Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

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?

Vision and Provision

When a leader plans for the future, they must anticipate the resources needed to accomplish any idea that is planned.  Now there are two approaches to this planning process.  One involves walking by faith the other walking by sight.

One can plan according to the resources one has – taking stock of the current inventory and then planning accordingly.  Planning based upon what we see we currently have ‘in stock’ can be wise, but it is also limiting.  We are not free to dream, take bigger faith initiatives, or think beyond what our current limited resources allow us to do.

For Kingdom leaders a better approach would be to ask the Lord, “What would you have me/us to accomplish?”  Having gotten clear direction on that goal, we then look to the Lord Himself to provide the necessary resources to accomplish the task He has assigned.

In John 6:1-13 we see Jesus asking the Twelve to feed 5000 people.  Note that this was simply a developmental question for Philip (v. 5-6) “…for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”  Andrew answers by looking to the resources that they currently have on hand – not much.  “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (v. 9)  NIV 1984

Then Jesus springs into action.  He has them sit down. Then, taking what they had, the boy’s lunch of bread and fish, He provides for the current need.  He blesses food and the Twelve distributed it to the seated masses.  Note that those who were seated got “as much as they wanted” (v. 11) and that they even had twelve baskets of leftovers.

God’s provision for whatever task He asks of us is not limited to whatever current provision we have.  Rather, we have access to unlimited resources to accomplish whatever He may ask us to do.  His provision will come in such a way that we are assured it is from Him, for then He will receive the glory.  And His provision will be abundant, lavish, to the point of even having excess.  Note too the stewardship of the excess.  Jesus said to the disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted.”  (v. 12).

As you think about the future plans that He has for you what perspective do you have regarding the resources needed?  Are you planning based upon what you see or what you can trust Him for?

Counter-intuitive Decisions

Leaders sometimes must make decisions that seem illogical or counter-intuitive to those on the receiving end of the decision. Given the leader’s experience, wisdom, or perhaps additional information, when the decision is communicated it can cause others to question whether this is a good idea or not.

Note the following examples of Jesus’ seeming counter-intuitive decisions, how they were communicated, and how they were received.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  (Luke 5:4-6)

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone.  (John 11:38-41)

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.  (John 21:4-6)

It was Jesus’ knowledge and power that gave Him the ability to make these kinds of decisions and direct others to follow.  No doubt it was difficult for those around Him to trust His decisions initially.  But over time, trust in Him and His abilities grew to a confidence that He could even raise the dead back to life if desired.

There are times when a leader must make a decision that seems illogical or counter-intuitive to those who follow.  Trust in the leader’s ability and experience will help overcome any hesitancy in following.

Knowing God

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Ephesians 1:17  (NIV 1984)

In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul mentions two things that he is praying for them.  He prays that the Lord will give them, “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”  These two attributes are truly important for all believers, but they are also essential for Kingdom leaders who would hope to faithfully serve Him.

The ‘Spirit of wisdom’ is foundational for all good leadership.  The world recognizes the need for leaders to have wisdom, but their answer for wisdom is by gaining experience.  This can be personal experience gained over time or by studying the experiences of others.  While this can be of some benefit, it does not necessarily translate into the paradigm of Kingdom leadership.

That is why Paul prays for the “Spirit of wisdom” to be given to us.  Godly, Kingdom wisdom comes from above and is given to us by the Holy Spirit who indwells all followers of Jesus.  This wisdom from above may be counter-cultural and counter-intuitive from the world’s perspective.  But it will be perfectly aligned with God’s purposes for us and those we lead as we seek to follow Him.  This Kingdom wisdom teaches us the ways of God as opposed to the ways of men (see Exodus 33:12-13ff) and enables us to lead in such a way that is pleasing to Him.

The ‘Spirit of,,,revelation’ is also key for Kingdom leaders.  It means the bringing to light something previously hidden or unknown.  A Kingdom leader’s need to find root issues, causes, and see both the future intended and unintended consequences of their decisions is essential.  These things often cannot just be thought out.  We need insight from the Spirit within us to reveal that which is hidden, either through ignorance, lack of information, or just not being able to foresee far enough into the future.

The result of gaining both wisdom and revelation from God is  “… that you may know him better.”  It is this “knowing Him” that will bring blessing to our leadership and ensure that our outcomes are aligned with His overall purposes.

