A Blog on Christian Leadership & Cultural Engagement

A Leader's Pilgrimage

by Andrew B. Seidel on November 5, 2013

Leadership development is a lifelong journey in which our sovereign God orchestrates the experiences, crises, and tests of life to develop in a man or woman those qualities essential to godly leadership. Beyond developing leadership skills, it is more the progressive development of those inner qualities that enables a skilled person to be a godly servant leader. Who you are as a leader determines what you do in leading.

The Journey of Development

We use the term pilgrimage for the core reality of leadership: refining inner qualities to become a holy servant leader. You can track this process through the lives of the great leaders of the Scriptures. Joseph’s years of mistreatment and imprisonment weaned him away from being his father’s pampered favorite son and tested his dependence upon God. The powerful temptation of Potiphar’s wife sharpened the edges of his integrity. All of this prepared Joseph to be a leader of character and faithfulness when he became Pharaoh’s second in power, responsible for the physical and economic survival of Egypt.

The brash, overly confident young Jew who persecuted the church later became the apostle Paul. His first attempts at ministry accomplished with the same aggressive personal confidence, ended in dismal failure. After a narrow escape, Paul, like Moses before him, spent some years in isolation while God built qualities of humility and dependence into his life. He never forgot his persecution of the church, and this kept him focused on the greatness of God’s grace in choosing him to be His servant. With considerable feeling, Paul never hesitated to call himself “a bond-servant of Christ” (Romans 1.1; Galatians 1.10; Philippians 1.1).

The Goal of the Journey

The goal of the pilgrimage process has two primary elements. The first is the more basic: to make each of us become more like Jesus Christ. Paul states this clearly in several passages. He tells the Corinthian believers that “we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3.18).

God has made this process part of His preordained plan for each believer (Romans 8.29). He will bring, or allow, into our lives whatever experiences are necessary to mold us to become more Christlike.

The second element of the goal is related to the first. God wants us to learn that we are dependent upon Him. The Son of God Himself, whom we are to grow to be like, was dependent upon His Father in heaven (John 5.30). Our continuous temptation is to rely on our own resources of thought, skill, energy, or connections. We are so committed to our own adequacy that the process of learning not to depend upon our own resources is often slow and painful. The world can give many examples of successful leaders who were successful because of their own skills and resources. But no one can be the leader that God wants him or her to be, or accomplish all that God desires, without learning to depend entirely upon God and the resources that He provides (Jon 15.5).

Begin to think more concretely about your own personal pilgrimage. Where have you come from? What have been the major events, people or lessons that have shaped you? Where are you now? Are you more like Jesus Christ today than you were a year ago? Or are you still finding your identity in your own resources rather than in Him? Take that first step toward Christlikeness today. 

This is an excerpt from Andrew Seidel’s work Charting A Bold Course: Training Leaders for 21st Century Ministry. For more information on this title and for many other leadership resources, visit our Resource Center today!