Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “leadership thinking”

Changing Your Plans

When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. Acts 18:20-21 NIV

Paul was at the end of his three-year second missionary tour. He had added a new couple to the team in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla, and now he sailed with them to Ephesus. Paul, as was his custom, went to the synagogue to proclaim the Messiah to the Jews in Ephesus. There seems to have been an open opportunity for Paul the share the gospel among this Jewish audience indicated by their asking Paul to “spend more time with them.” But Paul declined. Why would Paul say ‘no’ to this open door?

Note that Ephesus (main city in the province of Asia) was the target audience for Paul and team two years earlier when they were at the beginning of the second tour (see Acts 16:6ff). The Holy Spirit prevented them from entering the province at that time, and now two years later there was an opportunity. Paul left Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus (remember, they were Jewish converts) and sailed back to Jerusalem and eventually to Antioch of Syria.

Paul’s parting comment upon leaving was, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” We know he did return to Ephesus on his third tour and remained there for over two years (see Acts 19). Ephesus was still a strategic ministry audience, yet Paul’s future was dependent upon the Lord’s plans for him. He had learned to make his plans, but know that their execution was dependent upon the Lord’s guidance.

Some might say, “Well, what’s the use in planning if we don’t know whether they will be implemented? It seems like such a waste of time and effort. Why not just ‘wing it – let the Holy Spirit guide us as we go?” The Lord is an intentional God who acts according to His purposes. Jesus acknowledged the completion of the work (plans) the Father gave Him the night before His crucifixion. So, put aside this ‘wing it’ idea thinking that somehow this is more aligned with God’s leading us.

But… and this is big…. as we act out our carefully thought-through plans, we must also listen very carefully to the Holy Spirit and be willing to change our plans as He directs. He is God and we are not! He has the right to do as He sees fit and do it at anytime and in anyway He chooses. Our job is to follow His lead not expect Him to ‘rubber stamp’ our plans.

You may think that changing your leadership plans will cause a lack of trust from those you lead, but the opposite can be true. A leader who acknowledges God’s guidance, who has the humility to change plans because God has given a new direction, actually gains trust. Who doesn’t want to be led by someone who in humility says, “I had planned on this, but God over-ruled and directed us this new way?” At the beginning of his second tour, Paul changed his plans three different times before finally understanding that God wanted he and his team to go into Macedonia (northern Greece), not western Turkey.

Listen carefully to the Spirit as you execute your plans and be willing to change them. Study and apply His Word to your ministry efforts and expect Him to use the Word and others to confirm His leading (see Acts 16:1-10).

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15 NIV

Headwinds and Crosscurrents!

And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” … Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” … And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” Acts 10:15, 20, 22 ESV

Jesus had given the Great Commission to the apostles and His disciples multiple times and in multiple places during the days between the resurrection and His ascension back to heaven from the Mt. of Olives. This last command was to make disciples of all peoples – Jews and Gentiles. Yet, though the scope of the Commission was very clear, the acceptance of it by the leadership was seemingly slow to be acted upon.

Here’s an approximate timeline for the progression of the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews) in the book of Acts.

Pentecost Acts 1 30 AD.

Samaritans Acts 8 31 AD.

Cornelius Acts 10 37 AD.

Jerusalem Council Acts 15 48 AD.

The Lord sent Phillip to preach the good news to the Samaritans in Acts 8 after the stoning of Stephen. Peter and John, having heard that the Samaritans believed, went to confirm this news (Acts 8:14ff). After meeting these new believers and praying for them, they came to realize that the discriminated against Samaritans were given access to the Kingdom.

Several years (six years?) later Peter received a thrice-repeated vision that nothing was unclean that God created and was sent for by Cornelius to come and explain the gospel to him and his household. Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile, a Roman centurion soldier, had been instructed by God to get Peter and listen carefully to his message. Peter obeyed God’s direction to go to Cornelius’s house – an ‘unclean’ Gentile house – and shared Christ. Upon receiving the truth, Cornelius and his entire household believed.

