Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the category “#1 KNOW- How a Leader Thinks”

Your Assumptions are Showing!

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith… Mark 6:5-6 NIV

Jesus had come home to Nazareth after an extended time away. Having launched His public ministry in Jerusalem and Judea, He had moved to Capernaum and large crowds followed Him, listening to His teaching and observing His many miracles. By this time His popularity had increased such that even King Herod had heard of Him (see Mark 6:14).

Now He came back to His boyhood home and gave to them the same opportunity the other villages of Judea and Galilee had received. He entered the synagogue at Nazareth and taught them about the Kingdom of God. Mark had already noted that when Jesus taught, He did not quote other rabbis as sources of authority as was the custom. Rather, He contrasted their thoughts with His own, claiming a greater authority. This caused questions and confusion among those who knew Him. “… and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?'” (Mark 6:2 NIV)

These people had certain assumptions about Jesus (see Mark 6:3). He was a man who had grown up in their village like many other young men. He had brothers and sisters like many families. He had learned from His father the trade of carpentry and had worked among them as a carpenter. He had never received religious training to be a rabbi and yet here He was teaching others about the Kingdom of God and recruiting disciples. They had heard that He was performing all sorts of miracles and certainly the crowds that followed Him seemed to indicate something unusual about Him. But, their assumptions about Him blocked their faith and they took offense at Him. As a result He could not do any miracles among them, other than a few minor healings.  Why?

It was their assumptions that led to their unbelief and lack of faith in Him. They did not even bother to ask Him for help! Certainly, Jesus’ power was the same in Nazareth as elsewhere. But, their previous assumptions about Him did not allow them to even consider asking Him for help. No wonder Jesus was ‘amazed at their lack of faith!”

What assumptions about Jesus do you have that are negatively influencing your leadership? The opportunity for Jesus to show Himself strong on your behalf is extended, but will your assumptions about Him lead to unbelief and a lack of even bothering to ask for His help? He has stated that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. Will you even ask for His help?

“…You do not have because you do not ask God.”   James 4:2  NIV

A Life Pleasing to God

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. … and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. 1 Thessalonians 4:1,11-12 NIV

Paul was writing to a group of disciples in Thessalonica who were trying to understand what kind of life they should model amid great challenges. Their new faith now put them at odds with the prevailing cultural norms. Their first allegiance was to Jesus, their Lord and Savior. That was settled in their hearts and minds. But how to live life day to day with its constant reminders that they were ‘out of sync’ with the cultural majority?

Paul gives several guiding principles to help with the daily decisions the believers faced.  First, the goal is not to seek to please oneself, but to live a life that pleases God.  We seek the ‘applause of One,’ longing to hear His voice say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Secondly, he instructs them to pursue a ‘quiet life’ that does not draw undo attention or draw the ire of the majority.  They are to ‘mind their own business’ and not meddle in the affairs of others.  Now should persecution arise, a believer’s loyalty to Christ must not waiver.  Just as many followers of Jesus have died for their faith, so they (we) too must be willing to do so if required.  But don’t go looking for trouble or seek martyrdom.  “Even a live dog is better off than a dead lion.”  Ecclesiastes 9:4  NIV

Third, they are encouraged to live productive lives, working hard with their own hands so that the manner and quality of their lives would be a witness to the unbelieving world around them. As they work, they must avoid becoming entangled with the world and its affairs (see 2 Timothy 2:4), shunning  any dependency upon outsiders to the faith.  These obligations or entanglements could be used to force compromise or denial of the faith and are thus to be avoided.

As Jesus sent out the Twelve in pairs to carry out His mission, He warned them, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16  NIV 

May we have ears to hear! 

Making Wise Personnel Decisions – 4

As you lead, personnel decisions will be the most time-consuming and challenging to make.  Most will be some shade of gray – not black and white and obvious. Below are some final thoughts related to making wise personnel decisions.

How do you fire someone?

For some Kingdom leaders it may come as a surprise that part of your job is not just to hire great people, but also to fire (out-place) some.  Ugghhh!  No leader likes to fire others.  It can be a stomach-turning experience. But, there are times when it is the best thing to do for the person and for the mission. 

