The Difference Between Good & Great Leaders

Luke 5:16, “But he (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” 

I remember the first sermon I ever preached. I was 18 years old, and a Pastor I knew allowed me to preach at his church in Lake Havasu. I was filled with excitement and nervousness. The Sermon was called “Plan A,” all about how Jesus must be our Plan A, not our Plan B: it was a Sermon to my 18-year-old self. 

While Preparing, I would repeatedly call my Mentor, Jared. I asked him how to prepare, what I should say, and would practice content with him. He kept on repeating something to me during that process that stuck with me until today. He kept saying, “Remember, the difference between a good sermon and a great sermon is prayer.” 

This comment was more than just a call to prayer, though. Jared was saying something much deeper than that. The difference between a great sermon and a good sermon is not what happens during the 30 minutes a pastor is on stage but is what happens behind the scenes. What makes a great sermon is what is done when nobody is watching. In the same way, what differentiates good and great leaders is who they are when nobody’s watching. 

When our eyes are on us, we often focus on who we are—saying the right things, talking to the right people, and following the proper steps to influence people. These are not bad things, but not the best thing. The best thing to focus on is what our life is like when no one is around. 

When no one is watching:

  • How do you talk?
  • What TV Shows do you watch?
  • What music do you listen to?
  • What content do you read?
  • What does your rest look like day today?
  • What does your food intake look like?
  • Do you spend time in the Word?
  • Do you work out?
  • Do you have a mentor in your life? 

How do the answers to these questions impact you and your life?

We must begin to ask the right questions and see how our inner life impacts our outer life. If our inner life is not healthy, it will not be able to sustain our outer life.* 

Jesus knew this. He would often depart to be with His Father. He knew he needed the connection to be able to sustain the ministry He had. His disciples witnessed this, and he would lead them to do the same. 

So my encouragement is this. Get rest. Pray often. Make God’s word and time with Him the biggest priority of your day. Stay active, take a Sabbath, watch what you take in. Be intentional about your inner life. 

John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Xavier Salazar is the High School Pastor at Scottsdale Bible Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.

*Emotionally Healthy Discipleship, Pete Scazerro

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