Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Modeling the Life of Jesus

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

Note the order in the above verse – first, Paul followed the example of Jesus as he sought to live and lead like Jesus. Next, he encouraged others to follow his personal example as he followed Jesus. Many, many things can be learned and internalized by imitating others.

Yes, we are all imperfect people who are all in process. None of us can claim to ‘have arrived.’ We are all patients in the same hospital, everyone checks in and no one checks out until we finish our race. Those of us who have been in the hospital longer than others can point the newcomers to the treatment rooms. But we humbly acknowledge that we still go to the same treatment rooms ourselves.

Let’s not let the fact that we are growing and moving towards maturity, with our evident shortcomings and weaknesses, mute us from intentionally modeling Jesus-like life and leadership for others. The Lord is not looking for perfect people to lead in His Kingdom. He is looking for those who acknowledge their dependency upon Him, humbly submit to His leadership in their lives and seek to apply what they learn from Him in their own lives and leadership of others.

This principle of modeling for others automatically rules out the phrase, “Do what I say, not what I do.” As has been said, “If it doesn’t work at ‘home,’ don’t export it!” As a Kingdom leader, others are continually watching your example for guidance in how to navigate their own life. They will do what you do, not what you say. If you make excuses for why the ‘rules’ don’t apply to you, they too will feel the freedom to live as they desire. Your example carries a lot of influence – hopefully for good!

Where are Kingdom leaders challenged to be examples for others? Below are several passages that relate specifically to Kingdom leaders as models and examples for others to imitate.

Hebrews 13:7 ESV – Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

1 Timothy 4:12 ESV – Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

1 Peter 5:1-3 ESV – So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Titus 2:7-8 ESV – Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.

Are you aware that many others are watching your life and will copy what you do and say? This reality should be sobering and keep us close to Him as we steward the responsibilities that He has entrusted to us.

May we all say, “Follow me, as I follow Christ!”

Even Tax Collectors!

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Luke 3:12-13 NIV

All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. Luke 7:29 NIV

If there ever was a despised group of people within the first century Jewish culture it was the tax collectors. They were often grouped with the ‘sinners’ – those Jews who had abandoned their Jewish faith and were living like Gentiles. Tax collectors were servants of the Roman Empire and in Palestine, they were often Jews who enforced the tax laws of the Empire upon their fellow countrymen. In addition, they were often very corrupt and oppressed their neighbors by collecting more taxes than the law required, keeping the balance for themselves. By serving the Romans and using their position for personal enrichment they became a despised group.

In His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the tax collectors as an example. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” Matthew 5:46 NIV Here again the tax collectors serve as an extreme example – even they love those who love them back. Certainly, if tax collectors can love others, you Kingdom people are called to a higher standard – to love your enemies.

Jesus selected Matthew (Levi) as one of His Twelve, the executive leadership team for His ministry. It’s hard to underestimate how radical this was for a Jewish rabbi to associate closely with a tax collector. Note that Jesus was questioned by the Jewish leaders as to why He would socialize with “tax collectors and sinners?” “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17 NIV

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. … When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-2, 5-10 NIV

I wonder who the despised, “tax collectors and sinners” are today? Who are the sick that desperately need the healing touch of the Gospel? Who are those who the religious people would question why Kingdom leaders are associating with them?

As a Kingdom leader, are you nervous about what other leaders think?

Do you have a reputation you’re trying to protect?

Leadership Destiny

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” … For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:28, 37-38 ESV

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. … When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” … Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:2, 4, 10 ESV

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. … Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?”… And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them…” Genesis 37:5, 9-10; 42:9 ESV

Note that with both Mary, Moses, and Joseph the Lord took the initiative to call and direct His people, setting before them their personal destiny – God’s purposes in and through them. Their destiny was not immediately fulfilled, rather they had to trust that the Lord’s plan for them would happen even though it seemed to be long in coming. Their individual obedience to submit to God’s plan required faith and courage, regardless of the acceptance or support of others.

As Kingdom leaders we can expect the Lord to call and direct us into the path He has for us. We can trust that His plans for us cannot be frustrated or blocked completely by any opposing forces. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 ESV He will fulfill His promises. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 ESV

The journey may not unfold as we anticipate, but the destination is sure.

God’s delays do not mean God’s denials!   

Don’t doubt in the darkness what God has shown you in the light!

Trust Him!

