Are you a Leader Worth Following?

Leadership has always been a buzzword in organizations, movements, and churches. There are countless of books out there that would teach you how to be a great leader. My first exposure to leadership was when I was 12 years old. My youth pastor then, Pastor Ferdie Cabiling, who is now the executive director of Victory Metro Manila, looked at me straight in the eye and told me the four most powerful words to a clueless 12 years old me – “YOU ARE A LEADER.”

I didn’t know what that entailed, or the implications of his words but something was awakened in me that day. I AM A LEADER!

I thought Pastor Ferdie would then put me in a classroom and teach me the intricacies of leadership. I thought I would be given books to read on leadership and pass a reaction paper for him to analyze my thoughts about the subject.

Instead, my pastor showed me what leadership was. One of the favorite lines I heard from him was that for you to know if you are a leader – look back and see if anyone is following. Since I was 12 years old, I knew God was going to do something big in my life not because I was qualified but because as a Christian, I was called to be a light and salt to the world.

But just like any young leader, I wanted to take the shortcut to leadership. I wanted people to follow me instantly. I thought by reading leadership books – I am a great leader. I thought by listening to great leaders – I am a leader. I thought I could pretend to be a leader and try to get people to follow me.

In our generation today – we have people branding themselves as leaders in their field without any prior leadership experience. We have first-time parents blogging on how to be great parents. We have start-up entrepreneurs writing about how to be successful in business. We think that leadership is declared and not earned.

I remember an exceptional leadership moment I had with Pastor Ferdie. I was around 17 years old at that time and was being invited left and right to speak to youth organizations in the country. I was so excited to tell him how famous I have become and how I am now known as a leader in youth leadership development. He looked at me and smiled. He then took out a paper and told me, “Dennis, can you write down the names of the people you are discipling?”

He rained on my parade that day because I could only write two names on that paper that was following my leadership. It was a wake-up moment for me. I was a speaker – I wasn’t leading. I could communicate well, but I wasn’t leading well. What I thought was leadership was just me taking a walk.

The leadership lesson I learned that day was for me to look at this man who never gets tired to develop real leadership in me. I had to swallow my pride and observe the man who showed me what a follow-worthy leader is and start living out the principles he was teaching me. What made Pastor Ferdie a leader worth following?

What makes you a leader worth following?



The hook that got me to follow Pastor Ferdie was his passion for a vision bigger than himself. When he told me I was a leader at the age of 12 – he didn’t just say it – he showed it. At that time, we have a youth ministry with less than 500 people, but when you visited his office, you would see a map of the Philippines with colorful thumbtacks pinned on the map. I asked him what the thumbtacks are for?

He then explained to me that the thumbtacks I see on the map are the existing groups of young people that have started discipleship groups in their campuses. He said that there would come a time when the map in his office will be filled with thumbtacks because of the young people who would embrace the vision to honor God and make disciples.

As of 2015, Every Nation Campus Ministries is on 457 campuses nationwide and disciples 15700 students all across the Philippines.

Another aspect of vision casting is that it need to be clear cut. The best-selling author of the book THE ADVANTAGE, Patrick Lencioni shared that the way for organizations to be healthy is for the leader to cast the vision clearly. Vision leaks, therefore, we must overcommunicate it and make sure it is crystal clear to the people under our leadership the what and why we are doing what we are doing.



A moment of painful clarity for me in my journey as a follow-worthy leader was the realization that I am not the superstar. Jesus is.

To live out humility is to acknowledge that every success we experience as leaders happened because of the grace of God. During the 90’s our youth ministry was growing at an accelerated rate. We would have people come to Christ in droves every week. I was so ecstatic to be part of such a growing, dynamic youth ministry in the city. It seems like everything we do was spot on! I was then assigned to be the youth pastor of our new church plant at the Fort. I thought to start a youth service was going to be easy. In less than 18 months, we had to close down our youth service because only the worship team volunteers were attending our services.

For the first time in my life – I cried like a baby that night. I felt like a failure. I was used to the success of ministry and took pride in the fruits of the ministry not knowing that I have been drifting in my dependence on God and was relying on my strength. It was that day that I asked the Lord to be the youth pastor of the church.

Looking back at what seems like a failure was a day of victory for me. God taught me an unforgettable lesson in humility.

1 Corinthians 3:6 English Standard Version (ESV)

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

We are called by God to plant the seeds and water it, but at the end of the day, it is God who will make His church grow.

I am privileged to be part of a church movement where it is never about one person or built upon a personality. It is all about Jesus.


One of the common theme during elections in our country is HOPE. President Obama used the tagline HOPE in his campaign. Our local officials running for president is also using the word HOPE. Our people are looking for individuals who can inspire confidence in us. Hope is the engine that makes our lives go. Hope gives me the reason to wake up every morning and do the assignment God has given me.

To be a follow-worthy leader, we have to inspire hope. Our leadership must give the people a fighting chance for change to happen in our organization and our nation.

Where does a leader get his hope so he can inspire hope to his people? 

1 Thessalonians 1:3 (ESV)

remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we lead our people, let us make sure that we point them to our source of hope – Jesus. Through Christ, we can inspire hope in seasons of success and seasons of trial in our leadership.

Let us strive not just to be a leader but to be a leader that is worth following!

Here is an episode of me talking about how Pastor Ferdie spotted me when I was young!


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