In today’s litigious society, it is very wise to get counsel involved in any firing process. Experts in HR and labor laws should be in your circle of counsel. And make sure these resource people are in on any conversation early in the process.  These advisors know the legal ‘landmines’ to avoid when firing someone and other consequences that may result like severance packages, unemployment obligations, how to communicate the termination to staff and the public, etc. 

In particular, it is very important to document the process involved when terminating an employee (have a paper trail). Keep records of job descriptions, annual reviews, conversations had regarding work performance, emails, etc.  It should not be a surprise to the person being fired when they are asked to resign. 

After termination, questions may arise when we are asked by someone’s new, potential employer when they are doing a background check. What to say – legally and ethically should be examined. Or, after terminating an employee, we may find out that they are now serving in a different ministry that did not contact us or do a background check with us as to their employment history. Depending upon the reason for termination, we may have ethical choices to make on whether to talk to their new employer as to their history with us.

Terminating someone’s employment – whether it be for a sin issue (i.e. moral failure) or lack of doing what was agreed to or expected for the job – must be well-thought through.  What is communicated to team members, ministry members, financial donors and the general public needs to be examined by multiple parties.  There are certain legal issues that may constrain what can and cannot be said to these various audiences.  Don’t just “wing it!”

Don’t expect agreement on personnel decisions.  These are judgment calls and there are good reasons on all sides of any decision.  Ask the Holy Spirit’s help in these decisions and trust Him to lead you. 

And finally, remember – some personnel decisions may look bad in the short term, but long term are seen as wise.  Wisdom is known by its children!  Luke 7:35

Making Wise Personnel Decisions – 3

We continue our discussion on making wise personnel decisions as Kingdom leaders. Today’s topic is one where we definitely need wisdom from above – James 1:5.

Discerning between care or development needs versus too costly a use of limited resources 

  1. When we use the term ‘too costly,’ what does this mean?  If a staff needs professional counseling, for example, who pays for the counseling and for how long?  What type of outcomes/change are we expecting from this counseling that will determine whether they stay or leave?  Define the process, responsibilities and outcomes before you start the process!
  2. Do we send/allow staff to pursue advanced degrees (i.e. leadership, counseling, seminary degrees) as part of their personal development? There are legal implications, labor laws that apply here – especially when using donor funds (untaxed, organizational funds) to pay for degrees that are not relevant to current roles and may prepare them for different jobs.  Know the law before you give permission on this!
  3. When a staff or employee fails to fulfill their responsibilities, we would hope that there will be change/improvement given more time and good supervision. We are sometimes tempted to think that changing the environment (i.e. job or supervisor) will bring improvement, but, in my experience, this rarely helps.
  4. We want to help people succeed by resourcing them well.  Jesus said, “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden. The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”   Luke 13:6-9  NLT
  5. Note the attempt to bring fruitfulness to the barren tree within a specific time frame.  Three years of patiently expecting results were now coupled with an additional year given for change with added attention and ‘fertilizer’ from the gardener.  But, there were limits. If there is not the expected change after the additional year of help, then the gardener is to ‘cut it down.’
  6. What to do when a leader violates trust – for example, demonstrates a moral failure? There is no ‘formula’ for this situation.  We must be wise and visit this on a case-by-case basis. Restoration of the fallen or wounded is our primary goal and we would want to have a strong bias towards this. We don’t want to ‘shoot our wounded.’  When a leader sins, we can and should seek to restore them to fellowship with their appropriate repentance and time for healing.  But the question arises on whether we should restore them to leadership once a trust is broken?  Prudence and wisdom would seem to guide us to evaluate the heart and actions of the individual as well as the nature of trust that was broken.  As in all complex personnel issues, the answer ‘ it depends’ means we need the guidance of the Spirit to discern our course of action.
  7. How do we act in love to those leaders who have broken trust? It is not necessarily loving to ‘forgive and forget.’  Certainly there will be a ‘disciplining’ of those who have broken trust.  The Lord does discipline those He loves (Hebrews 12:1-13).  But His discipline is not unending and it does yield change – the ‘fruit of righteousness.’
  8. We can expect a difference of opinions on what to do. Those with mercy and compassion gifts may not want to fire or lose someone from the team or mission.  They may tend to think that with the right care, given more time and help we will see lasting change and the person be recovered.  A different view from those with more prophetic, exhortation or leadership gifts may emphasize mission over person and not want to risk entrusting leadership authority and responsibility to someone who has previously proven unfaithful.  These are always difficult decisions.
  9. A general principle here is Luke 6:31 – “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”  The Golden Rule of Leadership is – Lead others the way you would want to be led.

