Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the category “#3 DO – What a Leader Does”

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 2

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.

Note, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What will I have for lunch today?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God calling me into vocational ministry?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  You can expect to have specific biblical passages or Scriptural promises that speak to the decision you are working through.

Obviously, if something is contrary to a direct teaching or command in Scripture, or contrary to God’s character, it is not the will of God (i.e. marrying a non-Christian – see 2 Corinthians 6:14).  But God can also speak to us concerning our specific situations through personal promises from the Bible.  The Holy Spirit will confirm in  your heart that this is God’s promise to you.  For more details, see Praying Over God’s Promises.

In Psalm 119:105 (ESV) we read, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  The Word of God is like a small, hand-held, oil lamp that sheds enough light for us to take a few steps, illuminating the path as we move ahead.  It’s only enough light for the next few steps, but as we go, we have light for the next few steps.  See also Proverbs 6:22-23.

When wrestling with decisions have an expectant attitude as you interact with God’s Word.  You may hear Him speaking while in your morning devotions, when listening to a Sunday sermon, or He may bring to mind a passage you have memorized.  His direction from the Word will often be multiple passages, not just a singular one.  He does not want us confused or mistaking His voice for another’s.

Jesus promises us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27 (ESV)

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 1

Kingdom leaders want to further God’s purposes in their lives and through their leadership.  They seek to align their decisions in accordance with God’s will.  But given the many choices, how does one discern the Lord’s will in specific decisions?  Here are some foundational thoughts regarding this important topic.

If a Kingdom leader is to know the will of God, they must first commit themselves to doing it.  Often, we desire to know God’s plans for us and then we decide if we want to obey them.  But God’s ways are not our ways.

Jesus says in John 7:17 (ESV):  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

And again in Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) we read: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Note that the precursor for testing the good and acceptable and perfect will of God is to first present yourself a living sacrifice to the Lord and become transformed in the renewal of your mind.

In Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) we see:  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  The Lord is working on/in/through us to do His good works which He planned long ago.  It’s our job to align ourselves with Him and His plan for us and then we will experience His perfectly designed plan for which we were created.

Because God is God, He will have no trouble in communicating to us what He wants us to do.  Our problem is doing God’s will, not knowing God’s will!  We must be willing to do whatever He desires for us, before He will let us know His plan for us.  This can be frightening, but if we really know God and His love, we will also trust Him as we follow His guidance by faith.

May our attitude be that of Mary who, after learning about God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus says, …”Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38 (ESV)

Leading Within Your Capacity

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…  1 Peter 4:10-11  ESV

Peter reminds us that Kingdom people are called to serve others for the glory of God. God has designed and gifted us uniquely for service by giving us spiritual gifts that enable us to carry out such work.  Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that these works were thought of by God Himself and we were created accordingly to accomplish these works.

One of those works is speaking on God’s behalf.  Kingdom leaders are given the privilege and responsibility to speak the truth of God’s Word, helping His people know His will and calling out untruth in those who do not obey Him.  It is a sobering responsibility and one’s stewardship of this before the Lord should cause us to pause.

The second reminder from Peter is that we are to serve others with the strength that God provides us.  We each have differing capacities to lead and serve others and these capacities may change given the seasons of our lives and our responsibilities.  We can’t compare ourselves with others as we each have various capacities and abilities.  God entrusts these to us along with our perfectly designed missions for us to finish (see the Parable of the Talents – Matthew 25).

Note that Peter says we are to serve with the strength God gives us – that is, with everything that we have, no more or no less.  Our ‘strength’ – our individual capacity, gifting, ability, talent, training – may not be what we want or think is necessary, but God makes no mistakes.  We have all that we need to accomplish all He desires.

Do not try to do more that you are capable of.  But, never do less that you have the ability to do.  Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Colossians 3:23

Learning to live and lead within your God-given ‘strength’ – being thankful and grateful, not striving or comparing, brings peace and joy.  You will experience the blessing of God as you walk in step with Him.

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.

