Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Faith”

Black Swan Event

Black Swan Event  =  an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences

Up until the late 1600’s naturalists assumed that all swans were white.  However, in 1697 the Dutch explorer Willem de Vlaminck discovered black swans in Australia.  This unexpected event upended assumed paradigms and profoundly changed zoology.

Today, our English vocabulary has co-opted this to coin the phrase, ‘black swan event’ where something very unexpected happens that has huge ramifications.  One can imagine how the terrorist’s attacks of 9/11/01 were a ‘black swan event.’  It would also seem that the Covid-19 pandemic is another one.

These events are unprecedented and human wisdom fails to be able to adequately address them because worldly wisdom is founded upon previous experience.  When there is no prior experience to fall back upon (unprecedented), at best we draw from parallel experiences or insights to deal with a completely new situation.

But Kingdom leaders have a second and more reliable source of wisdom for leading in turbulent times – wisdom that comes from above, godly wisdom.  Young and old alike may posses God’s wisdom, for it is a gift.  James 1:5 promises that those who ask for it will receive it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”  (ESV)  We desperately need this kind of wisdom now!

With the traditional forms of ministry being taken away (i.e. group gatherings large and small), new virtual gatherings (think online video conferences) are rapidly becoming the norm.  Life-to-life discipling still continues but we now connect via our computer or phone screens instead of in person.  The old mantra of ‘form follows function’ is proving true as new ministry forms are being adopted and adapted to meet our functional needs.  It’s a very new day!

As our old ways are swept away by the raging torrent of rapidly changing events around us, we must look to Him for help and the ability to meet the demands of our new situation.  These events have not taken Him by surprise.  In fact, He is orchestrating all for His good purposes and for the advancement of the Kingdom among the peoples of the world.

The headlines and news leads shout woe and sadness.  But God’s work is often unseen and quiet in the midst of the storm.  We must keep our eyes steadfastly on Him as we navigate the storm.

… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…    Hebrews 12:1-2  NIV

 

Leading with Courage: Covid-19 Crisis and Opportunity

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”               Esther 4:14 ESV

Times of crisis do not make leaders, but they do reveal them.  If there ever was a time for courageous, wise leadership, now is the time!

With the Covid-19 pandemic increasingly gaining people’s attention, many are being reminded of their mortality and vulnerability.  School schedules have drastically changed and major sporting events or seasons are cancelled or postponed indefinitely.   Large public gatherings including worship services (think Easter) will be removed from our calendars, at least for a while.  With the tumbling of the financial markets and threat to personal health, things that once were sources of personal security are being stripped away.  In previous financial downturns some would say, “Well, at least I have my health.”  Now even that is under siege.  People are feeling very, very vulnerable and insecure.

Into this breach step Kingdom leaders with the answer everyone so needs.  It is for such a time as this that we have faith in the One who knows the end from the beginning.  It is in times as this that we need to be reminded of the hope that lies beyond this life.  This is not to say that we adopt a fatalistic attitude – what will be will be.  No, we should be wise as we go about our daily routines.  But our confidence is not in our hand washings and social distancing, but in the Lord Jesus!  Kingdom leaders point their friends to the One who holds the future in His hands.

This crisis atmosphere is also an opportunity to advance the gospel.  Those who do not know the Lord have little resource to fall back on for hope and comfort and we have the answer.  Anticipate the Lord creating daily opportunities for you to point others to the One who can give them the security they long for and desperately need.  Be bold and be sensitive to the leading of His Spirit.

“Be strong and courageous…” the Lord told Joshua.  (Joshua 1:6 ESV)  Like him, you came to the Kingdom for such a time as this!

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?

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

Optimistic or Delusional?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?    Romans 8:31   ESV

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “One with God is a majority.”  Thinking realistically, this is very true.  But, living this truth can be a very different reality.

Part of strategic leadership is thinking and planning ahead with a good understanding of risk assessment.  The inexperienced idealist would simply ignore perceived risk, plan and execute those plans hoping that it all works out well.

Proverbs 22:3 says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”  Prudence, a component of godly wisdom, assesses risk, and if judged to be too great, seeks protection from it.  The simple person sees the risk also, but ignores it and pays the price.

The question is how to evaluate risk?  All of life is a risk, for none of us knows for certain about tomorrow, next week or next year.  We don’t even know with absolute certainty our next breath!  As Kingdom leaders, what do we do to wisely assess risk and then act accordingly?

