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Replacing A Lost Leader

One day I was talking to a preacher who was bemoaning the fact that when his mentor, Dr. Jack Hyles died, he felt he had lost his leader. He told me that he wished there was someone he could follow like he followed Dr. Hyles. That led me to consider something I learned from Dr. Hyles regarding replacing a leader.

Many times in the rush to replace a position we make the mistake of assigning the wrong power to someone. While Dr. Hyles had many influencers and heroes, he had few leaders. Please do not get me wrong. Many of his heroes were leaders, but not necessarily his leader. He gave many men the power to influence his life, but not to lead it. He made many men heroes without giving them the reins to lead him or his ministry. Let me explain.

A leader is an assigned person in a position of authority over a specified entity. For example, a pastor is the leader of a church. A teacher is the leader of a class. A chairman is the leader of a board. A husband is the leader of his home. A CEO is the leader of a company. To have a leader is to have a specific group.

The Southern Baptist Convention has a president, who is the leader of the group. When you organize you choose a leader. A leader could even be someone other than the person with a position, but it is still someone within a specified group. You may have a leader on the field in sports, but that means you still have a team where he is leading.

Dr. Hyles did not look for men who could lead some group. He looked for men who could influence his life. He was not looking for men to lead his church. He was the leader. He was looking for men who could influence his church, not lead them. Dr. Hyles had more influencers in his life than leaders. He might discover a man who retained a quality that he wanted in his life and he might allow that man to influence him without becoming his leader. He knew that just because he wanted to be like that person in an area of life did not mean he should follow that person wherever he went. He allowed that man to influence and advise him, without making them his leader.

When a pastor chooses a leader rather than an influencer, he is consigning to that leader the authority over him and his ministry, an authority which is not the pastor’s to give nor the leader’s to accept. Dr. Hyles was a great leader to his church, but he was a great influencer of many preachers. Some of those preachers made him more of a leader than an influencer, which means they did not avail themselves of him as they could have. We seek for leaders rather than influencers because we are seeking the wrong thing in the wrong way. In many ways it is those who influence us who have the greatest and longest lasting impact on our lives.

  • A leader tells you what to do, while an influencer teaches you how to do it.
  • A leader tells you what to believe, while an influencer teaches you how to think.
  • A leader tells you what direction to go, while an influencer guides you in choosing your direction.
  • A leader gives orders, while an influencer gives ideas.
  • A leader is assigned to lead us, while an influencer is chosen to influence us.

Dr. Hyles wanted influencers more than leaders. He knew the strengths and also the weaknesses of his influencers. He sought their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses. He wasn’t looking for a man more complete than himself, nor was he looking for a man who was a stronger leader than he. He wanted a man who was better in an area which he wanted to improve upon in his own life. Many of the men Dr. Hyles chose as influencers were not as strong in leadership as he was. Their churches and ministries were not as big. Many were not as well known or as powerful in their preaching. However, they had an attribute that he wanted in his life.

Dr. Hyles saw the prayer life of Ford Porter and wanted his influence. He saw the sweet spirit of Charles Wigle and wanted his influence. He saw the great charm and wit of Bill Rice and wanted his influence. He saw the great courage of Lester Roloff and wanted his influence. He saw the great insight and wisdom of John Rice and wanted his influence. He saw the great conviction of Bob Jones Sr. and wanted his influence. He saw the great leadership qualities of Dr. Lee Roberson and wanted his influence. He saw the power of Tom Malone and wanted his influence.

If you want a great leader in your life it should be to influence you to be a better leader yourself, not to lead you. God will send you your leaders, but you should seek your influences. Just because he wanted the quality of a man did not mean he wanted to follow that man where he was going. Had he done that he would have ended up where they were going instead of where he knew he was supposed to be.

It is a danger to turn our ministries or our churches over to our leaders. Our people can begin seeing those leaders as superior to the leader God has given them. Dr. Hyles brought his influencers in as heroes for his people, but he did not give them leadership over his people. His goal was for his people to understand the positive influences of his influencers. He accomplished this by making them heroes to his people. However, as heroes he did not give them control to lead his people. He did not bring his heroes in for a series of meetings. He would invite a man speak once in a service, or he would bring them in to honor them. He wanted to make heroes out of his influencers without making leaders out of them. It was not their job to lead his church, it was his.

Men who are weak in their own leadership often seek others to lead them so that they can lead their people. A strong leader is not someone who does not need the influence of others, but who does not need anyone else to lead them. I never chose Dr. Hyles to be my leader. I chose him to be my influencer and he became my hero. As my influencer, he strengthened me in areas where I needed to grow; however he did not take over my responsibility as leader. Some preachers feel lost when they lose their leader. One of the most liberating days of your life will be the day you realize you do not need someone to lead you, if you are the leader. You need someone to influence you.

Dr. Hyles had many influencers, but few leaders. He did not belong to many groups where a leader was needed. He was not a part of a convention or a fellowship, so he did not require a leader. He did not attach himself to many organizations because he was independent. When he did attach himself to a group, such as the Sword of the Lord, he was careful not to allow Dr. Rice’s leadership to prevent his influence, nor did he allow Dr. Rice’s influence to extend beyond the realm over which Dr. Rice had the responsibility for leadership. He was careful not to overlap the two.

Here is a critical truth and one I am thankful I learned early. Just because we give influence to a man does not mean we should give the same influence to the institution that man leads. For example, Dr. Hyles wanted the influence of Bob Jones, Sr., but he did not give that same influence to Bob Jones University. He did not give the assistant editor of the Sword of the Lord the same influence he gave to Dr. John Rice. He did not allow Tennessee Temple to have as strong an influence over him as Dr. Lee Roberson. In fact, he often gave influence to a man whose institution he could not have followed. Many institutions have hurt a church because the institution was given influence that should have been reserved solely for the man, then when the man was gone the institution changed.

Another important truth is that influence cannot be handed down. When one leader passes off the scene you don’t automatically give the successor that influence over your life. When Jack Hyles died I did not give his successor influence in my life. I did not make him the hero in my people’s life. His successor had been appointed to a position of leadership in an institution, but he had not earned the right to influence me. A position does not earn influence. Many a successor has not been worthy of influencing my life or of being made a hero to my people.

Never make a hero out of a position. Make a hero out of a man who may or may not have a position. Many people have continued to give influence to successors because, somewhere along the line, they turned their allegiance from the man to the institution. I support the successor’s right to the position of leadership, but I do not transfer the influence I allowed their predecessor.

This lesson is one that we must learn. If God has made you the leader, then lead. You do not need a leader if you are the leader. However, you do need those who can influence you in areas where you need to be strengthened, and who can counsel you in decisions you must make. Be careful in this principle. Many of us mistakenly want a leader when what we really need is an influencer. Do not appoint someone to a position that does not exist.

Dr. Hyles set an example for us by choosing several men who had qualities he needed, and making them his influencers and heroes. We should do the same thing. Rather than seeking a leader, we should carefully seek a number of influencers. Do not turn the leadership over to them. Let them influence you instead.

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