Leaders Lead.

That was a John Maxwell-ism that I, and everyone else I know, bought into. Quotes like “You’ll know when you’re a leader when you look behind you and people are following.” Sounds right. But is it?

Think of many of the Scriptures greatest leaders. Moses. David. Paul. Jesus. There were many times in each of their lives where no one was following. Moses spent 40 years alone with his family in the desert. When he looked behind him, he saw sheep and goats (not the metaphorical kind – the kind that leaving brown droppings).

David was often without any friend but Jonathan (son of Saul). And Jonathan was typically not physically with David. David hung out with animals as a kid and then graduated to caves as an adult.

Paul spent three years in the Arabian desert alone – being taught directly by the Holy Spirit. Even when he did his famous journeys to the cities of Asia Minor, he was often taken and imprisoned – all alone.

Jesus went public, then spent the next 40 days alone. No one followed him around but Satan. Finally Jesus had some followers. But the next thing you know (John 6) most of them left him because he kept saying confusing things. Then he died – so alone, he felt even forsaken by his own Father.

I speak from personal experience – many many times I feel alone. All alone. Sometimes I am actually alone. Other times I just feel that way. Some of my most “productive” days in the Kingdom of God have been on silent retreats. I have consistently done these over the years – sometimes for just one day, sometimes for two or three days. Sometimes I fast. Sometimes I eat like the food’s gonna run out. But I’m alone. With God.

Other times I’ve done what I knew God has told me to do – and no one has followed. I’m pretty good and getting people to follow – but not always. Once in a while, I go alone. I never like that. I don’t think it’s good. Surely not God’s best, but sometimes it just is. I look behind, and I just see my sorry fat butt. Nothing else. No one else.

So, yes. Leaders do lead. But often not in the way you’d think. We lead by example. We lead by jumping in first, even when no one else jumps. We lead by going back – back to our roots. Back to our past (to maybe clean some stuff up back there) and back to home.

We lead by allowing ourselves to be alone sometimes and be okay with it. We don’t always have followers. Or maybe just one or two. Leaders lead in the sense of going ahead – but “going ahead” looks different every time. Don’t let the world – even the Christian world – fill in for you what that looks like. With the counsel of your closest friends and family, and in the quietness of God’s presence, seek for yourself what it means to “lead.” Only then, will you look behind you and see what God wants you to see.