One of John Maxwell’s famous laws of leadership is called the “Law of the Lid”. The Law of the Lid states that: “Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness.” Basically as a leader, we will max out on our effectiveness if we don't grow our ability to lead. We don't simply lead better by working hard, but by growing our skills in leadership. We do need to work hard to acquire leadership skills but simple hard work does not always equate to leading better. Work ethic and leadership skill are not the same thing. All effective leaders work hard, but not all hard workers are effective leaders. We must improve our skill-set and knock off the dullness of our leadership!
One of my favorite illustrations of this truth is about two men who were chopping wood. The first man labored hard and steady all day. The other man also worked hard but every so often would stop and take a break. While on his breaks he would call out to the first man and say “Come and have a rest, I want to show you something that will help you.” But the first man would say, “Not now I’m busy. I don’t want to lose any time.” By the end of the day the second man had chopped far more wood than the first man. This surprised the first man because he was sure he had worked harder than the second man. So he asked “How did you do it? How did you cut more wood than me?” And the second man replied “Well every time I stopped to take a break, I sharpened my axe!”
If the axe is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.” -Ecclesiastes 10:10
Here are a 5 ways to sharpen the blade of leadership.
1. Read. You may have heard “readers are leaders.” Now reading doesn't define your influence, but if you don't get out of the box of your own mind and your own ideas, you wont grow as a person or as a leader. It has taken me decades to learn to love reading. I would always argue that “I am just not a leader.” My desire to grow eventually had to override my preference of reading. I would listen to leadership teachings, however, the strength of reading is that it blocks everything out and causes you to focus on a single subject. Now I love to read, but I had to do it before I loved it. If you are not a reader start with a blog a week and work your way into books. Read what interests you and read what sharpens you!
2. Listen. One of the great things about living in the information age is that we have podcasts, audiobooks, and youtube at the tip of our fingers. We have a global library in our pocket! I love music, but when I have a 15 minute plus commute or when I am working out, I make sure that I spend some time listing to things that sharpen me as a person. What an easy way to educate ourselves and sharpen our skill-set.
3. Ask. Ask people that you are leading: “How can I lead better?” Most of the time we already know what everybody else knows about us. There is not just great strength in getting their objective view, there is also great strength in knowing that we don't hide our weaknesses.
4. Develop relationships. Develop relationships with other people in your field. Not just co-workers or friends, but get to know people outside of your organization that are doing similar things. Ask questions, learn tricks, and share your insights! I have even done this on social media. I find pastors and other designers that I have never met but connect with them so that I can be inspired by what they are doing. This has been huge in sharpening me as a leader and in my design business!
5. Develop a system. Naturally, I am disorganized. You should have known me 15-20 years ago, I was such a mess! I have earned that if I am going to do more, I have too develop a capacity to manage more. This is hard for those of us who are creative because inspiration fuels what we do. We have to be flexible, but a daily and a weekly schedule will help us keep our ax sharp! Sometimes this means taking 3 minutes in the morning to plan out your day or taking 10 minutes to plan out your week. Eventually taking 12 hours to plan out our….well I am not there yet either. ;)
Don’t continue grinding on with a dull blade! Sharpen your axe with these simple steps and take some of the labor out of leading. It will help you to work smarter not just harder!
Years ago I had my friend Billy in town to preach for a mini-conference we were having. Each day we would pass by a traditional church that had a sign in big letters on the side of the building reading “We Love Thy Church O Lord.” We laughed about it and asked what “does that mean!?” I was super critical then but I actually think that is a good thing for a church to put on a building for the world to see —minus the King James language.
I want to share my heart for a few moments about sarcasm especially as it relates to criticism and specifically in the Church.
I am a graphic designer. I work really heard at looking critically at my design work and the work of others with a critical eye. The problem with developing a critical eye is sometimes it comes with a critical spirit. I always caution when I am teaching graphic design to my students to be careful of that. They usually laugh when I talk about churches and how bad they are at excellence and we laugh at the fonts they use and the poor approach to branding that is often used. With my students, as with most people, as we grow in a skill it’s easy to look down at those who are not as developed in their skill set as we are. If we are not careful, we can develop a cavalier attitude with our opinion, especially in a field that we have some knowledge in. The critical spirit can be the caveat of pursuing excellence.
There is a critical spirit in our culture today. In the church we are pretty critical. Our sarcastic smirk when we hear the latest song, our attitude towards the well known preacher, our reaction towards a cliche we don’t like. I get it, a lot of the criticism about the church is accurate and we need to do better, no doubt about it, but I think we first need to start with the sarcastic, self-righteous, critical spirit at which we sometimes function in.
