Leading Softly


“Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir” (Genesis 33:14). 

Jacob had been reunited with his brother Esau. It was Esau as you may recall that Jacob had cheated of his birthright, which meant Jacob received what Esau would have received, which involved three things.

(1) He received the double portion of the inheritance of his father, which should have been Esau’s

(2) He received the priestly rights of the family, which should have been Esau’s

(3) He received the right to be in the lineage of the Messiah, which should have been Esau’s

Esau should have been listed in Matthew in the genealogy of Christ, but Jacob was listed because Jacob cheated Esau out of the genealogy. After twenty years of separation Jacob decides to make it right with Esau. Jacob is the leader of the two because of the deception. However, note verse fourteen where it says, “…I will lead on softly…”

I promise if you will pay attention to this article you will discover one of the great secrets to success in the work place, family, church, and in people relationships. All of us are leaders in some respect! Everyone leads someone! You may not realize it, but you are leading someone and probably many someones.

You may be a mother or a father. You may be a Sunday school teacher. You may be an usher. You may be a senior in High School. You may be a Sunday school bus worker. In any case you have a degree of leading of others. Much more than what title you have is the fact that you provide leadership for others.

This is one of the secrets of success. It is a secret that a local church may employ, a secret to a happy marriage, a happy staff, or a happy institution.

Years ago the late Coach Butch Madden of the Hammond Baptist football team went soul winning with me one day in Hammond, Indiana. He knocked on the front door of this house and a lady came to the door. Butch began to witness to her and she became upset and told Butch, in no uncertain terms, she was a Methodist and happy with her church. She slammed the door in our faces.

Butch went to the back door of the same house. He knocked on the door. The same lady came to the door. Before she could say a word Butch said, “I hope you are near as mean as that woman I met at the front door?” I swallowed deep and waited for a frying pan to come our way. However, the woman laughed and the next thing I know we are giving her the gospel and she trusted Christ as her Saviour.

One of the children went home from church after I had thrown a fit in my preaching and he told his mom, “Mama God sure was mad today!” One day a lady said to me, “Which of you is the real Dr. Bob Gray? The one in the pulpit or the one in the office?” There is a balance that is necessary in order to provide the atmosphere necessary to lead successfully. Not all sermons can be red hot and neither can all office visits be warm and fuzzy!

Dr. Jack Hyles was the leader of fundamentalism without ever demanding such. He knew people like no man I have ever known in my seventy-three years of living. One time he mentioned to me in his opinion the three greatest leaders of fundamentalism in the last fifty years of his own life:  Dr. John R. Rice, Evangelist Lester Roloff, and Dr. Lee Roberson.

Of course I would say that Dr. Hyles was a composite of all of these men of God that he admired and respected himself. Dr. Hyles studied these men and other men to garner the best qualities of all and make them a part of his own life. I believe was successful in doing so!

My observation of Dr. John Rice was not what the average person thought his persona was like. Dr. Rice was as laid back type of a preacher as in his later years. Dr. Rice was not dynamic. The truth is in his later years he rarely ever raised his voice when he preached. Dr. Rice was just not the type of person you would figure to be the leader of a great fundamental movement but he was!

Evangelist Lester Roloff was almost a recluse! No one knew Lester Roloff very well. He did not live like the rest of the people lived. He had never tasted a Big Mac in his life. Whoppers to him were fat people! He ate nothing but healthy foods!

If you had seen Lester Roloff you would have been surprised for he was not very tall and he was skinny. His personality was an unimposing personality until he walked into the pulpit. If you chatted with him personally you would never suspect him to be a great leader of fundamentalism but he was!

Dr. Lee Roberson was not an extravert! Dr. Roberson personally was a very quite man. A very retiring personality until he mounted the pulpit! If you sat next to Dr. Roberson on a plane you would never presume him to be a great leader of fundamentalism, but he was!

I was privileged to preach with Dr. Jack Hyles the last twenty-two years of his life. The last eleven years almost every week we were together in meetings. I have had the honor of spending hundreds of hours with him. Personally he was not an extrovert by nature. He was the life of the party when others were around, but he would rather be alone.

I have been with him when the enemies attacked him ruthlessly. I’ve seen the tears drop off of his cheeks. I watched in a meeting in Detroit one time when it looked liked he had aged in our very presence. To his credit I have seen him quickly bounce back into the battle as if there was a breath of God on him. To sit next to him you would sense he was different, but his physical presence would never lead you to think of him as a leader of fundamentalism but he was!

Dr. Hyles penned in one of his books why Dr. Rice, Evangelist Roloff, and D. Roberson were leaders. He wrote that Dr. Rice knew something that other people wanted to learn! Evangelist Lester Roloff knew someone that other people wanted to know! Dr. Lee Roberson did something that other people wanted to do! I would add that Dr. Jack Hyles was a combination of all three!

Here is one of the secrets in my mind. I knew Dr. Rice! I knew Evangelist Lester Roloff! I knew Dr. Lee Roberson! I knew Dr. Jack Hyles! All four led softly!

What does that phrase mean?



A man who wants to lead is not and will never be a good leader. He will eventually become a compromiser in order to preserve his leadership. I never did like being boss! I hated to have to scold any one! I hated it with a passion! However, I would do it for the sake of the work and the worker!


Real leaders are wrapped up and baptized in a cause and do not plan to be great leaders someday. They are captured by a cause that is greater than them that lifts them up above themselves and beyond themselves. These men were consumed with winning the unsaved, teaching the saved, and being there for their people! It is true that Dr. Hyles did not use his work to build his ministry but used his ministry to build his people.


I am thinking of General Douglas McArthur who was trained at West Point. Do you know how they train those men to be leaders at West Point? They do it by training them to be followers first!

