Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “character development”

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)

Trust in the Lord

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.                      Isaiah 26:4   ESV

All of life and leadership is a faith journey for no one knows the future and how it will come to pass.  Kingdom leaders make decisions based upon the best information available and then trust that the Lord will establish the work of our hands.  (see Psalm 90:17)

Faith is only as good as the object of our faith. I could have great faith that if I jump off my roof and flap my arms rapidly, then I will fly.  But my faith and strenuous effort will not conquer gravity.  The object of my faith was not worthy of my trust.

The more we know about what (or Who) we are placing our trust in, the more confident we will act.  Some leaders are placing their faith and trust in themselves and their leadership experience.  While your ability to control outcomes and recall previous experience may prove helpful, there still is no certainty of outcome.  Your vision is fixed on the ‘rear-view mirror’ instead of on Him who controls the future.

Some leaders will put their faith and trust in other people – their team, their co-workers or their friends.  But once again this is short-sighted and can lead to great disappointment as all people are fallen and people in process.  They will disappoint you (and you too will disappoint others) – it is only a matter of when, not if.

Some others will trust their processes or their own resources.  They take reasonable risks in their leadership and assume that their ‘rainy day resources’ will cover any eventuality.  But there will always be something beyond the expected norms – the 100 year flood – that far out-strips all available resources.

Any trust placed outside of the Lord Himself is doomed to be shown as folly.  Having our trust and faith in Him alone will ensure a stability and security that rises above the everyday trials of life and leadership.  This does not mean that we live a ‘pain-free’ life or have a leadership that is devoid of great upheavals.  But what it does mean is that He will see us through whatever comes our way.  He is sufficient for all that we experience and He has promised never to leave us.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.       Psalm 20:7   ESV

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.                           Proverbs 3:5-6   ESV

The more you know the Lord and His ways, the more your faith and trust in Him will grow!

Where’s your trust today?

Leadership Cycles

Image result for kokanee salmon colorado public images  Colorado Parks and Wildlife – Blue Mesa Reservoir

Every fall as the water temperature drops and the hours of daylight shorten, thousands of four-year old kokanee salmon move out of Colorado reservoirs into streams to spawn and die.  It happens every year and is a yearly cycle that draws fishermen to the streams seeking to catch these beautiful red fish.

Just like the kokanee salmon yearly spawning cycle, so too in Kingdom work we have ministry cycles that repeat year after year.  The fall is usually a time of new ministry launches for the ministry year which coincides with the beginning of the academic school year.  Summer vacations have ended and new initiatives begin.

The fall ends and winter begins (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) with packed schedules celebrating holidays and family gatherings. Winter ends and the promise of spring comes with Easter as a milestone and then we hold on to the end of school and the warm days of summer with its usually slower pace.  Then it’s time to prepare for the fall again and so the cycle repeats.

The longer one is in Kingdom work and experiences these cycles it can become a bit routine, if you are not careful.  New leaders with little experience are truly excited with the newness of it all.  But for those who have ‘been there and done that’ so many times before, we can become a bit dull to it all.  This should never be so for we are serving the King of kings and Lord of lords!

Howard Hendricks former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary was once asked how he stayed motivated and energized as he repeatedly taught the same classes year after year.  He replied, “I remind myself how impactful these courses were for me when I first experienced them.” He took his eyes off of himself and fixed them on his audience.

Ministry cycles are not inherently bad.  It’s how we respond to them that makes all the difference.  If we make it about us, then we will certainly get bored and in a worse case, even cynical.  But if we take our eyes off of ourselves and keep the focus on those we lead and influence, then it stays fresh and challenging.

So, where’s your gaze?  Is it fixed upon you or others?

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.

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

 

Be on Your Guard! Be Alert! Watch!

Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. …  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’   Mark 13:33, 37  NIV

The context of these exhortations from Jesus is in regard to the end times.  The disciples had asked Him when He will return and what will be the signs of His coming.  After answering in much detail, He summarizes with these three exhortations – Be on guard… Be alert… Watch!

While the context dictates an interpretation regarding the second coming of Christ, there are additional principles that apply, especially for Kingdom leaders.

As we seek to advance the Kingdom – the rule and reign of Jesus Christ, we must be on our guard against evil and those who would seek to hinder our mission.  Our adversary will not yield easily and we should not be surprised by opposition to the gospel or God’s purposes.  Rather, we need perseverance and steadfastness as we move ahead in our mission.

