Developing Kingdom Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Strategic leading”

Pioneering vs Inheriting a Ministry

I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.  Joshua 24:13 ESV

Joshua is recounting what the Lord had done in delivering on His promises to give Israel the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob many years before.  Note that God’s land of blessing had been worked, planted and built by others.  Israel received from the Lord the hard work done by others before them.

Kingdom leaders sometimes have the privilege of pioneering a new work of the Lord.  But often they have the privilege of inheriting an on-going ministry from another.  Both are special privileges from the Lord as we serve Him.  One is no better than another for all is being done to please Him, grow His Kingdom and not our own.

Some leaders will have pioneering-apostolic gifts and calling to launch new works where none existed.  They are designed by God for such a work and must have the wisdom needed to know when to transition the work they founded on to another.  Paul knew his work was to plant the Gospel in new communities and then move on.  He states, “… and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”  Romans 15:20-21

Many Kingdom leaders will inherit an ongoing ministry, ideally one not in crisis, and take what others have done and improve, expand and grow it to a whole new level.  This too is a great privilege that requires special gifting and calling.  It is never maintaining what is already in existence.  Leaders are never satisfied with the status quo.  Rather, they build upon what is there and create a new work on the foundation already laid by others.  Jesus told the Twelve, “I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”  John 4:38 ESV

So whether you are pioneering a new work or building on an older one, both are callings with unique challenges.  May you receive these as from the Lord and work with all your strength for His glory.

 

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

Vision Casting

Effectively casting vision never comes to an end. It is a discipline.     Derwin Gray

Casting vision is one of the primary responsibilities of a leader and Kingdom leaders especially must align this vision with God’s eternal purposes.  In the quote above we are reminded that vision casting is an on-going process, not an event.

Vision is a faith statement about an unknown future that we see by faith.  Vision statements usually have a time horizon of 5-10 years out in front of our current reality.  Beyond 10 years it’s difficult to have a clear vision due to the rapidity of change and the multitude of unexpected influences that can impact the vision outcomes.

Good vision statements have three common characteristics: they are clear, concise and compelling.

First, they must be clear.  That is, the vision must be clear enough to see the destination or outcome.  An unclear vision makes it difficult for others to decide if they want to join with us or support it financially.

Secondly, they must be concise.  Vision statements that are too long or too complicated are not memorable or easily repeated.  Conciseness takes effort to choose exactly the right words that convey enough to help others visualize where we are going, but not so wordy that it seems complicated or confusing.

Lastly, good vision statements are compelling.  They demand a response from us.  They capture our hearts, not our heads.  They raise our sights to the future and inspire us to act.  They draw us to join in and help make that future vision a reality.  They are easy to recruit other to because they are big enough to allow room for many to join with us.

Casting vision is a primary job of the team leader.  You are the primary mouthpiece for the vision.  If you share an unclear vision then those around you will be even more unclear as they are forced to ‘translate’ what you have said into their context.

Vision much be repeated again and again, for it comes into and out of focus for those we lead.  Changing realities and ‘glorious opportunities’ can divert attention from what was once very clear, but now seems less important or even boring.  Keeping the vision before those we lead is a discipline that we develop as we lead, always reminding those around us of ‘why’ and ‘what’ we are about.

Vision – don’t leave home without it!

Planning into a Turbulent Future 2

Storm clouds precede a coming change, but what exactly that storm will be when it arrives is unknown.  Scenario planning anticipates several possible future situations and helps us prepare for the coming changes. It is not a lack of faith, but it is wisdom to anticipate the coming storms.

Here’s some practical ideas on how to lead your team in scenario planning:

