Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Leadership and Influence - Part Two

"I will begin to exalt you..."- Joshua 3:7

Recognizing the sovereignty of God in leadership is an incredibly freeing idea. There is an end to our ability to influence. When we push beyond, words like "coerce," "Force," and "controlling" become adjectives describing our leadership. Jeremiah was called to faithful ministry, yet warned by God that he would not be successful in leading the nation to repentance, avoiding captivity.
In God's eyes, our faithfulness is more important than our influence. When we put our trust in Christ and render faithfulness, we can win or lose in the world's eyes with no harm to our souls. If we lose influence, we trust God. If we gain influence, we do not become prideful because our faithfulness reminds us that influence comes, not because of our skill, but because of God's purposes in our life and the lives of those we serve.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Leadership and Influence -Part One

"And the Lord said to Joshua, 'Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.'" -Joshua 3:7

E. V. Hill once said, "The leader who has no followers is just out taking a walk." Choice Theory teaches that educators can only begin to impact the life of the student when the student learns to love the teacher or the subject the teacher teaches. Until then, the teacher keeps loving the student and the subject. What causes the disconnect between leaders and followers?

*Mixed Goals- Sometimes the leader is trying to go one way and the followers another. Mutual frustration results. We lost a person once in our church because we were pursuing missions and a country club atmosphere was preferred.

*Different Priorities- Sometimes the goals can be the same, but conflict comes when one person wants to reach the world for Christ and another wants to reach their children first.

*Different Methods- Our church culture is notorious for adopting a method- purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, homogeneous unit, small group ministry - when all we really want to do is develop relationships in which we can present Christ and grow together in Him.

Yet according to the passage above, God can raise leaders and put them down. He can give them influence and subject their leadership to frustration. Joshua needed the people to follow. The people had promised to fully follow. Now God promises to bless Joshua's efforts with the respect of the people. God would sovereignly exalt Joshua so that the people would learn by the faithfulness of their leader to follow God.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Leadership and Holiness

"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." -Joshua 3:5

New job. New responsibilities. New direction to a place you've never been. Tomorrow is D-day. Anxious? Impatient? Are you ready?
I remember heading off alone in a '73 Pontiac Grandville to college 12 hours away. The first six months of college I watched God meet me at every turn. Good room-mates. A job. Money for one bill, then another. One step at a time, God taught me to trust Him.
I remember heading off alone on a Northwest flight to Seoul, South Korea. New job. New friends. New world. I watched God meet me at every turn. Money to cover needs. Friends I count as wonders still. One would eventually become my wife.
The key to risk, diving into the unknown without a net, is consecration. Double-check your relationship with God. Remind yourself of God's faithfulness in your own experience. Separate yourself. Plead for holiness. Prepare your heart. Tomorrow's coming...

Father, prepare my heart. Give me holiness and set me apart for Your service. You have been with me whether I knew it or not. Be with me. It doesn't matter where I'm going as long as I know You're going with me. Amen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"You Have Not Been This Way Before"

Leadership texts draw a distinction between crystalized intelligence and fluid intelligence. Both intelligences are essential for leadership. The former is the ability to make decisions based on a lifetime of experiences. The past becomes a resource for current decisions. Fluid intelligence is also the ability to make good decisions, but it has no reference to the past. The leader with fluid intelligence is able to shift direction with rapidly, changing circumstances. On what do you base decisions then?
"You have never been this way before." The people were told to stay close to their leaders, to follow the ark, and to give themselves wholly to God. Joshua would have the responsibility to lead a new generation where they have never been. Protection and provision for more than a million people would be his task.
Joshua will consecrate himself first. He will meditate first, more and often. He will plead for God's presence in all situations as promised. He will hold out the hope to God's people that tomorrow "God will do amazing things among you." And he will be careful to obey as he holds close God's promise of success. "Be strong and courageous..."
Fluid intelligence for the Christian leader is an issue of faith. He will trust his crystalized experiences with God in the past and His word in the present. In a future world where we have never been, only God can pilot a sure course.

Father, we look to You for guidance. Our strength and wisdom are small. We do not know the future or any of the contingencies. Give us faith to trust You even in the dark. We give ourselves to You and ask for holiness in return. We wait in anticipation of the amazing hope of Your presence. Show us the way that we should go for to You we lift up our souls. Amen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Irony of a Short-term Memory

It was meant to be an encouragement to a young leader. The unity of the people, the vow of support. But the words ring hollow: "Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you."
Forgotten are their complaints over the lack of water or its bitterness and the lack of meat. Forgotten also is the matter of a golden calf and continuing complaints over Moses' leadership. The 10 spies' report and 40 years of wandering were hardly testimony to a consistent obedience.
The leader must not be too judgmental. Good intentions are there. Holy desires. Hope for a better future. The leader will need strength and courage to follow through, but he will also need compassion for God's people. He must have an eye to see what they can and will become. He must forgive and lead with loving perseverance.
If there is irony in the vow, there is also hope for change. If Joshua can forget the people's failures in the past, his own short-term memory loss, he will be free to lead with new energy and joy.

