Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Strategic leading”

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 7

The Lord 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.

The Lord often uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace about the decision when you pray and reflect upon it.  The third means is wise counsel and the fourth is critical thinking.  The fifth and final common means is circumstances.  The Lord can use extra-ordinary means – visions, dreams – but, most often it is these five.

The more of the five things that we see agreeing, pointing in the same direction, the more certain we can be that this is God’s will.  If one or two agree, but the others don’t, we have two possibilities.  It may be God’s will, but the wrong timing.  Or, it may not be God’s will.  In either case, it’s best to wait; time will clarify.  Immaturity will press ahead when things are not clear and pay a big price!    Proverbs 19:2 (NIV) says, “Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”

God being God, He will not allow circumstances, governments, organizations, or anyone with authority over us to hinder His plan for us.  In fact, He uses them to direct us to His plan for us (see Joseph in Genesis 50:20).

Remember, the foundation is surrender to doing God’s will.  We can deceive ourselves.  We can find verses to justify about anything.  We can “have peace” about a lot of things.  Satan can open doors for us also.

God knows this.  He knows we can be confused.  He will not let His children stray from His will if they desire it.  So relax.  He will keep you in the way and guide you every step of the process.  He’ll also keep you from wrong decisions.  It gives us a great deal of confidence in facing the future.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

And he will direct your paths.           Proverbs 3:5-6  (NIV)

Making Decisions According to God’s Will – 3

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.

Note, we are talking about major decisions in our lives, not things like, “What will I have for lunch today?”  But rather such decisions as, “Is God calling me into vocational ministry?”

The Lord uses five means to direct us into His will.  The first is the Word of God – the Bible.  The second is personal peace when you pray and reflect upon the decision.

In Isaiah 30:21 (NIV) we read, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  The Spirit will confirm with your spirit that you are on the right path, keep going, don’t give up or doubt.  There will be an inner settledness and confirmation from the Lord that this is the way.

Though you may not have all the answers yet, you will have a deep peace of heart, a rest in your heart, knowing that this is from God.  Doubts only need more facts.  Anxiety only needs more reassurance.  It’s is unbelief and disobedience that we must avoid.

You may have unanswered questions and the Lord may simply say that you must trust me on that one.  But other times your doubts will be removed as you get more clarity on the situation.  The Lord will give you all you need at the right time to make the right decision.

Psalm 143:8,10 say, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. … Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  The Lord will guide and direct you from His Spirit within you.  Listen carefully and you will hear His voice.

Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27 (ESV)

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!

Communicating with Word Pictures

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”    Matthew 7:24-25  ESV

Communicating well can be difficult for Kingdom leaders.  “What we have here is a failure to communicate” is heard all too frequently.  As a team leader you are often casting vision and futuristic concepts that for you may seem crystal clear, but for your hearers they are a thick fog.  How can you cut through the fog and help those around you see it as clearly as you do?

One key to good communication, especially when dealing with abstract or complex topics is to learn to speak in word pictures.  Taking the complex and ‘putting a handle’ on it so that it is easy to grasp is a learned skill.  Like all skills, you can get good at it and when you do, you will find yourself being quoted because your communication is memorable.

Note how Jesus ended His most famous sermon – the Sermon on the Mount.  In the reference above He closed with a word picture of a person building a house on two different types of foundations.  The key word is “like” which introduces the simile that follows.  Those who hear His words and obey them are ‘like’ a wise man who built on a rock.  ‘Like’ transitions from concept to word picture that makes the abstract more concrete in the minds of His audience.

As you talk about your mission and vision, learn to use word pictures, similes that will help your audience better understand and remember key points and concepts.  Here’s an example that I use to explain the difference between mission and vision for Kingdom leaders.

Mission Statement –  This answers the question, “Why do we exist?”  This is first and foremost in strategic leading.  It’s like a picture frame on the wall of the Kingdom that separates and defines who we are from what others are.  It is our task and our identity.