Are you asking for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to come upon you and those you lead?

A Leader’s Job Description

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…       Romans 1:1  ( NIV 1984)

In the opening passage of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome he describes himself and his job (role, contribution).  This concise description can provide all Kingdom leaders with a template for our contribution as well.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…”  The word means “one owned by another” (bond slave, doulos) and describes a person in relationship to a master.  It is the same word used to describe Jesus in Philippians 2:7, “…taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Being a servant is a leader’s identity, not their activity.  This identity does not change, regardless of whether or not our role, title, or responsibility changes.  All who are followers of Jesus find our identity as servants of Him who bought and paid for us with His own blood on the cross.  Sometimes we have the privilege of expressing that servant identity in leading others.  But at other times, we may express that same servant identity by following someone else as they lead us.

Paul continues his own description, “…called to be an apostle…”  The word means “one who is sent out; a messenger sent with a message to deliver”  Here Paul begins to put a sharper point on his own personal job as he works out the specifics of his servant leadership.  He was to be an apostle to the Gentiles (the nations; the non-Jews).  This explanation was given at his conversion on the road to Damascus and was further clarified in a meeting with leadership in Jerusalem some years later (see Galatians 2).

Paul’s function was to be a pioneering messenger to the Gentiles, planting the good seed of the gospel among peoples (Gentiles) who did not have a Jewish background.   He laid foundations that others would come afterwards and build upon (see 1 Corinthians 3).  He knew his role and his personal function in light of the bigger goal of advancing the Kingdom and discipling the nations for Christ.

So too for any Kingdom leader; we must be very clear on our personal function that we bring.  It is a function that we, and only we, can and must do.  It’s more than just ‘lead.’  But, rather, what part of the overall leadership function do you do?  That’s strategic leadership at it’s best.

Are you clear on your identity and your strategic leadership activity?  What is it that you and only you can and must do, today, as you lead?

 

 

 

Finding Favor with God

    Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

    For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.

    But whoever fails to find me harms himself;
all who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8:34-36  (NIV 84)

The context of the passage above is the pursuit of wisdom.  The author puts the pursuit of wisdom in the context of leadership in Proverbs 8:15-16.  It’s an easy argument to convince any Kingdom leader that they need wisdom from above.  The world would also agree on the need for leaders to have wisdom, but their source is through gaining more experience.  Kingdom leaders look to the Lord Himself to give them wisdom beyond their years and experience.

Note that verse 34 creates a sense of pursuit and anticipation as the leader waits upon the Lord.  This person is ‘waiting’ and ‘watching’ daily for the Lord to speak.  Their heart and mind is attuned to the Lord’s voice, knowing that He is the source of the wisdom they so need.

The result of this pursuit of wisdom of course, is that they find it (vs. 35).  Note that it is promised that we will receive wisdom if we ask for (pursue) it (James 1:5).

With leadership wisdom comes life and favor from God.  By ‘life’ we mean two things.  First, for the leader him/herself, it means that we thrive in our leadership, instead of just survive in this demanding responsibility.  Second, for our leadership, it means that those we lead prosper and are blessed by our leadership.

By ‘favor from the Lord’ we mean that we fulfill God’s purposes for us both personally and His desired outcomes for our leadership.  What leader does not want these two aspects as the legacy for their personal leadership?

Verse 36 is the countering reminder that those who do not pursue wisdom are foolish.  They suffer in their leadership and the outcome is death.  How tragic!

How’s your pursuit of wisdom?  Remember, the true source is the Lord Himself.  Spend daily time with Him and you will find life and favor from Him.

Visions, Dreams, and Devotions

While reading through the New Testament recently during my daily devotions I was struck by the number of visions that the Apostle Paul received in his lifetime.    Note the following….

Conversion on road to Damascus  –  Acts 9:1-7

Calling to Macedonia (Europe)  –  Acts 16:6-10

Personal security and courage in Corinth  –  Acts 18:9-11

Guidance to leave Jerusalem  –  Acts 22:12-21

Personal security and courage before Sanhedrin –  Acts 23:11

Personal security and courage on board ship  –  Acts 27:23-26

Revelation of the Gospel  –  Galatians 1:11-12

Revelation of the Body of Christ  –  Ephesians 3:1-6

Vision of Heaven  –  2 Corinthians 12:1-4

It is quite the list, is it not?  Can you see the intimacy between Paul and the Lord Jesus that is illustrated in these?  What a connection!