Leadership Comparison

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them… When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:20-22 NIV

It’s post-resurrection on a beach of the Sea of Galilee. Seven of the Twelve have spent the night fishing with no results. Jesus appears on the beach and encourages them to once more let down their nets. The resulting catch was so astounding that they even counted the results – 153 large fish! Now, having finished their haul and eaten breakfast with Jesus, He gets some personal time with Peter and John. They take a walk down the beach and Jesus discusses with Peter about his mission for the future.

Three times Jesus questions Peter about his love and commitment. No doubt you have heard of the change of language in the word use of ‘love’ from the first two ‘agape’ questions to the final ‘phileo’ one. Peter acknowledges his love for Jesus and Jesus responds with an action that demonstrates his confession – feed the people of God – His sheep. Having denied the Lord three times on the night before the crucifixion, he now is charged three times with this responsibility for continued engagement. Peter receives this commissioning and then asks a question, “What about him?”

The “him” refers to John who had followed them down the beach. Peter had received his mission and even been told by the Lord how it would end. Now Peter’s attention drifts to his friend following close behind them. “What’s going to happen to him?” he asks.

Jesus quickly draws Peter back to the main point – his own journey, not John’s. With a mild rebuke, He tells Peter to essentially focus on your own life and let me deal with John’s journey. John’s life and ministry would be very different from that of Peter’s, so no need for comparison between the two.

Kingdom leaders can begin to compare notes with each other regarding our respective callings, ministries, outcomes and/or life journeys the Lord has taken us on. What may have come from simple curiosity can quickly move to competition or envy. “Why didn’t I get that opportunity?” Why did the Lord do this with me and that with them?” “Why did the Lord treat them that way and me differently?” Note that all of these questions begin with “why,” assuming that we are owed an explanation from the Lord to justify His actions. Since we seem to be treated differently, the Lord should explain Himself so that it makes sense to us and seems ‘fair.’

Comparison does not end well. Focus on faithfulness to your mission and let the Lord deal with others according to His unique plan for them. Run hard to the tape, keeping your eyes fixed on Him!

Leadership Envy

The disciples of John the Baptist saw a problem.  Many of those involved in John’s ministry were now leaving him and going to be with Jesus.  Note their concern as expressed to John, “They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan–the one you testified about–look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” (John 3:26 NIV)

With the decreasing crowd size, John could have been intimidated or discouraged with Jesus’ growing ministry, if he found his identity in his ministry and its ‘success’ measured in numbers.  But his response showed clearly that his identity was anchored in being the Lord’s servant and in doing His will regardless of ministry results – many or few.  John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. … He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (John 3:27, 30 ESV)

Kingdom leadership envy, jealousy, comparison – feeling better than or less than others, competitive spirit, or bitterness because of another’s ministry success can all emerge if we are not settled in our own calling, contribution, identity, and gifting.   When others (especially peers) seem to ‘succeed’ while we languish or struggle, these feelings can emerge, take root in our hearts, and ruin us.  It is for the Lord’s glory that we labor, not our own!

Below are some reminders on the topic that can be of help in keeping the right perspective.

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”  (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.  For who sees anything different in you?  What do you have that you did not receive?  If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?  (1 Corinthians 4:6-7 ESV)

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.  (Matthew 25:14-15 ESV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  (Romans 12:3 NIV)

Is there someone you are ‘secretly’ in competition with?  Is there someone you are comparing yourself to?  Are you envious of another’s success?

Repent!!!

Being and Doing

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”     1 Peter 1:14-16  NIV 1984

As followers of Christ, we are called both to ‘be’ and to ‘do.’  But note the order!

We are first to be holy for the One who calls us and whom we confess as Lord and Savior is holy.  Doing flows out of being.  If we are not holy on the ‘inside,’ in our hearts and minds, then our actions, our ‘doing’ is at best hypocritical, at worst, deceitful.

Kingdom leaders focus on being with Jesus before they seek to serve others for Jesus!  It is this abiding with Him that He reminds us of in John 15.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5  ESV  Notice the order – abide in Him….bears much fruit…. otherwise, apart from Him we can do nothing.

Leaders are doers.  We are never satisfied with the status quo, always seeking to change, improve, advance, accomplish, and further the mission we have been entrusted to steward.  It is this default to ‘doing’ that at times overrides the ‘being’ aspect of our lives.  The branch separates from the vine and assumes it will continue to bear fruit.  How foolish!

