My job involves working with both young and mature leaders every day. Last year, about 700 students ages 17 to 70 called Life Pacific College (LPC) their academic home. Some are fresh out of high school. Others have served a lifetime of ministry and are completing a master’s or bachelor’s degree as part of a dream.
It can be difficult to find any commonalities with all these folks (other than the fact they fill out the same forms to apply and register for classes). However, I think I’ve found the answer. Every student I speak with, regardless of age or experience, has sensed a call on his or her life to lead.
Leadership is tough, frustrating and fraught with peril. New challenges lie around every corner, and outcomes are never guaranteed. We know from social science that the behavioral variables inevitably found in human interactions—including leading and following—confound and confuse, bewildering even the most adept researcher.
Despite best efforts, predicting that good will always come from a leadership encounter is nearly impossible. Nonetheless, the worst thing for a leader is to stop leading. In other words, hanging back from God’s call is more miserable than following Him to the inevitable trials that likely lie ahead.
John Bunyan wrote in The Pilgrim’s Progress: “Dark clouds bring waters, when the bright bring none.” Last year, LPC was a campus in crisis. Facing enrollment declines, difficult budget deficits and leadership changes, we decided to dream big and trust God to turn the ship.
I’ve learned that sometimes dreams are all we have left when hope is deferred and the facts don’t support success. Becoming the little college that dreams big seemed like quite a stretch to many of us. But God intervened in a big way, and we are seeing many dreams come to fulfillment this year.
Are you facing some dark clouds in your leadership journey?
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Eph. 3:20, The Message).
This promise from Scripture dovetails beautifully with Bunyan’s idea that dark clouds bring opportunity. God’s call to leadership is irrevocable, sometimes placing us in the seemingly untenable position of having no clue how to move forward. It’s in those moments we must dream big, calling on God to show us the way. In fact, I have a feeling that Jesus just loves to show up when He is least expected!
By: Jim J. Adams, president of Life Pacific College in San Dimas, Calif.