Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 1

Kingdom leaders want to further God’s purposes in their lives and through their leadership.  They seek to align their decisions in accordance with God’s will.  But given the many choices, how does one discern the Lord’s will in specific decisions?  Here are some foundational thoughts regarding this important topic.

If a Kingdom leader is to know the will of God, they must first commit themselves to doing it.  Often, we desire to know God’s plans for us and then we decide if we want to obey them.  But God’s ways are not our ways.

Jesus says in John 7:17 (ESV):  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

And again in Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) we read: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Note that the precursor for testing the good and acceptable and perfect will of God is to first present yourself a living sacrifice to the Lord and become transformed in the renewal of your mind.

In Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) we see:  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  The Lord is working on/in/through us to do His good works which He planned long ago.  It’s our job to align ourselves with Him and His plan for us and then we will experience His perfectly designed plan for which we were created.

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.  This can be frightening, but if we really know God and His love, we will also trust Him as we follow His guidance by faith.

May our attitude be that of Mary who, after learning about God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus says, …”Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38 (ESV)

Trust in the Lord

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.                      Isaiah 26:4   ESV

All of life and leadership is a faith journey for no one knows the future and how it will come to pass.  Kingdom leaders make decisions based upon the best information available and then trust that the Lord will establish the work of our hands.  (see Psalm 90:17)

Faith is only as good as the object of our faith. I could have great faith that if I jump off my roof and flap my arms rapidly, then I will fly.  But my faith and strenuous effort will not conquer gravity.  The object of my faith was not worthy of my trust.

The more we know about what (or Who) we are placing our trust in, the more confident we will act.  Some leaders are placing their faith and trust in themselves and their leadership experience.  While your ability to control outcomes and recall previous experience may prove helpful, there still is no certainty of outcome.  Your vision is fixed on the ‘rear-view mirror’ instead of on Him who controls the future.

Some leaders will put their faith and trust in other people – their team, their co-workers or their friends.  But once again this is short-sighted and can lead to great disappointment as all people are fallen and people in process.  They will disappoint you (and you too will disappoint others) – it is only a matter of when, not if.

Some others will trust their processes or their own resources.  They take reasonable risks in their leadership and assume that their ‘rainy day resources’ will cover any eventuality.  But there will always be something beyond the expected norms – the 100 year flood – that far out-strips all available resources.

Any trust placed outside of the Lord Himself is doomed to be shown as folly.  Having our trust and faith in Him alone will ensure a stability and security that rises above the everyday trials of life and leadership.  This does not mean that we live a ‘pain-free’ life or have a leadership that is devoid of great upheavals.  But what it does mean is that He will see us through whatever comes our way.  He is sufficient for all that we experience and He has promised never to leave us.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.       Psalm 20:7   ESV

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.                           Proverbs 3:5-6   ESV

The more you know the Lord and His ways, the more your faith and trust in Him will grow!

Where’s your trust today?

Happy New Year!!

As we end one and begin a new calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what we hope will be.  It is through reflection that we can gain perspective and see more clearly the overarching, God-orchestrated, macro movements of our lives.

Leaders are often too busy to stop and reflect.  We always have more things to do and people to see.  We take one item off of the do-list and add three more!  Who has time to stop and think?

Today…..now is the time to stop and reflect upon who you are becoming and what you are doing!  Your personal diary, journal or devotional notebook can be of great help to look back through and observe themes or topics that Lord has been addressing in you.  Here are some questions to get you started in this reflection time.

Are you pleased with your own personal spiritual walk?  More importantly, is Jesus pleased with your pursuit of Him?  How’s the pace of life?  Do you have a margin in your life?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s the family doing?  Are you paying the price to experience the marriage you committed to on your wedding day?  Are you investing deeply in your children and grandchildren, knowing that the years for significant influence are rapidly passing you by?

