Author and teacher Oz Hillman teaches that God deals with leaders in specific ways.  “There are three patterns of preparation that have been common among most of God’s leaders,” Hillman asserts.

He teaches that there are three steps God uses.   First, God removes a leader from the familar and old ways.  Hillman says, “Consider Moses, Joseph, Abraham, and Paul. In order for God to mold and shape them into His nature, it appears that He had to remove them from the life of comfort.”  No matter how much we may chaff at the God’s notion to remove us from our zones of well-being, most of us understand that we cannot travel with God and stay at our point of origin,

Second, comes a time of solitude.  Hillman teaching from Hosea 2:14 reveals God’s heart for his people.  As Hosea is pleading with his children to speak to their prostitute mother, Hosea slips into a prophetic utterance and God begins to speak about his children,  “So I am going to attract her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”

Anyone who has followed God knows the times of desert dwelling.  The desert is a hostile place where only the strongest survive.  Yet, God promises to speak tenderly to his leaders.  His tender words draw us ever closer to his heart.  Again, Moses, Joseph and Paul are our examples.  Joseph unjustly spent 21 years in prison.  Moses was forced to abide 40 years in the desert.  Paul was in Arabia for two years.

About the time leaders become comfortable and adjust to the environment of the desert, God moves us into the third level for preparation:  discomfort.  Regarding this third time of preparation, Hillman writes, “The setting in which the preparation takes place usually is not a place of comfort. Abraham traveled through the difficult deserts. David lived in caves fleeing Saul. Paul was frequently persecuted.”  This third classroom is the place of God’s own chosing, uniquely designed to mold our character into the likeness of Christ.

Hillman believes that there are three reactions to leadership training:

If God chooses to bring you into this class, you may have one of three reactions to the events. First, you may say, “I don’t need it.” Perhaps you know intellectually that you do need this, but God wants you to know it in your heart. Pride prevents us from entering this classroom. The second reaction may be, “I’m tired of it.” You decide you’ve had enough. If so, this will disqualify you from leadership. Finally, God’s desired response from us in this preparation is, “I accept it.” To accept it with joy is the place of maturity in Christ. God often keeps us in these places until we come to accept and agree that Jesus is enough. Is He all you need?

How long and how severe will this training period be.  Much will be depend on us.  “If My people would but listen to Me, if Israel would follow My ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes!” (Ps. 81:13-14).  Again and again, God promises that if we, his people, will listen and yield to him, he will incline his grace and mercy toward us.

This time last week, I was on a small tour boat on my way to a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Arm in Vancouver Harbor.  There were 28 people on board. 

I have gone to view how Joy Fellowship, ministry within the mentally challenged community,  in Vancouver, B.C. would conduct their leadership retreat.  We are interested in learning how to better use our members who have leadership qualities.  I would like to take another week to mull over the things I learned but I’m afraid that rather than blending, it could ferment.  So here goes:

  1. In many ways, their leadership techniques are similar to those used in Special Gathering with shades of differences.
  2. Their leadership has complete freedom to contribute a thought, a verse or a song during the worship services.  It was common to have two or three people interject their thoughts during a teaching.  This could be a result in the fact that Joy Fellowship has a worship service on Sunday.  Then during the week, they have their Bible studies.  At Special Gathering, we have our worship time, then a Bible study afterward.  We ask our members to not interrupt the worship time.  However, they are encouraged to ask their questions during the Bible study time.  I’m actually not sure which I prefer.  However, I found the spontaneity of their leadership refreshing.
  3. The teachers taught passages of scripture, rather than one or two verses.  This gives the members an overview from the scriptures of what the main principle is.  At Special Gathering, we read one or two scriptures and teach only one point during each devotion.  During the devotion, we will tell (rather than read from the scriptures) the Bible background of the story we are teaching.  There may be two or three points in the Joy Fellowship teachings.  Because these men and women are higher functioning, they appeared to be able to assimilate all the points.  Because I didn’t attend a regular service, I wasn’t able to see if a passage of scripture is also used in the normal worship services.
  4. They had an interesting combination of preparation and informality.  The entire weekend was presented in written form contained in a booklet of questions and activities.  This gave the people leading the small groups concrete instructions to follow.  These groups were exceptionally easy to lead because of this booklet.
  5. The informality came during the teaching time and praise and worship.  For example, during songs the signing choir knew, they would come up as though on cue, though there were no verbal instructions.
  6. Some of the leadership had become a tad bossy with the other members.  There was gentle instruction and correction given.  This is an issue we also face and we have to address when it occurs.
  7. Last year after their leadership retreat,  a member of their leadership team had collapsed and died on the dock  immediately after the retreat.  Because of this, there was a need for a memorial service during the retreat.  This was bitter/sweet time for everyone.  I was happy to see the teacher hit the issue of grief head-on with tears of remembrance and joy that a friend had gone to heaven.
  8. The ushers and signing choir had been trained to respond automatically to their service offerings, rather than on cue. 

