Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “sacrifice”

Kingdom Mobility

Jesus grew up in a small town in Galilee, the son of a carpenter who learned the trade from his father.  No doubt he was expected to stay there and follow the pattern of many who had gone before Him.  But when He began His public ministry at the age of 30, He adapted a new lifestyle, one that modeled mobility for the sake of the Kingdom.

He left Nazareth to be baptized by John the Baptist along the Jordan River.  Immediately afterwards He spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting and was tempted by the devil to abandon His earthly mission.  During the next year of His ministry, the ‘small-town boy’ ministered in and around the big city of Jerusalem in the province of Judea, making short trips through Samaria to Capernaum and engaging in a wedding in Cana.

Somewhere near the beginning of the second year of His ministry, Jesus permanently moved from His hometown of Nazareth to Capernaum.  “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali…”  (Matthew 4:12-13 ESV)  It was from Capernaum that He would now live and minister for the remainder of His ministry.  He did return to His hometown briefly, but it did not go well.  Many questioned the legitimacy of His ministry and refused to place their faith in Him.  (see Mark 6:1-6)  Capernaum would now be referred to as His “home.” (see Mark 2:1)  For the remaining two and a half years, Jesus would make multiple trips with His disciples throughout Galilee, Judea, Samaria, Phoenicia, Decapolis and Perea, returning to Capernaum in between trips.

Jesus modeled mobility as He carried out the mission for which He had come.  And we who would follow Him are also called to a similar lifestyle.  Now it is not sin to locate in one town or city for an extended period.  But the question to answer is this, “If Jesus asks me to move, am I willing to go wherever He directs?”  Be very careful if you find yourself saying, “I’ll go anywhere, Lord, except …”  Kingdom mobility involves both attitude and action.

Mobility is implicit for His disciples as we read what we ‘leave’ for His sake in Mark 10:29-30 (ESV) – “Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”  (italics added)

Is Jesus asking you to move?  If so, you should start to pack!

Making Wise Personnel Decisions – 2

For Kingdom leaders, personnel decisions can be the most time-consuming and challenging of all the decisions you make.  The complexity of these decisions is due to the many considerations involved:  What’s best for the strategic mission? or What’s best for the person / their family?

Below are some guiding principles and ideas on how to make wise personnel placement decisions.

Staffing Change / Placement / Move decisions 

  1. Kingdom leaders lead in the midst of a tension.  At times we have competing values between a staff person’s needs and desires vs the mission’s (God-given task) needs and desires.  We do value both the individual staff person and an awareness of our stewardship of the mission God has asked us to carry out.  In staffing and placement decisions these tensions can be very real and seem unsolvable so that both are addressed.
  2. A guiding principle to help us in this dilemma would be – we want to have a bias towards the person and their needs (not necessarily their desires), knowing that the Lord will provide all the resources needed to accomplish anything He asks us to do.
  3. We must acknowledge that in some situations it may be more strategic to stay a longer time in one location, rather than move.  Role changes and physical moves are made in light of fulfilling our strategic mission.
  4. When making staffing decisions, there are some issues that we must be very considerate about – personal health needs, children’s development and education, extended family concerns (i.e. caring for aging parents), financial budgets (city budgets vs rural budgets), personal ‘fit’ for the new assignment, etc.
  5. But, while we do consider the above, we must not shrink back from asking for sacrifice or going against one’s personal desires.  Sacrifice is the lifestyle of a follower of Jesus and certainly a part of laboring for Him.  In Mark 10:29-30 the Lord speaks of reward for those who leave behind (sacrifice) family relationships, homes and vocations (fields) for His sake and the gospel.  We are all called to labor for Christ, not ‘vacation’ for Christ!
  6. If one is asked to make a strategic job change or physical move for the sake of contributing to the advancement of the gospel and helping fulfill our God-given mission, there may be reasons for not accepting the invitation.  These reasons must be more than, “I just don’t want to move or do this.”  Or, “I don’t sense that this is best.”  Just as the reason for suggesting the change should be more than, “You’ve been there a long time and need a new challenge.”
  7. If there are sound reasons for saying ‘no’ and we decide to withdraw an invitation, we must not hesitate to return and make a different ask at some time in the future.  We will want to discern if it truly was a wrong ‘fit’ issue or just a personal desire not to change or move.  World-changing mission will require sacrifice, change and mobility to advance the gospel among the lost.

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”    Luke 18:29-30  ESV

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.    Romans 12:1  ESV

Leading with Courage – Facing the Black Death!

In 1527, the Black Death with a mortality rate of 50%+ arrived in Wittenberg, Germany.  Many fled the city, but Martin Luther and his pregnant wife stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people.  Other friends who lost family members moved into Luther’s house for mutual support and encouragement.

