Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Wisdom”

Discrimination and the Kingdom

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.           Acts 2:42-46     NIV 1984

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.   Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them  and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”  This proposal pleased the whole group.        Acts 6:1-5a   NIV 1984

Bias is simply personal preference.  Prejudice is a prejudgment of a person or group.  Today it is often negative or critical, and is usually based upon stereotypes.  Prejudice is a strong bias or an opinion formed before encountering the facts.  If ones prejudice manifests itself in actions, it becomes discrimination.

You’ll note that the apostles encountered a situation among their community of regular discrimination.  The Greek speaking Jewish widows (now converts to Christ) were not being given their daily portion of food.  They were ‘overlooked’ by the Hebrew speaking Jewish believers who were responsible for the daily food distribution from the common ‘pot.’  This was not an oversight – ‘were being’ implies a continual action – day after day – intentional neglect.  This was pure discrimination!

Note that this happened in a community of believers who were sitting under the teaching of the apostles and experiencing many wonders and miraculous signs.  But even this amazing environment was not enough to overcome their long-held prejudice and enmity between Jew and Gentile.  Something else was needed to bring about the Kingdom change where all would be treated equitably.

Leadership (the Twelve) got involved in bringing about a needed correction.  They instructed the community to select seven men ‘full of the Spirit and wisdom’ to manage this daily distribution of food.  And note that the seven who were nominated and then finally approved by the Twelve, were all Greeks (at least they all had Greek names).  With these seven in charge the problem was solved.

Discrimination due to race, class, or culture is not of the Kingdom.  When Kingdom leaders encounter it, they must act to correct it.

As you think about your leadership, is there any sign of discrimination that needs your engagement?

Prejudice and the Kingdom

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”  Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”  “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”                            John 1:43-49   (NIV 1984)

You’ll note from the above passage Nathanael’s response when Phillip says, “We have found the one..”  Nathanael’s prejudice is verbalized in his reply, “Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?”  In other words, those Nazarenes are not worth much in my opinion – especially considering that you are asking me, Phillip, to believe that the Messiah is from Nazareth!

Prejudice is a prejudgment of a person or group, usually based upon stereotypes.  It is a strong bias or an opinion formed before encountering the facts.  If ones prejudice manifests itself in actions it becomes discrimination.

Nathanael expresses his prejudice against the Nazarenes and is then confronted by a choice.  Phillip simply says to him, “Come and see.”  Fortunately, Nathanael does not allow his prejudice to overcome him.  He’s willing to investigate this one whom Phillip is so excited about.

When meeting Jesus face to face, Nathanael is told by Jesus that He saw him under the fig tree when Phillip invited him.  Immediately Nathanael’s prejudice is changed as he responds, ” Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

All of us have our own prejudices, some being more obvious than others.  If these prejudices are negative or critical towards others what hope is there for lasting change?  For Kingdom citizens we have the hope of a personal encounter with Jesus.

Just as Nathanael had his prejudice removed when he personally met Jesus, we too can have our own prejudices removed and permanently transformed.  There is hope for those of the Kingdom and that hope is found in meeting the Messiah.  He will reveal to us our true selves and with that will come the power, through the Holy Spirit, to put off our old self and put on the new.

Perhaps it may prove helpful to ask the Lord to show you any prejudices that you may be harboring.  And once revealed, ask Him to change you-removing the old and putting on the new Christlike one that He desires for you to be.

Disputes and Disagreements

Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.    (Acts 15:1–2)

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.   (Acts 15:24)

Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.   (Acts 15:37–40)

Disputes, disagreements, and debates – all normal for Kingdom leaders.  Nothing new under the sun.

In the first incident we have Paul and Barnabas entering into a debate on the purity of the gospel – a doctrinal issue.  This dispute could not be settled locally, thus a meeting was set to determine the solution to the problem.  Yes, even in the early Church meetings were common.

Arguments were presented and discussed and a final decision reached.  This decision was placed into writing and hand-delivered to the offended parties with some explanation of background and future expectations articulated.  A process to determine a solution to the problem was well executed.

The second disagreement was over a personnel decision – John Mark – and involved Paul and Barnabas.  This was resolved locally with a decision to go their separate ways.  Who was right or were they both wrong?  Perhaps it depends on one’s perspective.

Barnabas saw the potential in John Mark (his nephew) and was willing to give him another opportunity, not holding his past failure against him.  Paul, perhaps looking at this decision from a task orientation, did not want to jeopardize the mission by having a team member who had not proven himself faithful previously.

Perhaps they were both right.  Barnabas’ investment in John Mark proves well worth the time as Paul admits later in 2 Timothy 4:11.  Paul’s second missionary tour also proved profitable as he took Silas with him and opened Europe to the gospel.

Not all disagreements can end well.  But God’s purposes are not frustrated by these challenges.  Do your best to live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18) and trust Him for the outcomes.

