Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

God’s Preparation of a Leader

Paul was raised the son of a Pharisee and sent to study under Gamaliel, the best education available for an aspiring young religious leader of his day.  He progressed well in his education, eventually becoming an expert in the Jewish Law and demonstrating zeal beyond most of his peers as he sought to persecute what he believed to be a Jewish sect called the Way.

About the age of 30, Paul was on his way to Damascus to find members of this new sect and bring them back to prison in Jerusalem.  Along the road, Jesus appears to him and tells Paul that he will now become a messenger to carry the gospel to Gentiles, their kings, and the Jewish people.  What a life-altering, paradigm shifting experience that must have been!

But, all of Paul’s training and zeal did not prepare him to begin immediately to carry out this calling.  God needed to prepare and shape him for this mission.  Here’s a chronology of Paul’s life from conversion to his first of three missionary tours as outlined by Frank Goodwin in his Harmony of the Life of St. Paul.

  1. Paul’s Conversion and Early Christian Life   36-45 AD   Acts 9:1-30; 11:19-30
  2. Conversion at Damascus   36 AD   Acts 9:1-9
  3. In Damascus and Arabia (3 years)   37-39 AD   Galatians 1:17
  4. Escape from Damascus   39 AD   Acts 9:20-25
  5. First Visit to Jerusalem – vision in Temple   39 AD   Galatians 1:18; Acts 9:26-29
  6. In Tarsus and Regions of Syria & Cilicia   39-43 AD   Acts 9:30
  7. In Antioch with Barnabas   44 AD   Acts 11:25-26
  8. Second Visit to Jerusalem with alms   45 AD   Acts 11:27-30
  9. 1st Missionary Journey (2 years)   45-47 AD   Acts 13-14

Note that Paul was nearly 40 years old before he began his life’s work, his destiny as described to him by the Lord when he was converted on that road outside of Damascus.  It was nine years of preparation in addition to all that he had learned and been trained in before “the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (see Acts 13).

We sometimes get impatient with our own development or the development of those around us.  The destiny may be clearly fixed, but we are struggling with the process and length of time needed to ‘get on with it.’  Why is it taking so long!!!!

Yet, it seems that one of the ways of God is a seemingly long preparation time for his leaders to enable them to truly become His instruments to accomplish His plans.  Yes, Paul was nine years in preparation from conversion to his first missionary assignment.  It may seem like a long time, but how many Apostle Paul’s have there been in history?

How’s your attitude when you consider your own growth and development?  Are you straining under God’s timetable?  Are you patient with His timing as He develops those around you?

Worldly vs Godly Wisdom

And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.    Acts 7:9-10   (ESV)

And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.     Acts 7:1, 22  (ESV)

There are two sources of wisdom for Kingdom leaders:  wisdom that comes from the world and wisdom that comes from above.  In Stephen’s testimony before his accusers, he distinguishes between these two as illustrated in the life and leadership of Joseph and Moses.

Joseph was given wisdom and favor from God when he was brought before Pharaoh and interpreted his dreams.  Having explained that the dreams meant 7 years of plentiful harvests followed by 7 years of drought, he volunteered a solution.  He suggested constructing huge granaries to store the surplus grain during the first years in order to feed the hungry during the years of famine that would follow.

Pharaoh and his counselors recognized the wisdom of this plan and Joseph was elevated to a position of number two in Egypt.  He executed the building, gathering, storing, and eventually, the distribution of the grain in the years of famine.  All of this came from the godly wisdom that was given to Joseph as the Lord sought to accomplish His purposes in and through Him.

Years later Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s court, having been adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter when she rescued him from the River Nile.  He was ‘instructed’ in all of the wisdom that the Egyptian culture had to offer.  He got the best education and training possible during his day.  But, we note that he was not ready to lead God’s people yet.

He was powerful in speech and deed according to Stephen.  But his training, education and natural ability did not make him qualified to lead God’s people out of Egypt.  He tried on his own strength and failed, eventually ending up in Midian caring for sheep for his new father-in-law Jethro.

Now, one can imagine that the sheep management system implemented by Moses was quite the setup, given all of his background.  But, it was simply a training program for God to humble him and shape him into the man God could eventually use to lead over 2 million of His people out of bondage.  Forty more years of managing sheep would bring Moses to the point where he was now ready to meet God in the burning bush.