There was a difference of opinion among church leaders on whether to stay or flee the plague.  All looked to Luther for advice.  The following is an edited version of his guidance titled, Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.  Many of his thoughts ring true for Kingdom leaders today in the midst of our own pandemic.

“To begin with, some people are of the firm opinion that one need not and should not run away from a deadly plague.  Rather, since death is God’s punishment, which he sends upon us for our sins, we must submit to God and with a true and firm faith patiently await our punishment.  They look upon running away as an outright wrong and as lack of belief in God. Others take the position that one may properly flee, particularly if one holds no public office…”

“From what has been said we derive this guidance:  We must pray against every form of evil and guard against it to the best of our ability in order not to act contrary to God, as was previously explained.  If it be God’s will that evil come upon us and destroy us, none of our precautions will help us.  Everybody must take this to heart: first of all, if he feels bound to remain where death rages in order to serve his neighbor, let him commend himself to God and say, “Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast kept me here; thy will be done.  I am thy lowly creature.  Thou canst kill me or preserve me in this pestilence in the same way as if I were in fire, water, drought, or any other danger.”

“If a man is free, however, and can escape, let him commend himself and say, “Lord God, I am weak and fearful.  Therefore I am running away from evil and am doing what I can to protect myself against it.  I am nevertheless in thy hands in this danger as in any other which might overtake me.  Thy will be done.  My flight alone will not succeed of itself because calamity and harm are everywhere.  Moreover, the devil never sleeps.  He is a murderer from the beginning [John 8:44] and tries everywhere to instigate murder and misfortune…”

“In the same way we must and we owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils, also.  If his house is on fire, love compels me to run to help him extinguish the flames.  If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help.  If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can.  If there are others to do it, I am released.  If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself by doing so.  A man who will not help or support others unless he can do so without affecting his safety or his property will never help his neighbor.  He will always reckon with the possibility that doing so will bring some disadvantage and damage, danger and loss.  No neighbor can live alongside another without risk to his safety, property, wife, or child.  He must run the risk that fire or some other accident will start in the neighbor’s house and destroy him bodily or deprive him of his goods, wife, children, and all he has.”

“… You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal.  Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it.  I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.  If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.  If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above.  See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

The Lord promises to guide and direct us along paths we have not walked (see Isaiah 42:16).  We can count on Him when all else fails.  May the Lord give you wisdom from above as you navigate this storm.

Servant Leaders and Sacrifice

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.      Mark 10:45   ESV

Kingdom leaders often refer to the above statement of Jesus as a defining text for servant leadership.  They define a servant leader by one who has certain humble values and one who does certain servant-like activities.  But we often miss the import of the statement by ignoring the final phrase – “… and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

It was the sacrificial leadership of Jesus that he was pointing the Twelve to as He contrasted Kingdom leadership with the world’s.  Yes, the world’s leaders used their power and influence to ‘lord it over’ others and to promote self-serving causes.  By contrast, His example was to humble Himself and use His power and influence to serve others. But He did not stop there in His explanation of Kingdom leadership.

He went on to say that His example would end in the great sacrifice – His death on the cross – paying our debt for sin and taking on the punishment we deserve.  It is the sacrificial nature of Christ’s Kingdom leadership that truly sets it apart from the benevolent, ‘turn the organizational pyramid upside down’ type of leadership that is promoted by many as true servant leadership.

Kingdom leaders who follow the example of Jesus are called to lead with personal sacrifice as a hallmark of their leadership style.  It is this that helps set Kingdom leaders apart.  Not only are they humble servants, but they are also willing to give up all for the sake of serving others.  This is a great, high calling and privilege.  Some may even be called to die for their King –  the ultimate sacrifice of a servant leader.

The story is told of a band of Moravian missionaries who sailed from Europe to the South Pacific seeking to take the gospel to the native peoples of some scattered islands.  While on the long sea voyage they led the ship’s captain and many of the crew to faith in Christ.  Finally arriving at their destination they anchored offshore and saw the local peoples gathering at the shoreline making threatening gestures.

The captain and crew pleaded with the missionaries not to disembark as they feared that they would be attacked and die as they reached shore.  To this, the leader of the missionary band replied, “Sir, you don’t understand.  We have already died.”  They disembarked, landed and were summarily killed on the beach.

These paid the great price of servant leadership.  Sacrifice for the cause of the advance of the Kingdom – even to the point of death if needed – is the mark of the King and His Kingdom leaders.  Jesus modeled it and we are called to follow.

Leading from Trust Relationships

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.                   Luke 5:4-11  ESV

Early in His relationship with these two pairs of brothers who were also fishing partners, Jesus needed to establish a trust relationship for He would ask them to follow Him into an unknown (to them) future.  Their sacrifice and cost would be great and He, knowing this, had to establish a platform of trust from which they would be willing to follow Him.

