Prayer, Leadership, Mission, Life

Leading vs. Following

There is always some trepidation when something we have enjoyed comes to an end. We experience this year after year: the end of a trip, the end of summer, the end of college….

What happens next? What am I looking forward to now? Where else can I go?

If you are like me, walking away from an incredible conference such as SLS18 brings about those same questions. How do you implement what you have learned? How do you keep this joy and light alive, nourished and preserved as you head back to family and friends who did not experience the same thing?

You may feel discouraged if you share your story of SLS18 and it gets no attention. It may hurt when you try to share your heart and few understand.

Yet, exactly in those moments, the Lord is still very much near to you. He, too, experienced the misunderstandings, the rejection, the questions and the comments as He was trying to share His heart. As we go forth from conference, each of us will inevitably encounter trials that will try to turn us away from the joy of the Lord. Eyes of faith, however, will reveal that difficulties are an invitation to follow in His footsteps more closely, to unite your heart to His heart.

Indeed, our entire experience at SLS18 is an invitation to follow the Master. SLS18 really was a glimpse of heaven. Think about it: Thousands of people gathered together, often on their knees, praising the Lord. It’s just like the communion of saints and angels surrounding His throne! What a beautiful gift we just witnessed! As we head home from this heavenly experience, we must remember the Lord, too, had to leave His home in heaven. Again, we find ourselves following in His footsteps.

Our world will tell us that “following” does not mesh with “leading” — and this may be a point of confusion for you after attending a conference designed to inspire and equip leaders in the New Evangelization. From a worldly perspective, we tend to admire the trendsetters. They are the ones who dared to be different before the rest of us figure it out. I bet many of us have had the desire to be that “cool kid” back in grade school; we wanted to be the one who is one step ahead of the latest and greatest. Sadly, such experiences have tainted our image of authentic leadership.

Do not mistake your call to Christian leadership with a desire to be a fashionable trendsetter. Our call to lead others will look vastly different than what the world thinks. Make sure you know what we are working toward! Christian leadership is rooted in following the light of Christ in our own lives and thereby pointing to the light in the way you live and the choices you make. 

So, how do you continue to follow the light?

It has been a jam-packed week of lessons and incredible talks, and I bet someone or some experience has inspired you to be more closely united to Christ. One of the best things you can do is to “remember the marvels the Lord has done” (Psalm 105:5). We truly do have much to contemplate after our time together in Chicago.

What has the Lord shared with you through this time at SLS18? What has touched your heart? It may have been from a speaker, a friend, the sacraments or the word of God. Write it down and give thanks for such a touch from our Father. Let the words and experiences sink deep into your mind and heart. Remember that the Lord simply wants to be with you — so if nothing comes to mind, just being with Him is enough.

As we walk away from SLS18, let us all continue to make time and space for the Lord to speak to us. He wants to make that same invitation to you and to me that He made to His first disciples. It is not a call to be perfect; it is not a call to lead the most Bible studies; it is not a call to be the most successful or to have the most friends. To become both faithful and fruitful men and women, we must first hear and then act upon those simple words He first spoke to the disciples:

“Follow me.”