The demands upon us are straining our remaining closely attached to the Vine of Life.  Don’t let the chaos of the day consume your soul.  Remember the exhortation of Joshua to the leaders he was about to leave, “Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God.”   Joshua 23:11  ESV

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.   Hebrews 3:1  NIV 1984

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…   Hebrews 12:2  NIV 1984

How’s your soul?

Are you fixed and focused on being with Him and knowing Him more deeply?

Prayer Life of a Kingdom Leader

It would seem that one of the most challenging spiritual disciplines for Kingdom leaders to build consistency in is prayer.  Often our prayers are more perfunctory in nature, similar to saying grace before a meal, but without much unction or personal depth and lacking strategic intent.

We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 5:2 (ESV), “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”  Though we may pray with words, God is listening to our hearts.

In Luke 18:1 (NIV), Luke interprets the meaning of the parable of the persistent widow going before the judge, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”  Jesus knows it is hard for us to persevere in prayer when answers are a long time coming.  Therefore, we are encouraged to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking until we receive, find and the door finally opens (see Luke 11:9-10).

Here are three foci for the prayer life of a Kingdom leader:

Pray for Yourself

  • Personal Growth and Change – Christlike character, Wisdom – Galatians 5:22-23; James 1:5
  • Personal Promises – 2 Corinthians 1:20; Acts 13:46-47
  • Personal Needs and Desires of Your Heart   –  Philippians 4:19; Psalm 37:4

Pray for Others

  • Family members –  Matthew 10:34-39; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30
  • Those we lead
    • Their Spiritual Growth and Change – Christlike character, Wisdom
    • Lordship of Christ in all areas of life as they follow Him
    • Vision for Disciplemaking and Spiritual Generations – that they may see the harvest
    • Their Personal Needs and Desires
  • Lost friends and acquaintances

Pray for the World-wide Harvest and Laborers

  • Current Laborers (disciplemakers) in the harvest –  Matthew 9:35-38
  • New Laborers (disciplemakers) for the harvest – Isaiah 6:8
  • Surrender of yourself and your willingness to volunteer for engagement in the harvest
  • Strategic prayer for unreached peoples – that they will have the Gospel –  Isaiah 49:6; Psalm 2:8
    • Joshua Project
    • Population of the world‎: ‎7.75 Billion
    • People Groups of the world‎: ‎17,441
    • Unreached Groups‎: ‎7,414
    • % Unreached Groups‎: 42.‎5%
    • People in Unreached:  3.23 Billion
    • People in Unreached:  41.6%

This is not a prayer time, but rather, the prayer life of a Kingdom leader!  Prayer is a moment-by-moment connection and communication with the living God.  It is learning to cultivate that connection as we go throughout our busy days.  Yes, we will have focused concentrated prayer times, but we want to establish a prayer lifestyle, learning to pray continuously as we go about our days.

This is not saying prayers, but rather, praying – pouring out our hearts to God!  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  Romans 8:26  ESV

So, how’s your prayer life?

Not Chosen

Therefore, it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” So, they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.     Acts 1:21-26  NIV

It’s post-resurrection and seemingly during the period between the Lord’s ascension and the Day of Pentecost when the Church is birthed with the coming of the Holy Spirit.  An operational detail needed to be addressed, for the leadership team had an empty position to be filled.  Judas had betrayed the Lord and died, and now the Eleven needed to become the Twelve again by selecting a replacement.

They discussed the criteria for candidates, noting that anyone considered had to have been with Jesus from His baptism by John the Baptist through the ascension from the Mt. of Olives.  This narrowed the list down to two men – Barsabbas and Matthias.  They prayed, asking the Lord to direct and show them who He had chosen for this role.  They ‘voted’ and the lot fell to Matthias.

Think about Barsabbas who was not chosen.  This was now his second time of not making the ‘final cut.’  He had been with Jesus since His baptism and was among the crowd of Jesus’ disciples when Jesus chose the Twelve (see Luke 6:12-19).  But when Jesus called the names of those who would be on His apostolic training team, his name was not called.  No doubt he would have been disappointed, but maybe relieved as well?

But now the list was down to just two people – he and Matthias.  The 120 or so in the selection council were the committed ones and he was well thought of by them, having made it to the ‘finalist’ list.  However, once again Barsabbas was not selected by God and his peers to lead.  Ouch!

God selects the leaders (see Daniel 2:21) and Barsabbas had to wrestle with the reality that God had not chosen him – twice.  Did it mean that God disapproved of him?  Did it mean that God did not have a contribution for him to make?  These kinds of experiences can be unsettling or depressing for Kingdom leaders, for all of us have ambitions and when these are not fulfilled we are disappointed.