Note Peter’s response when instructed to put out into deeper water and let down their nets.  He knew that daytime was not the time to fish.  He knew that they had already tried and failed on their own.  They had lots of previous experience and fishing was their expertise, so why do this futile exercise?

Peter says to Jesus, “But at your word I will let down the nets.” This was foundational in his relationship with Jesus – obedience to Jesus and not logic, experience or worldly wisdom was key.  He trusted the word of Jesus, no doubt with some hesitancy, and was rewarded with an amazing haul of fish.  Peter’s response was submission and a willingness to follow Christ and His leadership, even to the point of leaving his vocation.

Kingdom leaders lead from a platform of trust that we build between ourselves and those we lead.  This trust is built over time as we ask others to trust our judgment and follow our lead.

Trust is earned, not given.  It is built over time as we make deposits into our ‘trust bank account.’ But it can be quickly lost and the bank account emptied through untrustworthy behavior.

Major on building trust with those you lead and they will follow!

 

Trusting God with your Legacy

Remember me with favor, O my God.          Nehemiah 6:31   (NIV 1984)

Four times Nehemiah asks that the Lord “remember” him for his faithful and sacrificial leadership (Nehemiah 5:19; 13:14, 22, 31).  Nehemiah entrusted the lasting impact and any possible reward for his labors to the Lord who sees all and rewards those who are faithful (see Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 25 – Parable of the Talents; Luke 19 – Parable of the 10 Gold Coins).  Unfortunately, for many leaders, we seek to ensure that we get the credit, reward, accolades, and affirmation of success we think are due us, rather than leaving those outcomes to the Lord.

Here’s several spiritual checks that help keep us on the right path:

  1.  We all want to be well-thought-of.  That’s natural.  But, do we tend to grab the ‘spotlight’ and make sure that it is shining directly upon us?  Can we share the spotlight with others, acknowledging their contribution in our success?
  2. Leaders often sacrifice much – many times without the knowledge of others.  Is it enough that Jesus sees my sacrifices and the hard work I put in?  Or, do I need to let others know of my labors on their behalf, seeking words or deeds of appreciation back from them?
  3. Can I trust Jesus that He not only sees my labor and sacrifice, but that He will also reward me in His way and in His time for my labor?
  4. How important is it that I get the credit for any successes or contributions?
  5. Do I see my leadership as a right or a privilege?  Do I have a sense of stewardship of my leadership responsibility – a responsibility that one day I will have to give an account to God for?

Jesus says in Luke 17:7-10 – “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep.  Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?     1 Corinthians 4:7   (NIV  1984)

Be Very Careful How You Live

The late Francis Schaeffer titled his now famous book on Western culture and a Christian apologetic, How Should We Then Live?  In light of who we are and who we represent as Kingdom leaders, how should we live?  How should we lead?  Paul has much to say in answer to this question in his book, Ephesians.

In Ephesians 4:1-2, Paul states, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  The exhortation to live a certain lifestyle is couched in the heavenly calling that we have received as followers of Christ.  He immediately follows this contextual reminder with an exhortation on ‘being,’ not doing.  Note the character qualities listed as keys to being able to live out this calling lifestyle – humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance rooted in love.  The ability to live and lead a life worthy of our calling flows out of Christlike character.

Paul continues the theme on how to live the Christian life in verses 17-19 of the same chapter – “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking…Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  The wasted (futile) life is one that gives itself to sensuality and temporal pleasure.

In the following chapter, Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul encourages us to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  The mature Christian life will be marked by love in all areas.  Like the love of God, it will the a sacrificial love that unconditionally accepts others.

He ends the qualities of this life we are to live with one final exhortation in Ephesians 5:8-10 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”  He comes back full circle to the necessity of Christlike character in the Christlike life – goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness in all we say and do.

And now we come to the conclusion of the question we began with, “How to live a life pleasing to God?”  In Ephesians 5:15-17 we read, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.   Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”   (NIV  1984)

May we live and lead in such a wise way, understanding the Lord’s will and seeking to please Him alone, that we hear Him say at the end of our life, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Paul’s Partners in the Work of the Kingdom

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.                               1 Corinthians 3:9     (NIV  1984)

As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.                                  2 Corinthians 8:23     (NIV  1984)

In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian church, he addresses the issue of factions forming around certain leaders – particularly Apollos and himself.  He defuses the argument with the statement that all are nothing more than God’s servants (doulos) and fellow workers (synergos) with God.  And he continues that it was truly God who brought about the spiritual growth in their lives.

Paul’s perspective on the work was what Jesus taught in Matthew 11 – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:29-30  (NIV  1984)

Paul was very clear that he was yoked together with Jesus as he sought to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.  And yet, while he was laboring as an “expert builder,” he was under no illusion as to who was truly bringing about the results.  It was Christ!

