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Lessons from Jeff Foxworthy: You Might Be a Reluctant Leader If…

May 30, 2017

In June 1993, Jeff Foxworthy released his most iconic comedy album entitled You Might Be a Redneck. (For those of you who are in disbelief that this routine is nearly 25 years old, I know. It’s crazy!)

 

The album sold over three million copies and launched his career in comedy.

Some of my favorite redneck jokes are below.

“If you’ve ever made change in the offering plate at church, you might be a redneck.”

“If you own a home with wheels on it and several cars without, you just might be a redneck.”

“If you’ve ever been involved in a custody fight over a hunting dog, you might be a redneck”

“If you think that Dom Perignon is a mafia leader, you might be a redneck”

“If your idea of a 7-course meal is a bucket of KFC and a six-pack, you might be a redneck”

**Someone put together every Foxworthy redneck joke and you can read all 235 here!

 

What You May Have in Common With Jeff Foxworthy

You may not know this (I didn’t before today), but Foxworthy stumbled into his calling as a comedian. He worked for IBM for 5 years in mainframe computing before his coworkers and friends convinced him to enter a local comedy competition. Nine years after entering that competition, he released You Might Be a Redneck and the rest is history.

Foxworthy’s journey and his jokes remind of an experience many of us know all too well – being reluctant leaders who stumble into a “backdoor calling.” He only took the leap because other people’s urging was greater than his resistance. Sound familiar?

This month, I’ve written a series of posts on the theme of calling.
I explored how pain in our past can birth calling in our future. We looked at how our burdens can lead us to our calling – if they are embraced, not avoided. We looked at 3 steps to increase clarity in our callings. And last week, I shared a rapid-fire list of 10 things I’ve learned about calling (the most popular post of the series by far.)
If you want to get future posts like this straight in your inbox, enter your email below. I’ll also share my newest ebook with you for free too.

You Might Be…

Foxworthy wasn’t going to enter that local comedy contest – he had to be dragged into it. And many of us know the feeling. We’re reluctant to take steps towards what might be our callings. We don’t know for certain, bouncing between fear and courage. We resist the pull of the calling for a long time and then slip in the back door at the last minute.

I took a page out of Foxworthy’s book and made a list below about what life as a reluctant leader looks like. They aren’t jokes, but they are the stories of so many people I’ve spoken to during this series and my fifteen years of leadership experience.

You might be a reluctant leader if…

-you feel inadequate and unprepared for the challenge in front of you.

-you make excuses a long list of reasons why you shouldn’t be the person to take on this challenge.

-you have a well-reasoned argument why someone else is a wiser choice than you.

-you’re scared of what you feel you’re called to do.

-you’re looking around and waiting for someone else to step up to the plate.

-you feel like you’re being pulled into something you didn’t choose or plan for yourself.

-you are thrust into a position of influence and authority quickly and you wonder how you got here.

-you’re trying to find someone else to hand off this big challenge and problem to instead of facing it yourself.

 

reluctant leader hiding under pillows

Reluctant Leaders Dominate History

I’m not an expert in most areas. I’m not your guy for sciences, accounting, automobile repair, or legal issues.

But, as a pastor, I do know a few things about the Scriptures. And nearly every person whose life makes a mark in the Scriptures was a reluctant leader. (And if they weren’t reluctant, they sure battled insecurity or some other confidence or character issue.)

I noted a few examples…

In the book of Judges, Gideon was hiding from his enemies and tested God multiple times when his calling came.

In the book of Judges, God wanted to use Barak to conquer King Jabin of the Canaanites, but he would only go if Deborah came too.

In the book of 1 Samuel, Saul was found hiding among the bags and luggage when the people chose him as king.

In the book of Isaiah, Isaiah called himself a man of unclean lips when God called him to prophesy to the people.

In the book of Esther, Queen Esther initially resisted her cousin Mordecai’s call to stand up and speak up for her people.

