Misfit Leadership

Somehow, I ended up in leadership, and it has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. It scares me because I don’t trust myself.  It scares me because I see others alongside me. It scares me because I see where I have failed and hurt others.

I am a misfit leader.

If you were to look at my life’s map, you would see a pattern. I am a worship leader, the founder of a nonprofit organization, and the mother of three firecracker children. Take a quick glance at my personality type, however, and you would see very plainly that I don’t like to lead at all. If it were up to my soul, I would bail completely at the thought of leading anything.

My past experiences confirm this… I’ve made mistakes and let others down.

I love to start things... but I’m not the best finisher.

I love ideas and big theory... but details (like personal relationships) are not my forte.  

As a musician and worship leader, I thought my ministry life would be limited to my “natural talents”...but God didn’t look for a woman brimming with leadership giftings. He sought an empty vessel. He was simply looking for availability to do the supernatural.  

I don’t think I really understood this until I entered a strip club eleven years ago to extend God’s love to adult entertainers. In 2003, I clearly felt God calling me to go into clubs and build relationships with the women I would meet. Looking back on that first outreach, I know God was laughing in a knowing sort of way. He knew I was the one who needed loving. He knew that I too was a misfit. Jesus was after me every bit as much as He was after the entertainers….He was after my brokenness, my gifts, my story, my entire life.

The patience of God is astounding. Though I had known Him since childhood, the power of brokenness had leverage in ways I never imagined.

I grew up attending a Southern Baptist megachurch...as did the neighbor who molested me. I never understood how this buried secret truly affected me until I was 18. Suddenly away from home, the power of my brokenness became evident. Addicted to diet pills and gripped by bulimia, my loneliness was palpable. No one would have seen the rot from the outside: I looked pretty, I had a great singing voice, I was pursued by top sororities. With a bright smile on my made-up face, I resented my life.

But He makes beauty from our dust. It was in those lonely trenches that Jesus met me where I was. He showed me slow, strong, beautiful intimacy. He was the ONLY place that I fit. But healing rarely happens overnight..until Jesus returns, we are all slowly but surely being pieced back together, still peeling back the layers of dirt, sin, and past. Once I let my walls down and began to let His love heal all the cracked parts, He planted an unashamed desire in me for worship...worship that involved my whole life and everyone in it.  

It was from this healing that a desire for truth and justice was awakened….and a love for the misfit and the broken was born.  

I was thinking about Jesus and his Way this morning: His way with people, His way of leading. Once again, I begged for His help as I in my own brokenness try to lead a gangly army of exotic dancers and willing soldiers to fight for their voice. It was in this moment that I saw the leadership of Jesus in a new way.

Jesus called out to Simon and Peter, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.”  (Matthew 4:19-20)

  1. Jesus didn’t ASK these men to follow Him.

There was no, “Will you follow me?” as if He was desperate for help. Jesus called out with a bold and assertive proposal. He was no nervous salesman, He was in command.

  1. Jesus appealed to the rule-breaker.

In a class-based society, fishing was a family business scraping the bottom of the ladder. Though they were skilled workers, there was no “climbing the ranks”. Fishing was their life, their father’s life, and their children’s life. Following Jesus meant breaking every the social rule. Risky. But then again, I don’t know one misfit who isn’t a risk-taker and rule-breaker. It seems to be in our DNA.

  1. Jesus took RESPONSIBILITY.  

When these men left their nets, they left their careers and families behind. Jesus essentially promised (without using words) that by following him, he would provide for them and care for them better than their current jobs and families.

And here is where it hit me today: Jesus so trusted His Father that he confidently assumed responsibility for those he led. Jesus could lead well because he completely entrusted his followers to the Father.  

When I doubt my ability to relate to others, lack confidence in my natural tendency to love well, or question my capacity to lead, I show my deficit of trust. I must turn every relationship over to God. Every time someone comes to me, my only responsibility is to give them to the Father, to ask God what He desires for them, and be the Spirit’s servant messenger.

All of us are leading someone, whether we want to or not. And, just like fisherman, misfits who have been redeemed by God are prime candidates for outstanding leadership. Why? Because as a misfit, you know that you don’t have what it takes. You can relate to the highs and lows of the human condition. You have tasted firsthand the goodness and joy of Jesus, and since redemption, your life has been bound to serving Him completely. Redeemed misfits understand dependency and humility: the essence of great leadership.

Are you a misfit? Has God placed others in your life to lead? Your brokenness doesn’t disqualify you. On the contrary, it’s the perfect ingredient for effective leadership (which is essentially following Jesus). After all, it is in following Him that we become fishers of people.

This post was inspired by Matthew Barnett’s new book, Misfits Welcome with the goal of raising awareness and helping those in need. To learn more about the book, CLICK HERE!