Leaders are learners. At least that’s my experience. I’m a reader, so I learn a lot from the blogs, articles, and books I read. I also learn because I’m (by background) a curious journalist and I ask a lot of questions. And, hopefully, I keep my eyes open to absorb what I observe.
But in the five decades I have been in vocational ministry, in many different leadership roles, this is clear: I learn the most from the people to whom I relate most closely. Let me highlight just a few lessons on living and leading that I have learned from some of those important-to-me people.
Campus Crusade (CRU) leaders: I have been blessed to serve with gifted leaders.
Dr. Bill Bright: One of the great privileges of my life was to work closely with Bill Bright for 14 years. He was a man of passion, faith, focus, and humility. But it was his living out love that impacted me most powerfully. If you asked him what you could pray for him, his answer was always the same: “Pray I never leave my first love for the Lord.”
I will never forget when some people turned against him and accused him falsely. As he struggled with feelings of hurt, betrayal, resentment, and anger, God met him in a deep place: “Bill, those people have wronged you. But I love them, and I will enable you to love them. Trust me.” From that came his revolutionary transferable concept: “How to Love by Faith.”
Steve Douglass: I never get over that God called me to be married to — and partner with — this amazing man of God. He is a capable leader and a remarkable servant who believes the best of people, so choosing just one truth he has helped to embed in my life is difficult. But surely this is key: humility. My husband is a very smart man. He thinks and analyzes and conceptualizes with ease, yet he never puts himself above others. He values input and ideas from all. He encourages innovation, and he loves to see others shine.
My children: Oh yes. I have learned so much about life and love and leading from our three treasures.
Debbie: Her reckless abandon and wholehearted passion on the soccer field reminded me that God has called us to love and follow him with our whole being. Nothing held back. No settling. Give it all to make a difference — on the soccer field and for the kingdom.
Michelle: Michelle has always understood that life is a journey more than a destination and that people are a priority. She showed me that I could slow my pace and enjoy the process as I headed toward my goals. Most of all, she taught me to value people above tasks. She showed me the importance of thinking about what the impact of my decisions and plans may have on the people with whom I serve, and to include them in the planning.
Joshua: Our son led us on a wilderness experience for many years — not the education I desired, but oh how valuable! A major lesson: Don’t give up on people. God is in the life-changing business, and he can change anyone — though rarely on my timetable. Prayer is the essential ingredient.
And of course, our most consistent instructor is our Lord Jesus himself. And the truths conveyed are innumerable — love, faith and faithfulness, holiness, perseverance, excellence, to name a few.
But these words from Jesus always stop me: “Not so with you.”
At the end of his earthly life, Jesus tells his followers “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve …” (Mark 10:42-45).
The kingdom outcomes along this journey are beyond what I have ever asked or imagined: personal growth into greater Christlikeness; family, friends, and teammates encouraged and set free to be and do all God has for them; new believers and disciples following Jesus; and God’s kingdom expanding with joy and peace in the Spirit.
So open your heart and mind to a great kingdom learning adventure!
Judy Douglass is a writer, editor, speaker, and encourager. She partners with her husband, Steve, to lead Campus Crusade for Christ globally. She writes at judydouglass.com. This is an excerpt from her artcle in the 2014 Spring edition of Outcomes Magazine.
CLA Dallas 2014: Hear Judy Douglass speak at the Wednesday, April 16, Christian Women in Leadership Forum at the CLA National Conference in Dallas, April 14–16. There is still time for you to register for this event!