What fears are you trying to ignore related to your leadership?  Are you leading with faith and courage?  Is the vision of where you are leading to focused or foggy?  Do you have a team that is unified and empowered around a shared vision?  Are you accomplishing the mission that you intended to accomplish?

These and many more questions are helpful for taking stock of where you are today and where you need to be/go tomorrow.  Use this season for reflection and refocus as you start a new year full of new hope and new beginnings.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PS  If you’ve found this weekly leadership blog helpful, please consider making a donation by clicking the Donate link on the right side of the page. 

Merry Christmas!

Perhaps like me, you’ve wondered where all of the Christmas traditions came from.  Here’s some background to help with giving some new (old?) meaning to these seasonal traditions.

December 25 – The Day of Jesus’ Birth

In ancient times birthdays were celebrated only by kings and royalty.  It was not customary to record the specific date of an individual’s birth.  Being unsure of the exact date of Jesus’ birth, many dates began to be observed as Christianity spread from country to country.

Bishop Hippolytus calculated the birth of Jesus to be December 25 in 235 AD.  Emperor Constantine ordered the celebration of Christmas in 320 AD.  Since 400 AD Christendom has accepted this date as the traditional date of Jesus’ birth.

Christmas was first celebrated in America in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia.  In 1836 Alabama became the first state to establish Christmas as a legal holiday.  Colorado recognized Christmas as a state holiday in 1861.

St. Nicholas or Santa Claus

Nicholas was born and raised in Turkey in 280 AD.  When Nicholas reached age 19 he entered the priesthood.  He became known as the ‘patron saint of children’ because of his habit of leaving unidentified gifts at the homes of needy families.  This mysterious donor is called “Father Christmas” in England.

Introduced as “Sinterklass”  to America by the Dutch as the patron saint of their colonies or as the English and French said, “Saneta Claas.”  In 1809 Washington Irving portrayed a jolly fellow who rode in a sleigh pulled by reindeer; a far cry from the original St. Nicholas.  The giving spirit of St. Nicholas should inspire us all.

Candy Canes

A popular account says that a candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.  He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus.

He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy.  He chose white to symbolize the purity and Virgin Birth of Jesus.  He made it in the “J” shape for the name of Jesus.  The shape is also that of a shepherd’s staff, to remind us that the Bible calls Jesus the Good Shepherd.  The red stripe is to remind us of the blood Christ shed for us when he died on a cross.

Christmas Carols

Until the Middle Ages there was no congregational singing in Christian churches.  Trained choirs sang chants and monotonous songs.  After the Christmas services, the church members would often gather in the streets to sing songs about the birth of Jesus, called ‘carola.’  Martin Luther introduced congregational singing to the churches.

“Silent Night” is the most popular Christmas carol.  Written on Christmas eve in Obendorf, Austria in 1818 by a priest as he walked in the snow house-to-house inviting his members to the service that evening.  Returning to his church, the priest asked the organist to write the melody to the lyrics he had composed on his walk.  Sung for the first time at the service that evening, it was sung to guitar as the church organ was broken!

Christmas Trees

This tradition was borrowed from the non-Christian people of northern Europe and given a new meaning.  These people would bring evergreens into their homes during the winter months to remind them of the hope of the coming spring.

Christians adapted this custom and added that the evergreen symbolizes the everlasting life offered through belief in Jesus as our Savior.  Trees were set up on Christmas and decorated with lights (candles) to symbolize that Jesus was born on a beautiful, starry night in Bethlehem.  Tradition says that Martin Luther was the first to add lights to the decorated tree.

Creche or Manger Scene

Until the 13th century, those that celebrated Christmas generally overlooked the lowly conditions of Jesus’ birth.  In 1219, St. Francis of Assisi visited Bethlehem where he was struck by the simplicity of Christ’s birthplace.  He was dismayed by the contrast of Jesus’ humble beginnings and the lavish church celebrations of his birth.

St. Francis created a rustic stable scene for midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1223.  He used live animals and people portrayed Mary and Joseph, shepherds and the angels.

