For many years, I knew that God was calling me to serve Him in youth leadership.
Unfortunately, I was the very embodiment of a modern-day Moses. I felt vastly under-qualified, and that I wasn’t good enough.
The burning bush passage from Exodus 3–4 really resonated with me, as I drew many parallels from Moses’ reluctant attitude to my own.
Instead of appreciating the privilege of being called by God to serve Him, I found all sorts of excuses to dodge responsibilities.
My non-exhaustive list of excuses to God
Who am I that I should lead?
Although I knew that God was calling me to shepherd His people, I felt unworthy to lead them.
It was really a Moses moment of telling God: “Who am I?” Who was I that God should call me to lead others?”
At that time, I was not spiritually mature at all. I felt like I was the one in need of shepherding and in no position to guide or mentor others!
How can I lead these people?
For a long time, I believed that I wasn’t fit to lead those in my youth ministry as I wasn’t close to them.
I felt like it would be very out of place for me to just become their spiritual leaders and impart spiritual advice when I hadn’t even earned their respect as a friend.
We were friend-quaintances at best, and I barely knew anything about them. We didn’t even have a personal relationship.
So how could I just expect them to just suddenly open up to share their struggles with me? It felt like a gross invasion of privacy.
I am not leader-y enough
Just as Moses gave excuses for his lack of public-speaking skills, I was similarly giving excuses. I felt incompetent and inadequate to lead.
I told God I didn’t have the traits or skills a good leader should have – I was neither decisive nor confident, I had no prior leadership experience, and I had been through social trauma, which made me afraid to step back into a big social setting.
The very idea of talking in a group was daunting, let alone leading one.
For a long time, I continued to come up with excuses to justify my reluctance to step into this calling.
But over time, God gradually convicted me.
What I learnt along the way
Grow to become someone worthy of leadership
Competence is important, but character even more so!
We must first lead ourselves well before we are able to lead others.
While nobody will ever reach a perfect level of spirituality to be “fit to lead”, leaders should at least have grown to a certain level of spiritual maturity, so that they will be grounded enough in their faith to be able to guide others.
To that end, I recognised that I had a lot of growing to do before I could in turn help others to grow.
In Ephesians 4:1, Paul urged believers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”.
This doesn’t mean putting on a holier-than-thou attitude. As leaders we too must be careful not to fall into the trap of spiritual pride like the Pharisees.
Nevertheless, we should be mindful of our conduct so that we will be able to lead by example (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Build a personal relationship with those you lead
Leading isn’t about asserting dominance or bossing people around.
Rather, it’s really about journeying with the people you lead, gently guiding them back onto God’s path.
To do that, respect must be earned. Having a good mentor/mentee relationship goes beyond just a circumstantial one – it starts with genuine friendship!
This was something I gradually learnt to do with my youths — to display servant leadership just as Jesus did and to genuinely care for the welfare of others (Matthew 20:25-28).
And as our friendships developed, trust also developed. When they trusted my sincerity, they slowly grew to be more authentic and receptive to guidance.
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called
If God were looking for perfection, there would be no point looking on earth because no one fits the bill.
Though we should be constantly growing and progressing, we must recognise that we are all flawed humans undergoing a lifelong process of sanctification and we will never be perfect on this side of eternity.
But the reality is that God calls imperfect people to serve Him because it is precisely through their weakness that His power is made perfect.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
Our ability to serve does not hinge upon our own human strength — we need to depend on God’s strength to empower us.
If God calls us, He will equip us to do it.
“…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6 ESV)
By His power, I overcame my fear of social settings and was even able to lead discussions in big groups of people!
Where to start? A willing heart
The turning point for me was when I attended a SERVE discipleship programme by the Diocesan Youth Board after my A-Levels.
Throughout those three months, God slowly changed me, replacing my reluctance and fear with a willing heart, which propelled me to step up.
Though it has only been slightly over two years of serving in youth leadership, I can really see how much God was and is changing my attitude.
Instead of running away, I am now running the race for Christ.
Earlier this year in January, I suddenly felt the Lord ask me: “If ever there comes a point in time when you have to choose between Me or France, would you choose Me?”
Although slightly puzzled by this unexpected question, I replied: “Yes Lord, I will choose You.”
I hadn’t been confronted with such a situation yet, but in that moment I had already made a promise.
Separately, I also had a prompting from the Holy Spirit that I would be asked to preach on Youth Sunday in July.
It was only later after being offered a placement for the French Language Immersion Programme (LIP) that I realised the dates would clash. Though nothing was confirmed for Youth Sunday yet, I decided to willingly give up French LIP.
The Emily from a few years ago would never have done that — I would never have passed up an opportunity to go overseas to serve Him instead, especially for something that wasn’t even guaranteed then!
Looking back, I can really see how much He has changed my heart towards serving Him. And now that everything is over, I can say with certainty that it was the best choice I could have made!
My prayer for this generation is that they will willingly and eagerly rise up to serve God wherever He calls them to.
That instead of being paralysed by fear like Moses, they would readily avail themselves for His service like Isaiah, with boldness and courage to say: “Here I am Lord, send me.”
- Is there something you feel God calling you to do?
- What is holding you back from obeying God’s call?
- How can you take small steps to overcome these obstacles?
- Are you more like a reluctant Moses or a willing Isaiah?