Here are a few things to remember before functioning in a critical spirit.
1. Own Up- It’s a “we” problem.
If it’s a church problem, it’s my problem. We are pretty critical of ourself. It is not solved by awareness, it’s solved by praying, working hard, and loving the body of Christ. If you see an issue, then own it and step in to help.
A large majority of the blogs and posts I see are written from a place of criticism. Things Pastors Need to Stop Doing. Things Christians Should Stop Saying. The Problem With The “American Church”/“The Western Church”/“The Modern Church." (By the way there is only one “Church”, and it’s HIS Church.
2. Shut Up- Stop doing it.
Criticism is cheap and it robs you from the opportunity to honor others. We need less critics and more advocates. If you are not in a place to influence change, keep your mouth shut.
If you are not in position to have a conversation with the one you are verbally criticizing, then don't voice it. You are simply complaining and complaining is not contributing. Saying “stop” is a lofty command, but culture is steered from the inside not directed from the outside.
The greatest problem with criticism is that it is simply posture of observation. It costs nothing and it changes nothing. Well except the heart of the one who is being critical. Criticism is most deadly to the one issuing it.
3. Show Up- BE the church, contribute.
Serve in a local body. Do the work of the ministry. Isolation will only feed bitterness. Contribute first, criticize later. We should make it a rule that we only criticize what we can control. If you want to see change get your hands dirty.
4. Love up- Starting with each other, the Church.
We talk about loving the world all the time. We understand the need for humanitarian efforts and being salt and light in the world, and indeed we should. But Jesus did not say that the world would know us for those reasons. He said we would be know because WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER!
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” -John 13:35(NLT)
“So Love your brothers and sisters in the faith, love them in their weakness love them in their failures. Remember Jesus gave himself for us showing his great Love so we could become His Church.” (Eph 5:25)
WE ARE THE BRIDE OF CHRIST, and we should treat ourselves and one another in that light. It is one thing for me to recognize the issues my wife may have, however, if you come to me criticizing my wife then we are going to have a problem. We need to tread lightly when talking about the Bride of Jesus.
We need to embrace the fact that the church is different than the world. We have a different worldview. We are culturally different. For some reason, we have measured our effectiveness by what the world thinks of us. Don’t get me wrong, our presence in the world, the goal of the church, is not to be liked by the world but to transform the it. We are not trying to emulate the world, we are emulating Christ and being authentic in our expression of that.
Let us keep in mind when we are dealing with the church, we are simply dealing with people. Sometimes corny, goofy, people. If a critical spirit arrises, let’s make sure to put it in check.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. -I Corinthians 13:1
In order to lead, there must be some sort of system that you hold to, a way to manage the madness that comes along with influencing others. Most leaders function in multiple roles and carry different responsibilities. We understand that if we do not have the framework to carry those things, eventually we or the area will lead in will collapse. Systems are key, however, if we are not careful systems can sometimes get the best of us.
The more driven, organized, and passionate we are the more difficult it is to be flexible. I speak from experience! I am pretty intentional, carry a lot of vision, and I am usually well structured. When the structure does not play out right or when my expectations are not met, frustration can enter the scene. So something that leaders like myself struggle with is being flexible. In many cases flexibility is as important as structure.
This is what I am learning about flexibility….
Hard things have to be broken.
Stiff things have to be cracked.
Tight things have to be stretched.
Only flexible things can be molded.
Here are a few truths concerning flexibility:
- 1. Flexibility Keeps Us Healthy
2. Flexibility Increases Our Capacity
I love Jesus’ teaching on wineskins.
"No one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” Mark 2:22(NLT)
Old wineskins are stiff and their inability to be flexible causes them to loose their capacity to carry anything. No matter how experienced they were, their hardness killed their capacity.
3. Flexibly and Well Planned Work Together
Flexibility is not the same as laziness. Organized is not the same as being high strung. In fact, I have found the more prepared I am that it’s easier for me to be flexible when the unexpected happens because I am not frantically and urgently planning at the last minute. After I put in all the hard work of planning I can relax and roll with whatever happens because I have already done all I can do. Planning actually helps us be flexible in the moment because the only things that get our attention are the issues we could not have dealt with until they show up.
Let us be passionate, vision filled, organized and structured. And beloved, let us be flexible!
Isaiah 64: 8(NLT) And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us.
“You are so creative!” I have heard these words most of my life. It’s encouraging, yet my response is almost always the same; “so are you.” Some will protest that they are not creative mostly because when we think of creativity we think of an artist, but creativity should not be restricted to the confines of the arts. Creativity should play into every area of our lives from strategies and systems at work, to the way that we play with and raise our kids, or express love to our spouse.