Stockings

Long before Christmas trees were a part of the common Christmas traditions, stockings were hung in anticipation of the arrival of St. Nicholas.  English immigrants brought this custom with them to America.

The original Christmas stockings that were hung were those worn for everyday apparel.  They were hung with the hopes of being filled with treats from the visit of St. Nick.

What traditions are a part of your Christmas celebrations?  What values are you communicating as you celebrate?  Perhaps you can lead your family or your friends in remembering the true reason for the season as you reflect upon some of these established traditions.     MERRY CHRISTMAS!

PS  If you’ve found this weekly leadership blog helpful, please consider making a donation by clicking the Donate link on the right side of the page. 

Leadership Cycles

Image result for kokanee salmon colorado public images  Colorado Parks and Wildlife – Blue Mesa Reservoir

Every fall as the water temperature drops and the hours of daylight shorten, thousands of four-year old kokanee salmon move out of Colorado reservoirs into streams to spawn and die.  It happens every year and is a yearly cycle that draws fishermen to the streams seeking to catch these beautiful red fish.

Just like the kokanee salmon yearly spawning cycle, so too in Kingdom work we have ministry cycles that repeat year after year.  The fall is usually a time of new ministry launches for the ministry year which coincides with the beginning of the academic school year.  Summer vacations have ended and new initiatives begin.

The fall ends and winter begins (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) with packed schedules celebrating holidays and family gatherings. Winter ends and the promise of spring comes with Easter as a milestone and then we hold on to the end of school and the warm days of summer with its usually slower pace.  Then it’s time to prepare for the fall again and so the cycle repeats.

The longer one is in Kingdom work and experiences these cycles it can become a bit routine, if you are not careful.  New leaders with little experience are truly excited with the newness of it all.  But for those who have ‘been there and done that’ so many times before, we can become a bit dull to it all.  This should never be so for we are serving the King of kings and Lord of lords!

Howard Hendricks former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary was once asked how he stayed motivated and energized as he repeatedly taught the same classes year after year.  He replied, “I remind myself how impactful these courses were for me when I first experienced them.” He took his eyes off of himself and fixed them on his audience.

Ministry cycles are not inherently bad.  It’s how we respond to them that makes all the difference.  If we make it about us, then we will certainly get bored and in a worse case, even cynical.  But if we take our eyes off of ourselves and keep the focus on those we lead and influence, then it stays fresh and challenging.

So, where’s your gaze?  Is it fixed upon you or others?

Leading Within Your Capacity

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…  1 Peter 4:10-11  ESV

Peter reminds us that Kingdom people are called to serve others for the glory of God. God has designed and gifted us uniquely for service by giving us spiritual gifts that enable us to carry out such work.  Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that these works were thought of by God Himself and we were created accordingly to accomplish these works.

One of those works is speaking on God’s behalf.  Kingdom leaders are given the privilege and responsibility to speak the truth of God’s Word, helping His people know His will and calling out untruth in those who do not obey Him.  It is a sobering responsibility and one’s stewardship of this before the Lord should cause us to pause.

The second reminder from Peter is that we are to serve others with the strength that God provides us.  We each have differing capacities to lead and serve others and these capacities may change given the seasons of our lives and our responsibilities.  We can’t compare ourselves with others as we each have various capacities and abilities.  God entrusts these to us along with our perfectly designed missions for us to finish (see the Parable of the Talents – Matthew 25).

Note that Peter says we are to serve with the strength God gives us – that is, with everything that we have, no more or no less.  Our ‘strength’ – our individual capacity, gifting, ability, talent, training – may not be what we want or think is necessary, but God makes no mistakes.  We have all that we need to accomplish all He desires.

Do not try to do more that you are capable of.  But, never do less that you have the ability to do.  Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Colossians 3:23

Learning to live and lead within your God-given ‘strength’ – being thankful and grateful, not striving or comparing, brings peace and joy.  You will experience the blessing of God as you walk in step with Him.

