Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the category “#2 BE – Who a Leader Is”

Leading with Courage – Facing the Black Death!

In 1527, the Black Death with a mortality rate of 50%+ arrived in Wittenberg, Germany.  Many fled the city, but Martin Luther and his pregnant wife stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people.  Other friends who lost family members moved into Luther’s house for mutual support and encouragement.

There was a difference of opinion among church leaders on whether to stay or flee the plague.  All looked to Luther for advice.  The following is an edited version of his guidance titled, Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.  Many of his thoughts ring true for Kingdom leaders today in the midst of our own pandemic.

“To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague.  Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment.  They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office…”

“From what has been said we derive this guidance:  We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God, as was previously explained.  If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us.  Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done.  I am thy lowly creature.  Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.”

“If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God, I am weak and fearful.  Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it.  I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me.  Thy will be done.  My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere.  Moreover, the devil never sleeps.  He is a murderer from the beginning [John 8:44] and tries everywhere to instigate murder and misfortune…”

“In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also.  If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames.  If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help.  If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can.  If there are others to do it, I am released.  If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so.  A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor.  He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss.  No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child.  He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has.”

“… You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal.  Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.  I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.  If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.  If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above.  See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

The Lord promises to guide and direct us along paths we have not walked (see Isaiah 42:16).  We can count on Him when all else fails.  May the Lord give you wisdom from above as you navigate this storm.

It’s Courage that Counts – 1

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.       Winston Churchill

Kingdom leaders today are called to be courageous in their leadership decisions as the times in which we lead are filled with danger.  Threats abound and it is tempting to shrink back, don’t be thought of as ‘extreme,’ try to fit in, and just keep hoping that things will improve over time.

It will take leaders of courage who will stand in the gap and face down a cultural tide that is increasingly hostile to the Kingdom of God.  Below are several key principles for growing in courage.

1. Let your faith in God give you courage to do His will (Isaiah 12:2, 1 Corinthians 16:13, Ephesians 3:12, Philippians 1:20, Hebrews 3:6).

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold…    2 Corinthians 3:12  (ESV)

2.  There can be blessings for those of us that act with courage in God’s will
(Hebrews 10:34-35).

But you, take courage!  Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.   2 Chronicles 15:7  (ESV)

3.  Have courage when facing idols, false prophets and enemies, because they are nothing compared to God (Deuteronomy 18:22, Psalm 56:3-4, Isaiah 41:22-24, Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4-5).

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31  (ESV)

Be courageous because God is in control of all things (Matthew 10:29-31).

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.    2 Timothy 1:6-7  (ESV)

Are you boldly trusting Him who holds the world in His hands?  Or are you shrinking back because the threats seem large and the potential consequences unthinkable?  Be bold!  Be courageous!

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?

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.

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!

Leadership Team Dynamics

And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”   Mark 8:32-33  ESV

Wow!  The key team member openly rebukes the team leader – albeit Peter ‘took him aside’ out of deference to His leadership no doubt.  Jesus in turn rebukes Peter with the others looking on – quite the public chastisement.   Yet, neither interaction destroyed the personal relationship or the team dynamics.

Shortly thereafter, we see this interaction: “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”   Mark 10:13-14  ESV  Jesus was indignant with the Twelve for their over-zealous crowd control – stopping the little children from coming to Him. He corrected their behavior in no uncertain terms.

Last we see this interaction among the Twelve: “And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” …  And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.  Mark 10:36-37, 41  ESV

James and John were making a power play to move ahead of the other ten on the team.  The ten heard of it and rightly became upset with the two brothers.  Jesus calms the situation by reminding them all that Kingdom positions were not His to grant.  He then uses it as a teaching opportunity for what leadership values are important for Kingdom leaders.

These three incidents give insight into the team dynamics of Jesus and the Twelve.  These incidents occur during the final year of His ministry with them.  They had been through a lot together, yet still there were stretching times as they related.  But, through it all the team did not break up or dissolve, nor did Jesus ‘fire’ the team. They just worked through it together.

