Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Apathy or Engagement?

For some men die by shrapnel,
And some go down in flames.
But most men perish inch by inch
In play at little games.
     The Night they Burned Shanghai  by Robert D. Abrahams

God is one who works.  He is always at work.  The Bible opens with God at  work creating the universe.  Jesus reminds us in John 5:17 (NIV), “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” God has grand plans and purposes which He invites us into.  Kingdom people are invited to join Him in His work, co-laboring with Him (see 1 Corinthians 3:9).

But for those who would volunteer for God’s army, there are certain conditions for ‘active duty.’  Note what the Lord says about those who would seek to enlist for His service.

2 Timothy 2:4 – No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

2 Timothy 2:20-24 – In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

Luke 14:26-33 – “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

Luke 9:23-24 – Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Life is too short to be playing silly little games.  God’s grand purposes await those who would ‘give up everything and follow Him.’  The One who launched the greatest enterprise the world has ever known – discipling the nations for Christ – beckons us join the effort and engage.

Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”

Confronting our Greatest Fear

When reflecting upon all the things in life that threaten me and induce a fear response, it seems that the final threat is the greatest – the threat of dying.  It is the ultimate threat in that it appears to be a terminus – so final and so unknown.  All of life we are working to advance the Kingdom, fulfill a personal destiny and serve others.  But with death all of this appears to end.

Jesus says to us in John 14:1-3 (ESV), “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  When Jesus says “I will” do something, it will be done!

Death is not a terminus, rather it is a junction.  It is a transition from one form of existence to another.  We finally fulfill our ultimate destiny – seeing Jesus face-to-face and joining those who have gone this path before us.  We exchange our current reality for one much more real for the rest of eternity.

Paul reminds us of our destiny in 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (ESV), “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

I was recently encouraged by the following poem from the great hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, titled ‘Some Day.’

Some day the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing;
But, O the joy when I shall wake
Within the presence of the King!

And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story, saved by grace:
And I shall see Him face to face,
And tell the story, saved by grace.

Some day my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon ’twill be,
But this I know—my All in all
Has now a place with Him for me.

Or some day when my Lord will come,
And called to meet Him I’ll be blest,
He then will say to me, “Well done,”
And I shall enter into rest.

Some day, till then I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior I will greet,
My faith will then be changed to sight.

Until such time as the Lord calls us home, let us do the work He has asked of us, not shrinking back in fear due to present difficulties. He has given all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”   1 Corinthians 15:54-55  ESV

Responding to Fear

Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’  So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.   Acts 27:23-25  NIV

Paul and his shipmates had been driven across the Mediterranean by a storm for the past two weeks.  The crew had lost all hope of survival and all were in a state of despair.  With no sign of abatement in the tumult, out steps Paul with a word of hope for all.

The previous night an angel from the Lord had appeared to Paul and promised to see him out of this storm and on to Rome.  Paul exhorts those onboard not to lose hope, respond with courage, for he believed what God had promised.

Note that Paul takes a public stand that God would do exactly as He promised, regardless that present circumstances seemed to preclude a good outcome.  It was Paul’s faith in God’s promises that they were encouraged not to lose hope and keep up their courage.

Like Paul, faith in the promises of God can be contagious and bring hope when others have lost their own.  As Kingdom leaders we can be confident in God’s faithfulness to His promises and point others to these, boldly proclaiming that we believe that He will do exactly what He has promised to do.

For those of this world, confidence in their own ability experience or resources, is the response to fear.  But when those worldly resources are exhausted hope is lost and a sense of gloom can take over. For Kingdom people – God’s children – faith is the opposite of fear.  But our faith is based upon God, His promises and power to never leave us or forsake us in our trials.  It is founded on the reality that He never changes and has promised to never leave us. He will see us through every trial that He allows to touch us.

We must avoid the sin of presumption, for presumption acts based upon zeal or worldly wisdom, without God’s direction.  Presumption is foolishness and God will expose it.  David prayed in Psalm 19:13 (ESV), “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”

The storms of life come upon all people (see Matthew 7:24-27).  But only one type of person stands the test – those who hear the Word of God and obey it.

May we be those people and point others to the ONE who will see us through the storm!