Servant Leaders and Sacrifice

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.      Mark 10:45   ESV

Kingdom leaders often refer to the above statement of Jesus as a defining text for servant leadership.  They define a servant leader by one who has certain humble values and one who does certain servant-like activities.  But we often miss the import of the statement by ignoring the final phrase – “… and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It was the sacrificial leadership of Jesus that he was pointing the Twelve to as He contrasted Kingdom leadership with the world’s.  Yes, the world’s leaders used their power and influence to ‘lord it over’ others and to promote self-serving causes.  By contrast, His example was to humble Himself and use His power and influence to serve others. But He did not stop there in His explanation of Kingdom leadership.

He went on to say that His example would end in the great sacrifice – His death on the cross – paying our debt for sin and taking on the punishment we deserve.  It is the sacrificial nature of Christ’s Kingdom leadership that truly sets it apart from the benevolent, ‘turn the organizational pyramid upside down’ type of leadership that is promoted by many as true servant leadership.

Kingdom leaders who follow the example of Jesus are called to lead with personal sacrifice as a hallmark of their leadership style.  It is this that helps set Kingdom leaders apart.  Not only are they humble servants, but they are also willing to give up all for the sake of serving others.  This is a great, high calling and privilege.  Some may even be called to die for their King –  the ultimate sacrifice of a servant leader.

The story is told of a band of Moravian missionaries who sailed from Europe to the South Pacific seeking to take the gospel to the native peoples of some scattered islands.  While on the long sea voyage they led the ship’s captain and many of the crew to faith in Christ.  Finally arriving at their destination they anchored offshore and saw the local peoples gathering at the shoreline making threatening gestures.

The captain and crew pleaded with the missionaries not to disembark as they feared that they would be attacked and die as they reached shore.  To this, the leader of the missionary band replied, “Sir, you don’t understand.  We have already died.”  They disembarked, landed and were summarily killed on the beach.

These paid the great price of servant leadership.  Sacrifice for the cause of the advance of the Kingdom – even to the point of death if needed – is the mark of the King and His Kingdom leaders.  Jesus modeled it and we are called to follow.

Breaking Gridlock!

So, you have delegated authority to another to execute some well-defined responsibility.  They have been faithful to carry out the responsibility to the best of their ability, but now, a problem has arisen.  They’re stuck and can’t seem to move it any further.  You determine it’s not for lack of effort, but they can’t move ahead without some additional help.  What to do?

You’re sensitive to the impulse just to jump in and solve a problem that needs fixing, not wanting to micro-manage a situation.  And you want to maximize this delegated responsibility to grow the person.  Taking the pressure off them removes some of God’s best training moments as they wrestle with seeking Him and asking for His help (not yours).

But when is it appropriate to enter back into this gridlock and get things unstuck?  Here’s a couple of guidelines that can help.

1.  Remember that there is a difference between delegating authority to another and having their authority recognized by others – especially if they are leading their peers.  You may have that recognized final authority, but their peers may not.

2.  Don’t be too quick to jump in and solve something for someone you’ve given responsibility to, unless there is a pending deadline that demands action now.  Let them try to move it themselves and see the Lord do what only He can do.  We want them dependent on Him, not you.

3.  Having done the above, there are times when you have to engage in situations and get things unstuck, breaking gridlock between two or more opinions and bringing alignment (and hopefully agreement) to move forward.  The important thing is that all parties feel well listened to and taken seriously.  But, having done so, we still may not agree.

4.  When you re-engage and bring your authority to break the impasse, you can be viewed as a dictator who only wants to get his/her own way.  You can mitigate this by saying something like, “We have to move this forward, so here’s what I’d suggest.  Let’s do ‘x’ for the next (period of time) and then stop to re-evaluate the results.”  So, you are communicating that this is not the end of it all.  We are going to try to go this direction for a period and then stop to see if we are getting the outcomes we hoped for.  You show sensitivity, teachability, and yet a desire to move this ahead.