Think also of James and John asking to be placed in the top two positions at Jesus’ right and left hand.  Jesus did not rebuke them for their brash ambition or seeking to jump the line ahead of their brothers.  Rather, He said, “But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”  (NLT)  James and John were not chosen for these places in the Kingdom.

All Kingdom leaders will have multiple opportunities in our leadership careers where we are not chosen for a role and the mantle of leadership falls on someone else’s shoulder.  How we respond to this is key.  Do we sulk, get bitter, or angry against God?  Do we allow a divisive attitude to emerge and not wholeheartedly support the leadership of the chosen one?  We may even appear supportive on the outside, but in our hearts we are jealous or envious of the chosen one.

Have you had the experience of not being chosen, yet?  If not, then be prepared – it’s coming.  If so, how’s your heart?

 

Kingdom Mobility

Jesus grew up in a small town in Galilee, the son of a carpenter who learned the trade from his father.  No doubt he was expected to stay there and follow the pattern of many who had gone before Him.  But when He began His public ministry at the age of 30, He adapted a new lifestyle, one that modeled mobility for the sake of the Kingdom.

He left Nazareth to be baptized by John the Baptist along the Jordan River.  Immediately afterwards He spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting and was tempted by the devil to abandon His earthly mission.  During the next year of His ministry, the ‘small-town boy’ ministered in and around the big city of Jerusalem in the province of Judea, making short trips through Samaria to Capernaum and engaging in a wedding in Cana.

Somewhere near the beginning of the second year of His ministry, Jesus permanently moved from His hometown of Nazareth to Capernaum.  “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali…”  (Matthew 4:12-13 ESV)  It was from Capernaum that He would now live and minister for the remainder of His ministry.  He did return to His hometown briefly, but it did not go well.  Many questioned the legitimacy of His ministry and refused to place their faith in Him.  (see Mark 6:1-6)  Capernaum would now be referred to as His “home.” (see Mark 2:1)  For the remaining two and a half years, Jesus would make multiple trips with His disciples throughout Galilee, Judea, Samaria, Phoenicia, Decapolis and Perea, returning to Capernaum in between trips.

Jesus modeled mobility as He carried out the mission for which He had come.  And we who would follow Him are also called to a similar lifestyle.  Now it is not sin to locate in one town or city for an extended period.  But the question to answer is this, “If Jesus asks me to move, am I willing to go wherever He directs?”  Be very careful if you find yourself saying, “I’ll go anywhere, Lord, except …”  Kingdom mobility involves both attitude and action.

Mobility is implicit for His disciples as we read what we ‘leave’ for His sake in Mark 10:29-30 (ESV) – “Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”  (italics added)

Is Jesus asking you to move?  If so, you should start to pack!

Why Are You So Afraid?

Fear is a God-given emotion that has the benefit of protecting us from potential threats.  Only God does not know fear, for nothing is a threat to Him.  To be afraid of something is not sin.  But fear can become sin if we let it control us.  So, when Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid,” He is not suggesting that we ignore our fears.  That would be impossible.  But He is saying that we are not to be controlled by fear, rather, act in faith – faith in Him who knows no fear!

In the gospel of Mark, we find these references to fearful situations that the disciples faced.  Reflect on the circumstances of each incident that created the fear response.

Mark 4:40 ESV     He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  –  fear for physical safety

Mark 6:50 ESV      …for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  –  fear from a very unusual experience

Mark 9:32 ESV      But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.  –  fear of being thought of as stupid or incompetent

Mark 10:32 ESV     And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him…  –  fear of possible death from persecution

Mark 16:8 ESV     And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  –  fear of other’s opinions

Kingdom leaders face fear daily.  Nothing new here.  The only question we must answer is how do we respond?  Does our fear control us and dictate our actions?  Do we look to our own resources to deal with our perceived threat?  Or do we use these situations to remind us of our need for help from the Lord and the empowerment that can come only from Him?

We are not talking about putting on some ‘brave front’ or false bravado.  It’s OK to acknowledge whatever threat we encounter.  Foolishness denies the reality.  But faith names the threat and calls upon the Lord to help.  He has promised never to leave or forsake us.  He has promised to answer when we cry for His help.

… and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.   Psalm 50:15 ESV

What are you afraid of today?  Call for His help!

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