The Deep Roots of Godly Leadership

It is spring and it’s the season when many InterVarsity chapters are selecting new leaders for the next academic year. You might be one of those students that has been asked to serve as a core leader for your chapter. It’s possible that you are looking forward to that role with great enthusiasm and eagerness. On the other hand, perhaps you are unsure and wondering how you were selected. Regardless of how you feel about being a core leader for your chapter, the kind of leader you are is essential.

At the center of any Christian leader is their spiritual life and devotion to God. One cannot escape that the evidence of godly leadership is deeply rooted in his or her daily encounters with the Lord. Jesus described to his disciples the metaphor of a vine and branches. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

It is in this relationship that Christian leadership finds its life, strength, courage, wisdom and direction. That means we must not neglect the disciplines and practices that nurture our relationship with the Lord. Likely you have already experienced challenges to keeping that commitment. A busy academic life filled with classes, lab reports, papers, exams and class projects seems to fill every moment of the day. It is easy to be distracted by the immediate needs you face. When I’m feeling those pressures I am encouraged by an example set by Jesus himself in the Gospel of Luke. “The news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16).

The pressures on Jesus were intense. He responded by withdrawing to pray. He did it in places where he would not be distracted and he did it often. I seek to do the same but it requires determination on my part. There is a voice in my head that says, “I can’t afford to take time to pray right now.” But I set aside the time and meet with Jesus. Often at the end of my time with him I hear myself saying, “I can’t afford not to take time to pray like this.

As Christians our leadership must be rooted in both prayer and Scripture. “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4).

While I am to be a humble servant, I have been called into a role that is rooted in prayer and the Bible. Hunger for God keeps me spending time with him for there is no one that satisfies the soul as he does. He meets me both in times of prayer and reading of the Scriptures. This is where the transforming work of the Holy Spirit takes place. This is where I receive the vision and guidance I seek. This is where God seems to give me courage and strength. This is where wisdom comes when I am faced with leadership challenges.

Leadership is about “doing”. Leaders accomplish things. They lead others to new heights. They make a difference for good and godly purposes. InterVarsity leaders are responsible for growing their ministry, reaching more students and faculty, bringing the good news of the Gospel to new corners of the campus, expanding their influence and constantly working to see more men and women enter the Kingdom of God.

Yet Christian leadership must be about “being” too. It is about being with Jesusbeing deeply rooted in a life-giving relationship with him. It is about allowing the Holy Spirit to speak, shape and lead.

Action without prayer is arrogance. Prayer without action is hypocrisy. Whether you are enthusiastic or apprehensive about your role as a leader in your chapter, attend to both doing and being.