Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Focus for Impact

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”  Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also.  That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demon.  Mark 1:35–39   NIV  1984

Jesus had some early recruits in the two sets of brothers who were fishing partners in Capernaum.  They had been with him off and on for about a year now, and life was about to take a major shift for all of them.  Jesus had recruited them to leave the fishing business in order to become vocational ‘religious’ workers – leaders in training.  They had enlisted, leaving family and friends behind, for what would turn out to be a two-year training assignment and a new life-long vocation.

Having just ended an inspirational evening the night before, they discover Jesus alone outside of town spending time in prayer and communion with His Father.  They assume that He will want to continue the wonderful experience of healing and miracles that occurred the night before, so they remind Him that, “everyone is looking for you.”  They assume that He would want to return to Peter and Andrew’s home and heal those who were gathering there.

But, Jesus responded with a risk-taking statement, “Let’s go to the nearby villages…that is why I have come.”  It was a risk to disappoint the expectations of his new recruits.  What if they insisted on Him coming back to help?  There was pressure on Jesus to conform to the wishes of His team and the needs of the masses.  But, Jesus boldly and confidently said ‘no.’

It was His mission – task – purpose that brought clarity to the decision that now had to be made.  He was focused on that purpose – the ‘why’ of His ministry.  Thus, while it may seem difficult, it was not really.  Clarity of purpose – mission made the decision an obvious one.  He must go to the surrounding villages to tell them the Good News of the Kingdom and not be consumed with the needs in Capernaum only.

Clarity of purpose and maintaining that focus is essential for leadership success.  Many a leader has started out well, having a clear vision for what they want to accomplish, but then in the midst of the ‘daily whiteout’ they forget why they are so busy.  Consumed by the immediate needs, they succumb to reactive leadership instead of maintaining their strategic intent.

Don’t fall into this trap.  Stay focused!  Stay strategic!  Don’t substitute busyness for strategic intent!

Contented or Confounded?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

                               Philippians 4:12-13   (NIV 1984)

Paul had discovered a secret.  Perhaps he had not been looking for it, but he did discover it and recognized the value of what he had found.  The great discovery was the answer to the question, “How can one find contentment in this world?”

That fact that Paul says it is a secret implies that the answer to the question is not obvious to many.  It must be found or discovered.  Paul’s need for contentment was revealed through his personal experience of having bounty at times and want at other times.  In both circumstances, plenty and need, Paul saw that he was not content.  Just as there is no satisfaction in accumulation of this world’s material goods, neither is their spiritual maturity in poverty.

Paul discovered that the answer to being content, no matter his circumstances, was to be found in Christ.  Only Jesus Himself could fill whatever contentment was lacking in his life.  It was through the strength of Christ in him, the hope of glory, that Paul was to finally discover lasting contentment.

Note too that Paul had to learn this contentment, it would seem to be a process, not an event.  It was not a natural outcome of his spiritual growth, but rather a secret that he discovered along the way to maturity.  He could do all things through Christ!

So, how’s your journey towards contentment?  Is there a lie you are believing that if you had a change in economic status (usually meaning that we have more, not less) that you would suddenly discover contentment?

Contentment is found in Christ alone.  He will meet your needs for contentment, for you can to everything through Him.

Discrimination and the Kingdom

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.           Acts 2:42-46     NIV 1984

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.   Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them  and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  This proposal pleased the whole group.        Acts 6:1-5a   NIV 1984

Bias is simply personal preference.  Prejudice is a prejudgment of a person or group.  Today it is often negative or critical, and is usually based upon stereotypes.  Prejudice is a strong bias or an opinion formed before encountering the facts.  If ones prejudice manifests itself in actions, it becomes discrimination.

You’ll note that the apostles encountered a situation among their community of regular discrimination.  The Greek speaking Jewish widows (now converts to Christ) were not being given their daily portion of food.  They were ‘overlooked’ by the Hebrew speaking Jewish believers who were responsible for the daily food distribution from the common ‘pot.’  This was not an oversight – ‘were being’ implies a continual action – day after day – intentional neglect.  This was pure discrimination!

Note that this happened in a community of believers who were sitting under the teaching of the apostles and experiencing many wonders and miraculous signs.  But even this amazing environment was not enough to overcome their long-held prejudice and enmity between Jew and Gentile.  Something else was needed to bring about the Kingdom change where all would be treated equitably.

Leadership (the Twelve) got involved in bringing about a needed correction.  They instructed the community to select seven men ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom’ to manage this daily distribution of food.  And note that the seven who were nominated and then finally approved by the Twelve, were all Greeks (at least they all had Greek names).  With these seven in charge the problem was solved.

Discrimination due to race, class, or culture is not of the Kingdom.  When Kingdom leaders encounter it, they must act to correct it.

As you think about your leadership, is there any sign of discrimination that needs your engagement?