Acting in Faith, not Fear

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”   Luke 12:32  NIV

Jesus frequently talked to His followers about the subject of fear.  In particular, He exhorted them to not be controlled by their fears, rather respond to fear with faith in God.

Note what He says in Matthew 8:26 (NIV): He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  That is, why are you so fearful that your fear has taken control of you.  Jesus had led them into the boat, into the storm and was with them in the midst of the storm.

In Hebrews 11:7 (NIV) we read of the response of Noah as he confronted his fear. “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.”  Noah’s fear of God and His promised punishment of the world’s sin moved him to build an ark and protect his family.  It was an act of faith as it appears that to this time there had never been rain on the earth.  It was by faith that Noah acted based upon what God had promised to do.  Noah’s holy fear was a combination of fear and faith.

In Luke 12:4-7 (ESV) Jesus reminds us of this Kingdom truth regarding having a holy fear of God, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  And the author of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 10:31 (ESV), “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” 

Kingdom leaders are called to respond by faith when facing  threats that cause fear.  Faith does not deny the reality of these threats, but rather, sees them in perspective of God, His promises and His power.  “Nothing is impossible for Him” (Luke 1:37).  A faith response results in courage to meet the threat and act because of the greater reality of God’s ability and faithfulness.

What is controlling you today – faith or fear?

 

Frozen by Fear

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   Mark 4:40 NIV

Fear is an emotion we experience in response to a perceived threat that could be harmful.  Like all God-given emotions, fear is morally neutral; it’s not good, bad or purple.

Fear can be protective as it warns us of something that may be dangerous.  Imagine you are walking in the woods alone, enjoying the solitude and beauty of God’s creation, when suddenly the peace of the moment is jarred by the sounds of rustling, dry leaves and cracking sticks behind you.  Adrenaline is immediately released into your blood stream.  Your heart rate jumps, blood pressure increases, pupils dilate and you quickly move to high sense of alertness.  Is it a bear?  Perhaps it’s a mountain lion?  Or is it just a squirrel or a rabbit?  This reflex-like response is God-given to protect us. Once the potential threat is identified – oh, it was a squirrel – our fear abates and our physiology returns to normal.

Fear can be paralyzing and destructive causing us not to act if we let fear control us.  “Like a deer in the headlights” describes one who is frozen by fear with no response to the on-coming threat.  Kingdom leaders can experience extreme fear of the unknown future that seems so foreboding and too difficult or challenging to want to think about.  They ‘freeze’ and fail act, hoping that the threat will just go away and leave them alone.

God has no fear, for nothing is a threat to Him!  Kingdom leaders have the God knows no fear as One who promises to never leave us – even in the valley of the shadow of death.  Note the exhortation from Jesus in the passage above:  “Why are you so afraid?”  That is, why are you letting your fear control your actions to the point of panic.  His response was to point them to faith – faith in Him. He had said we are going to the other side of the lake, not going to the middle and drown!

Kingdom leaders respond with faith when confronting our fears.  We acknowledge our fears, but do not let our fears dictate our actions. Rather, we act by faith in God who knows the future, who sovereignly controls the present and is powerfully able to deal with any threat we may face now or then.

Frozen or full of faith?  Which are you during these foreboding days?

Vision Casting

Effectively casting vision never comes to an end. It is a discipline.     Derwin Gray

Casting vision is one of the primary responsibilities of a leader and Kingdom leaders especially must align this vision with God’s eternal purposes.  In the quote above we are reminded that vision casting is an on-going process, not an event.

Vision is a faith statement about an unknown future that we see by faith.  Vision statements usually have a time horizon of 5-10 years out in front of our current reality.  Beyond 10 years it’s difficult to have a clear vision due to the rapidity of change and the multitude of unexpected influences that can impact the vision outcomes.

Good vision statements have three common characteristics: they are clear, concise and compelling.

First, they must be clear.  That is, the vision must be clear enough to see the destination or outcome.  An unclear vision makes it difficult for others to decide if they want to join with us or support it financially.

Secondly, they must be concise.  Vision statements that are too long or too complicated are not memorable or easily repeated.  Conciseness takes effort to choose exactly the right words that convey enough to help others visualize where we are going, but not so wordy that it seems complicated or confusing.