Year End Reflection

What a year 2020 has been!!!!  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 you as you look back and observe themes or topics the Lord has been addressing in you.  Here are some questions to get you started in this reflection time.

Are you satisfied with your own personal spiritual walk and growth?  More importantly, is Jesus pleased with your pursuit of Him?  How’s your current pace of life?  Is it sustainable long-term?  Do you have a margin in your schedule?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s your 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?  Are you more concerned about your reputation or God’s glory?  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 making progress in the God-given mission that you intended to accomplish?

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

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. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.    Hebrews 12:1-2  NIV

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Silent Night

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 during the Protestant Reformation and the singing of Christmas carols became part of our Christmas celebrations as we remember the birth of our Savior.

“Silent Night” is the most popular Christmas carol.  This beloved carol was first written and sung on Christmas Eve in Obendorf, Austria in 1818.  Joseph Mohr was a young priest who had written the words to the hymn two years previously, but now refined it as he walked in the snow, house-to-house, inviting his church members to the worship service that evening.

Returning to his church, the priest asked the church organist, Franz Gruber, to put a melody to the lyrics he had composed.  The organist did so, but reminded the priest that the church organ was broken and not functioning.  They would have to use different accompaniment that night instead of the usual organ.  Thus, Silent Night, was sung for the first time at the Christmas Eve service that evening, but it was sung to guitar as Gruber led the congregation in worship!

From this small and seemingly insignificant beginning in an obscure village in Austria the carol, Silent Night, has moved around the world and passed from generation to generation as our most beloved Christmas carol.

Don’t despise small beginnings!

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.    Luke 2:6-11  NIV

Merry Christmas!!!!

The Other Side of God’s Promises

But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers.  And none of those who despised me shall see it. … I, the LORD, have spoken.  Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.    Numbers 14:21-23, 35  ESV

We love to emphasize the goodness and generosity of God demonstrated by His faithful fulfillment of His promises to those who receive them by faith.  He does meet our needs, grant us desires according to His good and perfect will for us and do above and beyond what we could ever ask or imagine.  Thanks be to God for His unspeakable grace poured out upon us through faith in Christ!

But there is another side to this topic that is often neglected; one that is rooted in the same character of God that we love so much.  Yes, the Lord is faithful to fulfill His promises – all His promises.  And He promises to bring retribution and justice on those who disobey Him, those who willfully put Him to the test and rebel against Him.

In the above passage we note that God had promised those who He delivered from the bondage of Egypt a Promised Land inheritance.  But when the 12 spies returned with their report after completing their forty-day mission, ten (the majority) spread fear, doubt and disobedience regarding their future.  Two, Joshua and Caleb (the minority) reminded all that though there were challenges in occupying the land, the land was all that God promised and that one with God is a majority!

The people chose to believe the majority report, disobeyed God and received the consequences of their disobedience.  God promised them that there would be severe consequences for their disobedience and He was faithful to His promises.

The justice of God demands that He never ignore disobedience or show partiality, for to do so would be injustice and contrary to His very nature.  He will and does punish sin.  Let us tremble at that reality and praise Him that we are delivered from His wrath by grace in Christ.  For it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!  (Hebrews 10:31)

May we who lead others, remind those we influence about the promises and faithfulness of God.  May we be true to the whole message of God’s faithfulness, the pleasant and ‘not so pleasant’ realities and warn others of the consequences for disobedience.

