Can you see the forest for the trees? Or do you tend to get so caught up in daily details that you lose sight of the overall picture? When thinking about our purpose and God’s calling, it’s essential to have a lifetime perspective. A lifetime perspective approaches situations with the knowledge that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Seeing the long game allows you to have patience in the present and big faith for the future.
When you have a lifetime perspective, you recognize that every leader must go through different stages of development. In this blog, I unpack three primary leadership phases:
1. The Submerge Phase
2. The Emerge Phase
3. The Converge Phase
However, before diving into those, we need to address a core pillar in each one of the leadership phases: identity.
Your primary identity is who you are in Christ. Secondly, your identity includes the roles and placements God has planned for your life. We all must unravel our true identity from what others think about and expect of us and our negative beliefs about ourselves. (This is a big part of the submerge phase.)
If you’ve been around the WealthBuilders platform for a while, you know that I used to be a pastor. It’s also not a secret that I love business, finance, and real estate.
Well, not long ago, there was a hard line between the sacred and the secular. Ministry and money didn’t mix unless you were talking about the tithe. There was a sense of rejection from the ‘sacred’ side of bi-vocational pastors, or pastors with a ‘secular’ job.
For the longest time, I identified with my role in vocational ministry. It took a real journey to separate my identity from my job. The greatest chasm I crossed was understanding that the Kingdom of God is pervasive. It is not confined to the church. Rather, the Kingdom of God extended into every sphere of society. That gave me the freedom to fully be who I was and expand into business, real estate, and finance without shame.
Every real change begins with an ending. Sometimes you must go through an identity crisis and release some things before you can step into your true identity as God called and created you to be. It’s like Jesus said in Matthew 9:17—you can’t put new wine into old wineskins—“New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.” Rising into your new, true, identity is foundational to the emerge phase, and living it out to the fullest is evidentiary of the converge phase.
Being called to something doesn’t guarantee immediate success. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a journey involved. Before you emerge into what your calling is, you must submerge into the character development phase.
It can be difficult to have a lifetime perspective when you are younger. We can become discouraged by thinking we should be further along in our life or more successful. Out of all the leadership phases, this is the one where God develops a foundation of faith. Leaders must have hope for God’s plans and purposes before they come to fruition. Certain responsibilities and relationships in this phase encourage the leader’s faithfulness, integrity, and consistency.
Dr. Robert Clinton does an excellent job of describing this in his book, The Making of a Leader:
“Though there may be fruitfulness in the ministry, the major work is that which God is doing to and in the leader, not through him or her. Most emerging leaders don’t recognize this. They evaluate productivity, activities, fruitfulness, etc. But God is quietly, often in unusual ways, trying to get the leader to see that one ministers out of what one is. God is concerned with what we are. We want to learn a thousand things because there is so much to learn and do. But He will teach us one thing, perhaps in a thousand ways: “I am forming Christ in you.” It is this that will give power to your ministry.”
The submerge phase is a lot like planting a seed in the soil. The soil provides nourishment, room to grow, and warmth, but it also provides resistance. Like lifting weights, this pressure helps the seed develop enough strength to break through the soil. Without resistance, the plant wouldn’t be able to withstand things like heat, wind, and bugs. In other words, it wouldn’t make it through the next stage of life.
If you feel resistance, speak James 1:2 over your life: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”
Whereas God is working in you in the submerge phase, the emerge phase is characterized by God working through you. Of course, a measure of both happens consistently throughout each one of the leadership phases, but in the emerge phase, one’s ministry takes a more dominant role in their life. (Whether that ministry is in a church or parachurch, the marketplace, the home, etc.)
In this phase, leaders develop their gifts, skills, and capacity. They learn how to cast vision and lead others towards fulfilling a mission. It’s also inevitable that there will be a fair share of risks taken in this phase. Whether it’s a change of career, business venture, ministry launch, or a physical move, discerned risk-taking is how God will emerge you into His plans and purposes for your life.
Life is so risky that you won’t make it out alive. The worst thing that could happen is failure. Yet, if you learn from that failure and move forward, it’s not a waste. Instead, it will give you invaluable perspective. Leaders must remain spiritually strong in the emerge phase to ensure failure, disappointment, or pain does not define their story.
The convergence phase is when all the streams in your life come together. You begin to see how all your resources and relationships can have a greater kingdom impact. Dr. Clinton defines convergence as when God moves a leader into a role that matches their gift mix and experience to maximize their ministry. This is a time of fruitfulness and influence that comes from a life lived intimately and purposefully with God.
Few people reach convergence. They get weighed down by the demands of life, refuse to take risks, or quit having faith for more. This is no reason to be discouraged, but it is a charge to remain focused. Scripture encourages us that if we stay faith-filled and obedient, we will enter the land God has for us.
“Put your hope in the LORD.
Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
You will see the wicked destroyed.” Psalm 37:34 (NLT)
Did anything stand out to you in this blog? Which of the leadership phases are you in? Let us know in the comments, and subscribe to The WealthBuilders Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen.