Serve With Humility and Experience God's Presence

One board chair creates a holy moment for his CEO search committee.


by Dan Busby and John Pearson


Humility is the only soil in which the graces take root;
the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation
of every defect and failure.[1]

Andrew Murray

When Jeff Lilley completed his application for the president/CEO position at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, he stopped to pray and reflect on this question:

You’re preparing for your first meeting as President, with your seven direct reports at the Mission. What are some of the key things you’ll share with them? And, list two or three books you’d like them to read and why.

Jeff recommended the book Humility by Andrew Murray (just 59 pages). He wrote:

This is a dangerous book. But I believe God is constantly seeking for the humble who will surrender their will and life to Him. If a ministry is successful and effective, it is because the Lord is guiding that ministry. The Christian community has some strained views on humility, and we often live with a false humility that sometimes hinders our effectiveness.

In addition, we have seen that the very success of our ministry sometimes creates a sense of arrogance, and this book addresses that issue well.

So—and this may surprise you—we’re not nominating Jeff Lilley to the Board Member Hall of Fame, we’re nominating two of his former board chairs!

Andy Toles, a Seattle attorney, was the board chair who, with the search committee, prayed and discerned for direction in the selection of the next leader for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. After extensive deliberation and due diligence, the committee selected Jeff Lilley. A year later, when the four committee members met to conduct Jeff’s annual performance review, one committee member interrupted with this:

Before we start, I just want to remind us all to think back a year ago, when we were interviewing the final three candidates, including Jeff, and God met us in that interview room. I will go to my grave remembering that holy moment as one of the top spiritual experiences of my life.

Some board chairs favor delegation instead of discernment. Not Andy Toles. Not only did this board chair lead an extraordinarily effective search process that resulted in a new ministry leader, but God also used him as the catalyst for a defining God moment in the life of a fellow board member.

Hence, we nominate Andy Toles to the Board Member Hall of Fame!

Toles is representative, of course, of thousands and thousands of board chairs and board members across the nation who serve humbly, faithfully, and with joy. God blesses leaders with character. As General Norman Schwarzkopf once noted, “Leaders need two things—character and strategy. If you can do only one, drop strategy.[2]

While there is no actual Board Member Hall of Fame (to our knowledge), we do encourage boards to celebrate excellence in the boardroom and to affirm board members for their faithfulness and fruitfulness.

Who would you nominate to the Board Member Hall of Fame?



In the busyness of board work, invite God’s presence
to permeate your agenda, your decisions, and your relationships.
You’ll be creating the space for holy moments—those times in our earthly service
when board members are listening and Heaven speaks.

Treasure those times.

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Share: Give copies of Humility, by Andrew Murray, to each board member.
  2. Discuss: Humble, hungry, and smart (people smart) are the critical virtues for a team, says Patrick Lencioni in The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues.[3] Would others affirm that your board leads with humility?
  3. Nominate: As a boardroom exercise, team up in groups of two and invest seven minutes in discussing what might be the criteria for your board’s nominee to the Board Member Hall of Fame.



Lord, help our board to be truly present, in every sense of the word,
during our board meetings. Amen.



[1]Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness (Radford, VA: Wilder, 2008), 9.

[2] E. LeBron Fairbanks, Dwight M. Gunter II, and James R. Couchenour, Best Practices for Effective Boards (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill, 2012), 57 (quoting General Norman Schwarzkopf).

[3] Patrick Lencioni, The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues (Hoboken, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2016), 157-61.

From Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, 2018,

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.