Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “leader development”

Fig Tree Prayer Lessons

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  Mark 11:20-25 ESV

When Jesus cursed the fig tree after not finding any fruit on it, His disciples took note (see Mark 11:12-14).  Upon passing by the tree the following day, Peter draws everyone’s attention to the withered tree. Jesus used the opportunity to instruct them in some key principles of prayer.

1. Jesus begins the fig tree lesson with a reminder that the object of their prayer of faith is God Himself.  It is God who answers and moves mountains, not our faith.  We just need have the faith to ask!  Jesus did not say, “Have faith!” – but rather, “Have faith in God!”

2. He goes on to remind us that we must bring our requests before the Lord.  We must ask! Jesus assumes that we will ask specifically – “Lord, move this mountain!”  While this may seem obvious, James rebukes us with, “…You do not have, because you do not ask.”  James 4:2 ESV

3. Jesus now instructs His followers that when making our petitions we are not to doubt in our heart that God will answer.  This does not mean that we have to self-brainwash ourselves trying to remove all doubt.  But the exhortation is to avoid a type of doubt that says, “I know this is a waste of time, but just in case, I’ll make my request.”  That type of praying sees the act of prayer as a kind of good luck charm or perfunctory act.  God is not honored with such requests.

4.  Next Jesus reminds us that instead of doubting, we are to believe in our heart that our prayers will be granted.  Even more, He says, we are to believe that we have already received the answer.  This is an attitude of expectancy from the Lord based upon His promises, faithfulness, love and generosity towards us. It is rooted in the reality, “… If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Romans 8:31 ESV

5. Lastly, Jesus states that unresolved conflicts and a failure to forgive those who have wronged us will hinder our prayers.  The Holy Spirit will remind us as we pray of those who we are to forgive. (see Matthew 5:23-24 and 1 Peter 3:19)

Certainly Jesus had much more to say about the subject of prayer (see Matthew 6 and Luke 11) .  But it is important to note that during the last week of His public ministry, He taught His followers about prayer as illustrated by a withered fig tree.

 

PS  A Primer for Kingdom Leaders:  100 Reflections for Improving Your Leadership – A collection of 100 of my most popular blogs – compiled, edited and available for FREE download.  See Tom’s Books page above to download.

Kingdom Leaders and the Word

Study it through, Pray it in, Live it out, Pass it on.       Leighton Ford

Jesus reminds us that it is the seed of the Word of God the Kingdom worker plants that springs forth in the life soil of an individual (Mark 4:14).  Peter reminds us that we have been born again by the seed of the Word of God –  “… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…” 1 Peter 1:23 ESV

A mark of a Kingdom leader is that they saturate their life and leadership with the Scriptures.  Not in a proof text, Post-it note kind of way – “Ooops, I’d better add a verse to this so that it sounds more spiritual.”  Rather, they have so embedded themselves in the Word of God that it naturally flows from them as they live and lead others to accomplish mission for the glory of God.

Note in the above quote that the first three steps regarding saturating our life and leadership with the Bible are internally focused.  We study the Word, not in a purely academic sense, but rather, with an eye towards applying it to ourselves and then to others.

Next we pray over the Scriptures with a meditative, contemplative attitude, expecting God to speak to us personally.  He will speak to our current situations and challenges, directing our paths and helping us sort out His voices from the cacophony that that surrounds us.  In Isaiah 30:21 (ESV) He promises, “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.”

Next in the ministry of the Word is that we have to apply it to ourselves before we share it with others.  It was Howard Hendricks who said, “If it does not work at ‘home,’ don’t export it!”  Hypocrisy is by definition not living what you instruct others to be or do and Jesus had much to say about hypocrites – none of it positive!

Lastly, having studied, prayed and personally applied the Word, we now share it with others.  We align our leadership with God’s ways and seek to bring glory to Him, knowing that we will give an account for our actions at the end of our days. Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” And James gives Kingdom leaders this sobering reminder, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1 ESV)

Thus, we do humbly serve the King and seek to advance His Kingdom by honoring His Word in our life and leadership.  Are you seeking to saturate your life with the Word?  Are you pursuing knowing Him and abiding in Him by meeting Him daily in the Scriptures?

Apathy or Engagement?

For some men die by shrapnel,
And some go down in flames.
But most men perish inch by inch
In play at little games.
     The Night they Burned Shanghai  by Robert D. Abrahams

God is one who works.  He is always at work.  The Bible opens with God at  work creating the universe.  Jesus reminds us in John 5:17 (NIV), “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” God has grand plans and purposes which He invites us into.  Kingdom people are invited to join Him in His work, co-laboring with Him (see 1 Corinthians 3:9).

But for those who would volunteer for God’s army, there are certain conditions for ‘active duty.’  Note what the Lord says about those who would seek to enlist for His service.

2 Timothy 2:4 – No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

2 Timothy 2:20-24 – In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

Luke 14:26-33 – “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

Luke 9:23-24 – Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Philippians 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Life is too short to be playing silly little games.  God’s grand purposes await those who would ‘give up everything and follow Him.’  The One who launched the greatest enterprise the world has ever known – discipling the nations for Christ – beckons us join the effort and engage.

Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”

Pay Attention to Morale!

 

Morale is the greatest single factor in successful warfare.

     Dwight Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe  

Leaders who neglect the morale of those they lead will pay a big price and lose much momentum in the mission by just assuming that all is well.  Here’s several thoughts on how to maintain good morale.

Never underestimate the importance of your presence.  Just showing up with those you are leading does a great deal for their morale.  You being with them, paying individual attention to them, goes a long way to keeping morale high.  And when you visit with them, ask them questions about what they are learning, what the Lord has been teaching them, or what things you can be praying for them.  And when you do ask them, note their answers and be sure you pray over their requests.  Then, follow up with them in the future.  Your personal attention will mean a lot.

Loose lips sink ships – this phrase originated during WW2 to remind all to beware of unguarded talk.  So too for leaders who carelessly talk about things that can breed distrust or fear in the minds of those they lead.  Think about what you are saying and guard you lips on topics that can distract or create undue fear of the future.  Rather, use your words to point people to Christ, our hope in Him, and His promise to see us through and never leave us.

Rumors spread like wildfires and when any unfounded rumor comes to your attention address it fully and quickly.  Don’t assume that it will just die on its own.  Rumors have ways of growing into wildfires of fear and can create full-blown panic if not addressed.

Any lack of communication from leadership and people tend to think the worst.  This can be true of an individual or a group.  Make it your habit to regularly keep those you lead informed.

Affirm, affirm, affirm!!  You speak at a volume of 3 but are heard at a volume of 9 because you are the leader.  Use this reality to benefit others!  Don’t flatter but affirm!  Find someone doing something right and tell them about it!

Do you know the morale of your troops?  Are they hearing from you regularly?  Are you out among them?

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)

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. 

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!

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!

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