Creativity is the ability to deliver what we imagine. The first part of the word imagination is the word image. We were all created in the image of God, therefore we all have a creative nature. Studies have shown that up to 50% of the time that we are awake we are imagining. We call this day dreaming, it’s the place where the “what if’s” dwell.
The imagination is an incredibly powerful place, it can lock us down in fear, or cause us to move forward with hope. Our imagination can hinder our perspective and cause us to isolate ourselves from friends. In our imagination we can create the next breakthrough invention, or articulate the words that will transform somebody’s life forever. Think about it, everyday we use things that were initiated in a mind. It’s crazy! The way in which we live our lives is a product of somebody's imagination.
One of a leaders greatest assets is their imagination. Here are some ways that you can leverage the power of your imagination.
1- Take a Mind Break: Most of the time when I am lacking creativity, I know that my brain is exhausted. I am mostly thinking about work and my list of responsibilities. Sometimes I have to get out of the office and go walk around in a store or go get the mail, just to simply get away from what is in front of me. Sometimes I need to get away for a day and just spend that time to day dream. It is hard to do if you don't make time for it, so take the time! It may be 2 minutes in an hour or 2 full days a month. Your mind needs rest too! I have noticed I am way more productive if I will take the time to allow my mind to be refreshed.
2- Ask Questions: When pulling away from your work, ask how can this be done differently? How can I be more efficient? How can I be more effective? These questions will inspire new ideas and a fresh approach to the monotony of our work.
3- Pray: Years ago my Pastor Buster Russell peaked his head into my office and gave me a nugget I have carried for over 15 years. He said, “Josh, if you are ever lacking creativity, spend some time praying in the Spirit.” That is the best creative advice I have ever been given. Any time that I am in a slump I will get away from my screen and pray in the Spirit. It not only refreshes my soul, it energizes my creativity.
4- Write Things Down: Every idea you have, scribble it down. Some of the best ideas I have ever had I forgot because I didn't write them down. It may be a physical journal or a notes app on your phone. WRITE IT DOWN!!! This will help you process and develop the things that are in the space of your imagine.
I hope these tips will help you in your journey of expressing all the things God has put in your heart. May He nurture a spirit of creativity and empower your imagination!
It may just be me, but I’d be willing to say I am not the only one…. I am insecure. I am also pretty confident. It seems like those things are polar opposites. I suggest that the thing you are best at, the thing that you are most confident in, may be the same thing that you are the most insecure in.
I have been preaching in front of people for over two decades. I am confident in my ability to bring a strong word and bring it home to people in the room that are listening. At the same time I am very insecure about it.
I would like to say that refining my craft and equipping people was the only motivator, but if I am being honest part of the motivation is insecurity. It just won't go away, I have a fear that I will make a fool of myself preaching or fail to give the people something meaningful. After 13 years of marriage I still ask my wife after each message, "was it ok today?” I often look for affirmation to cater to my insecurities.
I would not say that my insecurity is total weakness. In fact, my insecurity is usually driven by the fact that I know I can do better.
The thing that I am most confident in is what I am most insecure in also because I know I can get better, do better, and be better at what I am doing.
Insecurity is not the same as humility and arrogance is not the same as confidence. In fact, arrogance often tries to simply cover up insecurity. Arrogance says, “I am the best” A healthy confidence says, “I do this well and I can get better.” It is vitally important that the fuel of improvement is not simply to feel better about our inadequacies. I am no way suggesting that insecurity is healthy, we need true humility, (a modest and mild disposition) yet healthy confidence in moving forward to improve our skills.
Growing in Healthy Confidence?
1- Seek HONEST feedback.
Feedback is important because it gives us a bird’s eye view of what we are producing. It’s crucial that we get feedback from people we trust and are objective. Sometimes we are blindsided by our craft because we are so subjective in it. We spend a lot of time, energy and emotion working so many times we can measure success about what we put into a project rather then how good the project actually is.
2- Don’t measure a moment.
Never measure a moment, a single project. For me this is a single message that I preach. I can’t sum up the quality of my preaching of years worth of sermons with a single a bad day. As a graphic designer every project I design is not my best work, so I have to look at my work collectively. I have to make sure that I measure my growth NOT my moments.
3- Find inspiration.
When I want to be inspired, I don't go to my own work. I look for somebody that is better than me. Sometimes it can be intimidating but don’t let it, use it as fuel to get better! I would also encourage you to look outside your normal “go to” for inspiration as this will challenge you in new ways.
4- Be diligent.