Wisdom and Its Source

“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 he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace…. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.       Acts 7:9-10, 22     NIV  1984

Note the contrast between the wisdom of Joseph and the wisdom of Moses (up to the age of 40).

Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  But having been shown his future destiny in two dreams as a 17-year-old young man, God’s plan for him was not frustrated.  In fact, the favor of the Lord was with Joseph, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances.  And it was God who gave Joseph wisdom (godly wisdom) that opened opportunities for him in Potiphar’s household, in prison, and finally with Pharaoh.

In contrast, Moses was educated in the best system of the day – the Egyptian education system – having grown up in Pharaoh’s household as an adopted son.  The result was that he was “powerful in speech and action” – a gifted, natural leader.  But all of his natural ability and education did not qualify him to lead God’s people by the age of 40.  The world’s wisdom was not enough in God’s eyes to qualify Moses to lead.  It would be 40 more years of preparation before the Lord would appear to him in the burning bush when he was finally ready, with God’s anointing, to lead.

Wisdom is easily understood as necessary for leadership – especially for Kingdom leaders who are constantly balancing seeking to please God and meeting the demands of the world.  But the wisdom needed for Kingdom leaders must come from God Himself.  Yes, a certain wisdom can be gained by learner’s hearts and through increased experience.  But, it is the wisdom that comes from the Lord that will bring the outcomes desired for Kingdom leaders.

This God-given wisdom can be asked for (see James 1:5) and the wonderful promise is that it will be given to all who ask.

So….are you asking?

Modeling and Managing Yourself

Leading and managing others is much easier if you are able to manage yourself first.  Self-management, being able to self-direct, is a prerequisite for deeper leadership influence.  Your personal example as a leader speaks very loudly to those around you.

Below are some passages that speak to this idea of self-management and being an example for others.  Reflect upon them in the context of your leadership influence.

Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent,
and discerning if he holds his tongue.   (Proverbs 17:28  NIV 1984)

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be.  (James 3:9–10  NIV 1984)

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”  (John 16:12  NIV 1984)

When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.  Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive.  (Proverbs 23:1–3  NIV 1984)

But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’  Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 14:10–11  NIV 1984)

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  (Luke 6:31  NIV 1984)

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.  (1 Thessalonians 5:15  NIV 1984)

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.  (1 Timothy 4:12  NIV 1984)

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.  (1 Corinthians 11:1  NIV  1984)

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  (John 13:15  NIV 1984)

As a Kingdom leader you are being watched and your example speaks louder than your words.  What are you modeling that others may imitate?

Packaging the Message

Leaders desire to influence and deeply impact those around them.  Kingdom leaders want to do so for the advance of the gospel and to bring glory to Christ.

In 1 Samuel 16:7 the Lord reminds Samuel as he is selecting from among Jesse’s sons a replacement for Saul, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  (1 Samuel 16:7   NIV 1984).

There are two truths in this advice.  Primary is the truth that the Lord’s criteria for leadership selection is based upon what is internal – the heart of a person.  But there is also a second truth – people do look at the outward appearance.  Many a leader has neglected to consider the importance of the ‘exterior’ image that they project.  So much so, that the message that God has given them and their leadership influence is muted because the ‘packaging’ of the messenger is distracting.

This is not to suggest that Kingdom leaders must wear designer clothing or be modeling the latest trend or cultural fad.  But wisdom says that we don’t want our exterior to detract or confuse the message that God has given us to deliver.

That’s why Paul said, “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”  (1 Corinthians 9:20-23  NIV 1984)

So how’s the ‘packaging’ of the message and the messenger?  You might consider asking your spouse or a trusted friend for any suggestions they may have on how you can improve or change.

The task is too important to neglect this!

 

Counter-intuitive Decisions

Leaders sometimes must make decisions that seem illogical or counter-intuitive to those on the receiving end of the decision. Given the leader’s experience, wisdom, or perhaps additional information, when the decision is communicated it can cause others to question whether this is a good idea or not.

Note the following examples of Jesus’ seeming counter-intuitive decisions, how they were communicated, and how they were received.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  (Luke 5:4-6)

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone.  (John 11:38-41)

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.  (John 21:4-6)

It was Jesus’ knowledge and power that gave Him the ability to make these kinds of decisions and direct others to follow.  No doubt it was difficult for those around Him to trust His decisions initially.  But over time, trust in Him and His abilities grew to a confidence that He could even raise the dead back to life if desired.

There are times when a leader must make a decision that seems illogical or counter-intuitive to those who follow.  Trust in the leader’s ability and experience will help overcome any hesitancy in following.

Knowing God

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Ephesians 1:17  (NIV 1984)

In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul mentions two things that he is praying for them.  He prays that the Lord will give them, “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”  These two attributes are truly important for all believers, but they are also essential for Kingdom leaders who would hope to faithfully serve Him.

