In yesterday’s post, I made the following statement regarding the five years since I first entered the buildings of Kerith Community Church:
“I’ve learnt more than I could imagine from phenomenal leaders, parents, teachers, preachers, mentors, worship leaders and youth leaders. Looking back at the eighteen year old who thought he knew so much about the world is laughable when I compare it to what I know now. I’m sure it will be the same again in another five years.”
Well, I’ve been thinking about that today. Here are five of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in this five year journey:
1. God intends for us to enjoy life!
One of the biggest revelations to me was seeing that Christians can be fun. You know, like, actually fun. I’d always subscribed to the assumption that if you believed in God you had to be sombre and forlorn, desperately trying to jump through the hoops that that would somehow enable you to enter the gates of Heaven. That is not the case! We are not stripped from the chains of sin to be shackled with the equally restrictive chains of legalism. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! It’s becoming a general view that if you don’t drink copious amounts of alcohol or sleep around, you can’t have fun. Let me tell you, I’ve had more fun in the last five years than I have in the rest of my life put together. I’ve laughed until it hurts to laugh anymore and worshipped with a sense of euphoric celebration and joy, not a sense of subdued, placid nonchalance. Life is more of an exciting adventure to me now than ever before because I know that God is leading the way…and God knows where all the good stuff is!
2. Character above gifting.
Something I learnt very early on was that ability is secondary to the quality of the heart. I really struggled with this to start with; I’ve always been the kind of person who prided themselves on doing things to as high a standard as possible, so why on earth would we pick a less talented band member to play just because they’re a ‘nicer’ person?! I have to tell you that I didn’t quite understand the concept then, but I’m pleased to say that I can wholeheartedly admit that I was wrong! Character is so crucial. Character is the guide that keeps talent in check; ensuring your ability is an outworking, not a definition, of who you are. I’ve learnt that if you focus on character with passion and diligence, talent pretty much takes care of itself. If you want to see proof of this, look at our youth band, Revolution. I’m so, so proud of them and it’s not because their exceptionally talented. Though they are. It’s because of the wonderful young men and women that they are becoming. It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it. Character is so much more important than gifting.
3. Leadership is about influence, not status.
My leadership experience before Kerith including things like chairing the charity committee, acting as deputy head boy and captaining the rugby team at my secondary school – but I wasn’t a leader. I inherited the status of ‘leader’, but I didn’t fully understand those roles. It wasn’t until I’d been at Kerith for a year or two that I realised a leader is measured by his influence on others, not by his status. I realised the impact of a well-timed conversation. I learnt what a difference a person can make as a leader not by being designated as one, but by simply being a role model to those that are looking for one. To use Revolution as an example again, I am convinced that their character is what it is because of the countless role models that have emerged over the last five years. It’s part of their DNA now and the cycle will continue – these world changing individuals are now making a profound impact on the next set of young people arriving at Kerith. You are not a leader because you have the capability to tell people what to do; you’re a leader because people follow you. Epic!
4. Encouragement is transformational.
Encouragement is often deemed ‘soppy’ or ‘girly’. In a harshly competitive world, giving encouragement can sometimes be seen as conceding personal defeat. At least, that’s what it used to feel like for me. But if I have learnt anything in a few short years of leadership, it would be that encouragement is the most important concept we will ever learn. People need to know that someone believes in them. A carefully thought out word of encouragement placed at the right time by the right person can literally transform the lives of others. Nothing in the world gives me more pride than seeing that a word of encouragement I spoke over someone a few years ago still rippling through time and making a positive impact. Granted, there aren’t many of those moments for me…but that only makes the few there are that little bit more significant. This recent ‘#IHonourYou’ New Year’s resolution has taken on a life of its own, which makes me so excited! Why? Because encouragement changes lives in profound ways. It’s why I’ll never get tired of telling you how proud I am of our youth band 🙂
5. Don’t underestimate ‘grace’.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! It took me a long time to even begin to comprehend the concept of grace. To be honest with you, I still can’t fully grasp the magnitude of God’s grace in our lives. I don’t think I ever will. It’s pretty unfathomable. But by grace, we are forgiven, accepted and loved by the most Holy God – things that we are certainly not worthy of, but nevertheless have received. Grace is a wonderful thing and one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt in the last five years is that everyone is worthy of it, not just from God, but from us too. It can be almost unbearably difficult to forgive people at times; believe me, I’m telling you this from experience! But the reality is that hurt people are usually the ones that hurt people. By choosing love over anger, we can break the cycle of hurt and begin to show the kind of love that Jesus taught us to. It’s not easy and I fail all the time at grace, but it’s a vital part of who we are called to be.
I wonder what will be the most important lessons of the next five years…