Lord, give us unity of Spirit in all that You call us to be and to do. Help us forgive each other, trust each other, and rejoice together in Your promises.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Personal Life of a Leader Watched

Those who would lead must understand that people are watching them. Athletes and celebrities broker their influence yet protect their privacy with equal zeal. Paul reminds Timothy that ministry is more than words. A minister invites others to watch his life and to follow his example. Paul invited others to follow his example as he followed the example of Christ (I Cor. 11:1; cp. Phil. 3:17; II Thess. 3:7). He tells Timothy and Titus, his young apprentices, to set the example that would be viewed by others (I Tim. 1:16; 4:12; Titus 2:7).
The leader, then, had better walk circumspectly. He is to watch his life and doctrine closely. He is to be diligent to reflect the grace of God in speech, life, love, faith, and purity. He is also to watch his doctrine closely- which means he needs to know the substance of his own faith in enough particulars that he can defend it and promote it in the face of false teaching.
Others are watching. They will judge the truth of Christianity by how well the leader integrates truth in his lifestyle and how serious he is about the sacred text. He is to live his life in such a way that he invites that kind of scrutiny.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Taking the Mantle of Leadership

"Moses, my servant, is dead." For forty years, the young nation had been held together by the faithfulness of one leader to his God. The nation complained, the nation wandered, the nation rebelled. The prophetic power and the personal humility of Moses anchored the double-minded faith of a nation. His strong faith in God led the nation through plagues and war, hunger and defeat, direction and judgment.
"Moses, my servant is dead." However, wayward the nation, 40 years of stability had resulted from Moses' leadership. Joshua had been there as Moses' aid, observing his trust in God, his leadership style, and the willingness of the people to follow. Now, God was calling Joshua to put on Moses' mantle, but without the encouragement, stability, and strength of his mentor's presence. What resources did Joshua have in the enterprise to come?
*The promise of the presence of God
*The Book of the Law on which to meditate and obey
*The support of the people
"Be strong and courageous." It was no mean task to don the mantle of leadership in the wake of Moses' death. Joshua would need every ounce of power, strength, and courage to assume the task. It is not enough to say that the character of Joshua or the circumstances of the hour predisposed him to leadership. It was the calling of God.
Thomas Carlyle as a historian wrote "We have known times call loudly enough for their great men, but not find them when they called. They were not there..the time, calling its loudest, had to go down to confusion and wreck because he would not come when called."

Thank You, Lord, for those Christian leaders who have gone before us. They challenged us, trained us, corrected us, and inspired us to dream that You might have a plan for us as well. We shudder at the responsibility of the role You have given and we ask You to make us strong. Our courage and strength must come from You or we will not have it. Keep close to us and keep us close to Your Word. Amen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The First Task

The first task in leadership and the first task in spiritual formation are the same.
Guard the Heart. Thoughts, desires, motives in the heart produce fruit in attitudes and actions, good and evil. Everything springs from our hearts. God knows our hearts and wants us to confess, purify, and strengthen our hearts so that we are protected against the encroachment of the enemy.

Jonathan Edwards writes:

"See that your chief study is about your heart:
- that there, God's image is planted;
- that there, His interests are advanced;
- that there, the world and flesh are subdued;
- that there, the love of every sin is cast out;
- that there, the love of holiness grows."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Implementation Takes Courage, Perseverance

Many leadership and motivational speakers have made careers helping others to find their vision. We raise our desires and expectations but within the year we have returned to our old habits and dreams have died.

Why? Because habits die hard. Change takes courage and perseverance. We need help. Richard Boyatzis' Self-Directed Learning gives us direction through the process of change:

1. Develop as fully as possible a vision of the change you would like to see
2. Examine your own strengths and weaknesses
3. Form a plan to make the necessary changes in process, goals, and relationships so that you can begin to more toward your goal
4. Implement the plan. Begin to practice the new steps to change.

So far so good. But what will hold us on the path to change when trouble comes? Boyatzis advocates a fifth step that informs all the others: Resources. Find people who know you and can encourage you and hold you accountable to the best that you can be. People, teachers, writers, mentors, trainers, pastors, spiritual directors and encouragers are all resources that can mean the difference for us between success and failure.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tabula Rosa or Innate Pattern?

As leaders at home, work, and church, what kind of human material do we work with? Ethicists would have us believe that man was born as a blank slate. Family, Schools, and Society write on us and we become what they envision.

The Creation Ordinances give us a different perspective. Man is made in the image of God, fallen though he may be. Our design reflects the sanctity of truth, life, marriage, work, and rest. When we live in line with those values, we flourish. When we try to write against the innate pattern given to us by our Creator, we flounder.

It makes a difference how we view those we work with. If we want them to become all they were meant to be, we had better lead according to their design. May God help us write better things into the lives of the people we serve.