The ‘Spirit of wisdom’ is foundational for all good leadership.  The world recognizes the need for leaders to have wisdom, but their answer for wisdom is by gaining experience.  This can be personal experience gained over time or by studying the experiences of others.  While this can be of some benefit, it does not necessarily translate into the paradigm of Kingdom leadership.

That is why Paul prays for the “Spirit of wisdom” to be given to us.  Godly, Kingdom wisdom comes from above and is given to us by the Holy Spirit who indwells all followers of Jesus.  This wisdom from above may be counter-cultural and counter-intuitive from the world’s perspective.  But it will be perfectly aligned with God’s purposes for us and those we lead as we seek to follow Him.  This Kingdom wisdom teaches us the ways of God as opposed to the ways of men (see Exodus 33:12-13ff) and enables us to lead in such a way that is pleasing to Him.

The ‘Spirit of,,,revelation’ is also key for Kingdom leaders.  It means the bringing to light something previously hidden or unknown.  A Kingdom leader’s need to find root issues, causes, and see both the future intended and unintended consequences of their decisions is essential.  These things often cannot just be thought out.  We need insight from the Spirit within us to reveal that which is hidden, either through ignorance, lack of information, or just not being able to foresee far enough into the future.

The result of gaining both wisdom and revelation from God is  “… that you may know him better.”  It is this “knowing Him” that will bring blessing to our leadership and ensure that our outcomes are aligned with His overall purposes.

Are you asking for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to come upon you and those you lead?

Finding Favor with God

    Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

    For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.

    But whoever fails to find me harms himself;
all who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8:34-36  (NIV 84)

The context of the passage above is the pursuit of wisdom.  The author puts the pursuit of wisdom in the context of leadership in Proverbs 8:15-16.  It’s an easy argument to convince any Kingdom leader that they need wisdom from above.  The world would also agree on the need for leaders to have wisdom, but their source is through gaining more experience.  Kingdom leaders look to the Lord Himself to give them wisdom beyond their years and experience.

Note that verse 34 creates a sense of pursuit and anticipation as the leader waits upon the Lord.  This person is ‘waiting’ and ‘watching’ daily for the Lord to speak.  Their heart and mind is attuned to the Lord’s voice, knowing that He is the source of the wisdom they so need.

The result of this pursuit of wisdom of course, is that they find it (vs. 35).  Note that it is promised that we will receive wisdom if we ask for (pursue) it (James 1:5).

With leadership wisdom comes life and favor from God.  By ‘life’ we mean two things.  First, for the leader him/herself, it means that we thrive in our leadership, instead of just survive in this demanding responsibility.  Second, for our leadership, it means that those we lead prosper and are blessed by our leadership.

By ‘favor from the Lord’ we mean that we fulfill God’s purposes for us both personally and His desired outcomes for our leadership.  What leader does not want these two aspects as the legacy for their personal leadership?

Verse 36 is the countering reminder that those who do not pursue wisdom are foolish.  They suffer in their leadership and the outcome is death.  How tragic!

How’s your pursuit of wisdom?  Remember, the true source is the Lord Himself.  Spend daily time with Him and you will find life and favor from Him.

Contribution and Old Age

The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.                               Numbers 8:23-26

The new U.S. President is 70 years old.  His election opponent was 69.  The average age for the new cabinet candidates is 64.  Why the large number of older leaders?  Is it because their generation, the Baby Boomers, tends to vote more frequently and out-number the Millennials?  Is it that those who are older are clinging to power and reluctant to give it over to the next generation?

From the passage above in Numbers we see that those who served in the Tabernacle, the Levites, were conscripted to serve from age 25 to 50.  At the age of 50 they were released from their regular duty, but were to still be available for helping those in active service.  Many believe that this restriction was due to the heavy physical demands of the role – setting up, tearing down, and transporting the Tabernacle and all its accompanying accessories across the desert.  Regardless, it is interesting to note that the Lord Himself set age limits for this service.

We can also observe that Moses was 80 when God appeared to him and called him into service.  He served as the leader of Israel for 40 more years until his death at 120.  Tradition tells us that the Apostle Paul served into his sixties and that the Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation in his nineties.

Certainly these examples are descriptive rather than prescriptive for us.  But we must be cautious that as we focus on next generation leadership, we don’t automatically dismiss the contribution of those who are older.  While it is wise and strategic to intentionally focus on a transition to younger leaders, we must not develop a corresponding prejudice against those who are older.  Youth has its advantages, but so does age and experience.

Just because someone is younger does not mean that they are wise.  But neither does having gray hair (or no hair) mean that someone is better qualified to lead.  Discernment is needed to determine best fit and contribution, regardless of age.  Better health care and nutrition means that what is “old” is an escalating age range.

Wise leadership will not automatically default to the younger or those who are older by assuming one is better than another.  Good leaders are discerning on who is best qualified to lead and trust that the Lord will anoint them for their responsibility.

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