Letters to a New Believer, Part One

You're Not a Leader Yet

by Aaron Armstrong May 7, 2015

Dear new believer,

About a year or so into being a Christian, I did something absolutely, spectacularly dumb: I joined the men's ministry leadership team at our church. Seriously, on a scale of dumb to really dumb, this was just the worst. It was such a bad idea.

Why did I think this was a good idea? And who on earth approved me for any of this?

Well, here's the thing… It wasn't just men's ministry. As a brand-new baby Christian, I was not only trying to figure out the mess of my own life, I was facilitating in our children's ministry. And within about a year of coming to faith, I was leading a small group. And…  Here's the point: when I most needed to be sitting under someone's leadership—to be learning, growing, and building the foundation of my faith—I was in a place where I was trying to do that for others. And it was bad—so bad. The Lord graciously prevented me from doing any serious damage to the faith of other believers (at least as far as I know), but wow, did I ever do a lot of damage to myself. I developed an extremely prideful attitude. I had a swagger that didn't befit a Christian. I had delusions of grandeur that were just… wow.

Now, here's the thing: I didn't start any of these things believing I was the cock of the walk. I started serving in children's ministry because I was asked. I started serving in the men's ministry leadership because I wanted to help people. I started a small group because there was a need. But if I'd had any common sense, I would never have done any of it at that point. I wish someone—specifically my pastor—had said to me, "You have learned much, young one, but you're not a leader yet." But that didn't happen. So, the Lord eventually had someone (or rather someones) say "no" to me. I just didn't expect the first to be my wife.

One night after a particularly frustrating leadership team meeting, my wife said to me, "You need to quit." She then proceeded to outline all the problems she saw both in me and in the direction of the men's ministry (it was the adult equivalent of play dates, not discipleship, which was what vexed me so). She saw how it was killing me, that it was a distraction from everything else I was good at and that there was no real fruit coming from it.

Of course, being completely self-righteous and stupid, I went off on a rant about how she wasn't supporting me and couldn't she see how hard I was working and blah blah blah blah blah… Until I finally realized that her telling me to quit was actually her way of supporting me.

Why didn't I realize that sooner? Because, my friend, I am an idiot.

The second time came a few months later, as a good friend of mine and I were driving to a pastors event in a neighboring city. We were talking about ministry and whether or not I'd ever be a good fit for being a pastor. And he looked right at me and said, "Here's the thing: It's not that you're arrogant, but you certainly have the appearance of arrogance. And you need to work on that." When he said that, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Yeah, I actually was arrogant (as he subtly told me without actually telling me). And I knew it wasn't okay. Something had to change. And so, ever so slowly, it did, in part, because my friend telling me what was wrong—and helping me work through it.

With that in mind, let me, in this letter, do for you what I needed someone to do for me: stop.

Don't get sucked into activities you're not ready for. Don't start asking yourself if you should be a pastor five minutes after being baptized, because the answer is no, you really shouldn't. You might have potential, but you're not ready yet. Pay attention to 1 Timothy 3:6, because when Paul wrote that an elder "must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit," he really meant it. So, don't rush into something you're not ready for (and may never be). Keep studying your Bible and learning to pray. Grow in your understanding of God and your relationship with him. Build relationships with more seasoned Christians and learn from them. Work on your character and let others help identify your gifts and abilities. And in all this, be patient.

You might have a lot of potential, but you're not a leader yet.