I will never forget that day. It was May 2005. I woke up that Sunday morning excited about what the day could bring, expectant that God was doing something new in our lives.
That morning, at the grand age of 24, I was going in view of a call as pastor to Martins Mill Baptist Church in East Texas. I arrived at the church, greeted the people, preached with every ounce of energy I had, and then waited. Later that evening, I was sitting in a Dairy Queen when I received the call that the church did, in fact, call me to be their pastor.
I was beyond excited. The thoughts that began rushing through my mind when I hung up from the call were fast and furious. The remainder of the night found my mind and heart beginning to think through future vision. Lying in bed having a hard time falling asleep due to the excitement of this new call, the thought finally hit me: How in the world do I lead a church at 24 years old? How can I get people to follow me at such a young age with little experience?
Those questions led me down a road of discovering one of the greatest leadership principles I could ever learn: if you love them, they will let you lead them. Over the next 2 1/2 years, I loved the people of this church with everything I had. The more time I spent with them, the more I loved them. The more I loved them, the more eager they were to follow me.
Often, we assume we are called to get a ministry from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. While this is sometimes true, the best way to do this is simply to love the people God has called you to. As you love them well, you can lead them in the direction the Lord has put in your heart.
Almost three years later, the Lord called me to First Baptist Church of Malakoff. At 26 years old, I still had a lot to learn about leadership. However, I knew I needed to apply the one lesson I had learned. So I stepped into FBC Malakoff and immediately began to love those people deeply. I was able to walk with people through major life celebrations, difficult losses, challenging circumstances, and forward vision. Of course, there were other leadership factors that played a part in the vision. However, none carried the weight of simply loving those God called me to lead.
The real test of this came when we needed to remodel our worship facility in order to accommodate the growth we were experiencing. After exhausting all other options, we elected to meet outside under a large tent for 6-8 weeks—in December and January. I still laugh today when I think about how we arrived at that solution. However, because these incredible people knew they were loved by the leadership, they were willing to take the journey together. If you love them, they will let you lead them.
These two churches were immense blessings to me and my family. They essentially raised us. However, of all the things that bring me joy when I reflect on my time as their pastor, the fact they were willing and eager to follow me still amazes me. It’s not because I am a great leader or have it all figured out. It is simple—I loved them before I tried to lead them.
So as you serve in whatever capacity the Lord has given you, learn to love your people and they will let you lead them. I love you and am honored to serve you!