If you’re anything like me you have started more journals than you’ve finished. For a while there it seemed to me that every trip to Barnes & Noble resulted in the purchase of a new genuine imitation leather journal. I had high aspirations for every journal I purchased; I intended each one to be filled cover to cover with daily reflections on life and leadership. But the drive fizzled and my journal would eventually shelved on my bookcase. But one day I picked up some of my old journals and started looking through them. They reminded me of conversations I had had, books I had read, and experiences that empowered me to continue in ministry. I found myself reliving these moments with every turn of the page.
I’ve heard it said that experience leads to wisdom. As a young leader there is nothing more that I desire than wisdom; wisdom seems to be the missing ingredient from all my ambitious ministry endeavors and I want to gain wisdom wherever I can. But as I’ve grown in leadership I realize that experience alone is incapable of producing wisdom. Experiences are key in growing leaders but its reflection that generates wise leaders.
Leaders need journals—not just to write in, but to read. Reflection on past experiences helps propel us forward. We see this leadership principle at work in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. In John 2 after Jesus clears the temple he declares that he will raise the temple in three days after the Jews destroy it. Everyone seems perplexed by this statement and even his disciples seemed confused. However John 2:22 tells us “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken” (ESV). I can just imagine the disciples sitting around a campfire after Jesus ascended into heaven and recalling all the stories and miracles they witnessed. I would imagine that this was an incredibly empowering conversation. I would submit that it was the recalling of these stories and the reflection upon the words that Jesus spoke that compelled the disciples to “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 26:19). It was reflection that lead to their boldness.
As a leader it’s important for you to reflect on what God has done in you and through you in the past. Time is a great aid to perspective and that conflict three years ago that seemed to be a situation that was intended to topple your leadership and influence can be a valuable tool in your maturity as a leader if you take time to reflect upon what transpired. Reflection grants insight and insight is key in our growth and development as leaders. The one area where reflection really comes in handy for me as a leader is in developing my volunteer teams. As I look back at what worked and what didn’t work I find myself making wiser decisions when it comes to working with volunteers and putting together a strategy of empowering others to serve in ministry.
I encourage you to continue writing, reflecting and thinking about all that God has exposed to you. As you pick up that pen and write in your journal I want you to think specifically about the lessons you have learned along the way in ministry. What relationships are dear to you; what scripture is really impacting you right now? What is God speaking to you? I assure you that in the years to come when you pick up your journal from 2012 you will smile and be thankful for what you wrote down. Each of us carry a wealth of experiences, whether or not those experiences lead to wisdom depends on our commitment to reflect upon them. Take time to reflect on the past and just like the disciples, you will find that looking back at what God has done in the past will empower you to move forward in your future leadership.