Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

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

A Servant of the Lord

And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said.  Deuteronomy 34:5

After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten.   Joshua 24:29

The descriptive phrase “servant of the Lord” is used of very few people in the Scriptures.  Moses was the first to have this said about him and it became synonymous with him when describing his leadership.  It is used 16 times to refer to this leader who served God in his leadership for forty years.

His successor, Joshua has the same phrase said of him and his leadership.  It is used of Joshua twice – both times in describing him after he died (Joshua 24 and Judges 2).  David also has this phrase describing him twice – found in Psalm 18 and 86.  The final people described as servants of the Lord were the prophets of God killed by the evil Jezebel in 2 Kings 9.

A slightly different phrase with similar meaning – “the Lord’s servant” – is used three times in the bible.  Once again it describes Moses in 2 Chronicles 1.  Mary describes herself as the Lord’s servant when submitting to God’s plan for her life in Luke 1.  And Paul reminds Timothy that the Lord’s servants are not to be quarrelsome in attitude or action in 2 Timothy 2.

While all of us who claim Jesus as our Savior are now servants of the King and slaves of righteous, this particular description seems to designate a special role or contribution. A servant of the Lord or one who is the Lord’s servant is one who serves in a special capacity or function.  Whether they be OT prophets, leaders of the nation of Israel, or in the NT, the mother of Jesus or one who serves in leading the people of God. There is no value difference with this description, but there does seem to be a unique description of function and/or relationship difference.

One who is the Lord’s servant is one who submits to the Lord’s will for their life and seeks to please the One who is their Master.  There is an intimacy in their relationship with the Living God.  They walk closely with Him and are chosen for special contributions.

To be known as a servant of the Lord is a wonderful compliment and a great reputation to have.  To finish your race, as did Moses and Joshua, and have this description used of you in remembrance, is a great honor.

So what would be the description others use to describe you and your leadership?  Would the phrase “a servant of the Lord” or “the Lord’s servant” be on a short list?

Conflict Resolution Tips

As the sun rises in the east, so will conflicts arise in your life as you lead.  What to do when they arise makes all the difference.  Below are some very practical ideas on what to do when you have an interpersonal conflict with another.

  1.  Seek to resolve small conflicts before they become big ones!  And remember that your small issue can be a big issue for someone else.
  2. If you know there is an issue with someone, take the initiative.  Move towards them to resolve it.
  3. If you are upset-angry-frustrated, be sure that you focus the expression of those feelings on the issue and not the person.
  4. Anger is not necessarily bad.  All emotions are morally neutral.  But, it is how we express our anger-frustration that can make it sin for us.
  5. If your beginning to lose self-control and sensing an inability to express deep feelings constructively, call a ‘time out’ to allow yourself to regain control of your emotions.  But, be honest to not use this tactic as a tool to manipulate others.
  6. Taking a ’20-year look’ on issues can bring some better perspective on how important this issue really is.  Is this really something that 20 years from now is worth going to battle over now?
  7. If possible, keep the issue private and settle it privately.  The circle of those included in settling an issue is the circle of those involved-offended.
  8. Once settled, don’t bring the issue up again.  Bury it and leave it buried!
  9. Using words like, “You always….” or “You never….” will not lead to resolution of a conflict.  The accused will feel personally threatened and move into a ‘flight or fight’ response mode.  Neither response will lead to a lasting resolution of a conflict.
  10. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that they don’t like you as a person or a leader.  Don’t take it so personally!

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.              Romans 12:18   (NIV 1984)

The Need of the Hour #2

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.    2 Corinthians 4:18    NIV  1984

What the world needs today is a new generation of believers who will say “no” to this world’s values and live for the unseen world promised by Christ.  The reality of heaven will so impact the lives of this generation that they will not compromise or settle for anything less that than God’s best for themselves and those around them.  They will give themselves unreservedly to Christ–a generation whose watchword will be, “Anything, anywhere, anytime–for Christ!”

What will it take to find a generation of God’s people who will live for the summit of God’s best?  It will begin with individual believers who base their lives on eternal rather than temporal values.  It will take believers who are so convinced about the reality of life in heaven that this world’s pleasures will not be able to grip their lives.  It will begin with an eternal value system in the believer’s life.

Both the seen and unseen world has values.  Individuals adopt these values and life’s choices are based upon them.  This world places value on such things as youth and physical beauty, intelligence and education, the accumulation of money and physical goods, personal power and position, and self-gratification.