Vision Statement  –  This is where we want to go in the future – our destination.  It is the picture of the future of our desired future state that we see by faith.  It’s the picture that is placed into the picture frame of our mission.  It is this future vision that we will begin to work towards and bring into reality by His grace and power.

Train yourself to communicate in simple, easy to understand word pictures.  Your influence will grow and your communications will ‘stick.’

Jesus and Priorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

 

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.

Clarify the Mission

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?”  And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”    Acts 9:4-6   ESV

Paul was on his way to Damascus to take any Jewish believers back to Jerusalem as prisoners when the Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road outside of the city.  Note the short response from Jesus to his inquiry as to who was speaking, immediately followed by a command to get up, go into the city and wait to be told what to do.

Within the next three days, having been blinded by the vision on the road, Paul is praying and waiting.  Ananias, a local resident of Damascus and a disciple, receives a vision himself to go and pray over Paul so that he may again be able to see.  After some questioning, the Lord assures Ananias of Paul’s mission – “…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15  ESV)  When recounting his conversion years later, Paul recalls, “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’”  (Acts 22:10  ESV)

Several years after his conversion, while visiting Jerusalem, Paul had another vision in the temple regarding his mission.  The Lord said to him, “‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quicklyGo, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.‘”

These are but a few examples of the mission-task assigned to Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Jews).  The Lord stated and restated the nature of his mission multiple times and in multiple ways.  There was little doubt or ambiguity of what Paul was being asked to do.

The Lord’s assigning of the task to Paul is an excellent example of how to communicate mission.  Good leaders clarify the task for those they are leading.  They state the mission clearly, succinctly and in multiply ways so that there is no doubt about what all are trying to accomplish.

Is your mission clear to you as you fill your days and weeks with much activity?  Is the mission clear for those you are leading?  If not, it is your responsibility to make it clear.

“A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew!”     source unknown

New Beginnings

As we begin a new calendar year, it’s good to pause and reflect upon what was and what 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!  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!

Leading iGen People – 2

Jean Twenge has studied generational differences for many years and has some sobering thoughts in her Ted Talk regarding iGen, those born between 1995 and 2012, the Smartphone Generation.

She reminds us that iGen is the first generation to grow up always having a smartphone.  They tend to stay at home, spending hours of screen time with video games.  They are more likely to feel unhappy.  They are on the forefront of the worst mental health crisis in decades, with rates of teen depression and suicide skyrocketing since 2011.

They are less likely than all teens from other generations to go out without their parents, to date, have sex, drive or drink.  They are obsessed with safety and fearful of their economic futures.  They are in no hurry to grow up, with many not having driving licenses by the 12th grade.  By 2016, one in four men in their early twenties was not working.  Instead, the majority of their day was spent playing video games.

Wow… not a pretty picture it would seem.  As one who is identified as a Baby Boomer, we were the ones who rebelled against our parental norms, promoting the Hippie lifestyles of free love and protesting all things our parents had built.  No doubt our parents wondered what we would become.  Yes, we grew up eventually, just as iGen will.  Yes, it will take time, maybe longer than previous generations, but they will grow and mature.  But, they will be different that those before them.

Kingdom leaders must lead in the power of the Holy Spirit if they are to be able to lead into these generational complexities.  It’s definitely not one-size fits all when it comes to leadership style and execution.  The Spirit within those who lead in the Kingdom will give us discernment, awareness, and guide us to the truth of how best to fulfill our responsibilities.  We need not become expert social anthropologists to be very effective leaders for advancing the Kingdom.

Let’s not give way to fear of the future or live in despair of the challenging complexity we face today.  Rather, let’s depend upon the power of the Spirit who resides within us to enable us to lead this generation well, for His glory.  He made each and every one of them and wants them to be well-led.  Count on it – God cares for His people!

Let’s lead like Jesus who came out of the wilderness “in the power of the Spirit” as He began His public ministry (see Luke 4:14).  May we be Spirit-led and Spirit filled as we lead in these challenging times.

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