Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “emerging leaders”

Leading with Courage – Facing the Black Death!

In 1527, the Black Death with a mortality rate of 50%+ arrived in Wittenberg, Germany.  Many fled the city, but Martin Luther and his pregnant wife stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people.  Other friends who lost family members moved into Luther’s house for mutual support and encouragement.

There was a difference of opinion among church leaders on whether to stay or flee the plague.  All looked to Luther for advice.  The following is an edited version of his guidance titled, Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.  Many of his thoughts ring true for Kingdom leaders today in the midst of our own pandemic.

“To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague.  Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment.  They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office…”

“From what has been said we derive this guidance:  We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God, as was previously explained.  If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us.  Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done.  I am thy lowly creature.  Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.”

“If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God, I am weak and fearful.  Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it.  I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me.  Thy will be done.  My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere.  Moreover, the devil never sleeps.  He is a murderer from the beginning [John 8:44] and tries everywhere to instigate murder and misfortune…”

“In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also.  If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames.  If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help.  If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can.  If there are others to do it, I am released.  If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so.  A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor.  He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss.  No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child.  He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has.”

“… You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal.  Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.  I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.  If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.  If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above.  See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

The Lord promises to guide and direct us along paths we have not walked (see Isaiah 42:16).  We can count on Him when all else fails.  May the Lord give you wisdom from above as you navigate this storm.

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 5

The Lord 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.

Remember, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What color should I paint my wall?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God asking me to assume this ministry leadership role?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel.  The fourth is critical thinking.

It was Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, who said, “God gave you a lot of leading when He gave you a brain.  So use it!”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Note that it does not say to forget your own understanding.  Rather, it says ‘do not lean on your own understanding.’  That is, do not put your full weight upon your ability to understand.  You often can’t think your way into the will of God for many times God’s will is counter-intuitive and ‘illogical’ from the world’s perspective.

But neither should we throw away our brain when working through an important decision.  I will often make a ‘pro-con’ or ‘plus-minus’ list.  In one column I’ll list all the things that I sense are positive about this decision.  The other column are those items that seem negative or I have major concerns about.  Then I reflect and pray for discernment over both columns.

Think it through.  Reflect on it and ask the Lord for objectivity over yourself.  Ask for Him to give you His perspective on this and insight into the consequences in the future – both good and bad – of this decision.

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?

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.

Breaking Gridlock!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Break the gridlock when necessary.  But do it wisely!

God’s Discipline – Ouch!

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.     Hebrews 12:11  ESV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”   John 15:1-2  ESV

Maturity, fruitfulness, and the discipline of God are linked.  Hebrews 12 describes the process of God disciplining those whom He loves and that He does it for good.  The discipline of God is intended for good – to yield good fruit in our lives.  Thus, we should not be surprised by it and must embrace it – lean into it, rather than seek to run from it.

We note that when in the midst of pain and hard times, discipline does not feel good.  It’s not pleasant and does not seem to be good at the moment.  But afterwards, when the time of the Lord’s discipline ends, we see its benefit in our lives and leadership.  What does the Lord’s discipline look like in the life of a Kingdom leader?

The pruning of the Lord’s discipline is a taking away or a cutting out of our lives.  He intends to create even more dependency upon Him through it.  While the Lord is quite creative in the means He chooses to discipline those whom He loves, here are several common means that He uses to shape the lives of those He desires to be even more fruitful.

1.  Loss  –  loss of position, influence, job, finances, relationships

2.  Affliction  –  physical illness, harassment, on-going conflict

3.  Opposition  –  spiritual, emotional, and physical opposition, ‘headwinds’

The Lord can even use our adversary to further His plan of discipline in our lives.  Look at the life of Job and how God allowed him, within limits, to suffer loss, affliction, and opposition from his ‘friends.’  Yet, the Lord preserved Job and restored him in the end.

The discipline of the Lord is not pleasant – not something we look forward to or get excited about entering into.  Yet, when it comes, and it does come, we must receive it, submit to it, and trust Him who is good and always does what is good.  We will see the wisdom of God and experience the fruitfulness He intends as we persevere through it.

Don’t be surprised by the Lord’s discipline.  It comes to all of His children.  He is not punishing you.  Rather, He will see you through it and make you and your leadership even more fruitful because of it.

… a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…   Isaiah 42:3  ESV

 

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.

Following a Leader I Disagree With

What should I do?  My supervisor does not lead from a platform of wisdom. He or she has obvious character flaws that influence poor judgment and the resulting poor decisions. Yet, I’m asked to submit to their leadership and follow after them – helping to implement their poorly thought through plans that I struggle to embrace. What to do?

If you haven’t had this experience yet, you will. All leaders are people in process and far from perfect. They will (and so will you) make poor choices and drive some not so well thought through decisions. How are we to respond in such emotionally charged and frustrating circumstances?

First, when a decision is made that we disagree with, make an appeal to reconsider the decision. Daniel and friends did this when asked to violate their beliefs about diet (see Daniel 1). Learning to make an appeal to an authority over us is a skill to be developed. We want to seek to align ourselves with the desired outcomes but execute these outcomes without violating our conscience. See Proverbs 21:1.

Second, we recognize that all authorities are God-placed, wise and unwise, godly and ungodly and the Lord will use all to further His purposes. Further, He will not allow any leader to hinder or block His good and perfect plans for me. I may not be able to see or understand His purposes at the moment and He is under no obligation to explain Himself or His ways to me. I am called to trust Him and walk by faith. See Daniel 2:21 and Hebrews 11:6, 8.