Kingdom leaders need wisdom to lead.  And worldly wisdom based upon collective wisdom can have some advantages.  But, it will not be enough to fulfill our God-given missions.  We will need godly wisdom, given to us from Him, to see His work accomplished in His ways.

Are you trusting in the world’s wisdom only or are you pleading with God to give you His wisdom as you lead out in the task He has called you to?

It’s What You Leave Behind that Matters

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!    Hebrews 5:12  (NIV)

As we all run our individual races laid out before us, we are running hard towards our unique finish lines.  But, while our race course may be unique, we have a common goal.  That goal, to finish our race well and run towards maturity in Christ is common for all who seek to follow Christ.

We begin our race by placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord.  But that is just the ‘starting gun’ for the life-long pursuit of growing towards maturity in Him.  As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, over time we are expected to reach a maturity in Him that allows us to teach others.  The author rebukes the readers for their lack of progress, telling them that by now they should be teachers.  Instead, they are still acting like infants in need of spiritual milk rather than feeding on more substantial spiritual meat.

Mature Kingdom leaders are expected to be ‘teachers’ of those who they lead – pointing others toward that same goal and maturity they are running after.  It’s assumed that mature Kingdom leaders will take it upon themselves to invest in others, especially younger, next generation people.

It’s this vision of spiritual generations that must influence all Kingdom leaders.  Yes, we do have a mission to accomplish as we lead.  But, a key component of our leadership is to be intentionally investing in next generation future leaders who will themselves invest in others.

Successful Kingdom leaders do not just accomplish their calling and fulfill their God-given mission in advancing the Gospel and the Kingdom.  They also know that it is their legacy after they lay aside their leadership for others that will be the ultimate judge as to their success or failure as a leader.  Will there be others who follow our lead, who were invested in, prepared, developed and trained to assume their own individual responsibilities as Kingdom leaders?

It’s about what we leave behind, not just what we accomplish now.

It’s about legacy, not just activity!

 

I’m Free …. But …

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.    John 8:36 (NIV)

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.       Romans 6:18

Those who have put their faith and trust in Christ have been set free from sin and given the promise of eternal life.  Yet, this freedom has limitations and responsibility that comes with it.  God’s grace poured out upon us is not the freedom to do what we want, but rather the power to live as we ought.

Here are some sobering reminders on the exercise of our Christian freedom:

  • Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.    1 Corinthians 8:9
  • “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.            1 Corinthians 10:23
  • You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.    Galatians 5:13

Because of the influence we leaders have, others will be watching and imitating our example.  We are reminded that those who lead and influence others will be held to a higher standard.  James 3:1 states, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Yes, we have great freedom in Christ!  Hallelujah!  But… with our freedom comes responsibility to exercise it wisely for the glory of God and for the service of others, not ourselves.

Therefore…

Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.       1 Timothy 4:6

The Battle for Your Minds

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.                                 Ralph Waldo Emerson

… clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.      Romans 13:14  (NIV)

The battle is raging for the control of your thought life.  For if the enemy can gain a beachhead within your thoughts, that front will eventually expand to control more and more territory, finally expressing itself in our actions.

Often, we tend to minimize what goes on within our thoughts, saying to ourselves, “Well, at least I didn’t do it!  Yes, I may have thought it, but I didn’t act on it.”  This rationalization can lead to self-delusion, for the Lord Jesus reminds us that even to lust after a woman is the same as committing the sexually immoral act of adultery (see Matthew 5:27-30).

So, what to do when the battle rages within for control of our thoughts?  Here’s some practical suggestions:

  1. Determine to fix your thoughts upon Christ
    • Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.     Hebrews 3:1   (NIV)
  2. Arm yourself for battle by storing away God’s word within you
    • How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
      By living according to your word.I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.    Psalm 119:9,11
  3. Ask God for help as the battle rages – it is not a matter of our will power, but rather His power
    • call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.        Psalm 50:15 

The enemy is waging war against you seeking to gain a foothold within your thoughts that he might exploit further into your leadership actions.

Resist the devil and he will flee from you.   James 4:7

How’s your thought life today?

Forms and Functions

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”     Mark 2:22  ESV

As Kingdom leaders seek to advance the gospel, they take new initiatives and seek the Lord’s guidance as they pioneer.  For many, one of their greatest challenges is their own success.  What?  How can that be?