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.   Exodus 23:2  NIV

“But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.    Hebrews 10:38-39  NIV

Age and Contribution

“Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers’ houses and by their clans. From thirty years old up to fifty years old, you shall list them, all who can come to do duty, to do service in the tent of meeting. …  All the service of the sons of the Gershonites shall be at the command of Aaron and his sons, in all that they are to carry and in all that they have to do. And you shall assign to their charge all that they are to carry.”   Numbers 4:23-24; 27  ESV

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”   Number 8:23-26  ESV

The Lord set age boundaries when serving.  During the forty years in the desert after the Exodus, those who carried the parts of the Tabernacle we to be from 30 to 50 years of age.  Physical strength was necessary and maturity to handle these pieces carefully were requirements and thus, thirty years old was the minimum age allowed.  The rest of the Levites who were to serve in the Tabernacle, could begin as early as 25 years of age.

Whether serving in the Tabernacle or carrying it through the desert, both tasks were age limited to 50 years old.  Upon reaching that age, Levites were to “withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more.”  The older Levites moved from direct ministry in the Tabernacle to an indirect role of serving others by ‘keeping guard.’

It would seem that a pattern of ministry is that direct ministry is primarily a young person’s responsibility.  But with increasing age and experience, older servants move into more indirect roles, thus making room for younger leaders to emerge.  Note that the older Levites did not ‘retire,’ they just assumed less intense ministry roles.

These guidelines for Levitical service in the Tabernacle should cause us to pause and think carefully about our own ministry contributions and those whom we lead.  Are you thinking about your succession plan?  Are you looking to transition into a more indirect role of service?

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.    Lamentations 3:27  ESV

From Patience to Perseverance

Initially, we thought it would last two weeks to a month.  Then it was ‘Well, certainly by the beginning of summer…’  Next it was ‘For sure, by the start of the fall…’  Now we are looking to Christmas or early spring for relief from the Covid pandemic.  Does it seem like we are playing a type of game where they keep moving the goalposts?

When will it end?  We set our expectations and hope on a future date for relief and a ‘return to normal,’ only to have our hopes dashed by the reality of a virus that seems hard to ignore or conquer.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  (Proverbs 13:12  NIV)  It’s very normal to have feelings of disappointment when our expectations are not met.  But we must guard against going from disappointment to despair where we lose all hope and just give up.

Given the long trial of faith that we all are suffering, we must shift our attitudes from one of being patient to one of persevering.  Perseverance means, “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”  We acknowledge our disappointment before the Lord, plead for His mercy and determine, by His grace and strength, to persevere until He determines the end of our trial.

Our hope is not in new policies, better disinfection or therapeutics or even a vaccine.  Rather, our hope is in Him and His strength.  Here are several biblical truths that strengthen my soul during these days.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.     Hebrews 10:36  NIV 1984

… even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.    Isaiah 46:4  ESV

For nothing will be impossible with God.    Luke 1:37  NIV 1984

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.    1 Corinthians 10:13  ESV

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.    2 Corinthians 1:8-10  ESV

… fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.   Isaiah 41:10  ESV

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.    Romans 5:3-5  ESV

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.    Matthew 6:34  ESV

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.    James 1:2-4  ESV

But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.    Isaiah 50:7  ESV

Don’t despair!!!  Persevere!!!

Faith, Courage and Choosing Leaders

Tomorrow is election day in the United States.  We will select our president for the next four years, as well as various Congressional leaders and many local leaders.  Some are anxious for the outcome and wondering about the consequences of whatever choices the electorate will make.

Below are a few of the passages that give me great peace regardless of the outcomes tomorrow.  May they encourage your heart as they have encouraged mine.

Matthew 6:34 (ESV)  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 10:29-31 (ESV)   Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Mark 4:38-41  (ESV)   But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.   He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Daniel 2:21  (ESV)  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding…

Proverbs 21:1  (ESV)  The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

1 Timothy 2:1-4  (ESV)  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10  (ESV)   So we are always of good courage.  We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

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