“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” —John Maxwell
This sentiment certainly holds true with great leaders of the Bible. Their legacies are packed with the deeds of their closest followers—who all became great, if not greater, leaders. Solomon followed David and knew no equal to his wisdom, wealth and world power. Joshua followed Moses and led the Israelites into God’s promise. The disciples followed Jesus and turned the world upside down (see Acts 17:6).
So stop for a moment. Look behind you. Who is following you? Who are you “influencing,” as John Maxwell would say. Who looks up to you as a mentor and leader? And what kind of leaders are they?
The telltale sign of what kind of leader you are isn’t how many people attend your church, how many leadership conferences you attend (or even speak at), how many blog posts you’ve written or even how many Twitter fans you have.
It’s your followers, plain and simple. They’re your true reflection, the real image of the leader you actually are.
To see what kind of leaders Foursquare is raising up, we talked to followers of some of the movement’s best-known and beloved leaders. We wanted to hear from these folks what qualities in their mentors they’ve found life changing. Read on to learn what we discovered. See why these followers want to become like their leaders.
Mentor and Encourage
Growing up in the Deep South, Lily Yang was out of touch with her Asian heritage. But a liberating friendship that began seven years ago with Elaine Chi, an ordained Foursquare minster, has transformed her life.
“I’ve been reconnected with my Asian roots,” says Lily, a respected physician and professor who has practiced medicine for 21 years and taught for 17. Lily had lost her grasp of the Chinese language soon after she immigrated to the U.S. at age 9. Pastor Elaine, then senior pastor of Home of Grace (Northridge Chinese Foursquare Church) in Northridge, Calif., helped her get it back. Elaine currently serves as an evangelist based out of Pathway Christian Fellowship (Northridge Foursquare Church).
“Elaine asked me to share my testimony with the people in her church,” Lily says. “Most of them did not understand English, so I had to relearn Chinese. She would translate for me while encouraging me to do as much of it in Chinese as I could.”
Pastor Elaine often nudged Lily to step out in her gifting, especially as a teacher. When Lily was invited to teach a Bible message at Home of Grace, she realized to her delight that her teaching gift had blossomed under Pastor Elaine’s leadership—she was now comfortable teaching in two languages.
“I had prepared a message in Chinese,” she says, “but I ended up preaching in both Chinese and English!”
Believe in and Challenge
In Hawaii, Senior Pastor Matt Higa of New Hope Christian Fellowship (Kapaa Foursquare Church) is today fulfilling his call to bridge the gap between the unsaved and Jesus by redeeming the arts, culture and personal talents without compromising God’s truth. Yet his ministry would never have started if not for the influence of Foursquare Pastor Wayne Cordeiro.
“The first day we met 16 years ago, he challenged me to become a pastor,” Matt recalls. “I asked him why. He said he discerned it in me, and believed in me.”
Matt was blown away by Wayne’s instant confidence in him and pursued a mentoring relationship.
“He became a dream-releaser,” says Matt, who 10 years ago became a pastor. “Trust ignites something deep within that can lead to greatness in the kingdom.”
Trust and Release
In fact, Pastor Corey (full name withheld due to security risks where he ministers) believes he probably wouldn’t even be a Foursquare minister today had a leader not trusted him enough to take a chance on him. Renowned Foursquare pastor and church planter Ralph Moore, who at the time pastored Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay (Windward Oahu Foursquare Church) in Kaneohe, Hawaii, entrusted Corey with opportunities to grow as a leader.
“I was working as a professional firefighter,” Corey explains. “Ralph invited me to serve first as a ministry volunteer, then coached me. Eventually, he hired me to oversee singles, missions and a Bible school before sending me out as a long-term missionary.”
Without the trust of his mentor, Corey concludes: “I never would have gotten to serve the people groups I’ve been sent to.”
Encourage and Equip
Rod Crutcher, assisting minister of Restoration (Huntsville Foursquare Church) in Madison, Ala., believes he is more effective today as a preacher due to a mentor who demonstrates the uncondemning power of love.
