Becoming a Leader Who Makes a Difference

Today, we face a time of unique challenge and opportunity, a time that calls out for men and women of integrity who are equipped by God to lead. But what does it take to become that type of leader?  The key at all times is a strong sense of dependence on God—a feeling in your gut that you know you can’t do what God has called you to do without his power and enabling. Nehemiah faced challenges that could put some of the problems we face in ministry today into healthy perspective. I want to reference Nehemiah’s life to highlight six conditions that will tell you if you have the kind of heart God is looking for. This is the prerequisite for him doing something great in your life as a leader.

1. A Dislocated Heart A dislocated heart is a God-given concern for others that propels us out of our comfort zones. It’s a passionate concern for God’s agenda that supersedes our own desires for personal peace and prosperity. It’s something in your heart and your gut. Nehemiah wept and mourned because it hurt to think of God’s people and God’s holy city in disgrace. Nehemiah said in effect, “I don’t know what to do. I’m just one person with one king, and God’s agenda is going south. I am going to refocus and fast and pray.”

2. A Broken Spirit A broken spirit begins with a restored view of God. If you carefully study Nehemiah’s prayer in 1:5-11, you’ll find 44 references to God either by personal pronoun, by adjective, or by his name. Nehemiah prayed a God-centered prayer. Here’s a principle you need to remember: If you have a big God, you will always have a small problem. But if you have too big of a problem, you will always have a small God. Nehemiah had a big God.

3. A Radical Step of Faith God’s eyes are going to and fro through the whole earth looking for someone whose heart is fully his, someone he can strongly support. This means giving you whatever you need personally, corporately, or any other way to help you fulfill his agenda. A radical step of faith is obeying God’s known will, even at great personal risk and sacrifice. This is why a lot of people don’t experience the strong support of God. They come to a fork in the road that calls for a radical commitment, and they take the easier road and go off and do some nice things. But other people take the God-directed risks and are strongly supported by God. 

4. A Strategic Plan Many great visions fail because they lack a plan for their fulfillment. A strategic plan answers such crucial questions as, “How am I going to get where I believe God wants me to go? What resources do I need? Who am I going to partner with?” You don’t have to put it on a brochure, but you need to write it out like you would a business plan. 

5. A Personal Commitment Once you have your strategic plan and know it is what God has called you to do, go for it. Once you see the bull’s eye of your life and define what the target is, make a commitment to hit it. 

6. ‘Niche on the Wall’ Finally, find your “niche on the wall.” As you read Nehemiah chapters 3 and 4, you see that every person who worked on Nehemiah’s wall-rebuilding team had a personal niche, a place to serve that connected each individual with the person next to him on the wall. And within 52 days, Nehemiah and his workers had achieved a miracle: rebuilding the destroyed walls of Jerusalem. This is what it takes to make a real difference for God, to achieve greatness before God the way Nehemiah did.  (Adapted from Holy Ambition by Chip Ingram  Outcomes, Summer 2009)  

adapted by Gary D. Foster
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Gary D. Foster founded and leads Gary D. Foster Consulting, a marketing and management service specializing in helping religious product companies and ministries discover and optimize new revenue streams and to better leverage existing ones. He served as an executive with Focus on the Family, where he managed their award-winning book publishing operation and $110 million direct-mail fundraising division. He also spent 12 years with the Christian Booksellers Association, where he served as President and CEO of CBA Service Corporation. He also served in executive product development and marketing positions with Cook Communications Ministries, Moody Press and Moody Magazine. Learn more about Gary at