They were free to have open disagreements among themselves and with Him as the team lead.  He was secure enough to embrace these conflicts, correct where necessary, be stern and direct when called for, and then use it to further their development as Kingdom leaders.  He did not shy away from conflict, rather, He moved towards it as an opportunity to further their growth.

How’s your team dynamics?  Do your team members have freedom to openly disagree or are they talking outside of the team meetings, afraid to say what they really think?  You, the team leader, set the tone and create the environment.

Leading from Trust Relationships

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.                   Luke 5:4-11  ESV

Early in His relationship with these two pairs of brothers who were also fishing partners, Jesus needed to establish a trust relationship for He would ask them to follow Him into an unknown (to them) future.  Their sacrifice and cost would be great and He, knowing this, had to establish a platform of trust from which they would be willing to follow Him.

Note Peter’s response when instructed to put out into deeper water and let down their nets.  He knew that daytime was not the time to fish.  He knew that they had already tried and failed on their own.  They had lots of previous experience and fishing was their expertise, so why do this futile exercise?

Peter says to Jesus, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” This was foundational in his relationship with Jesus – obedience to Jesus and not logic, experience or worldly wisdom was key.  He trusted the word of Jesus, no doubt with some hesitancy, and was rewarded with an amazing haul of fish.  Peter’s response was submission and a willingness to follow Christ and His leadership, even to the point of leaving his vocation.

Kingdom leaders lead from a platform of trust that we build between ourselves and those we lead.  This trust is built over time as we ask others to trust our judgment and follow our lead.

Trust is earned, not given.  It is built over time as we make deposits into our ‘trust bank account.’ But it can be quickly lost and the bank account emptied through untrustworthy behavior.

Major on building trust with those you lead and they will follow!

 

He is Out of His Mind

And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”   Mark 3:21 (ESV)

As Kingdom leaders follow their personal calling from the Lord, they are often surprised by a lack of support or encouragement from those that know and love them.  So it was with the mother and brothers of Jesus.

As Jesus was growing into a public figure and crowds began to gather to hear Him and be healed, word came to His family.  Their conclusion – knowing He had no training for such, was that He had lost His mind – literally, He had gone insane.  Thus, they came to Capernaum to take Him back home, for His own ‘protection’ no doubt and to save the family any further embarrassment.  But their mission failed.

Sometime thereafter, Jesus returned to Nazareth, His home town.  There, He taught in the synagogue, but few supported Him.  He could do little in their presence because of their lack of faith in Him (see Mark 6:1-6).  Jesus marveled at their unbelief and proclaimed that a prophet is not honored among those who know him well – even in his own house.  This must have been quite discouraging.

Towards the end of His public ministry we see another encounter with Jesus and His brothers in John 7:1-5.  His brothers (the term could also mean brothers and sisters) chided Him for not going to Jerusalem and publicly showing off His ministry to the world.  Why are you hiding in Galilee – if it’s attention you seek, then go to the epicenter of the Jewish world and show off!  John tells us that they said this because they did not believe in Him.

But, after the resurrection, Jesus made a personal appearance to His brother, James (see 1 Corinthians 15:7) that must have been quite the encounter!  The result was James’s conversion and belief in Jesus as His Lord and Savior.  Mary and her boys were in the room praying with the Eleven after the Ascension (see Acts 1:14).  Thus, during the 40 days post-resurrection, they came to belief.  James would later become the local leader of the Jerusalem church (see Acts 15).

In the introduction of his epistle, James identifies himself as, “the bond slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).  What a transformation!  What humility!  And another of His brothers, Jude, also writes in the introduction of his letter, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James…” (Jude 1:1).

Those who know you best may be slow to embrace your role or calling.  Jesus experienced the same.  Don’t let their lack of acceptance or support deter you from obeying the Lord’s clear destiny that He has designed you for.  Follow hard after Him and trust that those who know and love you will see Christ’s hand on you and your leadership over time.

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?

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