Of course, there was more but my mind is still sorting.  In all, I was impressed with their leaders and their teachers. 

What are some of the things you have learned regarding leadership that you believe are important to share?

I said this would take a week but it has taken longer because I usually post an advocacy issue on Saturday and a sermon on Sunday.  Therefore, we are into the second week of explaining the events of July 27 in Melbourne Special Gathering.  SpGis a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  While our goal is evangelism and discipleship, we deal with a vulnerable population.  Therefore, we sometimes end up in the middle of an emergency situation. 

During the chapel time on the 27th, there were behavioral issues and one young lady had a seizure.  911 had to be called.  There are so many things that went right during this Sunday program that I wanted to highlight those things before I completed this series. 

I’ve mentioned several times how wonderfully our volunteers performed.  Priscilla took over the crowd control.  Francios and Barbara stepped in behind her to do whatever we necessary.  Joyce took a Bible study class.  Mary came along side and filled in another class.  Francois monitored the leaders’ class. 

This Sunday was a week in which my extremely faithful teachers were in other places.  Ed’s had told me he would be out of town for his brother’s birthday celebration.  (Ed has missed about 5 Sundays in the 10 years that he has been teaching a class.)  Pam had gotten the effects of food poisoning during the night.  She was sicker than a mongrel and weaker than a feline.  As a consequence, she was out.  Eric was needed to pack up all the sound and other equipment that we use after the chapel service.  His three helpers were busy with the emergency. For that reason, he was late getting to his class.

Priscilla, who had taken charge of the movement of the members, asked if I wanted her to hold everyone in the social hall with their refreshments or move them to their classrooms.  Forgetting that our teachers wouldn’t be available, I asked her to move them to their classrooms.  I then asked Mary, a volunteer, to go to the class she normally attends to lead in prayer.  Joyce, our substitute teacher, had automatically gone to Ed’s class which is the largest of the classes.  Francois was praying with our leadership.

After the ambulance with the seizure victim had left, I went to the classroom area.  As I entered, Francois left our leadership class.  This a class of our deacons and people who would like to be a deacon.  Our deacons are members who are voted to this position by their peers. Quickly, I asked two members to come to the chalk board and for them to ask each member to tell why they would like to honor our supervisor who was having her birthday.  Then I asked them to tell why they honor their teacher, Pam.  Next, to tell about someone in the class they would like to honor.  After that, I left the classroom to check on the other classes.  After insuring that all of them were fully covered, I went back to the leadership class.  I was impressed.  Jack and Shelley, the two leaders I’d asked to take over the class, were doing an amazing job. 

I sat in one of the seats and said, “You lead the class and I’ll take your places.  I’ll interrupt just the way you do.”  Of course, everyone laughed and we had a great time in the class.  This class is open to everyone but not everyone wants to be a part of the leadership.  (Oops! that’s another subject.)  Their training under Pam, the teacher of this class, shined. 

We all know in our minds that in the middle of a stressful situation the best things can happen.  However, living through the best and the worst of times can be as exciting and wonderful as it is heartbreaking and stressful.  As I sat in the classroom and observed Jack and Shelly excel in their place, my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude that I have the privilege to work with such a receptive and open population.

What are some of the good things that have come from at time to trauma that your program has experienced?