Recently I was cleaning my desk (a rare event indeed) and I ran across some old forms filled out by students applying for college leadership positions. In the past eight years we've had hundreds of young men and women involved in our ministry as Bible study and service team leaders.
As I scanned the applications, I noticed a pattern. There was one consistent character trait shared by every difficult and unproductive leader. To my surprise, I had often noted it during the application and interview process. Most students who shared this trait clashed with authority, struggled to keep people in their groups, and experienced significant conflict with other leaders. Few of them lasted in leadership for more than one year.
It wasn't a lack of gifting -- in fact, many of these students were the most gifted ones in their peer group.
It wasn't a lack of personal purity -- some students who struggled with pornography, sexual sin, or eating disorders eventually grew to be faithful and effective leaders.
What was the one trait that predicted failure, then?
Lack of teachability.
Without exception, every student who failed in leadership simply refused instruction and correction. If anyone suggested areas of improvement, these students made excuses or changed the subject. Every time somebody tried to teach them something new, the unteachable leaders simply said, "Yeah, I know that already."
As a result, they never grew beyond spiritual infancy. In some cases they seemed less mature when they left their leadership positions than when they started.
A person who never listens is a person who will never grow. That shouldn't surprise us. Look at what Proverbs says on this subject:
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice" (Proverbs 12:15).
"A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool" (Proverbs 17:10).
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion" (Proverbs 18:2).
"Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him" (Proverbs 27:22).
Lack of teachability is the quick road to spiritual immaturity. If we want to grow, we must learn to listen. If we want to become more like Jesus, we need to understand that we're not there yet. Not even close. The godly person knows that and so eagerly seeks wisdom and correction.
So take a look at your own life. Are you quick to listen, or do you always need the final word? Do you trust the authority God has placed in your life or do you argue and make excuses? Do you already know everything, or are you willing to learn?
The answer to those questions will play a huge role in determining whether you progress toward spiritual maturity or whether you remain in your folly.
Question: Are there areas in which it's particularly hard for you to accept correction? How can you and I become more teachable in order to grow in maturity?
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