Peter was called back to Jerusalem to explain why he was fraternizing with Gentiles. After hearing about the providential circumstances that led to Cornelius and his family’s response to the gospel, the apostles and other leaders began to accept the new reality. When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Acts 11:18 NIV

Further clarity was brought to the issue about Gentiles and the gospel lifestyle at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 after the conclusion of Paul’s first missionary tour. Leaders affirmed the inclusion of Gentiles in the family of God and encouraged Paul and friends to continue their God-defined mission to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. This meeting was now approximately 18+ years after Jesus gave the disciples the Commission to make disciples of all peoples of the world.

Are you sensing that the forward movement of your leadership mission is slow to progress? Are you feeling like it’s two steps forward and one back? Are you facing fierce headwinds and crosscurrents that threaten to take you off course or sink your ‘ship?’ Time to refocus! Fix your thoughts and fix your eyes upon Jesus!

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT

The Faith Walk Life

“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” … But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:6, 15-16 NIV

At Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus he saw a vision of the risen Lord Jesus. The vision was such that it literally blinded him for the next three days until the Lord sent Ananias to pray over and heal him.

After Paul’s blinding vision he was given a short-term assignment, “…get up and go into the city (Damascus) and wait to be told what you must do.” The vision and directions were very clear to Paul, but they were not long term. That would come much later. For now, he must get up from the ground and be led by his traveling companions into the city and wait. Wait for what? For more direction? Would he receive his sight again? What about his current ‘career?’ So many questions, so few answers!

This is the faith walk life. The Lord reminds us that, “His righteous ones will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:7). God sets before us a direction or path to begin to follow. We have enough clarity to begin to move, but little more. Our flesh cries out for more security – we want to see further, know more, and be assured of every step along the way. But God remains silent on the details. He does direct our paths as we trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6), but it will be in His way and His timing. It is a walk by faith, not by sight!

Paul sat in Damascus for the next three days with not further clarity, no healing, and no further word from the Lord. From his perspective he had be left alone, forgotten by God. But we know that the Lord was at work. He was speaking to Ananias, convincing him to go to Paul and pray over him for healing. Three days of silence for Paul. Three days to convince Ananias that this was a good thing to go and heal the persecutor. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Have you begun a journey of faith and now find yourself ‘stalled?’ The guidance from the Lord got you to this place, this time, this circumstance – but now, nothing. All is quiet. You’ve been patiently waiting for more direction from Him, but nothing has come. Your tempted to make something happen. At least do something rather than just sit and wait. Don’t do it! “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14 NIV

It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. Proverbs 19:2 NIV 1984

Launching the New Year

2022 has ended and now we launch 2023!  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 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 you as you look back and observe themes or topics the Lord has been addressing in you.  Here are some questions to get you started in this reflection time.

Are you satisfied with your own personal spiritual walk and growth?  More importantly, is Jesus pleased with your pursuit of Him?  How’s your current pace of life?  Is it sustainable long-term?  Do you have a margin in your schedule?  Are you living and leading from an overflow?  How’s your 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?  Are you more concerned about your reputation or God’s glory?  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 making progress in the God-given mission that you intended to accomplish?

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

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.    Hebrews 12:1-2  NIV

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2023!

Silent Night

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 during the Protestant Reformation and the singing of Christmas carols became part of our Christmas celebrations as we remember the birth of our Savior.

“Silent Night” is the most popular Christmas carol.  This beloved carol was first written and sung on Christmas Eve in Obendorf, Austria in 1818.  Joseph Mohr was a young priest who had written the words to the hymn two years previously, but now refined it as he walked in the snow, house-to-house, inviting his church members to the worship service that evening.

Returning to his church, the priest asked the church organist, Franz Gruber, to put a melody to the lyrics he had composed.  The organist did so, but reminded the priest that the church organ was broken and not functioning.  They would have to use different accompaniment that night instead of the usual organ.  Thus, Silent Night, was sung for the first time at the service that evening, but it was sung to guitar as Gruber led the congregation in worship!

From this small and seemingly insignificant beginning in an obscure village in Austria the carol, Silent Night, has moved around the world and passed from generation to generation as our most beloved Christmas carol.