When some congregants took issue with his sermon one Sunday, Rod grew discouraged and questioned his leadership gifting. Meeting with Senior Pastor Huey Hudson to discuss the complaints quelled his fear and gave him new courage to pursue his calling.
“He gave me sound counsel and wisdom,” Rod says, “and even his assessment of my gifting and delivery, which needed to be tweaked for more effectiveness. But the way he did it—in love—completely erased my fears. I walked out with confidence.”
Learn and Adapt
Michael Wall, executive pastor of Faith Chapel (Billings Foursquare Church) in Billings, Mont., seeks to be “an active Christ-follower at all times.” For him that means moving in whatever direction God wants, whenever He wants it. His example of this for almost 15 years has been Stan Simmons, now pastor emeritus of Faith Chapel after having served as senior pastor for more than three decades.
Pastor Stan has modeled humility and adaptability—two critical qualities in any leader, Michael says. He has always been open to learn from others, even being willing to change his personal style so the substance of his message remains relevant to a changing culture.
“He always pushed himself to stay culturally relevant without having to enter a midlife crisis to do so,” Michael says. “He was wearing blue jeans before most pastors were [doing so] in churches, but even his taking up riding his Harley so many years into life is a mark of his effort not to be afraid to stretch and try new things.”
Serve and Empower
Humility is also the key quality that Mario Barahona, executive pastor of Angelus Temple Hispanic Foursquare Church in Los Angeles has seen exemplified in Senior Pastor Raymundo Diaz, his longtime mentor. Rather than being threatened by the rise of up-and-coming leaders, Pastor Raymundo stoops to serve and empower them.
“Some ministry leaders won’t allow ‘mentorees’ to gain position in leadership,” Mario says. “Pastor Ray shares his honor. He has gone before me opening doors in ministry and leadership.”
Mario was a 22-year-old ministry trainee when Pastor Raymundo became his mentor some 20 years ago. Empowered and trained by his mentor, Mario has overseen the church’s discipleship department, serves now as executive pastor and also presides over Angelus Bible Institute, a longstanding Foursquare Bible and ministry-preparation school.
When Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matt. 23:11, NIV), He revealed that “prominence” wouldn’t be the mark of great leaders in His kingdom. Instead, the secret’s in the serving—and in the subsequent influence it has on others.
As leaders, our followers are the litmus test determining the type of leaders we are. If this had been the story of your followers, what would they have said about you?
Lead by Following
Here are some quick ways to step back (or step down) and set an example worth looking up to.
- Help set up the chairs on Sunday morning each week for church (or kids church).
- Volunteer in the nursery on a week you aren’t speaking.
- Ask someone how he or she is doing—and wait for his or her real answer.
- Copy the bulletin for your church administrator before he or she gets to it.
- Advertise free coffee and pastries at your church for local ESL students.
- Give a ride to someone who otherwise would not be able to attend church.
- Offer to help others with your handy skills at electronics, computers, gardening or organizing.
- Organize a team to weekly email or write cards to missionaries.
- Organize a team to weekly email or write cards to church members.
- Start a “freezer meal” ministry at church so meals are always on hand for emergencies.
- Invite a single parent (and his or her kids) to have dinner with your family.
- Invite a visitor or two to lunch after church.
- Offer rides to seniors or others needing help to get to grocery stores, doctor visits or other activities.
- Start, lead or organize a support group, such as Celebrate Recovery.
- Organize a team (two’s enough) to clean one bathroom a week at church.
- Offer to rake, weed or garden the church’s or a needy member’s property.
- Organize a bake sale, swap meet or car wash to raise money for a specific church ministry.
- Hold a dinner for a family or spouse of a deployed serviceperson.
- Mentor or lead a Bible study.
- Volunteer for Sunday serving needs, such as ushering, setting up coffee or greeting.
By: Jimmy Stewart, a freelance writer living in the Orlando, Fla., area