met your members to disciple them? How does that even work?” Yes, what my member said is undeniably true. At this juncture, every part of me is shouting for me to pull out my defenses, justify my actions by declaring that my life is heavily hyphenated (student-leader-daughter-friend) and finally to let out a victimised cry, “I tried! I really tried!”
However, this dire need for justification also triggered questions about my leadership journey within me; like tireless waves, I constantly wondered whether my leadership (or lack of) had impacted the sheep under my very care. As I looked back on the numerous years serving in ministry, I have made mistakes that I am apologetic for. With it accompanies a deep cry for forgiveness from members who have been hurt or neglected over the years.
To leaders who are currently tirelessly shepherding their flock, remember, leaders are only as strong as they allow Christ to make them. While the call and standard to leadership is high, don’t forget that you are first sons and daughters of God. Your primary call is to be found at the feet of Jesus, before you serve and minister to others.
For years, I strived to gain approval of my members and from the leaders above me, and this meant that I had to appear resolute and secure in every cell session. No one expects a leader to be weak after all. Yet, trying to be strong for my members wore me paper-thin. I often found myself in tears, bawling through the helplessness surging through my soul. There and then, I was dead-sure that if I were bent on leading by my own strength, I was going to head down a path of destruction. 1 John 4:4 reaffirmed this when it said, “…Because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
You might be standing at a similar point in your leadership journey right now: feeble and worn like callused hands. At this juncture, you have a choice to stand firm and strong on the foundation of Christ or function devoid of His divine grace. Will you let Him make you strong and allow Him to show you how to lead your sheep?
Now, to members who have been hurt by their leaders, I pray your heart will be unveiled to the fact that your leaders are work-in-progress. They simply do not get everything right.
Your leaders have their shortcomings — their short tempers, hurtful words unbeknownst to them till today, severe lack of time spent with you — yet I believe that your leaders still love you as their leadership call is essentially to love sacrificially.
If you harbour unforgiveness and disappointment towards your leaders today, these little steps of faith could help steer you in the right direction:
1. Forgive them, again and again.
The reason why they are deserving of your forgiveness is because they are exactly like you — flawed, damaged, only human. We are all strewn in this fallen world, and struggling to find our footing in living righteously. Forgiveness might not come overnight like downing an elixir, but each time you choose to relent to it, drops of poison fall out, drip by drip. As you forgive, unceasingly day after day, soon you shall find that unforgiveness no longer has a hold on you.
2. Speak well of them.
As you struggle with these negative emotions, the devil is all ready to pounce on opportunities to sow discord between you and your leader. After all, dividing God’s kingdom is his speciality. Gossip and dishonouring conduct borne out from that tar-like bitterness only swings you right into the demon’s grimy alley.
Let us recognise, regardless of whether we’re a leader or member, that we all belong solely to Christ. In His eyes, we are all deserving of His love, grace and forgiveness. May you find “confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority; do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Hebrews 13:17) May you find the heart to do this, even if it requires much sacrifice. There is surely an unspeakable joy that unlocks in the Father when He sees both leaders and members loving each other wholeheartedly!
P.S. To the girls of SK1 (2004-2012): Abigail, Eunice, Kimberly, Fe Nyx, Mae-Ann, Samantha, Alethea, Winiline, Zoe, Celine, Charmaine (who inspired this article), Christilyn, Zann, Hannah, Joy, Faith, Sarah Tang, Delia, Denise, Amanda, Christy-Ann, Shoshanna, Joanna, Vanessa, Elisa, Lilyn, Benita, Sarah Low, Rachel; Cell One (2009): All 30+ of you and Jasper, thank you for being the people who have loved and forgiven me over time. I might not have left you with the deepest impact, but I hope you knew I loved you dearly.
Always believing in you,
The leader who left you in the lurch