We must be alert to the changing times and cultural shifts around us.  What has worked for some time may not work now.  It’s not just a matter of working harder or looking for more committed workers.  Perhaps our methods are less and less effective because our audience has changed.  We must be alert to these changes.  Ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment into how best to further His work at this time.  What new approaches or methods need to be tried to determine if they are a better fit for your audience?

Watchfulness is a focus on Him and the certainty of His coming – an anticipation that He will do as He has promised.  Kingdom leaders are to keep a watchful eye on the ‘horizon’ as we plow through the details of the day.  Don’t get so buried in the daily work that you take your eye off of the bigger picture.  It is the Lord’s work, not ours and He will accomplish it in His way and in His time.  He is with us and will never leave us.  And He will fulfill His promises!

Be on your guard – today!  Be alert – today!  Watch – today!

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.

Leading from Trust Relationships

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.                   Luke 5:4-11  ESV

Early in His relationship with these two pairs of brothers who were also fishing partners, Jesus needed to establish a trust relationship for He would ask them to follow Him into an unknown (to them) future.  Their sacrifice and cost would be great and He, knowing this, had to establish a platform of trust from which they would be willing to follow Him.

Note Peter’s response when instructed to put out into deeper water and let down their nets.  He knew that daytime was not the time to fish.  He knew that they had already tried and failed on their own.  They had lots of previous experience and fishing was their expertise, so why do this futile exercise?

Peter says to Jesus, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” This was foundational in his relationship with Jesus – obedience to Jesus and not logic, experience or worldly wisdom was key.  He trusted the word of Jesus, no doubt with some hesitancy, and was rewarded with an amazing haul of fish.  Peter’s response was submission and a willingness to follow Christ and His leadership, even to the point of leaving his vocation.

Kingdom leaders lead from a platform of trust that we build between ourselves and those we lead.  This trust is built over time as we ask others to trust our judgment and follow our lead.

Trust is earned, not given.  It is built over time as we make deposits into our ‘trust bank account.’ But it can be quickly lost and the bank account emptied through untrustworthy behavior.

Major on building trust with those you lead and they will follow!

 

He is Out of His Mind

And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”   Mark 3:21 (ESV)

As Kingdom leaders follow their personal calling from the Lord, they are often surprised by a lack of support or encouragement from those that know and love them.  So it was with the mother and brothers of Jesus.

As Jesus was growing into a public figure and crowds began to gather to hear Him and be healed, word came to His family.  Their conclusion – knowing He had no training for such, was that He had lost His mind – literally, He had gone insane.  Thus, they came to Capernaum to take Him back home, for His own ‘protection’ no doubt and to save the family any further embarrassment.  But their mission failed.

Sometime thereafter, Jesus returned to Nazareth, His home town.  There, He taught in the synagogue, but few supported Him.  He could do little in their presence because of their lack of faith in Him (see Mark 6:1-6).  Jesus marveled at their unbelief and proclaimed that a prophet is not honored among those who know him well – even in his own house.  This must have been quite discouraging.

Towards the end of His public ministry we see another encounter with Jesus and His brothers in John 7:1-5.  His brothers (the term could also mean brothers and sisters) chided Him for not going to Jerusalem and publicly showing off His ministry to the world.  Why are you hiding in Galilee – if it’s attention you seek, then go to the epicenter of the Jewish world and show off!  John tells us that they said this because they did not believe in Him.

But, after the resurrection, Jesus made a personal appearance to His brother, James (see 1 Corinthians 15:7) that must have been quite the encounter!  The result was James’s conversion and belief in Jesus as His Lord and Savior.  Mary and her boys were in the room praying with the Eleven after the Ascension (see Acts 1:14).  Thus, during the 40 days post-resurrection, they came to belief.  James would later become the local leader of the Jerusalem church (see Acts 15).

In the introduction of his epistle, James identifies himself as, “the bond slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).  What a transformation!  What humility!  And another of His brothers, Jude, also writes in the introduction of his letter, “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James…” (Jude 1:1).

Those who know you best may be slow to embrace your role or calling.  Jesus experienced the same.  Don’t let their lack of acceptance or support deter you from obeying the Lord’s clear destiny that He has designed you for.  Follow hard after Him and trust that those who know and love you will see Christ’s hand on you and your leadership over time.

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