Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

Trusting God When Life Does Not Make Sense

Over 30 years ago Dana and I packed all of our belongings into 50-gallon drums, welded them shut, and placed into the back of a rental truck. We had given away our winter clothing, household goods, and even our wedding gifts. I’d stenciled our Indonesian address onto the drums and drove the truck to a railhead in Chicago for what was supposed to be a six-week trip to Indonesia. Unfortunately, the barrels were lost and we would not recover them again for 10 months.

We were going to Indonesia to work with young married couples on the eastern end of Java. But a three-year wait in Chicago had not provided a long-term visa. So, we decided to move ahead with a student visa to study language with the hope of obtaining a long-term visa later.

Two more years of language study still did not yield a long-term visa and so we exited the country to wait in Singapore to see what God would do. Ten weeks of waiting and praying resulted in a new visa, but one that required us to stay in West Java and work with single, undergraduate students, something we had never done before. Could God and our Nav leadership be trusted?

Dana and I began to pray over John 15:16 as a promise for our work with students: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last….” The next few years saw amazing fruitfulness in the ministry and we later transitioned the work to an Indonesian staff couple who had come to faith as students in the ministry.

That change in our visa and job led to two decades of serving globally and within the US with student ministry leaders. Who could have imagined how the Lord was working when we were redirected from one end of Java to another? In retrospect it was perfect! But in the midst of the journey, God asked us to trust Him, that He knew best and was sovereignly directing us, even when it did not make sense or feel so good to us.

As we come to the end of 2015, has God interrupted your well-designed plans? Does it seem as though your life journey has taken an unexpected detour or a long delay? Are you trusting Him for this next season knowing that He has promised to never leave or forsake you?

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

One of the blessings of the years our family spent in Indonesia was that we lived as a Christian minority.  The blessing in this became evident at the time of major Christian holidays, like Christmas.  There were no cultural distractions to have to explain or avoid.  Rather, Christmas was what we made it.  We could introduce our own traditions and values without having the distractions from the society around us.

Today we live in America once again and are confronted with all of the Christmas traditions that go with the holiday season.  Perhaps like me, you’ve wondered where all of these 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 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!

Leading into Ethnic Diversity

It does not take a “rocket scientist” to see that our world today is experiencing one of the greatest migrations of peoples in history.  All over the world large populations of people are leaving their homelands for the hope of a better future.  With the rapidly increasing ethnic diversity in our own country, if we don’t become more ethnically diverse, we will find ourselves marginalized with a ministry to a shrinking number of people.  The demographic sand is shifting beneath our feet!  We must adapt or die!

These changing demographics will demand new approaches, thinking, materials and a different kind of laborer.  The laborers needed to reach across these ethnic differences will have to be people who are flexible, able to adapt, and ones who are comfortable with differences.  Their watchword will be, “Not wrong, just different.”

Jesus’ disciples thought it strange that He, a Jewish rabbi, would associate with a Samaritan woman. Jesus demonstrated courage and a willingness to be misunderstood. He took risks and moved out of Jewish comfort zone to touch this one.  We will have to be and do the same as we follow Him into an increasingly ethnically diverse audience.

This will not be easy.  Change is never easy.  All people are most comfortable with those who are like us.  But Jesus modeled an incarnational model where he adapted and adjusted to humankind in order to fulfill the will of His Father.  We can do no less because we are called to imitate Him.

May God use you to plant good seed that will multiply many times over in the lives of those who are ethnically different from you.  May He give you wisdom to lead into increasingly ethnically diverse contexts that demand a willingness to leave the old behind and embrace the new, for His glory!

Common Bonds in Leadership

A leader who looks with vision into the future sees by faith those who God will give us to influence.  It is essential that these people are unified and aligned around a common purpose or mission. They must also have common bonds around their devotion to Jesus, the hope that the Gospel is truly the power of God to change lives, and that they are personally called to help fulfill the Great Commission.

Remember that unity of purpose and conviction does not mean uniformity. We will be diverse in our applications of these commonalities, but we will be united in our similar convictions. Yes, there are many more things that we will have in common other than these three things, but as we grow and expand into the future that God has for us, these three bonds will have to remain strong.

By “devotion to Christ” I mean our commitment to Jesus above all else in life. This is manifested in a  willingness to put Him first in all areas of our lives–a willingness to sacrifice for Him. It also is seen in a willingness to take risks for Jesus’ sake. As we move into many new ventures of faith, God will ask us to live with some uncertainty and ambiguity for a while. We can do this because we are confident He has led us and our devotion to Him overcomes our feelings of unease.

A second common bond is our “hope in the Gospel.” We believe that the Gospel can and does change lives and that it is the power of God at work in those who believe. With all of the crying needs of this hurting world, we believe that the primary need is spiritual and that need is met through responding to the Good News. Therefore, we must seek to share the Gospel with those that don’t know Him.

As we seek to bring the Gospel, we believe that we will see fruit (in our respective seasons) as we faithfully scatter the spiritual seed. We sow expectantly, trusting that God will bring forth growth as we faithfully labor. But whether we sow or reap, we believe in the hope of the Gospel for those around us.

Our third common bond of unity is the “Great Commission.” We must always remember that the Great Commandment to love God is of higher priority than the Great Commission. But it is our passion for helping to fulfill the Great Commission by multiplying the number of spiritual laborers that also binds us together. We plan, organize, and lead out in our respective spheres with the desire to see people reached, discipled, and equipped to become spiritual laborers. These spiritual laborers will be raised up and then sent to the nations to do more of the same.

The scope of the Great Commission is “all the nations.” Acts 1:8 reminds us that the progression is to begin at our own “Jerusalem.” But our local ministry is always done in the bigger context of seeking to impact the world for Christ!

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