First, we acknowledge our limitations in knowing with any degree of certainty what the future holds.  We acknowledge how dependent we are on the Lord to guide us, give us insight and discernment as we plan, and wisely choose courses of action that are pleasing to Him. This self-awareness should move us to prayer and listening to His Spirit as He guides us.

Second, we seek what information we can to learn of the risks that we face.  Some will be clearly visible and some not so.  Risk is assessed in light of the potential impact on our mission.  Scenario planning can be helpful in thinking what courses of action might be available if things go poorly.  Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Third, make your decision by faith in trusting the Lord that He is with you and will never leave you.  He and His resources will be with you.  And should things not go as well as hoped for, you know that He has control of it all and will use it for good – for you and for His purposes in and through you.  Romans 8:28

Lastly, should things really go poorly, we must be flexible enough to change our plans.

Leading is risky business!  How’s your risk assessment?

Merry Christmas!!!

Perhaps like me, you’ve wondered where all of the Christmas traditions came from.  Here’s some background to help with giving some new (old?) meaning to these seasonal traditions.

December 25 – The Day of Jesus’ Birth

In ancient times birthdays were celebrated only by kings and royalty.  It was not customary to record the specific date of an individual’s birth.  Being unsure of the exact date of Jesus’ birth, many dates began to be observed as Christianity spread from country to country.

Bishop Hippolytus calculated the birth of Jesus to be December 25 in 235 AD.  Emperor Constantine ordered the celebration of Christmas in 320 AD.  Since 400 AD Christendom has accepted this date as the traditional date of Jesus’ birth.

Christmas was first celebrated in America in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia.  In 1836 Alabama became the first state to establish Christmas as a legal holiday.  Colorado recognized Christmas as a state holiday in 1861.

St. Nicholas or Santa Claus

Nicholas was born and raised in Turkey in 280 AD.  When Nicholas reached age 19 he entered the priesthood.  He became known as the ‘patron saint of children’ because of his habit of leaving unidentified gifts at the homes of needy families.  This mysterious donor is called “Father Christmas” in England.

Introduced as “Sinterklass”  to America by the Dutch as the patron saint of their colonies or as the English and French said, “Saneta Claas.”  In 1809 Washington Irving portrayed a jolly fellow who rode in a sleigh pulled by reindeer; a far cry from the original St. Nicholas.  The giving spirit of St. Nicholas should inspire us all.

Candy Canes

A popular account says that a candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.  He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus.

He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy.  He chose white to symbolize the purity and Virgin Birth of Jesus.  He made it in the “J” shape for the name of Jesus.  The shape is also that of a shepherd’s staff, to remind us that the Bible calls Jesus the Good Shepherd.  The red stripe is to remind us of the blood Christ shed for us when he died on a cross.

Christmas Carols

Until the Middle Ages there was no congregational singing in Christian churches.  Trained choirs sang chants and monotonous songs.  After the Christmas services, the church members would often gather in the streets to sing songs about the birth of Jesus, called ‘carola.’  Martin Luther introduced congregational singing to the churches.

“Silent Night” is the most popular Christmas carol.  Written on Christmas eve in Obendorf, Austria in 1818 by a priest as he walked in the snow house-to-house inviting his members to the service that evening.  Returning to his church, the priest asked the organist to write the melody to the lyrics he had composed on his walk.  Sung for the first time at the service that evening, it was sung to guitar as the church organ was broken!

Christmas Trees

This tradition was borrowed from the non-Christian people of northern Europe and given a new meaning.  These people would bring evergreens into their homes during the winter months to remind them of the hope of the coming spring.

Christians adapted this custom and added that the evergreen symbolizes the everlasting life offered through belief in Jesus as our Savior.  Trees were set up on Christmas and decorated with lights (candles) to symbolize that Jesus was born on a beautiful, starry night in Bethlehem.  Tradition says that Martin Luther was the first to add lights to the decorated tree.

Creche or Manger Scene

Until the 13th century, those that celebrated Christmas generally overlooked the lowly conditions of Jesus’ birth.  In 1219, St. Francis of Assisi visited Bethlehem where he was struck by the simplicity of Christ’s birthplace.  He was dismayed by the contrast of Jesus’ humble beginnings and the lavish church celebrations of his birth.

St. Francis created a rustic stable scene for midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1223.  He used live animals and people portrayed Mary and Joseph, shepherds and the angels.

Stockings

Long before Christmas trees were a part of the common Christmas traditions, stockings were hung in anticipation of the arrival of St. Nicholas.  English immigrants brought this custom with them to America.