Third, if I suffer under poor leadership and entrust myself to God and His care, it is honoring to God and Christlike. Jesus was sinless, falsely accused and died. His example is one Peter points to as our example when suffering harsh treatment from leaders. Beware of a spirit of rebellion or developing a cynicism that can lead to a root of bitterness. See Hebrews 12:15 and 1 Peter 2:13-23.

This process will not be easy – no one promised your life and leadership would be easy. But He will give you wisdom as you negotiate these relationships and you will see the goodness of God and His loving kindness for you and all as you follow Him. Trust Him!

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13  ESV

Aim for the Ripple, Not the Splash!

No doubt you have heard of D.L. Moody, the great 19th-centrury evangelist. But have you heard of Edward Kimball?

Moody, when 18 years of age, was a boot salesman in his uncle’s store in Boston. His manners were brash and crude.  His uncle told him he must attend church as a condition for employment in the store. So, he chose to go to a Sunday School class with other teen-age boys.

His Sunday School teacher was a dry goods salesman named Edward Kimball, and he had set his heart on winning the young man for Christ. After praying about the matter, he arranged to visit him at the boot store. “I was determined,” to use his own words, “to speak to him about Christ and about his soul and started down to Holton’s boot store. When I was nearly there I began to wonder whether I ought to go in just then during business hours. I thought my call might embarrass the boy…  In the meantime, I had passed the store, and, discovering this, I determined to make a dash for it, and have it over at once.”

“I found him in the back part of the building wrapping up shoes. I went up to him at once, and putting my hand on his shoulder, I made what I felt afterwards was a very weak plea for Christ. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him, and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was. It seemed the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, and there in the back of that store in Boston, D. L. Moody gave himself and his life to Christ.”[1]

Edward Kimball became a lifelong friend for Moody.  He mentored and helped him grow spiritually, laying a solid foundation.  Moody didn’t attend school beyond 5th grade, couldn’t spell and his grammar was atrocious.  He was never ordained.  Yet, it’s estimated that Moody preached to 100 million people and personally led 1 million to Christ. He also founded Moody Bible Institute that has launched thousands of graduates into the ministry around the world.

But the story doesn’t end there. Through his ministry, Moody was responsible for a London pastor named F.B. Meyer coming to faith. Meyer was responsible for J. Wilbur Chapman coming to faith, and Chapman influenced Billy Sunday, another prominent evangelist of the 20th century. Billy Sunday was integral in a man named Mordecai Ham coming to faith. And Mordecai Ham was the preacher responsible for leading a young man named Billy Graham to Christ. Billy Graham asked Dawson Trotman and The Navigators to train counselors at his crusades and discipling became mainstream.

And here you are today – reading a blog and touched by a legacy that started with Edward Kimball and eventually impacted Billy Graham, Dawson Trotman, and now you. That’s a part of your spiritual heritage!

Legacy is what lasts after you are gone.  Legacy is the ripple of your life, touching many who you will never meet.

                Aim for the ripple, not the splash!!

[1] Story from NewLife Christian Fellowship website; Wethersfield, CT

God’s Preparation of a Leader

Paul was raised the son of a Pharisee and sent to study under Gamaliel, the best education available for an aspiring young religious leader of his day.  He progressed well in his education, eventually becoming an expert in the Jewish Law and demonstrating zeal beyond most of his peers as he sought to persecute what he believed to be a Jewish sect called the Way.

About the age of 30, Paul was on his way to Damascus to find members of this new sect and bring them back to prison in Jerusalem.  Along the road, Jesus appears to him and tells Paul that he will now become a messenger to carry the gospel to Gentiles, their kings, and the Jewish people.  What a life-altering, paradigm shifting experience that must have been!

But, all of Paul’s training and zeal did not prepare him to begin immediately to carry out this calling.  God needed to prepare and shape him for this mission.  Here’s a chronology of Paul’s life from conversion to his first of three missionary tours as outlined by Frank Goodwin in his Harmony of the Life of St. Paul.

  1. Paul’s Conversion and Early Christian Life   36-45 AD   Acts 9:1-30; 11:19-30
  2. Conversion at Damascus   36 AD   Acts 9:1-9
  3. In Damascus and Arabia (3 years)   37-39 AD   Galatians 1:17
  4. Escape from Damascus   39 AD   Acts 9:20-25
  5. First Visit to Jerusalem – vision in Temple   39 AD   Galatians 1:18; Acts 9:26-29
  6. In Tarsus and Regions of Syria & Cilicia   39-43 AD   Acts 9:30
  7. In Antioch with Barnabas   44 AD   Acts 11:25-26
  8. Second Visit to Jerusalem with alms   45 AD   Acts 11:27-30
  9. 1st Missionary Journey (2 years)   45-47 AD   Acts 13-14

Note that Paul was nearly 40 years old before he began his life’s work, his destiny as described to him by the Lord when he was converted on that road outside of Damascus.  It was nine years of preparation in addition to all that he had learned and been trained in before “the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (see Acts 13).

We sometimes get impatient with our own development or the development of those around us.  The destiny may be clearly fixed, but we are struggling with the process and length of time needed to ‘get on with it.’  Why is it taking so long!!!!

Yet, it seems that one of the ways of God is a seemingly long preparation time for his leaders to enable them to truly become His instruments to accomplish His plans.  Yes, Paul was nine years in preparation from conversion to his first missionary assignment.  It may seem like a long time, but how many Apostle Paul’s have there been in history?

How’s your attitude when you consider your own growth and development?  Are you straining under God’s timetable?  Are you patient with His timing as He develops those around you?

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