4 Lessons I’ve Learned in Life and Leadership

Pastor Marty Blog


A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to write a leadership curriculum for leaders in our church. That process led me down memory lane of the life and leadership lessons I have learned over the last 20 years of ministry. It’s hard to believe that I have actually been involved in ministry for that long, but I must say, through it all, I have managed to learn a few lessons, many times the hard way. It has been said you can learn through pain or by faith. When we learn by mistakes that are painful, but if we learn from other’s mistakes and insight that is faith or belief and pain can be avoided. So maybe my writing these 4 lessons down will help someone avoid some pain, gain some wisdom, and grow in their life, leadership, and relationships.

1. Who you are becoming is more important than what you are doing.

I wish I could tell 20-year-old me this. I was ambitious with huge dreams, which is good, but sometimes you can get so focused on what you feel called to do that you fail to see who you are or are not becoming. Being always proceeds doing. God didn’t create human doings, he created human beings. He didn’t create Adam and Eve solely for the purpose of multiplying and taking dominion, He ultimately created them to be—to be a son and daughter, to be together, to be with Him, and relate to Him. It was being that gave them the confidence, authority, and power to do. Identity always precedes destiny. John 1:12–13 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” When we believe in God, the first thing we receive is identity, and from identity, we step into destiny. We see this in the life of Jesus. No doubt Jesus knew who he was, but before he stepped into his ministry and destiny, he was baptized, and the Father’s voice boomed from Heaven that this was his Son with whom he was pleased. I believe our focus must be first who we are and who we are becoming and then from that understanding we live and lead. If you don’t know who you are, what you do may not matter.

2. Calling comes by grace, character comes by grit.

Paul declared it definitively in the book of Romans, “The gifts and callings of God are without repentance.” In other words, God has called and gifted us by his grace and that is a fixed constant. You didn’t earn the calling of God on your life neither did you earn the giftings you possess. They were given by the grace of God. Character on the other hand is different.  You aren’t given it, it is developed. Character is our ability to respond to the demands of reality. In other words, we learn to respond rightly to what life demands of us through discipline, growth, and maturity. It’s not that we have good or bad character, but rather strong and weak character. When we fail, it’s because our character wasn’t developed enough to sustain us when life threw something at us. Life may have brought you to something good like a promotion or something bad like being let go, but your character is what sustains you as you respond. Your character is the structural component that your gifts and calling hang on. When our character is more developed than our gifts, we stand tall and our gift is effective. When our gifts and calling are more developed than our character we usually crash. Our character actually determines how much of our calling we can walk in. So our aim must be to spend more time developing the character people can’t see so that they can benefit from the calling and gifts they can see.

 3. There is no progress without a process.

Isn’t it true that we typically think in terms of the progress we want to see and fail to think about the process that gets us there? We think about the blessing, the calling, the promotion, the position, the relationship we want to have, how good we will look minus 20 lbs. and so on.  We are good about dreaming and thinking about what God wants to do in our life. Unfortunately, many times we stop with the dream or vision and wait on God to do it. The truth is God has called us, he has destined us, he has blessings for us, he wants us to be healthy and prosperous. The difference is that God thinks in terms of the process while we think in terms of progress. In Psalm 78:71 we are told that God, “took David from tending the ewes and lambs and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants— God’s own people, Israel”. This speaks to the process we see in David’s life. He was anointed as a teenager, probably 15-17 years old to be king, but he didn’t become king until he was 30, and then it was only over Judah. It would be another seven and one-half years before he would rule over all of Israel. David was actually anointed King 3 times; his reign was incremental. God called him to be king then sent him back to tend sheep facing lions and bears. Then God sent him to face a giant, placed him under Saul, made him King of Judah and then King of Israel and ultimately a dynasty. The progress we see in David’s life is because David embraced a process. There is no progress without embracing process. So today, look at your life in terms of process. Are you embracing it? Are you surrendered? Are you learning and growing? Embrace the people who may be over you and embrace the process and you will see the progress.

4. You’re not all bad or all good, you’re just you.

One of the most impactful moments of my life was when I was sitting with a mentor explaining all my faults and wrestling with how someone as flawed as me could do what I was called to do. When I had finished my hour-long dissertation, I asked for his thoughts. Through a small grin, he said, “I think I am looking at a mature man.” Puzzled I asked for clarity. He then explained, “maturity is an understanding that you have strengths and weaknesses—you know them, acknowledge them and accept them.”

Many times, especially in religious circles, we don’t know how to integrate the good parts of us with the bad parts of us.  This creates two problems: we either deny the existence of the bad or we deny the existence of the good. Either way, we are denying a part of us, which stunts our development and maturity because we aren’t in complete reality about who we are.  Paul wrote to the Romans saying, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” It seems he had an understanding that there were good parts of him and bad parts of him and he had accepted both. The truth of the Bible teaches two seemingly opposing concepts: we are created in the perfect image of God, and we are sinful and broken. The answer we need is the one God has already applied: grace. He doesn’t ignore the bad parts of us or deny them, rather in his grace accepts us completely. We must do the same—learn to accept who we are completely realizing there are good parts of us as well as bad parts of us. We aren’t just the bad or just the good, we are a person with good and bad parts. When we understand this we won’t become prideful when we see the good in us and won’t feel condemned when we encounter the bad in us. Once we apply this grace and acceptance to ourselves, we can do the same to others. Then when we run into a rough place in a friend or leader’s life, we won’t be tempted to move them from the category of a good person to a bad person. We will understand like us, they are neither all good or all bad, they just are who they are—the good the bad, and the ugly.


These 4 lessons have helped me immensely in my own growth, development, leadership, and relationships. My hope is that they do the same for you.