Breaking Gridlock!

So, you have delegated authority to another to execute some well-defined responsibility.  They have been faithful to carry out the responsibility to the best of their ability, but now, a problem has arisen.  They’re stuck and can’t seem to move it any further.  You determine it’s not for lack of effort, but they can’t move ahead without some additional help.  What to do?

You’re sensitive to the impulse just to jump in and solve a problem that needs fixing, not wanting to micro-manage a situation.  And you want to maximize this delegated responsibility to grow the person.  Taking the pressure off them removes some of God’s best training moments as they wrestle with seeking Him and asking for His help (not yours).

But when is it appropriate to enter back into this gridlock and get things unstuck?  Here’s a couple of guidelines that can help.

1.  Remember that there is a difference between delegating authority to another and having their authority recognized by others – especially if they are leading their peers.  You may have that recognized final authority, but their peers may not.

2.  Don’t be too quick to jump in and solve something for someone you’ve given responsibility to, unless there is a pending deadline that demands action now.  Let them try to move it themselves and see the Lord do what only He can do.  We want them dependent on Him, not you.

3.  Having done the above, there are times when you have to engage in situations and get things unstuck, breaking gridlock between two or more opinions and bringing alignment (and hopefully agreement) to move forward.  The important thing is that all parties feel well listened to and taken seriously.  But, having done so, we still may not agree.

4.  When you re-engage and bring your authority to break the impasse, you can be viewed as a dictator who only wants to get his/her own way.  You can mitigate this by saying something like, “We have to move this forward, so here’s what I’d suggest.  Let’s do ‘x’ for the next (period of time) and then stop to re-evaluate the results.”  So, you are communicating that this is not the end of it all.  We are going to try to go this direction for a period and then stop to see if we are getting the outcomes we hoped for.  You show sensitivity, teachability, and yet a desire to move this ahead.

5.  Once you’ve communicated the decision and all understand that we all will align to this new direction, your job it not done.  Keep the responsibility with the one you delegated to.  Don’t take it back.  Let them see it through to completion.

6.  Set some calendar reminder with all involved as to when we will re-evaluate this decision and its outcomes.  This helps remove angst for those who may feel like they ‘lost’ and shows you are serious about this future review and not just saying something to assuage their feelings.

Break the gridlock when necessary.  But do it wisely!

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

 

Two are Better Than One

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!   Ecclesiastes 4:9-10  ESV

The Western worldview tends to be very individualistic and this often translates into Kingdom work as we seek to personally carry out God’s calling and ministry.  It would seem that the NT pattern is for a leader and a team of gifted, talented people, all aligned and serving together to accomplish their God-given mission.

But in a recent study I was struck by the number of times God sends pairs of people instead of individuals to accomplish various tasks.  Yes, there certainly are many individuals sent by Him – OT prophets, Nehemiah, Esther, Phillip, and others.  But look at the following list of pairs used by Him.

  1. Married couples – Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Mary, Aquila and Priscilla
  2. OT Leadership Pairs – Moses and Aaron, Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Elijah and Elisha
  3. NT Leadership Pairs – The Twelve sent out in pairs, The 72 sent out in pairs, a pair of disciples sent to collect a donkey for the entry into Jerusalem, a pair of disciples sent to prepare the upper room, Barnabas and Saul set apart by the Holy Spirit for ministry to the Gentiles, Barnabas and John Mark, Paul and Silas for the second missionary tour, Peter and John sent to Samaria to investigate their faith, Judas and Silas sent to Antioch to convey the message of the Jerusalem council meeting
  4. Heavenly Pairs – Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus at the Transfiguration, two angels appear in the tomb on resurrection morning, two angels appear on the Mt. of Olives at the Ascension

There are certainly a lot of these pairs who the Lord used to carry out His purposes.  Some were married, some were mentors-mentees, and some were co-workers.  All were used to further the Kingdom and His work.

Perhaps the Lord will give you someone who will come alongside of you and together you will do great things for Him.  It may be a life partner, it may be someone you are discipling, or it may be a co-laborer whom the Lord calls you both to serve together.