Don’t despise small beginnings!

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.    Luke 2:6-11  NIV

Merry Christmas!

Rescued from my Troubles

Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace. Acts 7:9-10 NIV

When reading about the life of Joseph we like the part about how God gave him wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh. We leaders really like the part where Pharaoh made Joseph “ruler over all Egypt and all his palace.” But we tend to ignore the process that God took Joseph through to get the ‘good part.’ He was sold as a slave by his brothers, falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife, forgotten in prison by those he helped, and then finally released and honored by Pharaoh.

Note that God did not prevent the troubles from coming upon Joseph. But He did rescue him from all his troubles, not just some of them. It’s similar to the end of life. Almost all want to go to heaven, but few want to die to get there! We like the end, not the process.

I would assume that a part of the wisdom that Joseph was given was perspective. We don’t see Joseph complaining about his terrible circumstances. His destiny revealed to him as a 17 year old in two dreams was finally brought into reality as a 40 year old when his brothers were bowing down before him asking for food to feed their families. God will give you His perspective on your troubles if you ask Him.

Many Kingdom leaders are surprised when troubles overtake them – as if something strange has happened. Yet, a study of the Scriptures shows over and over again that those who would live (and lead) like Christ will have difficulties. These troubles are not necessarily God’s discipline or a consequence of our disobedience. Rather, they are trials that the Lord allows to further His purposes in and through us.

He does not promise to keep these trials and tribulations away from us. But He does promise to never leave us or forsake us. He promises that no temptation shall be too much for us without Him providing the way of escape. Trust Him! Persevere! Set your face like a flint!

Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. Isaiah 50:7 NIV

Leadership Changes

“So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus–from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven. Acts 1:21-26 NLT

During the ten days between the Lord’s ascension back to heaven from the Mount of Olives until Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, Peter suggested that they choose a replacement for Judas Iscariot who had betrayed Jesus. He said this based upon Psalm 109:8 which talks of another who will replace the lost one. Let’s note some principles for replacing leaders.

First, we note that before they talked about specific people, they defined the qualifications for the candidates. A candidate would be, “from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus–from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us.” Any candidate would be a man who had been with Jesus since the time of His baptism by John the Baptist until the ascension back to heaven just recently. This would be a ‘high bar’ to meet and would ensure someone who had seen and heard what the other Eleven had experienced with Jesus. Define the qualities, characteristics, and competencies needed for the job.

Secondly, we see that they defined the ‘job’ of this new replacement. “Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” Clarify the job that the candidate will fulfill. Put it in writing!

Third, identify candidates who meet the qualifications for the job. The disciples identified two men – Mattias and Barsabbas who met the qualifications.

Fourth, they prayed and asked for the Lord to show who He had chosen for this vital role. The Eleven were really leading a process of discernment, seeking to identify the individual whom the Lord had already chosen. This was a spiritual process, not a political one.

Last, we note that they made the decision between the two – doing so by casting lots. This may seem arbitrary, or chance driven, but culturally it was a common method for decision making – similar to our casting votes. It was choosing black or white stones out of a bag, or long straw vs short straw. Regardless of the specific means, they trusted that God would direct the final choice to the one whom He had already chosen.

Kingdom leaders will be chosen and will transition their leadership to another – it is a matter of when, not if. Prepare now for the steps in the process of the selection, as well as those steps for the transition to another. May you do it with grace and in a God-honoring way!

Asking for and Accepting Help

As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. … They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. Luke 19:29-30, 35 NIV

As Jesus neared Jerusalem on Sunday of the Passion Week (Palm Sunday), he needed help. To fulfill the prophesy of Zechariah (see Zech. 9:9), He needed a colt to ride into the city. So, He asked (directed) two of the Twelve to go before Him into the village and bring back the colt for Him. They did as directed and return with the colt, placing their cloaks upon the back of the colt and then lifted Jesus up onto the back of the animal. Jesus then rode the colt into Jerusalem as people laid palm branches in front of the colt, shouting and praising God as He entered the city.

