There's a great scene in the football movie Remember the Titans, a movie about the struggle of a Virginia town to successfully integrate it's black and white schools into a single unit . Petey, the de-facto leader of the black football players argues with Gerry Burtier, an all-American and the leader of the white players, about why no one is playing as a team. Gerry accuses Petey of playing selfish, show-off football at the expense of his teammates and Petey accuses Gerry of not leading, of not stepping up and getting his white teammates to block for the black quarterback. They both get angry with each other and then the story moves on. You think that is the end of it. Until, in the middle of practice, Gerry lays into one of his white teammates for not blocking. Petey responds on the next play by doing some non-selfish, team-oriented blocking of his own. The scene culminates in the first true bonding experience for a team which goes on to win the state championship. All because the leaders stepped up and led.
There's a story in the book of judges that reminds me of that scene. In Judges 4-5, we see what should be the story of Barak. Apparently, God has called Barak to step up and deliver the Israelites from King Sisera who is oppressing them. But Barak hasn't done it. Deborah, the only female judge that we know of, calls him on it. "Hasn't the Lord commanded you to go?" she asks him. Barak, apparently uncertain of himself and unwilling to lead, tells Deborah that he will only go if she goes with him. As a result, we know the passage as the story of Deborah and Jael, another woman who kills the oppressive king by driving a stake through his head. Barak is almost an afterthought. Deborah sings a song when the battle is over and the first line of the song is telling, "When the leaders lead…praise the Lord."
The story puts me in mind of all the times we miss out on the blessings God has for us because we refuse to step up when we know we should. How many times do we yield glory that God intended for us or for our churches because we refuse to step up and lead? How often does ministry simply go undone because we are too uncertain of ourselves or too insecure to step out on a limb, take a risk, and lay everything we have out there? God calls each of us to lead in different ways at different times. Sometimes, it is in the church. At other times, we are called to lead in the workplace or in our families or among our friends. Sometimes, God calls us to step out and lead our communities or our states or nations. Are we missing out on the blessings God has for us? Are the people around us missing out on God's blessing because we refuse to step up?
"When the Leaders lead in Israel,
When the people volunteer,
Praise the Lord!" (Judges 5:2, HCSB)