5.  Once you’ve communicated the decision and all understand that we all will align to this new direction, your job it not done.  Keep the responsibility with the one you delegated to.  Don’t take it back.  Let them see it through to completion.

6.  Set some calendar reminder with all involved as to when we will re-evaluate this decision and its outcomes.  This helps remove angst for those who may feel like they ‘lost’ and shows you are serious about this future review and not just saying something to assuage their feelings.

Break the gridlock when necessary.  But do it wisely!

God’s Discipline – Ouch!

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.     Hebrews 12:11  ESV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”   John 15:1-2  ESV

Maturity, fruitfulness, and the discipline of God are linked.  Hebrews 12 describes the process of God disciplining those whom He loves and that He does it for good.  The discipline of God is intended for good – to yield good fruit in our lives.  Thus, we should not be surprised by it and must embrace it – lean into it, rather than seek to run from it.

We note that when in the midst of pain and hard times, discipline does not feel good.  It’s not pleasant and does not seem to be good at the moment.  But afterwards, when the time of the Lord’s discipline ends, we see its benefit in our lives and leadership.  What does the Lord’s discipline look like in the life of a Kingdom leader?

The pruning of the Lord’s discipline is a taking away or a cutting out of our lives.  He intends to create even more dependency upon Him through it.  While the Lord is quite creative in the means He chooses to discipline those whom He loves, here are several common means that He uses to shape the lives of those He desires to be even more fruitful.

1.  Loss  –  loss of position, influence, job, finances, relationships

2.  Affliction  –  physical illness, harassment, on-going conflict

3.  Opposition  –  spiritual, emotional, and physical opposition, ‘headwinds’

The Lord can even use our adversary to further His plan of discipline in our lives.  Look at the life of Job and how God allowed him, within limits, to suffer loss, affliction, and opposition from his ‘friends.’  Yet, the Lord preserved Job and restored him in the end.

The discipline of the Lord is not pleasant – not something we look forward to or get excited about entering into.  Yet, when it comes, and it does come, we must receive it, submit to it, and trust Him who is good and always does what is good.  We will see the wisdom of God and experience the fruitfulness He intends as we persevere through it.

Don’t be surprised by the Lord’s discipline.  It comes to all of His children.  He is not punishing you.  Rather, He will see you through it and make you and your leadership even more fruitful because of it.

… a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…   Isaiah 42:3  ESV

 

Be on Your Guard! Be Alert! Watch!

Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. …  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’   Mark 13:33, 37  NIV

The context of these exhortations from Jesus is in regard to the end times.  The disciples had asked Him when He will return and what will be the signs of His coming.  After answering in much detail, He summarizes with these three exhortations – Be on guard… Be alert… Watch!

While the context dictates an interpretation regarding the second coming of Christ, there are additional principles that apply, especially for Kingdom leaders.

As we seek to advance the Kingdom – the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, we must be on our guard against evil and those who would seek to hinder our mission.  Our adversary will not yield easily and we should not be surprised by opposition to the gospel or God’s purposes.  Rather, we need perseverance and steadfastness as we move ahead in our mission.

We must be alert to the changing times and cultural shifts around us.  What has worked for some time may not work now.  It’s not just a matter of working harder or looking for more committed workers.  Perhaps our methods are less and less effective because our audience has changed.  We must be alert to these changes.  Ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment into how best to further His work at this time.  What new approaches or methods need to be tried to determine if they are a better fit for your audience?

Watchfulness is a focus on Him and the certainty of His coming – an anticipation that He will do as He has promised.  Kingdom leaders are to keep a watchful eye on the ‘horizon’ as we plow through the details of the day.  Don’t get so buried in the daily work that you take your eye off of the bigger picture.  It is the Lord’s work, not ours and He will accomplish it in His way and in His time.  He is with us and will never leave us.  And He will fulfill His promises!

Be on your guard – today!  Be alert – today!  Watch – today!

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