Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Intentional leader development”

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?

Happy New Year!!

As we end one and begin a new calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what we hope will be.  It is through reflection that we can gain perspective and see more clearly the overarching, God-orchestrated, macro movements of our lives.

Leaders are often too busy to stop and reflect.  We always have more things to do and people to see.  We take one item off of the do-list and add three more!  Who has time to stop and think?

Today…..now is the time to stop and reflect upon who you are becoming and what you are doing!  Your personal diary, journal or devotional notebook can be of great help to look back through and observe themes or topics that Lord has been addressing in you.  Here are some questions to get you started in this reflection time.

Are you pleased with your own personal spiritual walk?  More importantly, is Jesus pleased with your pursuit of Him?  How’s the pace of life?  Do you have a margin in your life?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s the family doing?  Are you paying the price to experience the marriage you committed to on your wedding day?  Are you investing deeply in your children and grandchildren, knowing that the years for significant influence are rapidly passing you by?

What fears are you trying to ignore related to your leadership?  Are you leading with faith and courage?  Is the vision of where you are leading to focused or foggy?  Do you have a team that is unified and empowered around a shared vision?  Are you accomplishing the mission that you intended to accomplish?

These and many more questions are helpful for taking stock of where you are today and where you need to be/go tomorrow.  Use this season for reflection and refocus as you start a new year full of new hope and new beginnings.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PS  If you’ve found this weekly leadership blog helpful, please consider making a donation by clicking the Donate link on the right side of the page. 

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

 

Communicating with Word Pictures

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”    Matthew 7:24-25  ESV

Communicating well can be difficult for Kingdom leaders.  “What we have here is a failure to communicate” is heard all too frequently.  As a team leader you are often casting vision and futuristic concepts that for you may seem crystal clear, but for your hearers they are a thick fog.  How can you cut through the fog and help those around you see it as clearly as you do?

One key to good communication, especially when dealing with abstract or complex topics is to learn to speak in word pictures.  Taking the complex and ‘putting a handle’ on it so that it is easy to grasp is a learned skill.  Like all skills, you can get good at it and when you do, you will find yourself being quoted because your communication is memorable.

Note how Jesus ended His most famous sermon – the Sermon on the Mount.  In the reference above He closed with a word picture of a person building a house on two different types of foundations.  The key word is “like” which introduces the simile that follows.  Those who hear His words and obey them are ‘like’ a wise man who built on a rock.  ‘Like’ transitions from concept to word picture that makes the abstract more concrete in the minds of His audience.

As you talk about your mission and vision, learn to use word pictures, similes that will help your audience better understand and remember key points and concepts.  Here’s an example that I use to explain the difference between mission and vision for Kingdom leaders.

Mission Statement –  This answers the question, “Why do we exist?”  This is first and foremost in strategic leading.  It’s like a picture frame on the wall of the Kingdom that separates and defines who we are from what others are.  It is our task and our identity.

Vision Statement  –  This is where we want to go in the future – our destination.  It is the picture of the future of our desired future state that we see by faith.  It’s the picture that is placed into the picture frame of our mission.  It is this future vision that we will begin to work towards and bring into reality by His grace and power.

Train yourself to communicate in simple, easy to understand word pictures.  Your influence will grow and your communications will ‘stick.’

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?

It’s What You Leave Behind that Matters

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!    Hebrews 5:12  (NIV)

As we all run our individual races laid out before us, we are running hard towards our unique finish lines.  But, while our race course may be unique, we have a common goal.  That goal, to finish our race well and run towards maturity in Christ is common for all who seek to follow Christ.

We begin our race by placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and Lord.  But that is just the ‘starting gun’ for the life-long pursuit of growing towards maturity in Him.  As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, over time we are expected to reach a maturity in Him that allows us to teach others.  The author rebukes the readers for their lack of progress, telling them that by now they should be teachers.  Instead, they are still acting like infants in need of spiritual milk rather than feeding on more substantial spiritual meat.

Mature Kingdom leaders are expected to be ‘teachers’ of those who they lead – pointing others toward that same goal and maturity they are running after.  It’s assumed that mature Kingdom leaders will take it upon themselves to invest in others, especially younger, next generation people.

It’s this vision of spiritual generations that must influence all Kingdom leaders.  Yes, we do have a mission to accomplish as we lead.  But, a key component of our leadership is to be intentionally investing in next generation future leaders who will themselves invest in others.

Successful Kingdom leaders do not just accomplish their calling and fulfill their God-given mission in advancing the Gospel and the Kingdom.  They also know that it is their legacy after they lay aside their leadership for others that will be the ultimate judge as to their success or failure as a leader.  Will there be others who follow our lead, who were invested in, prepared, developed and trained to assume their own individual responsibilities as Kingdom leaders?

It’s about what we leave behind, not just what we accomplish now.

It’s about legacy, not just activity!

 

I’m Free …. But …

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.    John 8:36 (NIV)

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.       Romans 6:18

Those who have put their faith and trust in Christ have been set free from sin and given the promise of eternal life.  Yet, this freedom has limitations and responsibility that comes with it.  God’s grace poured out upon us is not the freedom to do what we want, but rather the power to live as we ought.

Here are some sobering reminders on the exercise of our Christian freedom:

  • Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.    1 Corinthians 8:9
  • “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.            1 Corinthians 10:23
  • You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.    Galatians 5:13

Because of the influence we leaders have, others will be watching and imitating our example.  We are reminded that those who lead and influence others will be held to a higher standard.  James 3:1 states, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

Yes, we have great freedom in Christ!  Hallelujah!  But… with our freedom comes responsibility to exercise it wisely for the glory of God and for the service of others, not ourselves.

Therefore…

Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.       1 Timothy 4:6

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