In the book of Jonah, Jonah was called to preach to the people of Nineveh, but he got on a boat headed for Tarsish – the complete opposite direction.

From the Bible to the greatest leaders in world history, we find so many examples of people who resisted the call to serve and influence. With each of these reluctant leaders, they ultimately embraced their calling and made a massive impact, which is still being told today. However, their paths from reluctance to embrace were often long, meandering, and painful.

 

4 Hopeful Thoughts for Reluctant Leaders

If you’re a reluctant leader (or you think you might be), here’s what you need to know about embracing your calling.

It’s common to feel scared, inadequate and confused on what to do next.

When I was a little kid, I saw all of these men and women I looked up to and they seemed like they had all the answers. They appeared to have it all together, to know everything and never indicate confusion.
Now that I’m one of those adults and a parent and pastor at that, I know the truth. Those adults were either tricking me or not showing all their cards.

Most of us didn’t choose the important paths; we’re pulled in by outside forces.

In his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story, author Donald Miller shares a lesson he learned from the guru of Hollywood screenwriting, Robert McKee. Miller writes,

“Robert McKee says humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise, the story will never happen.”

When you look back on your journey to this “calling”, was it more of something you saw coming from a long way off which you chose yourself? Or was it more of something which pulled you even, maybe even against your will, and you didn’t see it coming?

Getting comfortable with your fears will make a big difference.

Fear isn’t something to be slain but rather engaged as a dance partner. It’s popular today to read people writing about “punching fear in the throat”. But, as writer Elizabeth Gilbert notes, then that involves punching ourselves in the throat.

Fear often leads us to our callings, indicating what we should do. It rarely ever goes away entirely and it’s part of who we are. It can save our lives in certain situations, so doing away with it entirely seems short-sighted. But learning to acknowledge it without letting it run the show is the important thing.

Fear often leads us to our callings, indicating what we should do. It rarely ever goes away entirely and it’s part of who we are. It can save our lives in certain situations, so doing away with it entirely seems short-sighted. But learning to acknowledge it without letting it run the show makes a big difference.

It’s okay to depend on others.

Maybe it’s a human thing, a pride thing or maybe it’s a cultural thing while growing up in America. But I think we resist surrendering our independence and embracing a dependence on others. Reluctant leaders are often fed a lie which says they have to pull it all off on their own. But reluctant leaders with wisdom know that independence is the path to failure, dependence is the path to success.

If you’re resisting the call, then you know you’ll need God’s presence and provision to overcome obstacles. You know you’ll need a team of people to make up for your weakness and deficiencies. You’ll also need a wise team of counselors and guides to help you process your past brokenness and pain without it derailing you. Like Foxworthy, you might need other people to unrelentlingly push you towards the step you’ll never take on your own.

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength and courage.

If you’re calling is big enough to be worthy of your life, you’re going to need some help.

Is This Normal?

One of the questions I hear most often from people who sit down with me for counsel and advice is “is this normal?” The question usually follows the person sharing a vulnerable and emotional struggle they are currently facing.

I’ve developed a regular reply over the years. “Well, it depends on who decides what normal means and who sets the standard for normal.” I then say something to the effect of, “I don’t know what normal is, but what you’ve just shared is very common. You’re not alone; you’ve got a lot of company.”

I answer this common question in this manner because I often sense that people are wishing to not be alone. We’re hoping we’re not the weirdo with a hangup or problem and having company makes them feel less abnormal. When we ask “is this normal?”, we’re fighting our fears which tell us we are the only one! If we hear that our struggle is common or our hangup isn’t unheard of, we breathe a sigh of relief and everything seems more manageable.

It’s very common to feel like a reluctant leader and resist your calling. But it’s also very common for reluctant leaders to become incredible leaders whose lives and choices transform the future of others, despite fear, insecurity, and uncertainty.

I hope you take a step forward towards your calling today.

How About You?

Do you ever feel like a reluctant leader?

What did you learn from this series on calling?

Please share in the comments below.

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