Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the month “January, 2016”

When Promises Don’t Come True

It was another exasperating, faith-challenging confrontation with the Indonesian Immigration Office. Our yearly visa renewal was in trouble again. We’d experienced this numerous times during our ten years in the country and so, once again, I reminded the Lord of our desire for an extension and recruited others to pray on our behalf. I reminded Him of Philippians 4:19, stating that this visa was a need and He had promised to meet all of our needs. I also prayed over Psalm 37:4, saying that it was our heart’s desire to stay and serve Him there, so please grant yet another renewal. We had seen several miracles in previous years regarding visa renewals, so I was confident that God would once again come through.

Imagine my shock and disappointment when the letter that came from Immigration was not our yearly renewal, but a denial of any extension and an “invitation” to leave the country. Why had God not answered? We had prayed over the same request, used the same promises, recruited the same, if not more, people to pray with us. But this time God had said “no.” Can God’s promises be trusted? Why weren’t our prayers answered according to our desires?

Some time later I was studying Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified. In Mark 14:32-42 we see a remarkable exchange between Jesus and His Father. Jesus was deeply distressed and troubled by the reality of the crucifixion and having to become sin for all mankind (vv. 33-34), so He came to His Father with a specific request, “Take this cup from me.” He based it upon the reality that, “everything is possible for you,” (v. 36) therefore certainly there must be another way other than this death. Had not God promised that if we call upon Him in times of trouble, He will deliver us (Psalm 50:15)? Had not Jesus Himself said that if we ask anything in His name He will do it? He prayed three times; certainly the Father would know His sincerity. Certainly the Father would answer.

But we find an amazing thing! The Father let His Son die on the cross the next day, taking upon Himself the sin of all mankind. Why did God not answer Jesus’ request? But then it hit me—God had answered! But, the answer was “no.” Jesus Himself had received a “no” answer in prayer! Why? Was it because He had some unconfessed sin? Certainly not—He was sinless! Was He not sincere in His request? No—He repeated His request until he sweat blood (Luke 22:44). The Father did not grant His request because His perfect plan required His Son’s sacrificial death. There was no other way!

A key insight is found in Mark 14:36b where Jesus says, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Though Jesus made a specific request, His underlying attitude was not a demanding of His own will, but rather, a surrender to the will of the Father. We too must assume this attitude when we pray. Not a fatalistic attitude in which we subliminally say, “I know it isn’t going to do any good to pray, but just in case…” But rather a prayer life that is bold in it’s specific requests, yet surrendered to our Heavenly Father’s higher will, knowing that His will is best. Someone has said, “God’s will is what you would choose if you knew everything that He knows.”

Praying over and claiming the promises of God as found in Scripture is a wonderful means of praying. But the promises are given as anchors for our hope when times of pressure come, not levers to make God do what we want He to do. We make specific requests related to specific Scriptural promises, but we also submit to the good and perfect will of our Father. We trust Him even when we don’t get the answer we expect, when it does not feel so good, and even when don’t understand.

Common Bonds

Some common bonds that link us together in the Kingdom work are – being unified by devotion to Christ, the hope of the Gospel, and the Great Commission.  Let’s look at these more closely.

As we see with the eyes of faith into the future, the many people, staff and volunteers that God has and will give us, they are unified. That is, they 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.

We remember that unity of purpose and conviction does not mean uniformity. We must 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 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” we mean our commitment to Jesus above all else in life. This is manifested in our willingness to put Him first in all areas of our lives–a willingness to sacrifice for Him. It also is seen in our willingness to take risks for Jesus’ sake. We will move into many new ventures of faith and God will ask us to live with some uncertainty and perhaps some ambiguity for a while. We must be willing to do this because we are confident He has led us and our devotion to Him overcomes our feelings of unease.

Our 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 their primary need is spiritual and that need is met through responding to the Good News. Therefore, we will seek to share the Gospel with those that don’t know Him.

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

Our other 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 works with the desire to see people reached, discipled, and equipped. 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 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!

So, are these common bonds for Kingdom work evident around you and your leadership?

Vision Casting

Our vision tells us where we intend to go–where to aim–and helps us keep our focus. We see this future clearly now, but as we move forward it becomes more real—more clear.

Vision statements must be far enough into the future that there is time for change. They also must be “big” enough to allow for faith and the “touch of God.” If they are too far into the future or too big they tend to be thought of as dreams or wishful thinking instead of action-producing statements that move the passions of those touched by them.

After identifying our time horizon, we begin by describing what we see in the future of our work. It is as if we are taken into the future and are able to gather the entire work together in one location and take a picture of it. We then try to describe the picture that we see in words.

To describe this future picture, we begin by saying,, “By the year 20xx, we see…”  Vision casting is describing this picture so clearly that others can see it with you and also see their part in making this picture become a reality.

One last thought. As we begin another year have you asked and answered the question, “What are you asking God to do in your work this year?” Are you praying specifically? Are you asking in faith? Or is it just another year filled with much activity and people?

I hope that you are asking a BIG GOD for BIG THINGS! Remember, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2 b).

The Power of Affirmation

A friend once reminded me that as a leader I may speak at a volume of 2, but I’m heard at a volume of 9!  This can be very damaging to others if my criticism is too harsh.  But, it can be life-giving if I use my influence for affirmation.

In the book, “The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make” by Hans Finzel (Victor Books), we find a section on affirmation.  It has served me well as a good reminder on this important function in my leadership.  Here is his summary points on affirmation for leaders:

Everyone thrives on affirmation and praise
Affirmation encourages and motivates people much more than financial incentives. It does more to keep people fulfilled than fortune or fame could do. He comments that Christian organizations are sometimes the worst, because there is the attitude that: “They are working for the Lord,” or “They should not look to the organization for affirmation, but to the Lord.”

Leadership has as much to do with “caring” as with getting things done
In the gospels, Jesus spent more time touching people and talking to them than in any other action. Jesus was not primarily task-oriented, even though He knew He had only three years to train twelve men to carry on the movement that would change the world. Touching wounds amid the unbearable pressure to perform tasks – that was the model of our Lord Jesus.

We wildly underestimate the power of the tiniest personal touch of kindness
It doesn’t always have to be a “big” event to affirm people. He gives an example from Tom Peters who shares about a former boss who took 15 min. (max) at the end of each day to jot a half-dozen paragraph-long notes to people who’d given him time during the day or who’d made an insightful comment during a meeting, etc.. He was dumbfounded by the number of recipients who subsequently thanked him for thanking them.

Learn to read the varying levels of affirmation your people need
Obviously, different people require different doses and different kinds of affirmation. The key seems to be that it needs to be genuine not “setting me up to get something from me later,” and not canned. (i.e. everyone gets the same affirmation letter without any personal touch).

When was the last time you intentionally affirmed someone?  Is affirmation a regular part of your leadership communication?  Have you created a ‘culture of critique’ or a ‘culture of affirmation’ around your leadership?


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