Paul uses that same word picture of a “fellow worker” (co-laborer) in his second letter to the Corinthian church.  But this time the term is used to refer to Titus, who had recently met Paul to report the response to his first letter.

It appears that Paul had entrusted the delivery of the first letter to Titus with that plan that they would meet in Troas to debrief on the response (see 2 Corinthians 2:12ff).  But, for some reason Titus was delayed, and therefore Paul moved on to northern Greece and it was there that they met and Paul sent his second letter, again carried by Titus.

In describing his relationship to Titus, he says that Titus is a “partner and fellow worker.”  Titus had previously joined Paul from Antioch to meet with the Twelve in the Jerusalem to discuss the essence of the gospel message that Paul was teaching among the Gentiles (see Galatians 2).  Titus (probably a Gentile believer), joined with Paul and Barnabas on the trip to Jerusalem as “exhibit A” of what a Gentile believer looked like.  And Titus was later sent on special assignment to Crete by Paul to help establish the work after Paul had left behind a foundation for the spread of the gospel (see the book of Titus).

Paul acknowledges two partners in his work – Christ, first and foremost, and Titus, illustrative of his teammates like Apollos, Silas, Timothy, and  Luke.  Both are key to accomplishing the work.  Christ the center of our work as Kingdom leaders and then the team whom God gives us to accomplish our calling.

Who are your ‘fellow workers’ or ‘co-laborers.’  Have you told the Lord recently how grateful you are for the privilege of being yoked to Him?  And have you expressed to your co-laboring team (including your spouse) how appreciative you are for their hard work and sacrifices that they are making?

7 Woes for Leaders – #4

Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee (see Luke 11:37-52).  This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced.  The following continues the list of six failures that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”

Here’s #4  –  “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.”  v 44   (NIV 1984)

Jesus rebukes these religious leaders for they had become toxic to others.  They contaminated others with things detrimental to themselves or the work for which they were called.  They did this through their poor examples or through their direct influence.

As shepherds of God’s flock, Kingdom leaders bear responsibility for their influence upon those under their care.  We must own our influence!  This influence can be from our direct leadership decisions, teaching, or the leadership environment we create.  Or this influence can be more indirect through the example that we personally set as those we lead watch our personal choices, lifestyle, or the values we uphold through our behavior.

A leader worthy of being followed will be one whose leadership influence promotes freedom in the Spirit (Galatians 5) – not to do as one wants, but rather, freedom to sacrificially serve Christ.  Their teaching will be focused on Christ, upholding Him as the model worthy of imitating.  Those they lead will flourish in the environment they create for it affirms God-given individual design differences and encourages all to grow to maturity.

These Kingdom leaders are very aware of the influence they have through their personal example.  They seek to live a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ first and for the sake of others to imitate.  While they may have freedom to indulge, they are sensitive to those who may have more sensitive consciences and choose not to for their sake.  They would not say, “Do what I say, not what I do.”  But rather, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.”  (see 2 Timothy 1:13)

Kingdom leaders are sobered by the reality that one day we will have to give an account to the Lord for our leadership (Hebrews 13:17).  This accountability is not just the missional component of our leadership, but also the influence that we had on those who followed our leadership.  Task and people are both important as we lead.

Are you aware of the influence you have on those around you?  Are you setting the pace as well as setting the example worthy of being imitated?

Contented or Confounded?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

                               Philippians 4:12-13   (NIV 1984)

Paul had discovered a secret.  Perhaps he had not been looking for it, but he did discover it and recognized the value of what he had found.  The great discovery was the answer to the question, “How can one find contentment in this world?”

That fact that Paul says it is a secret implies that the answer to the question is not obvious to many.  It must be found or discovered.  Paul’s need for contentment was revealed through his personal experience of having bounty at times and want at other times.  In both circumstances, plenty and need, Paul saw that he was not content.  Just as there is no satisfaction in accumulation of this world’s material goods, neither is their spiritual maturity in poverty.

Paul discovered that the answer to being content, no matter his circumstances, was to be found in Christ.  Only Jesus Himself could fill whatever contentment was lacking in his life.  It was through the strength of Christ in him, the hope of glory, that Paul was to finally discover lasting contentment.

Note too that Paul had to learn this contentment, it would seem to be a process, not an event.  It was not a natural outcome of his spiritual growth, but rather a secret that he discovered along the way to maturity.  He could do all things through Christ!

So, how’s your journey towards contentment?  Is there a lie you are believing that if you had a change in economic status (usually meaning that we have more, not less) that you would suddenly discover contentment?

Contentment is found in Christ alone.  He will meet your needs for contentment, for you can to everything through Him.

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