You can mutually encourage, challenge, and help one another as you serve in pairs.  Not all needs to be done alone or individually. Look for that like-hearted one you can serve with!

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.

Culture, Traditions and Kingdom Leadership

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ … thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”    Mark 7:8-10, 13 ESV

Cultures and traditions associated with them are constantly changing.  What is important and vital today from a cultural perspective, tomorrow will seem irrelevant or secondary to something else that is now the topic of the day.  In contrast, the Word of God is trans-cultural and eternal.

In Jesus’ day the issue in question was honoring parents and the tradition of Corban – dedicating to God certain personal assets that could (should?) have been used to care for one’s parents as they age, thus fulfilling the commandment of honoring them.  Let’s make several observations from the above passage and see how this applies for Kingdom leaders today.

First we see that Jesus authenticates the authorship of the passage to Moses.  We also note that He says this is the inspired Word of God, not just some good ideas that Moses came up with.   And Jesus says that the leaders of the day were nullifying the Word of God by their teachings and cultural traditions.

The religious leaders of the day had allowed their cultural teachings and traditions to void the commands of God.  Culture had taken precedent over God’s Word.  Jesus rightly rebukes them for such poor leadership, calling them hypocrites and worshipers of God in appearance only (see verses 5-7).

As Kingdom leaders we bear a heavy responsibility to hold to the truth of the Word of God and not allow the ‘traditions’ of our culture compromise or mute the commands of God.  It’s a ‘high wire act’ with seemingly no visible ‘net’ beneath us as we teach and lead in an increasingly hostile environment.  We need wisdom from above to do this well (see James 1:5).

Don’t let the ever changing culture and its corresponding values compromise the truth of God’s Word.  Yes, be sure to be sensitive and contextualize where possible, just don’t compromise the truth.  Keep your focus on the eternal.  What is important today will be gone tomorrow as another topic moves to center stage and we will find ourselves focusing on culture rather than teaching the truth of God’s Word.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”                      2 Kings 6:15-16  ESV

Cling to the truth, listen and observe your cultural context carefully, accommodate where possible, but never compromise!  God has your back!

Communicating with Word Pictures

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”    Matthew 7:24-25  ESV

Communicating well can be difficult for Kingdom leaders.  “What we have here is a failure to communicate” is heard all too frequently.  As a team leader you are often casting vision and futuristic concepts that for you may seem crystal clear, but for your hearers they are a thick fog.  How can you cut through the fog and help those around you see it as clearly as you do?

One key to good communication, especially when dealing with abstract or complex topics is to learn to speak in word pictures.  Taking the complex and ‘putting a handle’ on it so that it is easy to grasp is a learned skill.  Like all skills, you can get good at it and when you do, you will find yourself being quoted because your communication is memorable.

Note how Jesus ended His most famous sermon – the Sermon on the Mount.  In the reference above He closed with a word picture of a person building a house on two different types of foundations.  The key word is “like” which introduces the simile that follows.  Those who hear His words and obey them are ‘like’ a wise man who built on a rock.  ‘Like’ transitions from concept to word picture that makes the abstract more concrete in the minds of His audience.

As you talk about your mission and vision, learn to use word pictures, similes that will help your audience better understand and remember key points and concepts.  Here’s an example that I use to explain the difference between mission and vision for Kingdom leaders.

Mission Statement –  This answers the question, “Why do we exist?”  This is first and foremost in strategic leading.  It’s like a picture frame on the wall of the Kingdom that separates and defines who we are from what others are.  It is our task and our identity.

Vision Statement  –  This is where we want to go in the future – our destination.  It is the picture of the future of our desired future state that we see by faith.  It’s the picture that is placed into the picture frame of our mission.  It is this future vision that we will begin to work towards and bring into reality by His grace and power.

Train yourself to communicate in simple, easy to understand word pictures.  Your influence will grow and your communications will ‘stick.’

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