Prejudice and the Kingdom

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”  Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”  “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”                            John 1:43-49   (NIV 1984)

You’ll note from the above passage Nathanael’s response when Phillip says, “We have found the one..”  Nathanael’s prejudice is verbalized in his reply, “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?”  In other words, those Nazarenes are not worth much in my opinion – especially considering that you are asking me, Phillip, to believe that the Messiah is from Nazareth!

Prejudice is a prejudgment of a person or group, usually based upon stereotypes.  It is a strong bias or an opinion formed before encountering the facts.  If ones prejudice manifests itself in actions it becomes discrimination.

Nathanael expresses his prejudice against the Nazarenes and is then confronted by a choice.  Phillip simply says to him, “Come and see.”  Fortunately, Nathanael does not allow his prejudice to overcome him.  He’s willing to investigate this one whom Phillip is so excited about.

When meeting Jesus face to face, Nathanael is told by Jesus that He saw him under the fig tree when Phillip invited him.  Immediately Nathanael’s prejudice is changed as he responds, ” Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

All of us have our own prejudices, some being more obvious than others.  If these prejudices are negative or critical towards others what hope is there for lasting change?  For Kingdom citizens we have the hope of a personal encounter with Jesus.

Just as Nathanael had his prejudice removed when he personally met Jesus, we too can have our own prejudices removed and permanently transformed.  There is hope for those of the Kingdom and that hope is found in meeting the Messiah.  He will reveal to us our true selves and with that will come the power, through the Holy Spirit, to put off our old self and put on the new.

Perhaps it may prove helpful to ask the Lord to show you any prejudices that you may be harboring.  And once revealed, ask Him to change you-removing the old and putting on the new Christlike one that He desires for you to be.

Disputes and Disagreements

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.    (Acts 15:1–2)

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.   (Acts 15:24)

Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.   (Acts 15:37–40)

Disputes, disagreements, and debates – all normal for Kingdom leaders.  Nothing new under the sun.

In the first incident we have Paul and Barnabas entering into a debate on the purity of the gospel – a doctrinal issue.  This dispute could not be settled locally, thus a meeting was set to determine the solution to the problem.  Yes, even in the early Church meetings were common.

Arguments were presented and discussed and a final decision reached.  This decision was placed into writing and hand-delivered to the offended parties with some explanation of background and future expectations articulated.  A process to determine a solution to the problem was well executed.

The second disagreement was over a personnel decision – John Mark – and involved Paul and Barnabas.  This was resolved locally with a decision to go their separate ways.  Who was right or were they both wrong?  Perhaps it depends on one’s perspective.

Barnabas saw the potential in John Mark (his nephew) and was willing to give him another opportunity, not holding his past failure against him.  Paul, perhaps looking at this decision from a task orientation, did not want to jeopardize the mission by having a team member who had not proven himself faithful previously.

Perhaps they were both right.  Barnabas’ investment in John Mark proves well worth the time as Paul admits later in 2 Timothy 4:11.  Paul’s second missionary tour also proved profitable as he took Silas with him and opened Europe to the gospel.

Not all disagreements can end well.  But God’s purposes are not frustrated by these challenges.  Do your best to live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18) and trust Him for the outcomes.

God’s Purposes

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.                       Psalm 138:8   NIV  1984

After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ …  “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.
Acts 13:22, 36   NIV  1984

David wrote Psalm 138 and testified that the Lord would fulfill His purpose for him.  By faith, David testified that the Lord would do for him what He had promised.  He was certain of it.

One thousand years later Paul testifies about David’s life in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch on his first missionary journey.  He says that God found David to be a man after God’s own heart who would do whatever God asked of him.  And David did just that.  And when that purpose for his generation was completed, David fell asleep – he died.

Our God is a missional God who works.  Jesus reminds us that the Father is always at work and that He too is working (see John 5:17).  Because we are created in His image, we too are to have a missional mindset.

What is our purpose for which the Lord has made us?  What is it that He wants to accomplish in and through us?  Find that purpose and you will find satisfaction and peace.

Yes, there is the overarching purpose of knowing Him and bringing glory to Him (see John 17:3; Isaiah 43:7).  But there is also a personal purpose (mission, task) for which the Lord created you and redeemed you, asking you to accomplish this during your generation.

Ask Him to show you what that destiny is and then give yourself to it with your whole heart.  You were made for it!

Your purpose…. your destiny ….  your task…  your mission – do you know it and are you following Him into its fulfillment?

Wisdom and Its Source

“Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles.  He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace…. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.       Acts 7:9-10, 22     NIV  1984

Note the contrast between the wisdom of Joseph and the wisdom of Moses (up to the age of 40).

Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  But having been shown his future destiny in two dreams as a 17-year-old young man, God’s plan for him was not frustrated.  In fact, the favor of the Lord was with Joseph, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances.  And it was God who gave Joseph wisdom (godly wisdom) that opened opportunities for him in Potiphar’s household, in prison, and finally with Pharaoh.

