Four years ago I finished my graduate degree and had been working part-time as a worship leader for nearly three years. I was certain the best way I could serve God was in vocational, full-time ministry.

For various (and probably good) reasons, no one would hire me! I was hurt and confused, and moved to from Texas to Arizona to work in a “non-ministry” field. Even though I wanted to serve God in a position of spiritual leadership, the time wasn’t right. I had to wait.

God taught me 4 life-changing lessons during that period that have proved to be invaluable now that I am in a position of spiritual leadership.

1) Sometimes you have to learn how to be a better spiritual leader by following for a while, even if you wish you were leading right now.

In my case, I realized I still had a lot to learn about pretty much every aspect of ministry. I slowly came to appreciate how much God was teaching me by allowing me to watch and follow great leaders.

2) Ordained or “official” ministry is never the only way to lead, nor should it be.

There are always opportunities, places, and ways to point people toward Jesus, no matter what your title or position or job—and pointing people toward Jesus is the essence of spiritual leadership.

3) You will often take your greatest risks for God in everyday life, not in your “official” leadership position.

Don’t discount the dangers inherent in the “ordinary” Christian life. It is a risk to devote time to feeding the poor when you are not being compensated. It is a risk to give your money sacrificially. It is a risk to be bold with Gospel in relationships with people that may not agree with you. It is hard, purposeful, meaningful work to lead people toward Jesus not from a position of organizational authority, but of service and genuine relationship.

4) Do not be too quick to desire much influence.

It is not wrong to see your gifts as leader and move to use them for the Kingdom, after all, “…if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task”(1 Timothy 3:1 ESV). That said, you must always keep in mind that in general, God starts us off small. If you cultivate contentment and faithfulness with the “small” things (which are often really the most important, foundational things), then you must trust that God will give you a greater scope of responsibility when you are ready. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much…”(Luke 16:10 ESV).

What have you learned about spiritual leadership by being a follower?