Now you might be saying to yourself, “Bummer, I’ve never had such an experience.”  “Why was Paul so fortunate and not me?”  And yet, you have the Holy Spirit – God Himself – living within you and you have His Word – the Bible – through which you and He can communicate every moment of every day.  Why do you long for what you don’t have and neglect what you do have?

We can sometimes long for the ‘spectacular’ and take for granted or even disdain the commonplace, not realizing how very special and privileged we truly are.

Should God choose to speak to you through a vision or dream, “good on ya'” as our Aussie friends say.  Or should He choose to speak to you through a passage from His living Word, “be blessed.”  Both are legitimate means of communication for Him, with one being more common (frequently used) – the Bible, yet not to be dismissed in longing for something more unusual.

In fact, Peter, when recalling the spectacular vision of seeing Christ physically transformed into His glory, put it into perspective.  “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”  (2 Peter 1:16-19)

Enter into you daily devotions with an expectation of meeting with the Living God, your Lord and Creator.  Don’t overlook the usual and miss the great blessing of the pursuit of Him through the Scriptures.

Contribution and Old Age

The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.                               Numbers 8:23-26

The new U.S. President is 70 years old.  His election opponent was 69.  The average age for the new cabinet candidates is 64.  Why the large number of older leaders?  Is it because their generation, the Baby Boomers, tends to vote more frequently and out-number the Millennials?  Is it that those who are older are clinging to power and reluctant to give it over to the next generation?

From the passage above in Numbers we see that those who served in the Tabernacle, the Levites, were conscripted to serve from age 25 to 50.  At the age of 50 they were released from their regular duty, but were to still be available for helping those in active service.  Many believe that this restriction was due to the heavy physical demands of the role – setting up, tearing down, and transporting the Tabernacle and all its accompanying accessories across the desert.  Regardless, it is interesting to note that the Lord Himself set age limits for this service.

We can also observe that Moses was 80 when God appeared to him and called him into service.  He served as the leader of Israel for 40 more years until his death at 120.  Tradition tells us that the Apostle Paul served into his sixties and that the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation in his nineties.

Certainly these examples are descriptive rather than prescriptive for us.  But we must be cautious that as we focus on next generation leadership, we don’t automatically dismiss the contribution of those who are older.  While it is wise and strategic to intentionally focus on a transition to younger leaders, we must not develop a corresponding prejudice against those who are older.  Youth has its advantages, but so does age and experience.

Just because someone is younger does not mean that they are wise.  But neither does having gray hair (or no hair) mean that someone is better qualified to lead.  Discernment is needed to determine best fit and contribution, regardless of age.  Better health care and nutrition means that what is “old” is an escalating age range.

Wise leadership will not automatically default to the younger or those who are older by assuming one is better than another.  Good leaders are discerning on who is best qualified to lead and trust that the Lord will anoint them for their responsibility.

Delegate or Die!

A good leader learns to focus on what they and only they can and must do as the leader of the team.  Other responsibilities are delegated.  Leaders who do not learn to delegate well are busy, but are they busy doing the right things?  Sadly, the answer is often ‘no.’  Busyness is not the sign of a good leader and can lead to an early demise.

Jesus illustrates this art of delegation in the following two passages.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’ ”  (Mark 11:1-3  1984 NIV)

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”  (Mark 14:13-15  1984 NIV)

In both cases Jesus is delegating a task to two members of His leadership team.  Both tasks are important, very important, yet capable of being done by others.  Jesus gives detailed instructions and also helps them with some possible scenario planning should they have to adjust along the way.  In the second example we know that it was Peter and John who were sent on this errand – the leaders of leaders were asked to carry out this very mundane, operational task (see Luke 22:8).

Learning to delegate well will increase a leader’s capacity and create focus on what is truly strategic for that leader to focus on.  It may seem like it takes more time to delegate well instead of just doing it yourself.  Or sometimes we can confuse being a servant to mean that I do it all myself.  Note, Jesus did not say to the Twelve, “Wait here men while I go and get a donkey for me to ride upon.”  Or, “Wait here while I go and prepare the room for our dinner tonight.”

Are you busy?  More importantly, are you busy doing the right things?

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