Recently, I've had to face one of my shortcomings in leadership. I was sharing some of the things I have planned for the summer concerning the Monday night bible study with a good friend of mine. Our theme this summer is church planting 101, where we, a group of unexperienced teenagers, look at what the bible says about building Christian communities everywhere we go and then do it. I was excited about all the things that we'll be covering, how to study the bible, how to train up young Christians, and how to evangelize. Now, I'm far more comfortable with the first two than with the third. As an introvert, going out of my way to talk to people is extremely hard. The idea of sharing Jesus with someone is rather terrifying for me. As I was bringing my fears up to my friend, he offered to help me to learn. What a fantastic example of leadership! He is willing to walk me through my difficulty and show me how to do it. I can't explain how much this affected me. Not only because it will help me to face my shortcomings, but because I don't have to lead the charge alone.
When I read about John the Baptist, I don't envy him. John was a scraggly man from the wilderness near Jordan. With long tangled hair, he stood by the banks of the Jordan and preached repentance. He wasn't an eloquent speaker, but people flocked to be baptized. Why? We read in the Book of Luke that John's job was to prepare the hearts of the people for Jesus. (Luke 7:25-30) He planted seeds for Jesus to harvest. When Jesus did show up, the most John got to do was dunk Jesus in the water. While it was a great honor, John didn't get to go around with Jesus while He healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead. Instead, John did his job, and got rewarded by being thrown in prison. (Luke 3:18-20) Hardly seems like a just reward for John, especially with all the hard work He did.
John the Baptist reminds me of the infantry scouts. Infantry scouts of the U.S. Military have the dangerous job of going out before the rest of the units, and scouting out the enemy location. As Spc. Serrano Brooks notes: "We're the ones the enemy aims for...". I have a hard time imagining anyone willingly signing up for that job. Much like John, they go ahead and prepare the way. The scouts don't have the safest job, nor do they get much glory for their work. Nevertheless, their job is essential for the success of the unit.
I used to live along the shore of a densely wooded reservoir. Whenever friends visited, I would take them along the hidden paths in the woods around the lake. The paths were fairly easy to follow in the winter when the foliage wasn't as thick, but in the spring, it was a complete jungle. A times like those, I always had to go ahead of my friends to show them where the path was, usually overgrown and hidden by greenery. Sometimes it meant I had to push a bush out of the way, or make a new path through the dense vegetation.
How does that relate to my earlier problems with evangelism? Leaders often have the same job as John the Baptist or the scouts. Leadership is often blazing a trail for those who will follow us. (Insert obligatory reference to The Road to El Dorado). Leaders have to be walking in front of, preparing the way for, and taking the risks for the sake of those who will follow. John led people to a place where they would be open to receive Jesus, while not getting any glory himself. The scouts go in front of their unit, and locate the enemy. They risk their lives to pave a way for victory. Much like I did along the shores of the reservoir, I make the path for others in the way I'm leading.
Being a trail blazer in my life means that I have to be disciple making before I tell anyone to do it. It means I have to prepare a safe place to grow in maturity. Lastly, it means that I have to take the risks of evangelizism and being uncomfortable, so that I can be the leader I'm called to be. As I expressed to my friend, this can be a lonely job. I don't like going it alone, and sometimes I have to. Thankfully, God is graceful, and my friend is willing to work with me. My friend has already blazed the trail, and now he is teaching me how to walk down it. I'm not risking it alone, and the reward is great.