When we are trying something new and different, we are sensing a real need for the Lord to help us – to intervene on our behalf as we try new ways and means.  And, when the Lord does answer and intervene on our behalf, we rejoice and continue seeking to ‘push’ the advance further and further forward, enjoying the Lord’s favor.  But, after a period of some ‘success’ a new, more insidious challenge appears.

Our ‘success’ can cause us to focus on efficiencies and methodology.  We double down on economies of scale, leverage points, and look to maximize opportunities.  Now, in and of themselves these things are not wrong, but we can drift from our initial dependency upon the Lord and our focus now moves to our own abilities instead of seeking the Lord’s blessing and help.

When our tried and true ‘methods’ no longer seem to yield the same results, instead of seeking the Lord’s guidance for new ideas – new ‘wineskins’ – we simply put our heads down and try harder.  We think, “Well, it worked in the past, certainly it will work now; we just have to try harder.”

What we don’t understand is that we have entered into a new reality that will require a new way of serving.  It’s a new day that needs new forms for this new context.  The ‘new wine’ must find new forms for connecting with our new context.  Given the rapidity of change today, if we are not continually evaluating our ‘forms’ we are doomed to be marginalized and irrelevant very quickly.

Functions (truths anchored in the Scriptures) remain true, but the forms they take are constantly in need of updating, improving, or at times, being discontinued or replaced by more contextually relevant ‘wineskins.’  It’s not a matter of working harder or more efficiently.  It’s just that our audience is constantly changing and needing to be reached with new ways and means.

Wise Kingdom leaders will understand this process and lead out in discerning forms from functions, continually updating the former and staying focused on the latter.

Continuing the Pursuit of Godly Wisdom

Spiritual, godly wisdom springs from the knowledge of God, His character, and His Word.  This spiritual knowledge leads to spiritual understanding of how God works—the ways of God.  And spiritual understanding translates into spiritual wisdom, the final application of our knowledge of God and His ways into our daily decisions.  It is this spiritual wisdom that God gives to Kingdom leaders to help us accomplish His purposes in us and through our leadership.  It arises from spending time with Jesus and His Word, being taught by His Spirit, and learning from others who have done the same.

The catalyst for turning spiritual knowledge and understanding into spiritual wisdom is the Holy Spirit Himself, who lives within those who know Christ.  He guides us to truth, helps us discern root issues, provides creative solutions to problems, and seeks to glorify Christ in and through us.  He will bring the help that Kingdom leaders need.  In Luke 2:46-47, the Jewish religious leaders were amazed at Jesus’ answers, given His age of twelve.  It was no doubt a similar observation made about Peter and John when they were brought before the Jewish leaders, who “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Godly wisdom allows Kingdom leaders to accomplish God-given tasks in such a way that people thrive and God is glorified.  They don’t seek credit for any success because they acknowledge that success comes from Him.  They thus share the spotlight with those who serve with them.  Such leaders are attractive; people move toward them not because of their charisma but rather because they sense that God is with them.  They willingly submit to that leader’s influence.

Becoming a wise leader can help in your recruiting of talented people to your mission.  Many have an internal, Spirit-discerned ‘radar’ that can detect wisdom in others, especially other leaders.  And we move towards wise leaders, wanting to join up with them and the vision that they project.  This same ‘radar’ can also detect foolishness and warns us to stay away from those who do not project God’s wisdom.

So, are you continuing in your pursuit of God’s wisdom for your life and leadership?

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

The Pursuit of Godly Wisdom

Godly wisdom is applying knowledge and understanding to life situations
by considering what is pleasing to God. Our goals are measured
against the ultimate goal: a life that ends with Jesus telling us
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We never “arrive” when it comes to wisdom. We can always grow
in wisdom, for we encounter it in God Himself, who is infinite, and
therefore the wisdom He offers us is inexhaustible.

Kingdom wisdom doesn’t just happen; it must be pursued. We
can ask God for it (see James 1:5) and it will be given to us, because
He has promised to do so. Therefore, even young people with limited
personal experience can be considered wise if God has given
them wisdom from above. This is what happened with Solomon. He
acknowledged that he was young and inexperienced (1 Kings 3:7)
yet boldly asked God for “an understanding mind to govern [God’s]
people” so he could “discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).