This is not a article on hard work, but there is just no way around it. You cant get better without working at it. In my early days of preaching, I would spend 2-3 hours preparing a message. Two decades later I spend at least ten, and sometimes up to 15 hours preparing a 40-45 minute sermon. Your gift will open the door but getting better will keep you in the room!
Often times when we hear the word ministry, many people think about what preachers do. We think about people that “get paid to meet the spiritual needs of people.” We relate ministry to a vocation or an occupation. Although ministry may be an occupation for some of us, it’s an invitation for all. I will go a step further and say it’s an assignment for all.
If we are not careful, we can so personalize our faith in God that it becomes about us.( ie. peace through circumstances, joy for discouragement, the Spirit that is sufficient for me.) Albeit true that God sustains us personally, it is impossible to encounter an ALL sufficient God and it stay at a subjective level. Encountering him means his influence pouring in me and through me impacting my world. Our faith is a personal devotion that demands a public demonstration.
The concept that ministry is for the specific “called ones” usually comes from the idea of Old Testament priesthood where priests would minister to the Lord and represent the people to God.
However, when Jesus showed up on the scene he eliminated that system because people no longer needed to go through a priest to get to God. In the new covenant we have an all access to the Father. Therefore, we have full access to his presence AND his power. The focus is usually placed upon the accessibility of his presence: his availability to us. It is also important to remember we also have access to the power of God! It’s not just for us, it’s for the world around us. God has given us great power and if we learned anything form Uncle Ben it’s, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Here are some keys to affirm you in your ministry.
1. You are called into ministry
Callings are real and we should determine what we are called to. (see this blog about calling)
You may not have had a moment when God called you into full time or vocational ministry, but we all have an assignment to impact our world for Jesus. The great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to advance Gods kingdom on every nation is not for a select group of super christians, it’s a call for all who would follow Jesus. I suggest that if God called you to simply live a good moral life, then he would have taken you to heaven when you gave him your life. Instead he left you on the earth to accomplish his purposes. Remember, it’s not really about God’s will for your life but your life for God’s will.
2. You are qualified for ministry
You may not have a license form an organization, yet as a follower of Christ you have been qualified to share the the goodness of Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV) - He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant.
Whereas our lifestyle does not qualify us with it, it may disqualify us with people. It is important to remember that as ministers of the kingdom that our currency is our credibility. Therefore, we should guard our credibility and never surrender it to our liberties or convinces. We should live worthy of this calling we have received!
Ephesians 4:1(NLT) I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
3. Your ministry is unique
God made you in such a way that there are very special assignments that were made for you! There are generic principles that we all are to follow, but there are certain things that he has set up for you to accomplish! I suggest that God has a list for your life, I encourage you to start asking God what he has on that list!
4. Your ministry is today
Don’t wait till you are a “better” christian, a more knowledgeable scholar, or for the right time. Start today.The Kingdom is at hand and God has incredible ways for you to demonstrate his goodness. There are people we encounter everyday that need to simply hear that Jesus loves and desires them. There are sick people that need to be healed, people that need to hear a word from God, lonely people that need encouragement…today. Don't wait, the time is now for people to encounter our great God. Make haste!
Revelation 1:6 (NLT) He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
John 14:12 (NLT) ”I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”
What if churches didn’t have someone to greet you when you got there? What if they didn’t have clean bathrooms to use, even worse a bathroom to use period? What if they didn’t have a place that you could drop off your kids ages birth to 11 so you could sit in a nice service? What if you had to bring your own chair to sit on? What if the church had no heat or air conditioning or electricity (let alone free wifi- gasp)? What if the church had no musicians to provide the worship? What if the church had no projection for you to know the words to sing along? What if the people speaking/teaching spent no time preparing and just got up and started speaking? Have you ever realized just how much goes into a church service?
Greeters. Cleaning crew. Nursery and kids workers. Finances. People serving with their gifts. Equipment. Paid Staff.
Incase you didn’t know, churches run solely off the people investing into them with their time and finances. People give, so the church can be there, the way it is, week in and week out. Hours of preparation work go into an hour or so service on Sundays. Like any other organization, the staff is paid by the funds that are brought in. Pastors aren’t getting a pay check provided by someone else unless they are bi-vocational, which many these days are. Then their time is divided between their job and their calling-the ministry, simply so that the church doesn't carry the full burden of providing their total income.
Your church needs you. Your gifts, your support, your encouragement, your attendance. Your pastor needs you. To be there, to be thankful for what they give, to be a supporter before a critic.