Lastly, good vision statements are compelling.  They demand a response from us.  They capture our hearts, not our heads.  They raise our sights to the future and inspire us to act.  They draw us to join in and help make that future vision a reality.  They are easy to recruit other to because they are big enough to allow room for many to join with us.

Casting vision is a primary job of the team leader.  You are the primary mouthpiece for the vision.  If you share an unclear vision then those around you will be even more unclear as they are forced to ‘translate’ what you have said into their context.

Vision much be repeated again and again, for it comes into and out of focus for those we lead.  Changing realities and ‘glorious opportunities’ can divert attention from what was once very clear, but now seems less important or even boring.  Keeping the vision before those we lead is a discipline that we develop as we lead, always reminding those around us of ‘why’ and ‘what’ we are about.

Vision – don’t leave home without it!

Leading with Courage – 5

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!               Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

The power of modeling courage is not hard to imagine.  One leader who leads courageously will encourage others to do the same.  You can be catalytic in your courageous leadership.  Below are several examples of courage that can serve to inspire and motivate you and others.

Abraham and the Offering of Isaac   (Genesis 22:1-24)

God chose to test Abraham by telling him to offer his only son as a burnt offering (v. 1-2).  Abraham displays courage immediately in his response as he rose early (v. 3) to assure completion of the journey.  After 3 days of travel he saw the mountain God led him to. He told the men traveling with him to stay behind as he and his son would worship and return to them (v. 5).  This statement not only displays his faith and hope but also the courage Abraham possessed to go alone to the mountain top to offer his only son.   Abraham’s immediate reward was the salvation of his son and God’s provision of a ram for offering instead (v. 13).  One can only imagine the impact on Isaac for the rest of his life.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego   (Daniel 3)

The king, Nebuchadnezzar, made an image of gold (v. 1) for the province of Babylon to worship.  He assembled the residents and authorities to hear his proclamation (v. 4-6) commanding worship of this idol or death by being cast into a furnace of blazing fire. Once it was recognized that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not obey the proclamation (v. 12), King Nebuchadnezzar sent for them (v. 13).  Standing before the king, they were confronted with the king’s commands.  Without hesitation, bold in courage, they told Nebuchadnezzar that their God was above all others and able to rescue them, if he chose to do so, and that they would not worship his gods or images. The king responded in anger and had them thrown into the furnace (v. 23).  Because of their faithfulness and courage to give the king an honest answer, risking death, the Most-High God (v. 26) saved them and changed the life of the king and Babylon.

Perhaps you will not be asked to risk death or sacrifice a loved one, but life is full of challenges that call for courageous responses, especially for Kingdom leaders.  What challenge are you currently facing that needs a courageous response?  Lead with courage!

Leading with Courage – 4

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.         Proverbs 28:1

The times demand courageous Kingdom leaders who fear nothing other than failing to please the Lord God Almighty.  Below are several more considerations as you face challenges that call for bold, courageous leadership decisions.

1. Be very courageous when God goes with you into a situation (He always does), asks you to do something, and promises to care for you (Genesis 22:1-12, 46:3, Exodus 14:13, Numbers 14:6-9, 21:34, Joshua 1:1-9, 8:1, 10:25, Acts 4:1-31, 5:27-32, 23:11, 27:21-25).

This type of courage seems to be related to trusting in God’s guidance and provision (Isaiah 28:16).  It results from spending time with the Lord (Acts 4:13) and often requires obedience on our part (1 Chronicles 22:13).

2. People want to follow a courageous leader (Joshua 1:18, Ezra 10:1-5).

3. People lose courage when they know God is working against them (Joshua 2:9-11, 5:1, 1 Samuel 4:5-7, 18:12-15, 28-29, Nehemiah 6:15-16).  Then those who God is working with can gain courage (Judges 7:10-11).

4. It is very important to stimulate one another in courage (Ezra 10:1-5, Colossians 3:21).  Notice the encouragement patterns between God, Moses, Joshua and Israel (Numbers 13-14, Deuteronomy 31:6, 23, Joshua 1:6-9, 18, 10:25).

5. Courage involves being willing to rebuke people, especially those in high places
(2 Samuel 12:1-14, 2 Chronicles 26:16-18, Matthew 3:7-12, 14:3-4, Luke 3:7-20).