We can and should, regardless of our age and experience, learn
godly wisdom from others. Wise spiritual mentors are invaluable to
our development. They help us continue growing throughout our
life. As we age, our mentoring needs change, moving from a whole-life
perspective to a more focused, targeted mentoring later in life.
Asking others for help in your growth and development is wise. If
you are beginning your spiritual journey, look for someone to disciple
you, helping you to become a follower of Christ. If you are
well established in your walk with Jesus, then look for someone who
demonstrates spiritual wisdom in an area that you can learn from,
someone who is strong and wise in a specific aspect of life that you
feel you lack.

Proverbs 3:13-15 reminds us, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.  She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

Have you committed yourself to the life-long pursuit of God’s wisdom?

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #7

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

By power we mean the ability to act, to produce an effect. Power involves having authority over others and possessing qualities that allow individuals to achieve their aims. Within godly leaders, this power is often seen as an inner strength—personal courage to trust God to accomplish what that leader has determined as their divine purpose. Wise leaders seek to use both positional and relational authority to serve and bless others.

Positional authority comes with the organizational title or job and is defined by one’s job description. Personal authority is authority voluntarily given by another to you based upon your character or perceived competency and is not limited by any role or responsibility. Wise leaders do not use either type of authority to promote themselves or further selfish ambition. They know that to have institutional power is not necessarily to have Kingdom power, and to have Kingdom power is not necessarily to have institutional power.

All power and authority find their source in the relational dynamic of leader and follower. Note what the devil offers Jesus in the second desert temptation: “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to” (Luke 4:5-7). Jesus would have to first acknowledge the devil’s leadership, then be given worldly power. Jesus did not refute the devil’s ability to give it. The devil has authority, but it is limited under the ultimate authority of Christ who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

Contrasted with worldly power founded on a leader-follower relationship is the power that comes from the Lord—an anointing of His Spirit that is given to accomplish His purposes in and through us. Through the blood of Christ and because of His atonement, believers now have power over sin, demons, and our ultimate enemy, death. God’s servant leaders are given authority to lead and influence others and are called to steward that influence well. Spiritual leaders will all give an account to Him of how they use this authority and influence (see Hebrews 13:17).

Are you stewarding well both your positional authority and power as well as your personal authority and power?  We will have to give an account for it one day!

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Kingdom Wisdom’s 7 Pillars – #6

In Proverbs 9:1 we read, “Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars” (NIV 1984).  What are the seven pillars found in the house of wisdom?

We find them listed for us in the previous chapter in Proverbs 8:12,14 (NIV 1984):  I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretionCounsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.  And note how verses 15 and 16 connect wisdom to leadership.

Understanding is the ability to see the relationships between a series of facts. As such, it is closely related to knowledge. Once we have gathered knowledge, this information must be correlated in our minds so we can understand how things work or how they influence each other. The world uses the scientific method, for example, to show the relationship of various elements. Once an experiment is shown to be repeatable, we arrive at a certain level of understanding. For example, when we apply heat to water, we know that the water boils when it reaches 212ºF (100ºC) at sea level. By combining the facts we know about water and heat, we understand that by turning on a stove and applying heat to the bottom of a pan of water, it will boil at a very specific temperature, given enough heat and time. This type of understanding is useful in life, but it is still short of the goal of wisdom.

Understanding allows us to discern trends or patterns in behavior, seeing whether something is a onetime aberration or the beginning of something new. Understanding patterns of behavior helps us to not only see actions but also discern motivations. Additionally, it helps one see a person’s strengths for contribution and then position them where they can contribute from these strengths. It allows a leader to select and recruit valuable team members who are complementary in their strengths to yield a well-balanced team.

Understanding that leads to godly wisdom includes what we can observe about God’s character manifesting itself in the way He interacts with people in the Bible. For example, we will realize that God makes promises, and that because of His very nature, He does not lie or change. Therefore, we understand that His promises found in Scripture can be trusted. Psalm 119:140 says, “Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.” Our love for God’s promises (and the Promiser) will grow as we prove the promises true by seeing them fulfilled in life.

God gives understanding that can lead us to make wise decisions as Kingdom leaders.  Ask Him to give you ‘eyes to see” what is happening around you.

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: