Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “leadership thinking”

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?

Worldly vs Godly Wisdom

And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.    Acts 7:9-10   (ESV)

And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.     Acts 7:1, 22  (ESV)

There are two sources of wisdom for Kingdom leaders:  wisdom that comes from the world and wisdom that comes from above.  In Stephen’s testimony before his accusers, he distinguishes between these two as illustrated in the life and leadership of Joseph and Moses.

Joseph was given wisdom and favor from God when he was brought before Pharaoh and interpreted his dreams.  Having explained that the dreams meant 7 years of plentiful harvests followed by 7 years of drought, he volunteered a solution.  He suggested constructing huge granaries to store the surplus grain during the first years in order to feed the hungry during the years of famine that would follow.

Pharaoh and his counselors recognized the wisdom of this plan and Joseph was elevated to a position of number two in Egypt.  He executed the building, gathering, storing, and eventually, the distribution of the grain in the years of famine.  All of this came from the godly wisdom that was given to Joseph as the Lord sought to accomplish His purposes in and through Him.

Years later Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s court, having been adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter when she rescued him from the River Nile.  He was ‘instructed’ in all of the wisdom that the Egyptian culture had to offer.  He got the best education and training possible during his day.  But, we note that he was not ready to lead God’s people yet.

He was powerful in speech and deed according to Stephen.  But his training, education and natural ability did not make him qualified to lead God’s people out of Egypt.  He tried on his own strength and failed, eventually ending up in Midian caring for sheep for his new father-in-law Jethro.

Now, one can imagine that the sheep management system implemented by Moses was quite the setup, given all of his background.  But, it was simply a training program for God to humble him and shape him into the man God could eventually use to lead over 2 million of His people out of bondage.  Forty more years of managing sheep would bring Moses to the point where he was now ready to meet God in the burning bush.

Kingdom leaders need wisdom to lead.  And worldly wisdom based upon collective wisdom can have some advantages.  But, it will not be enough to fulfill our God-given missions.  We will need godly wisdom, given to us from Him, to see His work accomplished in His ways.

Are you trusting in the world’s wisdom only or are you pleading with God to give you His wisdom as you lead out in the task He has called you to?

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!

 

The Battle for Your Minds

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.                                 Ralph Waldo Emerson

… clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.      Romans 13:14  (NIV)

The battle is raging for the control of your thought life.  For if the enemy can gain a beachhead within your thoughts, that front will eventually expand to control more and more territory, finally expressing itself in our actions.

Often, we tend to minimize what goes on within our thoughts, saying to ourselves, “Well, at least I didn’t do it!  Yes, I may have thought it, but I didn’t act on it.”  This rationalization can lead to self-delusion, for the Lord Jesus reminds us that even to lust after a woman is the same as committing the sexually immoral act of adultery (see Matthew 5:27-30).

So, what to do when the battle rages within for control of our thoughts?  Here’s some practical suggestions:

  1. Determine to fix your thoughts upon Christ
    • Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.     Hebrews 3:1   (NIV)
  2. Arm yourself for battle by storing away God’s word within you
    • How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
      By living according to your word.I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.    Psalm 119:9,11
  3. Ask God for help as the battle rages – it is not a matter of our will power, but rather His power
    • call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.        Psalm 50:15 

The enemy is waging war against you seeking to gain a foothold within your thoughts that he might exploit further into your leadership actions.

Resist the devil and he will flee from you.   James 4:7

How’s your thought life today?

Forms and Functions

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”     Mark 2:22  ESV

As Kingdom leaders seek to advance the gospel, they take new initiatives and seek the Lord’s guidance as they pioneer.  For many, one of their greatest challenges is their own success.  What?  How can that be?

When we are trying something new and different, we are sensing a real need for the Lord to help us – to intervene on our behalf as we try new ways and means.  And, when the Lord does answer and intervene on our behalf, we rejoice and continue seeking to ‘push’ the advance further and further forward, enjoying the Lord’s favor.  But, after a period of some ‘success’ a new, more insidious challenge appears.

Our ‘success’ can cause us to focus on efficiencies and methodology.  We double down on economies of scale, leverage points, and look to maximize opportunities.  Now, in and of themselves these things are not wrong, but we can drift from our initial dependency upon the Lord and our focus now moves to our own abilities instead of seeking the Lord’s blessing and help.

When our tried and true ‘methods’ no longer seem to yield the same results, instead of seeking the Lord’s guidance for new ideas – new ‘wineskins’ – we simply put our heads down and try harder.  We think, “Well, it worked in the past, certainly it will work now; we just have to try harder.”

What we don’t understand is that we have entered into a new reality that will require a new way of serving.  It’s a new day that needs new forms for this new context.  The ‘new wine’ must find new forms for connecting with our new context.  Given the rapidity of change today, if we are not continually evaluating our ‘forms’ we are doomed to be marginalized and irrelevant very quickly.

Functions (truths anchored in the Scriptures) remain true, but the forms they take are constantly in need of updating, improving, or at times, being discontinued or replaced by more contextually relevant ‘wineskins.’  It’s not a matter of working harder or more efficiently.  It’s just that our audience is constantly changing and needing to be reached with new ways and means.

Wise Kingdom leaders will understand this process and lead out in discerning forms from functions, continually updating the former and staying focused on the latter.

Changing Old Forms and Traditions

On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.  After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.  And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.  They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.   Act 21:18-21 ESV

Recently, while doing a study through the book of Acts on the ministry forms, I was struck by the above passage.  Paul had just completed his third missionary tour and was now back in Jerusalem.  He was updating the leadership about his ministry among the Gentiles.  The leaders affirmed Paul’s work among the Gentiles and also testified to God’s amazing work among the Jews, having seen thousands put their trust in Christ as their Messiah.

But then the elders make an interesting request.  They asked Paul to join in a vow along with four others as proof that he still lives in observance to the law of Moses (see Acts 21:22-24).  And Paul submits himself to this request, joins the four in their purification rights and presents himself in the temple accordingly.

Some observations:

  1. This incident occurs at least 20 years after Paul’s conversion.  Note that the testimony of the elders is that the Jewish converts are ‘very zealous for the law.’  That is, the Jewish background believers were still following OT Jewish customs and forms.  They had become even more zealous of their Jewish traditions and the OT ceremonial law.
  2. Secondly, the elders concern was that Paul’s appearance among these zealous Jewish believers would be cause for a possible conflict.  Note that it was not the unbelieving Jews who were their concern, but rather the Jewish believers.
  3. It was accepted that Gentile converts were not to follow OT Jewish forms and traditions in their new-found faith, other than the few requests established by the leaders mentioned in Acts 15:22ff after Paul’s first missionary tour.
  4. The elders also assumed that Paul was teaching the Jewish background converts who lived among the Gentiles to leave their Jewish customs and traditions and embrace new forms of worship and lifestyle (Acts 10:21).  He did not refute this claim.

It seems that the emergent Church took many years to leave behind their Jewish forms, traditions, and customs and fully establish ‘new wine in new wineskins’ (see Matthew 9:17).  As more and more Gentile believers emerged, new forms also emerged with them.  Gradually, Jewish forms and customs were left behind.  But it was a long process with many challenges.

Bringing significant change to long-held forms or traditions can be arduous and require much perseverance.  Don’t be discouraged by the length of the change process.  “Mile by mile, it’s a trial; but inch by inch, it’s a cinch!”

Doing Good

… God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.  He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.     Acts 10:38  ESV

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.     1 Thessalonians 5:15   ESV

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   Galatians 6:10   ESV

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.   Ephesians 2:10   ESV

Doing good is not a way to salvation of our souls… let’s be clear.  But, doing good is to be a lifestyle of those of us who have put our faith and trust in Christ.  Faith in Christ is the engine of the ‘salvation train’, but a train car that follows that engine is good works towards others.

Note that Jesus modeled doing good to others.  His message was one of faith in Him as the Messiah and salvation as a free gift, not by following works of the Law.  But, He did good to those around Him – healing and giving Himself away to those in need.

Paul reminds us also that we are to be doing good to everyone – especially those who are of the household of faith.  It’s interesting that ‘doing good’ is not defined.  It’s assumed that we will understand what is good to do and conversely, what is not good.

As Kingdom leaders we have access to resources and authority to do good in ways others can’t.  We can make the exception to the policy, we can reward others when not expected, we can help when others are incapable of helping themselves, and we can open doors of opportunity for those who need a boost.

Doing good to others is the lifestyle of all Christ followers and a part of our mission on earth.  And it is the special privilege of Kingdom leaders who represent the King of Kings!  Are you doing good?

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?

Wise Travel and the Kingdom Leader

Often, one of the consequences of increased leadership responsibilities is more travel away from home.  This increased ‘away time’ puts added stress on family, local, and routine operational responsibilities.  How to wisely handle this travel and optimize it for all involved is key to being an effective leader.

1.  The first question to ask is, “Why am I making this trip?  Is it truly essential that I go, or could someone else represent me?  Could what I hope to accomplish be handled via phone or video conference?”  Maybe you don’t have to make the trip at all!

2.  When booking air travel, have you allowed enough time for the seemingly inevitable delays in arrivals, departures or connections?  Booking too tightly increases stress load and decreases enjoyment if you are running from gate to gate to make a connecting flight.

3. When planning your schedule at the destination, think of dividing the work day into three parts – morning, afternoon and evening.  Those planning your schedule upon arrival should be informed that they can only fill two of these three parts each day.  Thus, you will have a portion of each day for rest, reflection, catch up and dealing with any unexpected crisis.

4.  Be wise on what you eat and when you get to sleep on trips, especially if you have time zone changes such as on international trips.  If hosted, you will often be treated with great generosity of sight-seeing events, shopping for family gifts, wonderful meals, etc.  Being out of your normal routines can make self-control and self-discipline difficult.  Pace yourself!

5.  For truly extended trips of a couple of weeks, consider a one or two-day break in the middle of the trip for restoration and rejuvenation.

6.  Be sure your spouse knows how to contact you if needed, especially for emergencies.  Even today, not every place has easy internet or mobile phone connections.

7.  When returning home, it’s easy to think that the trips is over when you ‘hit the front door’ upon your return.  You’ve been giving out for some time and now you just want to crash and relax.  On the other hand, your spouse has been at home while you’ve been away, and you have a lot to catch up on.  If there are children still at home, the one who stayed home probably needs a break from the kids.

A wise mindset is this, when returning home from a trip, tell yourself that the trip ends the day after you return.  That is, you are still in the ‘giving out’ mindset when you hit the home front – especially the first 24 hours after your return.  Focus on the kids and your spouse’s needs, not your own.  Seek to serve them, not be served by them.

When’s your next trip?  Are you planning ahead for more than just how you will spend the days away?  Are you planning wisely not only for the trip, but for your return?

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!

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