Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “leader development”

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!

Two are Better Than One

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!   Ecclesiastes 4:9-10  ESV

The Western worldview tends to be very individualistic and this often translates into Kingdom work as we seek to personally carry out God’s calling and ministry.  It would seem that the NT pattern is for a leader and a team of gifted, talented people, all aligned and serving together to accomplish their God-given mission.

But in a recent study I was struck by the number of times God sends pairs of people instead of individuals to accomplish various tasks.  Yes, there certainly are many individuals sent by Him – OT prophets, Nehemiah, Esther, Phillip, and others.  But look at the following list of pairs used by Him.

  1. Married couples – Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Mary, Aquila and Priscilla
  2. OT Leadership Pairs – Moses and Aaron, Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Elijah and Elisha
  3. NT Leadership Pairs – The Twelve sent out in pairs, The 72 sent out in pairs, a pair of disciples sent to collect a donkey for the entry into Jerusalem, a pair of disciples sent to prepare the upper room, Barnabas and Saul set apart by the Holy Spirit for ministry to the Gentiles, Barnabas and John Mark, Paul and Silas for the second missionary tour, Peter and John sent to Samaria to investigate their faith, Judas and Silas sent to Antioch to convey the message of the Jerusalem council meeting
  4. Heavenly Pairs – Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus at the Transfiguration, two angels appear in the tomb on resurrection morning, two angels appear on the Mt. of Olives at the Ascension

There are certainly a lot of these pairs who the Lord used to carry out His purposes.  Some were married, some were mentors-mentees, and some were co-workers.  All were used to further the Kingdom and His work.

Perhaps the Lord will give you someone who will come alongside of you and together you will do great things for Him.  It may be a life partner, it may be someone you are discipling, or it may be a co-laborer whom the Lord calls you both to serve together.

You can mutually encourage, challenge, and help one another as you serve in pairs.  Not all needs to be done alone or individually. Look for that like-hearted one you can serve with!

Culture, Traditions and Kingdom Leadership

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ … thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”    Mark 7:8-10, 13 ESV

Cultures and traditions associated with them are constantly changing.  What is important and vital today from a cultural perspective, tomorrow will seem irrelevant or secondary to something else that is now the topic of the day.  In contrast, the Word of God is trans-cultural and eternal.

In Jesus’ day the issue in question was honoring parents and the tradition of Corban – dedicating to God certain personal assets that could (should?) have been used to care for one’s parents as they age, thus fulfilling the commandment of honoring them.  Let’s make several observations from the above passage and see how this applies for Kingdom leaders today.

First we see that Jesus authenticates the authorship of the passage to Moses.  We also note that He says this is the inspired Word of God, not just some good ideas that Moses came up with.   And Jesus says that the leaders of the day were nullifying the Word of God by their teachings and cultural traditions.

The religious leaders of the day had allowed their cultural teachings and traditions to void the commands of God.  Culture had taken precedent over God’s Word.  Jesus rightly rebukes them for such poor leadership, calling them hypocrites and worshipers of God in appearance only (see verses 5-7).

As Kingdom leaders we bear a heavy responsibility to hold to the truth of the Word of God and not allow the ‘traditions’ of our culture compromise or mute the commands of God.  It’s a ‘high wire act’ with seemingly no visible ‘net’ beneath us as we teach and lead in an increasingly hostile environment.  We need wisdom from above to do this well (see James 1:5).

Don’t let the ever changing culture and its corresponding values compromise the truth of God’s Word.  Yes, be sure to be sensitive and contextualize where possible, just don’t compromise the truth.  Keep your focus on the eternal.  What is important today will be gone tomorrow as another topic moves to center stage and we will find ourselves focusing on culture rather than teaching the truth of God’s Word.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”                      2 Kings 6:15-16  ESV

Cling to the truth, listen and observe your cultural context carefully, accommodate where possible, but never compromise!  God has your back!

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.’

Jesus and Priorities

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Matthew 10:5-6  ESV

Does not God love the whole world?  Of course He does!  Does not the mission of the Messiah, Jesus, include taking the Good News to both Jew and Gentile (non-Jew)?  Of course it does!  (see Isaiah 49:6)  Then, why would Jesus restrict His apostles from going to the Gentiles and Samaritans (half-Jewish and half-Gentile)?  It was a matter of priorities and strategy.

Jesus would eventually (2+ years later) after sending out the Twelve in pairs for a ministry training exercise, send them and all of His disciples on a mission to make disciples of all the peoples of the world (see Matthew 28:18-20).  But at this time, His priority was training the Twelve and preparing them for the ultimate mission.