Must be easy being a pastor though, right? Preach for 30 mins give or take once a week, maybe twice, and then what do they do the rest of the week? Pastors don’t have a time clock. If someone calls at midnight, broken down and needing to talk, they don’t send it to voice mail and get back to you Monday- Friday 8-5. And when they give someone counsel in their marriage, they don’t stop thinking about it and praying about it, like, EVER. They hold onto that. Pastors carry this weight of making sure their church is inviting and put together, and provides an atmosphere of peace, and has enough helpers to accomplish the plans, and doesn’t do anything to possibly offend anyone, while obviously not doing anything that offends God.
Pastoring is probably one of the few professions that has to deal with rejection at such a high level. People come and people go, in every are of life. If you own a restaurant and someone goes to eat at a different restaurant, you probably won’t lose sleep over it. That is most likely because the owner of a restaurant isn’t invested in the lives of its patrons. They might know a few details, and learn a name or a favorite item on the menu, but when a person is broken down and needs hope, financial help, someone to perform a wedding or a funeral, or pray that their wayward teenager would come back home and find salvation, they aren’t going to go to their favorite restaurant. They are going to go to a place that offers hope, and provision, and support, and counsel, and helps carry the weight- long term.
Why did they leave? Did I offend them? What happened? Do you think they will come back? Why aren’t they responding to my attempts to reach them? These are the thoughts that go through a pastor’s head possibly forever. Because someone is always leaving and basically what they are saying is, “I fire you as my pastor.” Is that to say that you should pick a church and grin and bare it until you die, no, but would you want to be fired with out being given any reason why, with little to no notification?
So if you are going to leave, here is what your pastor most definitely wants: A conversation, an HONEST conversation, as to why you are leaving. If the nursery doesn't feel like a safe place for your child, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? If someone in the congregation is spewing gossip, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? If you disagree about one issue even though you see mostly eye to eye every where else, don’t you think the pastor wants to know so that they can fix it? Just like never returning to a restaurant because you had hair in your food once with out telling the manager and giving him a chance to make it right does not help to the restaurant, leaving a church with out giving any one a reason does not help. The real reason.
What am I getting at here? Is this post about leaving, no. It is about being there. Being the greeter, being the nursery worker, being the one to clean the bathrooms, being the musician in the band, being the person running the words on the screen. Being a part of a movement that is bringing hope and help to the lives of its community. The church isn’t a building, it is all the people that give of themselves to do life together while enjoying the process. The more you plug in, to the lives of others, to helping serve, to the vision of the pastor, the more you will receive and benefit from your church. But if you want to leave, because it will probably happen at least once in your adult life, don’t just be a disappearing person. Have a conversation with the pastor so he doesn’t deal with rejection and the “was it because” questions for ever.
I know it’s happened to you: you are in a conversation with somebody sharing life, talking, possibly expressing frustrations then here comes advice, unsolicited….advice. An opinion you didn't seek, from a source you were not petitioning. It’s so annoying. It has to be the most aggravating thing to me.. Seriously one of my biggest pet peeves.
OR you post on Facebook and people you rarely interact with chime in to share their wisdom!
“What you need to do is….”
“You know what I think…”
“What I always do….”
I ain’t gonna lie I have deleted a few annoying comments from trolls AND I have had to hit backspace on a few of my of my reply’s.
So how do we manage unsolicited advice?
1. Chill out.
Why does this issue bug me so much…because of pride. The pride of the unsolicited advice, possibly, but my pride as well. It is a pride thing on my end because my attitude is “hey who do you think YOU are telling ME what to do.” I am trying to get better at this and just chill out, take a step back, humble myself and value people. Even if what they are doing is difficult to tolerate. It’s hard, but we can’t allow pride to drive us to a place of hardness with people.
2. Understand people usually mean well.
Most people are not mean spirited and most people mean well. Most of the time people are trying to help. I know it’s irritating but it will help us if we can just try to see rationally through the irritating comment and love the person that is wanting to help. Even if we disagree or disregard the advice, we can still try to love the person that is frustrating us.
3. Ask yourself, “Do I do this?”
For me the answer is yes. I offer unsolicited advice and it probably annoys people and pushes them away at times. Now that I’ve come to grips with the fact that I am annoying at times, it will help me be gracious to those that do the same things.
4. Remember, advice fits best in relationship.
Something to remember when sharing advice especially unsolicited advice is that if we don't have relational equity with that person, our advice will most likely fall on deaf ears. Before we ever offer advice, it’s polite to ask, “Can I share something with you?” This takes the “unsolicited” part out off of the table.
If the advice is something that is challenging or possibly threatening to the person, keep in mind that it might not be accepted unless we have history and have built trust with that person.