In contrast, Moses was educated in the best system of the day – the Egyptian education system – having grown up in Pharaoh’s household as an adopted son.  The result was that he was “powerful in speech and action” – a gifted, natural leader.  But all of his natural ability and education did not qualify him to lead God’s people by the age of 40.  The world’s wisdom was not enough in God’s eyes to qualify Moses to lead.  It would be 40 more years of preparation before the Lord would appear to him in the burning bush when he was finally ready, with God’s anointing, to lead.

Wisdom is easily understood as necessary for leadership – especially for Kingdom leaders who are constantly balancing seeking to please God and meeting the demands of the world.  But the wisdom needed for Kingdom leaders must come from God Himself.  Yes, a certain wisdom can be gained by learner’s hearts and through increased experience.  But, it is the wisdom that comes from the Lord that will bring the outcomes desired for Kingdom leaders.

This God-given wisdom can be asked for (see James 1:5) and the wonderful promise is that it will be given to all who ask.

So….are you asking?

Modeling and Managing Yourself

Leading and managing others is much easier if you are able to manage yourself first.  Self-management, being able to self-direct, is a prerequisite for deeper leadership influence.  Your personal example as a leader speaks very loudly to those around you.

Below are some passages that speak to this idea of self-management and being an example for others.  Reflect upon them in the context of your leadership influence.

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,
and discerning if he holds his tongue.   (Proverbs 17:28  NIV 1984)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.  (James 3:9–10  NIV 1984)

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”  (John 16:12  NIV 1984)

When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.  Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.  (Proverbs 23:1–3  NIV 1984)

But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’  Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 14:10–11  NIV 1984)

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  (Luke 6:31  NIV 1984)

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.  (1 Thessalonians 5:15  NIV 1984)

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.  (1 Timothy 4:12  NIV 1984)

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 11:1  NIV  1984)

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  (John 13:15  NIV 1984)

As a Kingdom leader you are being watched and your example speaks louder than your words.  What are you modeling that others may imitate?

Packaging the Message

Leaders desire to influence and deeply impact those around them.  Kingdom leaders want to do so for the advance of the gospel and to bring glory to Christ.

In 1 Samuel 16:7 the Lord reminds Samuel as he is selecting from among Jesse’s sons a replacement for Saul, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  (1 Samuel 16:7   NIV 1984).

There are two truths in this advice.  Primary is the truth that the Lord’s criteria for leadership selection is based upon what is internal – the heart of a person.  But there is also a second truth – people do look at the outward appearance.  Many a leader has neglected to consider the importance of the ‘exterior’ image that they project.  So much so, that the message that God has given them and their leadership influence is muted because the ‘packaging’ of the messenger is distracting.

This is not to suggest that Kingdom leaders must wear designer clothing or be modeling the latest trend or cultural fad.  But wisdom says that we don’t want our exterior to detract or confuse the message that God has given us to deliver.

That’s why Paul said, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”  (1 Corinthians 9:20-23  NIV 1984)

So how’s the ‘packaging’ of the message and the messenger?  You might consider asking your spouse or a trusted friend for any suggestions they may have on how you can improve or change.

The task is too important to neglect this!

 

Leaders and Popularity

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips…  All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff… Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people.  They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority…  All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching?     Luke 4:22, 28–32, 36   NIV 1984

Two different towns – Nazareth and Capernaum, two different audiences, and two very different responses to Jesus’ leadership and authority.

In the synagogue in Nazareth, when Jesus was explaining a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 61 concerning the ministry of the Messiah, the prophecy concerning Himself, He proclaims that it was fulfilled that very day-right there in front of their eyes.  The audience was amazed at His gracious words.

Yet Jesus continued to explain that the favor of the Lord was not based upon one’s heritage, but rather one’s faith.  The mood of the audience quickly changed.  They became furious at Him, drove Him out-of-town and sought to physically harm him by throwing Him off of a cliff.  One can only imagine the feelings of the disciples with Jesus or even His family members as this was taking place?  Popularity can be fleeting.

Jesus seemingly shrugs it off and moves on to Capernaum, where the following week He is again teaching in the synagogue.  While we are not told about the subject matter, His teaching engenders a similar initial response.  The people were amazed at His teaching and the authority with which He delivered it.  But here they remained positive and in fact spread the news about Him to the surrounding area.

Jesus’ ministry did not change due to the audience.  He was consistent, not caring about His reputation or concerned about whether they would like Him or not.  Rather, He was committed to truth and teaching it well, letting the people decide for themselves whether to accept or reject the message.

This consistency created such a reputation that His enemies sought to use it against Him.  Note what they say about Him as they tried to trap Him with a question about paying taxes.  “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.”  ( Luke 20:21  NIV 1984)

Kingdom leaders consistently focus on truth, not on how well they are liked as leaders.  Do what it right and let God take care of your reputation and popularity.  How’s your focus?

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