6. Courage also involves taking a stand for integrity and doing what is right, not easy or convenient (Deuteronomy 1:17, John 9:22).

7. Courage involves putting one’s relationship with God above all else (Daniel 3:16-18, John 11:16).

8. Lack of courage can lead to sin (Genesis 18:15, 26:7, 1 Samuel 15:24).

9. We can gain courage by looking at what God has done for us in the past (Deuteronomy  7:18).

10. Making a commitment to someone or something can give a person courage to persevere and complete the task (Ruth 1:16-18, 2:2, 3:5).

11. Courage is needed to take risks on behalf of others (Exodus 2:1-4, Joshua 2:1-6, Esther 4:12-16, 7:3-4, 8:3-6).

It’s time to take a ‘courage inventory’ regarding the leadership situations you find yourself facing today.  What courageous act is God asking of you?  Trust Him – He will never leave you!

Planning into a Turbulent Future 2

Storm clouds precede a coming change, but what exactly that storm will be when it arrives is unknown.  Scenario planning anticipates several possible future situations and helps us prepare for the coming changes. It is not a lack of faith, but it is wisdom to anticipate the coming storms.

Here’s some practical ideas on how to lead your team in scenario planning:

  1. Scenario planning requires that leaders think ahead in order to stay proactive and not reactive in their leadership.  While one can’t be too detailed in future scenario plans, one can anticipate possibilities and likely responses.  Then, as the future becomes clearer, we add more details and follow one of our most likely scenarios.
  2. A key word is “if”  – that is, if this happens, then this should be your response.  If….then… thinking and planning is scenario planning.
  3. When thinking about a future scenario, you must first determine the time horizon for your planning.  To use a weather metaphor – are you thinking about the blizzard, the winter season or the beginning of a ‘little ice age?’
  4. Start future scenario thinking by taking stock of your current reality.  Use a tool like a SWOT analysis (current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to think on a macro scale for the whole.  Once you have a handle on the current reality, then begin to think and plan for possible future scenarios within your time horizon.
  5. It seems wise and prudent to think out scenarios dealing with three possible futures:  1) minor changes in the future (we go back to almost our previous normal, with a few minor adjustments – like normal start dates are pushed back a little); 2) some significant changes that impact our ability to serve as we have in the past (fall schedule is disrupted – virtual connections continue; access to our audience is difficult, funding gets difficult due to a poor economy and job losses); and 3) major changes (this is ‘little ice age’ thinking – what we thought was just for several months, now looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future).
  6. Do this scenario thinking with your leadership team because there will be differing perspectives from different people and especially if you are geographically dispersed.  Being more inclusive in this will help with ownership and build a ‘guiding coalition’ for leading change as you go forward (see Kotter’s book – Leading Change).
  7. Always remember that the future is known by the Lord and His Spirit can help you anticipate it and prepare wisely for it.  Listen to Him for guidance.  He’s vested in your ‘success’ because His name, glory and purposes are at stake.  Trust Him to lead you.

Be wise.  Be safe.  Be bold!  Trust Him who knows the future!

Planning into a Turbulent Future 1

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.  As you enter the house, greet it.  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.     Matthew 10:11-14  ESV

Jesus was preparing His disciples for a short-term mission assignment.  He gave them very specific instructions on what to take or not take with them, the audience of their mission and how they were to interact with those they were sent to.  But note that He also helps them anticipate various responses when they enter the villages – both when received positively and also when they are rejected.  He is helping them by doing some scenario planning.

When Jesus sends the two disciples to get a colt, he again helps them anticipate a possible response to those who might think they are stealing it (see Mark 11:1-7).  And it came to pass exactly as anticipated.

Now this is fascinating because Jesus knows the responses they will receive, but they don’t.  Thus, He gives them some preparation so that they are not taken by surprise and have some forethought on how to deal with differing scenarios.  Scenario planning that anticipates several possible future situations is not a lack of faith, but rather it is wisdom.

The enemy will always try to take your focus off the Lord and place it on our threatening circumstances.  While paying attention to and planning for current and possible realities, always, always keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Key your head up and your eyes fixed on Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.     Hebrews 12:1-2  ESV

Next we will address how to do wise scenario planning… stay tuned!

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