This is really important for advice givers. ;)
5. Consider that possibly God is speaking.
People are valuable. Their opinions are important and valuable. God put that value inside of them and that value can be beneficial to your life. Many times God will deal with our heart by giving us a gift we need in a package that we don't like. This is why its important for us to maintain a humble and gentle spirit towards those that rub us the wrong way!
1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV) 8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
One of the loudest cries of our culture is comfort. The need for convenience is expressed by trying to get what we want while costing us the least amount of energy, time, or money. I get it, I love my wifi fast and my amazon packages at my door within two days. We hate discomfort, wether it be the discomfort of waiting or the grind of working, process is just plain painful.
A lot of modern leaders would blame millennials, but this is no trend. It’s become a part of our rapid moving world over the recent decades. This proposes a huge problem for those pursuing leadership, because influence is costly. It will cost us our comfort, it's a roller coaster of emotions, and it's physically draining. Only the resilient will lead for a significant amount of time. Sadly, I have seen many with a leadership position that couldn't handle the cost, so they bailed on leading. Many very talented people have given up on leading because it was just too taxing.
Here are 3 ways to build resiliency in the economy of leading:
Jesus dealt with the problem of people wanting to be the recipient of what He offered, but they didn't really want to be like him. The ones that did, transformed the world. Believing in Jesus is free, but following Him will cost you. When we truly follow Him, we get under His waterfall of influence and it pours onto us and those we run with. We will never have to pay what Jesus paid. Jesus showed us how costly leadership is. He didn't just sacrifice His life, He lived a life of sacrifice.
Consider the Cost
When we apply for a job, when we buy a pair of jeans, or when we volunteer our time, we want to know: what is the cost? If you are frugal like me, you want to know what is the minimum you have to pay.
When leading, our first question isn't, “what is it going to cost me?” we should ask, “what is it going to take?” Then we figure out a way to come up with the resources to make it happen. It is not easy, but it is worth it. For us as leaders, it's not about meeting the minimum requirements, it's about bringing the most impact. Those that are content with following will always be limited by the cost of leading, while leaders will figure out a way to make it happen despite the cost.
Consider the Value of People
Leadership is costly because it's valuable to people, it’s expensive and requires sacrifice. If you are going to venture to lead, you must ask yourself, “am I willing to pay the price?” Even when the price goes up, because the expense of leadership inflates. As your influence grows so does the price to continue leading.
May the costs of leadership never overshadow the honor of leading. God has given us the honor and the call to lead others. There is great joy in this divine privilege!
Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.
There has been lots of talk about striving in Christian culture over the past several years. Typically, folks are talking about striving for the favor, acceptance, or grace of God. Most of us who follow Christ get it, we don’t strive for the love of God, we strive from it. We live in a culture that at times celebrates effort as much as it does accomplishment. I get it, but at the heart of every leader there is a discontentment with the average, mundane, the “good enough” mentality.
When I think about the topic of excellence, I think about Daniel. Scripture says this about Daniel:
“Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” -1 Daniel 6: 3
This excellent spirit that Daniel possessed provided a way for him to have incredible influence. If leadership is about influence, then pursuing excellence must become a non-negotiable!
Excellence is My Very Best
Excellence is the doing the very best with what we have. It is measured by the resources we have: our time, money and energy. So excellence is scalable based upon the resources a person has. Excellence is simply the very best that I can bring. It’s not about being the best, it’s about bringing MY best. It’s not about my desire or my intention, it’s my willingness to give my all and empty myself for the task at hand.
Excellence is a Journey
Some confuse excellence with perfectionism. I would say that perfectionism is a discontent state pursuing flawlessness, where as excellence is a continual progression of getting better. Perfectionism is a destination, while excellence is a journey. When I came to Christ in 1993, I was already leading at a certain capacity, but something happened that made me want to be the very best at what I did. Looking back, a lot of what I did would not be excellent by today’s standards but it was excellence then because it was the best I had. My best today is better than it was over twenty years ago because excellence is progressive.
Excellence is a Conviction
I have had people over the years give me a hard time, and even make fun of me, for being so driven towards excellence. My response is normally the same. “I am doing this for God, and He deserves my best.” This conviction starts at the heart. I want to give God the very best. As a leader, I want to offer the people I serve the very best. As people devoted to Christ we must embrace the spirit of excellence because everything we do is as unto the Lord.
Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV) 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
When we speak of vision, some of us get intimidated and others of us get excited. When talking about people possessing vision, we tend to classify them into categories: those that are incredible visionaries and those that struggle with vision. I feel like there is a mystery that surrounds this topic and I hope to clear things up for you! (No pun intended)
#1. Everybody Has Vision
The reality is everybody has a vision. We all have a picture of what we want our lives to look like. Wether you are a stay at home mom, a college student, a young entrepreneur, or a minister, there is a level of success you are aspiring to. What does success look like for you? That visual is essentially your vision.The question is not wether or not you have a vision, but how big is the vision you have.