I am thinking of one who succeeded a giant of the faith’s ministry. All of a sudden it was discovered that he had disagreed with his leader for many years but hypocritically covered it up until he, like Absalom won the hearts of the deacons, wiggled his way into leadership. He was not a great follower and thus he was not a great leader.

You do not become a leader by learning to be a leader. You become a leader by learning to be a follower. To the degree of the greatness of ones followship determines the greatness of ones leadership!


They are not concerned nor consumed about promotion for they are anxious about doing their job well. Their focus is on that which their hand has found to do. Fantasy or fantasizing will always be self-centered and self-destructive! The person who is always contemplating the future is neglecting the present, which in essence is neglecting the future. It is robbery to steal from tomorrow at the expense of today!

  1. Forceful people do not make good leaders because no one can be successful leading by force. A soft answer turns away wrath! Blessed are the peacemakers! I have seen their exercising of their position in order to procure and secure things being done decently and in order but never at the expense of forcing their agenda.


Dr. Hyles would often comment how he was voted down at staff meetings. I have also experienced such degradation! Ha! The infrastructure must be maintained in any organization but this is really with the consent of all involved for no one was forced to be apart of the organization.

Gideon was never trained to be a leader. Gideon was busy threshing wheat behind the wine press when the Angel of the Lord surprised him and said, “All, hail thou mighty man of valour!” Gideon was the runt kid, of the runt family, of the runt tribe, and of the runt nation of the world.

Gideon was an introvert! He was a John R. Rice, a Lester Roloff, a Lee Roberson, and a Jack Hyles! All of a sudden an angel appeared to Gideon called him a mighty man of valor. Check out Gideon’s response, “Oh, my Lord!” Gideon was surprised for sure!

Moses was on the backside of the desert taking care of some sheep. He was simply doing his job! There was not one thought of being a leader. All of a sudden he saw a bush burning that was not consumed. God surprised him and called him to lead the Israelites.

Jeremiah is another example! God came to Jeremiah and told him He wanted him to be a prophet. What did Jeremiah say, “I’m just a child!” Moses said, “I can’t do it. I have poor speech!” Jeremiah said, “I can’t do it. I’m just a child!”

David was such an unlikely leader he was not even recommended by his own father. All of his brothers were called on to be anointed as king and David was not even there.

Here is the problem the great generals of the future who do nothing now and have no cause now and live for no one but themselves now. They will not amount to very much tomorrow!

A person who attempts to lead forcefully will not amount to very much, but those who work hard, study, love, led people to Christ, and live for someone besides themselves will one day attract what they are! These are the ones who will surprise everyone and themselves by finding themselves in a place of great leadership.

Missionary Kevin Wynne was the last likely person in the fundamental world to build a great work on the mission field of Mexico City, Mexico. Yet, he has the largest church in the entire country of Mexico. He has the largest Independent Baptist Church in the world running 20,000 a Sunday. He is soft spoken, an introvert, short, skinny, has a lot of kids, and will hardly look you in the face to talk to you and yet he is a leader! Yet, when he mounts the pulpit he is transformed.

Missionary Rick Martin to the Philippines is short, an introvert, soft spoken, and skinny. Neither Rick nor Kevin were the big men on campus. They simply had a cause that consumed them. They were both great followers and became then great leaders. Again, Rick was transformed when he entered the pulpit.

Jephthah is another example! He was conscripted and made to become a leader. He sought no place of leadership. He was an outcast but he was sought while not seeking!

Billy Sunday is an example! He was a tent man for Evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman! He set up the tent, the chairs, and the platform, put down the sawdust, and prepared everything for the meetings.

J. Wilbur Chapman went into the pastorate and gave his tent, chairs, and songbooks to Billy Sunday. Billy Sunday did not even have a sermon to preach. He borrowed seven of J. Wilbur Chapman’s sermons.

Billy Sunday was shocked that God would use him. God is not looking for people who are looking for leadership. God is looking for people who will work and feel the hearts of the followers.

Dr. John R. Rice started out as a song leader for an evangelist! The evangelist told John R. Rice, his song leader, that the camp meeting they were in should not be stopped because God was working. So, he told John Rice to preach and keep it going while he, the evangelist, went on to the next meeting.

John Rice was shocked at what God did in that protracted meeting. John Rice borrowed some sermons because he did not have one single sermon to preach. Leadership comes to leaders for they do not seek it!

Dr. G. B. Vick was leading the singing for an evangelist and Dr. J. Frank Norris sought G. B. Vick. Dr. Vick was eventually sent to Detroit to hold the Temple Baptist Church together for Dr. Norris. Soon Dr. Vick became the pastor of that great church without ever being ordained into the gospel ministry.

The greatest leader India ever had was a skinny little man who had no church and yet the people sought him without him seeking them. Mother Theresa dead sure did not look like a leader type. Yet, she was a leader. How did she do it? It was very simple she helped people!


Real leaders do not want to lead
Real leaders do not plan to lead
Real leaders are great followers
Real leaders are diligent in their work
Real leaders are not forceful leaders
Leadership comes to them for they do not seek it


In Ephesians chapter five God begins with the wife, in the husband wife relationship. The power is in the hand of the follower. No husband has a right to force his leadership on his wife.

It is said of Abraham that he could be trusted because he commanded his children. It does not say he was to demand anything, but he lived in such a way that it caused the family to follow him. You earn the position of leader. You do not DEMAND, but rather live in such a way to COMMAND!

The men who won WWII did not come from officer’s candidate school for they came from the farms of America. One of the great secrets to leadership is the ability to lead softly! The ability to lead others by them wanting you to lead them.