Leading From Out Front

Posted on June 25, 2013 by


Geese1About 15 years ago I remember being at Young Life’s Saranac Lake in the first week of June. It was the morning of day 2 and after the volleyball tournament this particular year, they decided to do the swim test en mass. Instructions were given, and the whole camp ran to the edge of the beach…and stopped. We had all been in the water the night before and knew it was frigid. Nobody wanted to go back in. With the whole camp standing at the edge of the water, one leader screamed out, “SWIM TEST,” and dove into the water. Like a scene from a movie, 300 people rushed into to the water as if into battle. The water was freezing but everyone followed and the swim test was done.

When we lead people, we often fall into the trap of leading from the rear. What I mean by that is that we get stuck trying to push the group forward by dealing with the problems from the rear. There is no doubt that we have to deal with problems, but sometimes we can get so consumed by them that we really stop leading. Pushing a group forward rarely works because the group doesn’t see where it’s going. Leaders lead. They don’t just manage.

In Luke 9:51 it says, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (ESV) Jesus was always mindful of the disciples whom He had called to follow Him, but He knew that discipleship wasn’t just about teaching or dealing with their issues. Discipleship was about movement, and the teaching, development, and growth in their lives would be done along the way. Jesus knew where He was going, and He resolutely set His face towards that goal. The disciples who were worth anything were bound to follow.

Jesus made no bones about where He was going and what that would mean for them if they followed. In the next passage He challenged some would be followers on what it means to follow Him.

“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go,”… Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57, 62 ESV)

Notice that this occurred, “As they were going along the road.” Jesus was on the move. He was headed for Jerusalem and the redemption of the world, and His plan involved the development of these men and women who were following Him. That development always happens most powerfully as we are moving. He seemed very at peace with some dropping off along the way because He knew that if they got a real picture of what this meant, those who made it to the end would be more than worth their weight in gold (and they were).

The question then for us is not whether or not we know where we are going, but rather are we actually going there and do those we lead know it. I’ve often experienced frustration when I sense that leaders aren’t going anywhere. I try to help them, I try to have vision for them, I try to deal with their problems, but the more focused I become on these things, the more stationary we as a whole become. I’ve found that we all grow in the times we lead clearly from out front.

Be sure to remember that the starting place for leading out front is always identity. Who we are will always be the driving force for where we are going. Jesus knew who He was and His purpose. From these He moved forward and led His followers. Be clear on who you are as an individual and as a group. Make sure everyone knows it. From that place move forward in mission.

Lead the divine mission by running out front.

Posted in: Leadership