#2. A Big Vision Keeps You Moving
Vision has to be bigger than daily, weekly, or even annual goals. If it's not, there is nothing to work towards once the goal is reached. Goals are simply makers along the way of accomplishing our vision. You can have goals without having a big vision but you can't reach a significant vision without having goals.
Doing ministry over the past two decades there have been a number of times that I have felt like stopping. As a youth pastor it was always on Thursday mornings and as a lead pastor it’s Monday mornings. You see, it was always the day after the accomplishment of the last goal that I felt like giving up. If my vision was limited to one service I would have quit a long time ago. My vision is bigger than a single goal.
#3. A Clear Vision Can Be Carried Out
Habakuk 2:2(NKJV) “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it." Vision is something that should be clear….I mean, quality vision cannot be blurry.
What is your vision? How clear is it? Can you communicate it quickly and clearly? Is it abstract or does it change often?
Making the vision clear will allow you to be better focussed on it. If we don't solidify our vision then the demands of life will drain us of our purpose and we will never reach what we hope for. A clear vision will add drive to your purpose in life. It will also allow you to lead others with and to the vision you have. A significant vision will always be bigger than you, so if others are to rally around your vision, you must “make it plain” enough for them to see and run with it.
As the dawn of a new year is upon us, I would encourage you to set some time aside and write down your vision! I am not talking about goals for the upcoming year, but the vision of your life.
“Vision is a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be.”
God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.
Am I Called?
The short answer is yes, but I think you should keep reading.
We have heard many times, “This is my calling.” In and out of the church we talk about our calling. Mostly I think we mean that it is something that we instinctively have to do. A voice, an experience, we woke up to a burning in our heart, or possibly it was an opportunity that opened up and we enter into an assignment that makes us feel alive. It’s the ultimate nonnegotiable in our lives, it’s our purpose, our mission, the ambition of our life. We all have a calling.
Scripture gives us some insight to our calling.
We are all called to:
#1. The Great Command
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV)
It’s pretty simple. God’s expectation is for mankind to love and connect with God in every aspect of our lives and to demonstrate love to those around us. We can’t get out of it, it hasn't changed for over 2000 years and it’s not going to change, ever. It’s the great command, God’s great expectation of every human being.
#2. The Great Commission
Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
The purpose of The Great Command is to love God and people enough to get the gospel to them and lead them to a life that follows Jesus. I’ve heard it said before, “It’s the great commission, not the great suggestion.” I think we are wise to devote our lives to The Great Commission if we truly follow Christ.
#3. The Great Contribution
The great commandment and the great commission are universal, meaning that they are for all people.
The great contribution is where is gets personal. This is where what we normally feel “called to” comes into action. It’s really the nuts and bolts of the universal mandates (commission/commandment) So how do we discover that?
In June of 1993, I was a new christian and attended a youth camp in Roaring Springs, Texas. Months before that our youth pastor had resigned because of an incurable disease, so every night I would help gather our youth group together to pray for him. That Thursday night as we were praying, I looked around that circle and felt that God was calling me to gather people around His presence. I knew that God was calling me to into pastoral ministry. It was an incredibly powerful moment and most days I still remember that moment. There have been many days over the past 23 years that that moment was the only thing that kept me in pastoral ministry. I understand 2 things about a calling:
#1. You don't pick a calling, a calling chooses you.
#2. You can quit a job but you cannot quit a calling.
There have also been dozens of moments over the years that have confirmed that moment. Not everybody has a moment like mine or a “burning bush” experience, but we are all called. Here are few questions to ask yourself in discovering your calling to the Great contribution.
#1. What bothers you?
What annoys you? What are the things in the world or the church that frustrate you? I have heard it said “your misery, your ministry.” We all know complaining doesn’t work, so how can you do to fix the irritation? Maybe God is causing this divine frustration to so that you can be the solution to the problem. If you see improvements that need to bet made, then jump in and make them! You may discover your calling.
#2. What burns in you?
What moves your heart and keeps you up at night? What are you passionate about? If somebody gave you 10 million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with it? This reveals what you are passionate about. What is the single thing you cannot get away from?
#3. What burdens you?
What breaks your heart? What is the thing that you have been thinking about over the last several months or even years that moves you heart? That is compassion in your heart. This is what moved Jesus to do much of his ministry on the Earth! Don't just feel sorry and pity the need in your heart, act on it, develop a plan, and do something. You may discover your calling.