They needed an audience that would be somewhat familiar – Galileans.  And yet, it would still be by faith, as He restricted their provisions on what they were to take with them.  It would be by faith in that not every village they entered would welcome them.  It would be by faith because He was not with them.

So, the priority for the moment was a faith training, practical ministry exercise.  His priority for the moment was preparing the Twelve, knowing that within a relatively short time He would expand their mission to include all the peoples of the world.

Short-term goals can seem contradictory to long-term mission if we don’t understand strategy.  Jesus knew the strategy included training these future leaders of the world-wide mission and thus He focused their ministry efforts within Galilee for the short term.

Mission requires leaders execute a strategy to accomplish their overall task.  This strategy will need to be sequenced and prioritized within a timeline.  Jesus demonstrated this and in His prayer before the crucifixion says, “I have completed the work you gave me to do.” (see John 17:1ff).

If Kingdom leaders have a clear mission and vision, you will need a strategy to accomplish both.  Remember that your strategy must be sequenced and prioritized – you can’t do everything all at once.

“Mile by mile, it’s a trial.  Inch by inch, it’s a cinch!”

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.

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!

 

Continuing the Pursuit of Godly Wisdom

Spiritual, godly wisdom springs from the knowledge of God, His character, and His Word.  This spiritual knowledge leads to spiritual understanding of how God works—the ways of God.  And spiritual understanding translates into spiritual wisdom, the final application of our knowledge of God and His ways into our daily decisions.  It is this spiritual wisdom that God gives to Kingdom leaders to help us accomplish His purposes in us and through our leadership.  It arises from spending time with Jesus and His Word, being taught by His Spirit, and learning from others who have done the same.

The catalyst for turning spiritual knowledge and understanding into spiritual wisdom is the Holy Spirit Himself, who lives within those who know Christ.  He guides us to truth, helps us discern root issues, provides creative solutions to problems, and seeks to glorify Christ in and through us.  He will bring the help that Kingdom leaders need.  In Luke 2:46-47, the Jewish religious leaders were amazed at Jesus’ answers, given His age of twelve.  It was no doubt a similar observation made about Peter and John when they were brought before the Jewish leaders, who “recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Godly wisdom allows Kingdom leaders to accomplish God-given tasks in such a way that people thrive and God is glorified.  They don’t seek credit for any success because they acknowledge that success comes from Him.  They thus share the spotlight with those who serve with them.  Such leaders are attractive; people move toward them not because of their charisma but rather because they sense that God is with them.  They willingly submit to that leader’s influence.

Becoming a wise leader can help in your recruiting of talented people to your mission.  Many have an internal, Spirit-discerned ‘radar’ that can detect wisdom in others, especially other leaders.  And we move towards wise leaders, wanting to join up with them and the vision that they project.  This same ‘radar’ can also detect foolishness and warns us to stay away from those who do not project God’s wisdom.

So, are you continuing in your pursuit of God’s wisdom for your life and leadership?

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

The Pursuit of Godly Wisdom

Godly wisdom is applying knowledge and understanding to life situations
by considering what is pleasing to God. Our goals are measured
against the ultimate goal: a life that ends with Jesus telling us
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We never “arrive” when it comes to wisdom. We can always grow
in wisdom, for we encounter it in God Himself, who is infinite, and
therefore the wisdom He offers us is inexhaustible.

Kingdom wisdom doesn’t just happen; it must be pursued. We
can ask God for it (see James 1:5) and it will be given to us, because
He has promised to do so. Therefore, even young people with limited
personal experience can be considered wise if God has given
them wisdom from above. This is what happened with Solomon. He
acknowledged that he was young and inexperienced (1 Kings 3:7)
yet boldly asked God for “an understanding mind to govern [God’s]
people” so he could “discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).

We can and should, regardless of our age and experience, learn
godly wisdom from others. Wise spiritual mentors are invaluable to
our development. They help us continue growing throughout our
life. As we age, our mentoring needs change, moving from a whole-life
perspective to a more focused, targeted mentoring later in life.
Asking others for help in your growth and development is wise. If
you are beginning your spiritual journey, look for someone to disciple
you, helping you to become a follower of Christ. If you are
well established in your walk with Jesus, then look for someone who
demonstrates spiritual wisdom in an area that you can learn from,
someone who is strong and wise in a specific aspect of life that you
feel you lack.

Proverbs 3:13-15 reminds us, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold.  She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.”

Have you committed yourself to the life-long pursuit of God’s wisdom?

For more thoughts on leading with Kingdom wisdom:  Growing Kingdom Wisdom

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