By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
In the church yards of the Swiss Alps are beautifully manicured cemeteries – this is especially true of the smaller towns and mountain villages. More than once I have come to an impressive monument to someone important who had passed away in years gone by. I had at first expected it to be the grave of a pastor or some other church leader, only to discover it was a mountain guide. One such memorial said that this guide could always find a way through the mountains regardless of the weather.
No one can lead who does not know the way, and the best leaders know the way regardless of the social or even spiritual “weather.” When everything is calm and wonderful, when all are in agreement and there is no question about what must be done, well, almost anyone can lead – if such conditions among people every truly exist! But a true leader shows his grit and determination, reveals his character and true usefulness, when he is able to get the people of God through difficult and confusing times.
There are no adequate substitutes for the wisdom and knowledge that are gained in walking day-by-day with God, in studying His word, in listening to His Spirit, in learning from others who are good leaders, and in gaining an education for leadership. God said, “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way” (Prov. 19:2). We do not need to be a thousand years old before we begin to lead. Paul wrote to Timothy not to let anyone despise his youth, but that he should be diligent to overcome the inadequacies of youth, and serve as an example for others “in speech, in life, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12), and study hard to show himself approved of God (2 Tim. 2:15).
Christian leadership is a supernatural and spiritual business, and in that sense none of us is qualified to lead. We need to know His Spirit’s mind, but since His Spirit inspired the writing of the Bible, learning and growing in biblical wisdom and knowledge enables us to lead others more effectively. There are times when God uses people far beyond their knowledge and personal experience, and through His Spirit guides them and enables them to lead others though they have little experience. But it is not the usual way, and for a very specific reason: such a condition tempts someone toward pride and spiritual peril. Of overseers it was written that they should not be a “novice” or a new convert or else they may be tempted with conceit (1 Tim. 3:6).
Often we find young people – and perhaps you can relate to this – who experience either undue discouragement or undue pride because of their early failures or successes in ministry. The one who has a gift for speaking, who has enough common sense to size other people up and make good decisions – he will be tempted toward conceit and pride. He can become arrogant and judgmental, and ultimately lazy and ineffective and bitter. Perhaps on a spiritual level he had built a doghouse and imagined it was a skyscraper!
And we find the opposite as well – a young person whose gifts all have come in the raw, whose speaking is weak at first, and who does not know what to do when given the opportunity, who perhaps has failed more than once in key areas, and who languishes in discouragement and even disillusionment. But if this young person will give his heart to God, if he will in humility apply himself to learning and walking with God, if he will study and not think too highly of himself – regardless whether or not he failed at his first doghouse, we will see God turn him into the type of man who does build cathedrals for God!
Leaders must be learners, and learners must be humble – otherwise they will think they know it all and will never learn at all. Biblical knowledge comes first. They must know the heart and ways of God, understanding His priorities and His ways of achieving His goals. They must also know people and organizations, the realities of different personalities and what we all have in common. They must be acquainted with the cultures and customs of those they lead – God often puts country boys in cities and city boys in small towns to help shape them in different ways. They must know how to introduce new ideas, how to lead people toward agreement and not toward division. They must know all sorts of practical matters on advertising, communication, and organization. They must be able to assess human character, without unkindly judging others, and how to encourage and lift others up, without filling them with pride.
Their leadership tool shed should be filled with items that they know how to use, and they should always be open to learning new things and not just relying on the old ways of the past. A house is built through knowledge, not through luck or happenstance and certainly not through laziness. A house is filled with treasurers through wisdom, not through arrogance and pride. Wherever we are today we should commit ourselves to increase in knowledge that God might use us to do things that we cannot do merely in and of ourselves, and knowledge is a lifelong pursuit!