The world to come says that this world and its values will soon pass away.  In the world to come we will all be given new bodies that don’t age or deteriorate (1 Cor. 15:35-58), we will know even as we are known (1 Cor. 13:9-12), there will be rewards for faithful service (1 Cor. 3:5-15), and we will reign with Christ forever (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 22:1-5).

Those believers with an eternal value system will have a pilgrim’s mentality.  They will view this life as temporary, a brief interlude on the way to eternity forever with Jesus.  They are only passing through this world on the way to a better life.  The time given for this temporal life will be used for God’s glory, always with the eternal end in view.  Decisions in this life will reflect the reality of the eternal life we await.

Our values determine our choices which result in our behavior.  Do your choices reflect an eternal or a temporal value system?


The Need of the Hour #1

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.                Hebrews 11:13-16    NIV  1984

The world is in crisis today.  It is not a political crisis, though it has political implications.  It is not an economic crisis, though economics are effected.  It is not a social crisis, though all levels of society are impacted.  It is a spiritual crisis brought on by the people of God themselves.  There is a spiritual poverty, a lack of vitality in the believer’s walk and talk that has led to mediocrity in the Christian world today.  This mediocre life of the believer has left the Christian world with a muted witness and an emasculated impact on society.  What is needed is a transformation in the Christian world.  What is needed is a generation of believers who will live a radical life (radical in the eyes of the world, but not to God); a life that seeks the world to come, not this world.

The word “mediocre” finds its origin in two Latin words meaning “half way” and “mountain.”  Mediocre means to only get half way up the mountain.  A mediocre Christian life is one that begins its journey aiming for the top of the mountain, but then settles for only half-way to the summit.  What is needed today is a generation of young people who will decide to reach for the summit in the Christian life and settle for nothing less until they reach it.  There will be no compromise along the way.  There will be opportunities to bow out, to give in to the tide of the world, but this generation will set their face like a flint and go for broke.  They will be satisfied with nothing less than God’s best—serving Him with their whole heart!

As we run our individual race through life, we find the enemy of our souls rolling “golden apples” of opportunity, compromise, and temptation in our path.  These golden fruits will be attractive, and we will be tempted to believe that they will not impact our life’s race.  We will think that we can have it all and still finish well.  It will only be near the end of our life’s race that we’ll find that we can’t reach the finish, the summit, God’s best, because we chose to stop our race along the way. We thought it was only for a moment, that no one would know or care, but a moment’s compromise will lead to a mediocre, half-way life.

Are you climbing towards the summit or have you settled for half-way?

Your Convictions are Showing

Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me.  I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land.  And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear.  I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.  So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.’

“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert.  So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day.  You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance.         Joshua 14:6-13   NIV  1984

As Caleb recalls the report of the 12 spies that Moses had sent to view the land 45 years previously, he says that he acted based upon his convictions.  Convictions are much more closely held than opinions.  Convictions are something that we are willing to die for.  It has been said, as we get older, we have fewer and fewer convictions, and more and more opinions.

Here’s my observations on Caleb and his convictions:

  1. He stood against peer pressure  –  Bringing a minority report was not easy for him, but his convictions that God was with them and would help them emboldened him (and Joshua) to stand against the prevailing ‘wisdom’ of the group.
  2. He acted wholeheartedly  –   Caleb was ‘all in’ regarding his conviction that God was with him and would do as He had promised.  No holding back.
  3. He acted upon his convictions  –   Not only did Caleb bring a minority report, but, some 45 years later, he boldly goes to Joshua and requests the land promised to him by Moses.
  4. He acted consistently over a long time  –  Caleb’s convictions stood the test of time.  This was not a passing fad or trend that he had aligned himself to.
  5. He trusted God, not people  –  He still had to work for his inheritance that had been promised.  He had to defeat his enemies in the promised land.  But his confidence was in the Lord and His promises, not people, to obtain it.

What convictions do you have that are demonstrated in your actions?

Handling Our Fears

It is interesting to note the number of times that the Bible says, “Don’t be afraid.”  By my count, that phrase is repeated 77 times in the Scriptures (NIV).  We know that all emotions are God-given and morally neutral.  It is what we do with our emotions, how we express them and act upon them, that make them good or bad.   If that is true, then why does God say many times, “Don’t be afraid?”

My understanding is that the exhortation is not to deny the natural response to threat and become some type of unfeeling, machine-like personality.  Rather, a better way to understand this is to say, “Don’t be controlled by the fear that you are now feeling.”

Fear is one of our God-given emotions.  It can protect us from threats, initiating a ‘flight or fight’ response that can, in some serious situations, save our lives.  But fear can also paralyze us – like a deer caught in the headlights; we freeze, don’t act and are rolled up by the rapidly approaching threat.

