Just over a year and a half ago I transitioned from serving as an Executive Pastor at a large church to serving as the Lead Pastor at a small church. There were lots of changes and some learning curves to deal with, but one particular adjustment was something I didn’t anticipate.
I had forgotten what my own voice sounded like.
Not on recordings or when teaching, but my vision-casting voice. My dreamer’s voice. For the previous 8 years, I had served in a staff role that, by description, was a supporting role. I was blessed to lead, create, minister, and initiate new things until the cows came home. But at the end of the day, I needed to do all of that with the understanding, blessing, and vision of our senior pastor.
I remember one particular lunch conversation where my pastor talked about Joseph and the King – Joseph was able, through God’s gift on his life, to not only interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, but to make a plan of action that brought health and life. As a reward, Joseph was handed the keys to the kingdom. Holding up and shaking his keyring in front of the team that day, our pastor said, “Look guys, I’ve got a lot of dreams. Help me interpret them, come up with a plan, and the keys are yours.” He wasn’t handing over the church, but he was offering us the freedom to spread our own leadership wings and grow as much as we desired in that season.
That was a beautiful thing.
It was a Godly thing, a time of mentoring and learning.
But it means I wasn’t using my own voice. I was becoming incredibly adept at leading with my pastor’s voice, my pastor’s vision. I learned how to interpret his dreams into reality, to make plans and execute. And while I was working on things in the church, God was working on things in me. He was crafting my leadership, my life, my family, and I had to patiently see that that through.
And then I was sitting in an office, by myself, 100 miles away.
Without anyone else’s dreams or vision or voice.
That louder than audible voice of God then spoke – Joseph had God-given dreams of his own long before he became an interpreter for others. Immaturity meant he spoke them out a little too early and a little too bluntly, and things didn’t go well for him (you know, thrown in a well by your own family, sold into slavery, prison time, etc). But after he learned how to lead (from another’s vision), he was then able to do so much more for his own people, and see the fulfillment of his own dreams. One could say, in dealing with his family as an adult, he found his voice again.
In those early days here it began to appear – my voice. My dreams and my visions that had been treasured in my heart for years, but had not yet come to a place of maturity. It was, in fact, the biggest learning curve I had to travel. When I wrote an e-mail, cast vision, shared a story, or lead a team, I had to be incredibly intentional to say, “is this my voice, or his?”
Don’t get me wrong — my pastor has a great voice. He’s a master vision-caster. But I had to learn how to untangle my ability to lead with his voice from my ability to lead with my own. And what came out… well, I kinda like it. It works well for me. Sure, some of it may still sound a bit like him, but now I can tell when it’s me falling back into habit or when it’s just because he and I are similar in many ways.
If you’ve faced or are facing a transition where you now need to lead with your own voice, here are some questions that may help you along the way:
- Am I doing/saying/writing this because just because it’s comfortable and familiar, or because it is what God is also saying in this season?
- Am I applying past wisdom, or am I just phoning it in?
- How does my current context require me to adjust those old plans/ideas for maximum Kingdom impact here and now?
- Who has God created me to be? What voice/dream/vision has been in my heart from the very beginning?
[microphone image via Rusty Sheriff, cc.]