The original Christmas stockings that were hung were those worn for everyday apparel.  They were hung with the hopes of being filled with treats from the visit of St. Nick.

What traditions are a part of your Christmas celebrations?  What values are you communicating as you celebrate?  Perhaps you can lead your family or your friends in remembering the true reason for the season as you reflect upon some of these established traditions.     MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Rewards for Laboring

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.   If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.   1 Corinthians 3:10-15  (NIV  1984)

In the passage above Paul is talking about his labors for Christ.  He, the ‘expert builder’ of people, reminds the Corinthians that there will be rewards given at the ‘bema’ judgment seat at the end of days.  All of our labors will be tested by the fire of God, revealing true motives and outcomes.  Some will lose potential rewards while others will be rewarded for their faithfulness.  Salvation is not at risk, this is rewards for service.

As Kingdom leaders who labor for the Lord and His purposes, the reminder that we will have to give an account of our labors should be sobering.  The writer of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”  Hebrews 13:17  (NIV  1984)  We are stewards of a trust given to us by the Lord, the trust of leading His people to accomplish His purposes.

In the parable of the Talents there is an accounting when the servants are called to report to their Master the results of their labor.  Faithfulness is rewarded by the Master (see Matthew 25).  Immediately following this parable is another titled the Sheep and the Goats.  Referring to the final judgment, the sheep (faithful ones) are welcomed into heaven and are surprised at their reward.  Note that in this instance, they are rewarded for service given to other believers -“whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40)  We see similar principles of reward for labor taught in the parable of the Ten Gold Coins (see Luke 19).

Your labor for the Lord does not go unnoticed by Him.  There will be a reckoning one day and rewards will be given for your faithful service.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.   1 Corinthians 15:58   (NIV  1984)

Fight or Flight?

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.   Matthew 10:16   NIV  1984

The Good Shepherd of the sheep here makes an amazing proclamation:  He is sending His sheep into a pack of wolves!  What is He thinking?  Doesn’t He care?  Doesn’t He know that these sheep are defenseless and are going to attacked by these ravenous wolves?

Yes, the Lord knows very well what He is doing and why He is doing it.  Therefore, as we engage in His grand mission of making disciples of all the nations, we must go with the shrewdness of snakes and the innocence of doves.  He can send His sheep among the pack of snarling wolves because of two things:  He has all authority in heaven and on earth to do so and He has promised to be with His sheep and never leave them.  (see Matthew 28:18-20)

Shrewdness alone would force us to rely upon our own cleverness and intellectual keenness.  Innocence alone would be simple weakness and a passive surrender.  But, combined, they present a posture and an attitude of wisdom and dependence upon the Shepherd who sends His sheep into areas where packs of wolves roam.

Note, that immediately after this statement, the Lord exhorts His sheep to, “Be on your guard again men…” (Matthew 10:17).  This sending of the sheep in not foolish ignorance, but rather a watchful, careful knowledge of the dangers faced and how best to respond to them.

When threatened, we have two natural responses – fight or flight.  There may be times when facing ‘wolves’ that we stand and fight.  We engage in the battle trusting not in our own strength, but the Lord.  The battle is the Lord’s!  (2 Chronicles 20:15)  Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but rather against the forces of evil behind those who oppose us. (Ephesian 6:12)  We engage knowing that the Lord is with us, helping us respond to the threat and trusting Him regardless of the outcome of the battle.

But, there are other times when the way of wisdom is flight instead of fight.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 we read, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”  Martyrdom may come, and should the Lord ask of us that supreme sacrifice, we can trust Him for the courage and faith to face that trial.  But, we need not go looking for martyrdom!  If it comes, so be it.  But, sometimes the best course of action is a strategic retreat!

What to do when facing a threat?  Should we stand and fight or flee to fight another day?  Trust in the Lord’s leading through His Spirit who lives within His sheep.  You will know which way to go.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”  Isaiah 30:21   NIV  1984

Martin Luther – Courageous and Combative!

We have just come through the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg church which helped launch the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  I decided to read a biography on Luther (Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career by Kittelson) to better familiarize myself with the life of one used by God in such a mighty way.  Here are some of my favorite quotes attributed to this amazing man.

I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.  Amen.

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.

Pray, and let God worry.

You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.
Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.

Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.

The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.

I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.
If I am not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.

Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.

You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.

May the Lord use the example of Martin Luther and many others like him who have the courage to stand for the Lord against the cultural tide of the day!

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