Note the help Jesus needed in the recruitment of resources (a colt to ride) and the assistance He needed to get onto the animal. Here is the King of Kings asking for and accepting help from others. What humility!

Many Kingdom leaders are passionate to use their leadership to serve others. This is good and right – an admirable motivation. Yet, many struggle to ask for help from others or accept the help from others. They are used to providing help and find it difficult to ask for themselves the help they need. Perhaps it’s our ego or just habit that we don’t ask for ourselves. Regardless of why we don’t ask for help, this was not so with Jesus!

What help do you need now to accomplish the mission God has called you to? Have you asked the Lord for His help? Have you asked others for their help also? It’s not ‘either-or’ but ‘both-and’ for your requests. Is your pride preventing you from asking others to help you? Have others offered their help but you are reluctant to accept it? Why? Perhaps the Lord is moving them to come to your aid?

Ask and you will receive!

We Left All

Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” Luke 18:28 NIV

A very wealthy man had just walked away from Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. He went away sad for he was very wealthy. Jesus lamented about how difficult it is for those with much to enter the Kingdom of God. This comment stirred Peter’s response. “We have left everything…” he said.

Note that Jesus did not correct Peter’s statement about having left everything, for they certainly had. For the previous two years the Twelve had left their professions to be trained as apostles who would carry the leadership of the movement Jesus started. They had left family, friends, spouses (at least we know Peter was married), physical security, and all that was familiar to their previous lifestyle to be His disciples. Yes, they had left all.

But contrast this with what Jesus instructs them about provision on the evening of the Last Supper. In Luke 22:35-36 we read, “Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Wait! What? Why would Jesus affirm “leaving all” in one context and now He instructs them to get your ‘stuff’ together and go well provisioned?

With the rich young ruler it was not a matter of how much ‘stuff’ he had. Rather it was his heart’s attitude about his ‘stuff.’ His wealth has a central position in his heart and Jesus pointed this out by challenging him to leave it all and follow Him. The Twelve had previously demonstrated that Jesus was central in their hearts (Judas being the exception). Thus, they were instructed to gather, not divest. It was a heart issue, not a materials issue.

As Kingdom leaders we must continually self-examine our heart’s relationship to our ‘stuff.’ It’s easy to fall in love with your ‘stuff’ and move Jesus from His rightful spot on the throne of our life to the margin. How’s your heart today? What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about your relationship to your ‘stuff’?

Aging and Retirement – 3

By 1935 the Depression was in full bloom and President Franklin D. Roosevelt had to address the issue of caring for older American workers who had lost their savings in the Depression and had little support to make it to old age.  The Social Security Act of 1935 established the age of 65 as the retirement age for American workers.[1]  It is also interesting to note that the life expectancy for American workers in 1935 was 58 for men and 62 for women.   And now, with the Amended Social Security Act of 1988, the retirement age is gradually being raised to 67 by the year 2025 with life expectancy for men being 76 and women being 81. [2]

The concept of retirement from work into a season of leisure, self-enjoyment and self-fulfillment took root in the 1950s in America.  Workers were encouraged to save for the future with those savings being used for self-indulgence and personal pleasure – a reward for the hard work one had to ‘endure’ during their working career.  Communities for ‘seniors’ emerged and the concept of a leisurely season of retirement after a work career ended became a destination. 

With increasing longevity and life-expectancy growing dramatically due to improvements in health care, workers can now expect that their retirement years may be longer than their working years.  Increasing cost of living, increasing medical costs, and poor financial planning lead to older American workers seeking to extend their working years so that they have income to live and possibly save for a longer than expected life.  Seniors working as big box store greeters and counter help at McDonald’s are now common. 

The fracturing of the American family and the geographical scattering of children from their parents compounds any possible means of caring for a rapidly aging population.  Few churches or ministries have adequate means or a vision for caring for the older members.  What commitments do we have to our aging staff? How do we honor them and honor God in our relationships? Remember the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31! What goes around comes around and we will all be the “old one” someday.


[1] N.Y. Times, The History of Retirement, From Early Man to A.A.R.P.  March 21, 1999

[2] Life Expectancy in USA in 2010; http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005148.html

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