The neoLeader conference for 2018 is focusing on developing deep character for lasting leadership as we anchor ourselves to Christ. Deep character for lasting leadership. I cannot think of a more counter cultural tagline for a young adult’s conference in 2018. Just think of the environment that you are living in now. The winds of change are all around, waves of uncertainty rise while splashes of sin spill into your boat as you try to keep your boat afloat and your life together. It’s a tough gig to be a young adult in this post-modern world! It’s no wonder that over 50,000 youth and young adults leave the church each year (see study done here).

So, we are faced with this issue: why do we need to develop deep character for lasting leadership? And after we know why, how do we actually do that? I believe that these questions are tied up in one simple principal that as Christian leaders we must become familiar with: growth.

Have you noticed that the world around us is constantly growing? Seeds germinate into saplings and then over years turn into trees that produce fruit. Puppies go from clumsy fur-balls into frisbee catching companions. Corporations shift and change as their products are developed and made more accessible to more people groups.

Even Jesus grew. That’s right, even Jesus grew. I have recently been learning that the growth patterns found in the world around us are not void of purpose. In fact, I am convinced that God is longing to teach us, Christian leaders of the future, this fundamental principle of the Kingdom, in order to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Even Jesus grew.

I think it’s pretty humbling for us to stop and reflect on the life of Jesus of Nazareth as He moved from the manger to the cross. Particularly in the Gospel of Luke, we read of Jesus’ early days and as He grew into the man we recognise in paintings like Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’. But being the Son of God, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that Jesus did not need to grow spiritually? Surely there would be no need for Him to develop deep character for lasting leadership. After all, He is the King of the world! He is the messiah spoken about in the prophets! He was there in the beginning when the earth was created!

But here at the very outset of Luke’s account, we read that at the age of twelve years old, Joseph and Mary found Jesus “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). Luke then goes on to explain that from this place “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Even Jesus grew.

This issue that faces young adult Christian leaders of the future comes down to the understanding that growth doesn’t happen instantly. Yes, you can order Uber Eats and it will be at your door in 30 minutes. And yes, you may be able to cram for an exam in a few hours. But genuine spiritual growth takes time! Jesus was at least thirty years old before His public ministry began. King David waited 20 years after he was anointed as the next king before he was ruling over all of Israel! Paul waited at least 7 years before he even began his ministry! In each account, these leaders developed their character and intimacy with God in order to be most effective in the ministry to follow.

Therefore, growth is necessary because Jesus Himself grew and left us an example to follow. But how are we best to grow as Christian leaders, to not be shaken by the world around us? Below are five practical tips that I have discovered to be tremendously helpful as I grow into what God has called me into as a young leader.

  1. Meet with God Daily

“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”(John 15:5). Real growth comes down to personal intimacy with God. While church is awesome, and podcasts are great, nothing will top personal relationship with God. So, assign a time each day to meet with Him and stick to it. Prioritise it above everything else!

  1. Find a Family of Believers

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Growth is best done in a community where we can support the new healthy shoots springing forth and point out the rotten fruit lingering around. Finding like minded believers is a must for lasting leadership.

  1. Repent on the Repeat

“God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance”Romans 2:4. If growth and development is your goal, then see repentance as a gift from God. Rather than a burden, keep it real with God and others and your character with benefit greatly.

  1. Begin the Leadership Journey

“For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in your through the laying on of my hands”(2 Timothy 1:6). We have each been given a spiritual gift to bless the church. If you aren’t already, ask your church leaders how you can be involved and steward the seed that God has blessed you with. As you begin to operate in your gifting, God will bless that commitment and will call you into greater things.

  1. Engage in Culture

“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown God”(Acts 17:22-23). If we are to be true to God’s mission on this earth, then we have to be aware of the culture around us. We must learn to unpack this culture in order to discover how the gospel can interact with it. So get out of the Christian bubble once and awhile and walk in the dust of the society that you are living in. Place your heart to the ground and listen to the hurt and pain. It’s here that deep character is grown.

If young Christian leaders truly developed deep character by looking to Jesus example, not only would they last the leadership journey, the world would never be the same again! As we leave the microwave faith on the shelf and fully embrace being anchored to Christ to develop deep character for lasting leadership, I’m believing for a mighty move of God in our nation and all throughout the world. It will take time, commitment and it might even hurt, but the growth will all be worth it.

By Scott McKinnon