Some leaders seek to manage fear by becoming more risk averse.  They reason that by not taking any (or minimal) risks, they will be safe and not have to face their fears.  But, leadership means we have to take risks, for leaders bring change.  The exact outcome of that change is unknown because it is in the future.  Fear of unknown future outcomes can paralyze leaders into simply maintaining the status quo instead of initiating risk-taking change for the better.

Another common fear of leaders is a fear of failure or looking incompetent before others.  This finds its root in our ego or in finding our identity in our leadership role.  Failure is perceived as exposing my incompetence before others and perhaps resulting in my loss of leadership responsibilities.  Mature Kingdom leaders recognize that all leadership roles are God-given and we will all transition these roles at sometime.  We don’t find our security or identity in being a leader.  Rather, we find it in being a servant who has the privilege, for a time, of leading others.

Mature leaders also know that everyone fails sometime.  It’s only a matter of when, not if, we fail.  Failure is not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s how we respond to failure that makes the difference.  Winston Churchill said, “Success in never final; failure is seldom fatal; it’s courage that counts!”  It is the courage to get up and try again that is key when one fails.  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “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)

Leadership is a long journey filled with highs and lows, successes and failures, safety and threats.  Learning to take appropriate risks will enable us to accomplish our God-given tasks for His glory.

How’s your risk tolerance?  Don’t be afraid!


A New Beginning

As we begin a new calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what 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… is the time to stop and reflect upon who you are becoming and what you are doing!  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.


Merry Christmas!

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26–38  (NIV  1984)

May the heart and spirit exemplified by Mary in submission to God’s will for her be reflected within each of us this coming year.

Merry Christmas!

7 Woes for Leaders – #4

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #4  –  “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.”  v 44   (NIV 1984)

Jesus rebukes these religious leaders for they had become toxic to others.  They contaminated others with things detrimental to themselves or the work for which they were called.  They did this through their poor examples or through their direct influence.

As shepherds of God’s flock, Kingdom leaders bear responsibility for their influence upon those under their care.  We must own our influence!  This influence can be from our direct leadership decisions, teaching, or the leadership environment we create.  Or this influence can be more indirect through the example that we personally set as those we lead watch our personal choices, lifestyle, or the values we uphold through our behavior.

A leader worthy of being followed will be one whose leadership influence promotes freedom in the Spirit (Galatians 5) – not to do as one wants, but rather, freedom to sacrificially serve Christ.  Their teaching will be focused on Christ, upholding Him as the model worthy of imitating.  Those they lead will flourish in the environment they create for it affirms God-given individual design differences and encourages all to grow to maturity.

These Kingdom leaders are very aware of the influence they have through their personal example.  They seek to live a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ first and for the sake of others to imitate.  While they may have freedom to indulge, they are sensitive to those who may have more sensitive consciences and choose not to for their sake.  They would not say, “Do what I say, not what I do.”  But rather, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.”  (see 2 Timothy 1:13)

Kingdom leaders are sobered by the reality that one day we will have to give an account to the Lord for our leadership (Hebrews 13:17).  This accountability is not just the missional component of our leadership, but also the influence that we had on those who followed our leadership.  Task and people are both important as we lead.

Are you aware of the influence you have on those around you?  Are you setting the pace as well as setting the example worthy of being imitated?

7 Woes for Leaders – #3

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #3  –  “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”  v. 43   (NIV  1984)

Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees were very interested in appearance.  They wanted the prominent seats in worship services at the synagogue.  They wanted to be noticed by others when they strolled through the public marketplaces.  They were more interested in seeking the approval of others, rather than doing what is right.

Ego and pride can be very insidious in their growth within us.  Prominence, success, platform, recognition can all plant seeds within our hearts that sprout into the strangle vine of pride.  Leaders, because of our positions and prominence can be susceptible to this noxious weed in our life.  How we respond when praised and recognized is key to keeping these weeds out of our garden.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Any man can handle adversity, but it is success that is the true test of a man.”

Instead of seeking the approval of others in order to win their recognition or praise, do what is right.  But what is this “right” that we are to do.  Numerous passages in the Bible describe leaders doing what is right in the eyes of God, not men.  For example, “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kgs 15:5).   NIV  1984

Doing what is right is doing what is pleasing to God.  It is living and leading in such a way as to seek His approval – His alone.  For in pleasing God, by doing what is right, we may run counter-cultural to the times or the wisdom of the world.

So where do you find your approval?  Your heart will tell you and God knows.

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