  1. Scenario planning requires that leaders think ahead in order to stay proactive and not reactive in their leadership.  While one can’t be too detailed in future scenario plans, one can anticipate possibilities and likely responses.  Then, as the future becomes clearer, we add more details and follow one of our most likely scenarios.
  2. A key word is “if”  – that is, if this happens, then this should be your response.  If….then… thinking and planning is scenario planning.
  3. When thinking about a future scenario, you must first determine the time horizon for your planning.  To use a weather metaphor – are you thinking about the blizzard, the winter season or the beginning of a ‘little ice age?’
  4. Start future scenario thinking by taking stock of your current reality.  Use a tool like a SWOT analysis (current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to think on a macro scale for the whole.  Once you have a handle on the current reality, then begin to think and plan for possible future scenarios within your time horizon.
  5. It seems wise and prudent to think out scenarios dealing with three possible futures:  1) minor changes in the future (we go back to almost our previous normal, with a few minor adjustments – like normal start dates are pushed back a little); 2) some significant changes that impact our ability to serve as we have in the past (fall schedule is disrupted – virtual connections continue; access to our audience is difficult, funding gets difficult due to a poor economy and job losses); and 3) major changes (this is ‘little ice age’ thinking – what we thought was just for several months, now looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future).
  6. Do this scenario thinking with your leadership team because there will be differing perspectives from different people and especially if you are geographically dispersed.  Being more inclusive in this will help with ownership and build a ‘guiding coalition’ for leading change as you go forward (see Kotter’s book – Leading Change).
  7. Always remember that the future is known by the Lord and His Spirit can help you anticipate it and prepare wisely for it.  Listen to Him for guidance.  He’s vested in your ‘success’ because His name, glory and purposes are at stake.  Trust Him to lead you.

Be wise.  Be safe.  Be bold!  Trust Him who knows the future!

Planning into a Turbulent Future 1

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.  As you enter the house, greet it.  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.     Matthew 10:11-14  ESV

Jesus was preparing His disciples for a short-term mission assignment.  He gave them very specific instructions on what to take or not take with them, the audience of their mission and how they were to interact with those they were sent to.  But note that He also helps them anticipate various responses when they enter the villages – both when received positively and also when they are rejected.  He is helping them by doing some scenario planning.

When Jesus sends the two disciples to get a colt, he again helps them anticipate a possible response to those who might think they are stealing it (see Mark 11:1-7).  And it came to pass exactly as anticipated.

Now this is fascinating because Jesus knows the responses they will receive, but they don’t.  Thus, He gives them some preparation so that they are not taken by surprise and have some forethought on how to deal with differing scenarios.  Scenario planning that anticipates several possible future situations is not a lack of faith, but rather it is wisdom.

The enemy will always try to take your focus off the Lord and place it on our threatening circumstances.  While paying attention to and planning for current and possible realities, always, always keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.  Key your head up and your eyes fixed on Him.

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.     Hebrews 12:1-2  ESV

Next we will address how to do wise scenario planning… stay tuned!

Leaders and Crisis

Life and leadership bring crisis moments whether we are expecting them or not. They just happen! This reality should prepare us to address them when they show up. But we are often taken by surprise when a crisis interrupts our plans. Crises are not something to be dreaded, but rather embraced.

The following are several thoughts on how to face up to your next leadership crisis:
1. Adjust your attitude! This current crisis is an opportunity for your personal growth as a leader as you address this latest ‘disaster.’ Rather than fearing this crisis, embrace it and look for the Lord to help you not only conquer the problem, but also turn this into a hidden blessing.

2. Move towards it now! It will not solve itself! If ignored, it will probably grow worse, bigger, more ominous, or ripple out to influence more people. Just as David ran towards Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17:48), move towards this threat and engage!

3. Do not delegate your problems to someone else on your team. Others can ‘smell’ that kind of lack of courage or unwillingness to deal with something that is messy.

4. While not delegating the crisis to another, loop in some others for help. You continue to run point on the crisis, but by bring in others for help they too will grow from the experience and their contributions will often help bring about a better solution than if you handled it all yourself.

5. Look for the best solution to the problem, not just the quickest or easiest. One practical discipline that I have tried to develop in this area of problem solving is to force myself to come up with several possible solutions, not just one. But doing this I am often pushing myself to think more deeply or broadly to different, more creative ways to solve the issue. The final action is often some combination of several possible solution scenarios.

6. Expect God to help you. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:20). Look to Him in the midst of seeking a way forward. The prayer of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:12 is instructive, “Lord… we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

7. When the crisis abates, and it will, be sure to give thanks for deliverance from the current mess. An ungrateful spirit is disappointing to others serving with you and revealing about our hubris as if we were the ones who really solved the issue.

Crises come and crises go. Your either in the midst of one right now or one is coming soon. Get ready! One person’s crisis is another person’s ‘opportunity.’

[Re-posted from June 2015]

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!”

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