#4. What blesses you?
What gives you great joy? When you hear about or see something that makes you so happy inside no matter how many times you hear or see it? Don’t let your joy be in the hands of others. Get out there and accomplish the things that bring pleasure to your heart. Doing what ever that may be is also going to bring great pleasure to your Father’s heart!
One of the most frustrating things being a human can be communication. Communication is at the core of most of life's tensions, disagreements, quarreling, and complaining. How many times have you been in an argument (or as I like to call it “intense fellowship” ) and you made the statement “that is not what I am saying” or “don’t you understand.” In relational tension I've experienced that the greatest tension is understanding or being understood. As a leader, I choose to carry the responsibility of communicating. I don’t always communicate well, but I recognize that as John Maxwell says, “The leader can give up anything except final responsibility.”
Here are few things to keep in mind when communicating:
1. Communication is a conversation:
You cannot get communication without communing. I have been in a lot of conversations with my wife about what the other person did or did not say. At the end of the day what was said was not as important as what was heard. It doesn’t matter how many times I say it, what matters is that she understands it.
If nobody is listening you are just talking! You have a message to give the one you are communicating with, so make sure that they are listening and understanding. I would also add that make sure you are listening. Listening will not help your audience open up it will also help you to learn to better articulate what you are wanting to say.
2. Contextualize the conversation:
Living in the digital age we have so many ways to communicate. Yet it seems that the more options we have the more prone we are to miscommunicate. Every method carries a value and the value of our communication must be put on the proper place on that scale. For instance, you would not want to ask for a hand in marriage through texting (unless you want the answer to be no). Tone, body language, facial expression, all of these things help communication happen. Remove those elements and you leave more room for confusion. Contextualize the conversations on the scale based upon the weightiness of the topic.
1- Public post (social media)
2- Digital Messaging/Texting
3- Phone call
4- Personal face to face conversation
3. Confirmation completes communication:
Just because it has been spoken, posted, typed, screamed, over emphasized, doesn’t mean it has been communicated. If you are a leader it is not just your job to “tell it” you have to do your best to get confirmation. I make it a rule that until what I communicated is confirmed back to me, communication has not happened.
I had the honor of working under Pastor Richie Brown in Amarillo, TX for a couple of years. One day I was expressing some frustrations with people that would not responded to what I was trying to say. Pastor Richie shared with me some words I will never forget, “message received is message sent.” In other words, just because I said something, doesn't mean that communication happened.
I hope these 3 simple steps will help you communicate all the things you are trying to convey! Our relationships are everything and we should all be willing to grow in our skills to communicate with our teams & loved ones!
Since September 11, 2001, our nation has been more aware of those serving in civic duties. One of the roles that has become vitally important to our culture is first responders. First responders are the first ones to show up at an emergency and are trained and equipped to deal with a crisis.
In leadership, many times we see ourselves as first responders because we often deal with a crisis or urgent situations. We are being equipped and trained to deal with urgency, so as leaders we have to be great responders and not simply reactive to drama and dilemmas.
I want to take you a little further. Although being a first responder is a critical role of a leader, it is not our primary role. If we are not careful we can become managers of crises versus leaders of progress. One of the things that distinguishes good leaders from great leaders is their ability to see crises before they come; to see around the corner. If we are able to develop our leadership awareness, we will not only be better ready to respond to the crises of our culture, but we will actually be able to influence culture. We will always have crises to address, however, if we can steer culture to be less incident prone, we actually move into crisis-prevention.
Here are 3 ways to develop leadership awareness.
#1. Be Objective:
Learn to separate your opinion, your feelings, and your personal investment from reality. Don't get me wrong, as leaders we need to be emotionally connected to what we lead, but if we are not able to separate our emotional equity from a situation, we will move into self- preservation instead of cultural transformation.
#2. Study Trends and Patterns:
Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to teach a Trends and Issues class where we were discussing the issue of divorce. We started talking about all the emotional results with anger and frustration topping the list of children victimized by divorce. Studies show that close to 50% of marriages end in divorce, so it's no wonder we have such a hostile and violent culture! Maybe the solution to violence in America is strengthening the home? Knowing why something is happening is critical in preventing future occurrences. Let's focus on causation in an effort to see transformation!
#3. Ask the Bigger Questions:
What things could be established so that this crisis does not happen again? What is the issue beneath the issue? Most of the time we tend to address the symptoms and the pain. We need to discover the source of the pain and address the root cause.
I encourage you to be more observant in the midst of crisis. Be a great first responder, but always take the time to reflect on what can we do to avoid these issues in the future!