A Note from Chris Adams: I watched one of my good friends who is dyslexic achieve a seminary doctorate a few years ago. When I think of what she went through all of her life to not only get through school but then to finish college and graduate degrees, I am amazed. That is not easy without dyslexia! Today’s article is by another friend who is a pastor’s wife, author, and women’s leader. Rachel Lovingood writes about this similar issue and shares how her husband Jeff just also received his doctorate. We are challenged to rethink how we look for leaders to pour into.
I recently had the privilege of attending my husband’s graduation for his doctoral degree from seminary. As my son and I sat in the room full of happy family and friends, we both looked at each other and acknowledged how surreal it all felt. You see, my husband is a brilliant man and gifted minister, but he was not a model student. My son Riley even tweeted a picture of Jeff in his cap and gown and mentioned how proud he was of his dad for achieving a doctorate after “redshirting 7th grade.” School was never easy for Jeff and because of his undiagnosed (as was normal in that day) dyslexia, he actually struggled to read. He just got by on being a good kid and a great athlete. Just barely making it and being overlooked was the norm until a teacher in 7th grade took the time to really dig into the challenges he faced academically and spent time tutoring him and helping him get his reading skills up.
Watching as Jeff received his degree made me think about some leadership challenges we all can face. If you looked at my husband’s academic record you would naturally dismiss him as a candidate for doctor of ministry, but if you’ve ever worked with him you know how truly brilliant he is as a leader. I wonder…how many people in our circles of influence do we overlook as potential leaders worthy of our time and the opportunity to lead? Do we miss out on some who are abundantly talented because they don’t fit the mold of what we are used to as a leader?
I get it that giftedness in some people lends itself to leadership more naturally, but think about what we could be missing out on if we limit ourselves to those who fit a certain pattern. After all, Scripture reminds us that we are all “His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). You’ve probably even taught that “everyone is a leader to someone.” Doesn’t it make sense then that as leaders we should be asking the Lord to show us who we need to encourage, support, and call up to be leaders alongside us? May we never be guilty of overlooking anyone because they have a different skill set than we are used to. When we do that we fall into the trap of thinking that leadership is best when it’s what we like or are familiar with. That’s not kingdom minded, and there are too many leaders today who are continually trying to reproduce themselves.
I continually remind myself that as part of the more experienced (and older) generation my job is not to turn the younger women into me but to encourage and support them to seek after Jesus and unleash them to lead the way God has called them to lead—even if it looks different. What if we set the next generation free to embrace their uniqueness and reach the world with the gospel? In our culturally and racially diverse world, we need to find more people who don’t fit the mold yet are willing to step up and stand firm for the cause of Christ. They’re all around us and are possibly just waiting to be noticed.
Think about it: some ladies in our circles of influence don’t feel like the best student or the honor roll nominee and yet they have been gifted in ways to reach others with the gospel that we could never accomplish. The world we live in is constantly changing. Therefore, we need leaders of all different kinds and styles pointing people to Jesus and sharing the gospel. Let’s resist the comfort zones that tempt us to the status quo and look around to see who God has placed in our circles of influence that might just need someone to call out the leadership characteristics they’ve been gifted with.
No one would’ve ever thought that a kid who couldn’t even read until 7th grade because he sees things backward would earn a doctorate degree, but that’s just the kind of God we serve. As leaders may we always be careful to never overlook the ones who see things differently—maybe that’s just the perspective we need.
Rachel is the Senior Associate Pastor’s wife and a women’s leader at First Baptist Church, Cleveland, Tennessee, as well as a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She is co-author of In Our Shoes: Real Life Issues for Ministers’ Wives, as well as Even More and Salvaging My Identity. Rachel uses her passion for Christ and her energetic style to encourage and teach women to find the answers they need from the only true source of wisdom—the Bible. She is the wife of a minister and mom of three fantastic kids.