Are You Really Leading?

How we can value people over our positions

 

If God gives us a voice we must speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

If God gives us strong hands we must help those who can’t help themselves.

If God gives us a place to stand we must stand for those who cannot pick up themselves.

 

God does not give us these good gifts for us to build kingdoms for ourselves but rather to build up the people in His Kingdom.

 

If we only serve those who can benefit us, is that really serving?

If we only honor those who can honor us, is that really honor?

If we only sacrifice when there is someone to see, is that really a good deed?

If we only step out when there is no risk, are we really leading?

 

People matter to God. He does not give position and influence to protect those who already have it, but so those with it can protect and provide for those who do not have it. Position is not for the leader but for the follower.

 

We should measure success in our leadership…

Not by how many people like us, but by how we love the unlovable.

Not by how many celebrate us, but how many we celebrate.

Not by how much pain we avoid, but how much pain we enter into.

Not by how many we have serving us, but how many we are willing to serve with what God has given us.

 

Christian leadership is a paradox. It’s not corporate leadership. It’s not amassing followers. It is serving the masses by caring for the one. It is a two-way street. It’s influence rooted in stewardship. We must be careful that as we grow in influence we also grow in the same portion of selflessness as well.

Benefits of Critics

4 Reasons to Listen to Your Critics

Many people say to ignore your critics. Don’t listen to them they say. Once during a wedding prayer of blessing, I actually prayed that the bride and groom would, “shake the haters off.” For some odd reason, people haven’t rushed to ask me to pray for them at their weddings after that.

I don’t know that this advice is always good. Sometimes I think we say “ignore your critics,” as a way to insulate ourselves from some tough things we don’t want to hear. This can lead us to even mistakenly identify people who are trying to help as people who are hurting us because they are sharing difficult truths with us.

But what do we do about the actual critics – the people who we can’t make happy no matter how hard we try? Is there anyone like that in your life? What do we do when folks keep getting drunk on the “haterade” or seem to always pull into work in their Navi-hater.

There are secret benefits of having critics, fault-finders, and unwelcomed commentators snickering behind you. All the greats had them. I don’t think you can stand for something worthy without having someone stand against you. If you turn to scripture instead of cultural expectations in your response to critics, you can tap into the benefits of those that seem to love to hate.

4 Benefits of Critics

Listen

Our friends are often hesitant to share things they know we may not want to hear. This is because they want us to like them. They keep our feelings in mind. Critics don’t care if you like them. They are not interested in our emotions. In some small way, this can be a good thing if we pause to ask ourselves if there is a grain of truth in what is being said.

We may not always agree, but we can always listen. Listening is a way we can show that we value people even when we may not agree with what they are saying.

Learn

Critics can broaden your appeal when we learn from their perspective. Maybe their attitude is wrong. Perhaps they have an agenda. But maybe we can also learn how to better reach someone with their outlook on things next time before they even become a critic.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” We should be looking to win people over and not just win arguments. We can’t do this if we do not slow down and learn from those that are different than us.

Lean-in

Suffering through some unfair criticism can cause us to lean into what matters most. It can hurt when we hear someone doesn’t like our idea, perspective, or well-intended actions. This can also give us the opportunity to evaluate if we are living for the approval of God or others.

We don’t always get to respond to our critics. At times we have to turn the situation over to God. In these moments, we are able to draw closer to Him and reflect the grace and mercy we have received from Him.

Don’t Linger

While we can learn from critics, and at times should even listen to them to build future bridges, we shouldn’t linger there. Some criticism offers a lesson in letting go and moving on when things are outside of our control.

We shouldn’t allow criticism to be a focus. If we are always concerned about avoiding critics or responding to them, then there is no time to just be who God made us to be. Doing the right thing at times will be criticized. It’s not always fair, but most of the time it is best to keep loving and moving forward.

Give them what they lack

I used to be an extremely critical person. No one or nothing was good enough for me. I realized along the way that my high standards were keeping me from enjoying the people God gave me in my life. Since then, I have started offering more grace to people. I have noticed though, that the last person we are willing to give grace to is the judgmental among us.

Why give mercy to someone who doesn’t show it to anyone else? Because that is apparently what they are in most need of because they don’t have any to spare. Give grace to your critics and over time their cup may eventually overflow and begin to refresh others as well.

Lessons From A Tree

How to Multiply Your Influence

Have you ever been extremely proud of something that no one else seemed to really care about? No? Are you not as vain as me? Well, good for you. I, on the other hand, have a tendency to become a little self-focused. This is especially evident with the tree that is in our front yard.

Tree obsession

I am very proud of our tree. Mostly because when we first moved in we didn’t think that our tree or most of our landscaping would survive. I am limited in the area of gardening but still set out to prove I could make our landscaping grow. And against all odds our little tree has done quite well.

In fact, whenever someone comes over to our house I always make it a point to talk about how amazing our tree is. Normally, they don’t seem to care. So to highlight my tree’s awesomeness I usually begin to point out how much better it is than other trees that aren’t growing as fast (I am a jerky arboriculturist I know). It is only when I have reached a point of complete awkwardness that causes my guests deep regret for ever coming over that I eventually let them into our home.

I guess you could say I don’t have the gift of “hospitality.”

Lessons from a tree

Anyway, this obsessiveness with my own tree recently changed when a couple of family friends came over to help us with our yard. While Mr. Ron was helping us build a deck, Mrs. Patti began working on our landscaping. I saw this as a great opportunity to talk about my crazy awesome tree with Mrs. Patti. When she wasn’t that impressed, like most people, I showed her how much better it was than another tree that was not doing so great. Then she looked even less impressed and asked me, “Well honey… She paused. Have you ever considered adding a little fertilizer to the tree that’s not growing as fast?”

“No, I don’t think I have.”

“Well, you know, your tree will always look better when the trees around it are growing as well.

Ouch. I immediately went over and added some fertilizer near the dying tree and shared some tips with its owner to help their tree shine as well.

I can be an idiot sometimes. This adventure in gardening reminded me of that. We shouldn’t just fertilize our own trees. Our tree looks better when we spread the fertilizer around and help others grow as well. You influence people more by giving than by getting.

Empathy multiples influence

One way we can do this is by showing empathy towards others. Being self-focused will cause us to not realize that someone near us is shriveling up and may need some encouragement to nourish their soul. We can get so focused on wondering why no one seems to care about us that we forget that the best way to receive that kind of attention is to be good at giving it away. If you want to look good then you need to do a great job of making others look good. If you want others to notice you then you need to do a great job of noticing others.

No one likes being around someone who only talks about their own tree/themselves. And when you point out how others are not doing well in order to make yourself look better you are the only one who ends up looking bad. The key to gaining influence is not found in getting people’s attention but in giving people attention. Don’t just fertilize your own tree.

How to get noticed

I’ve heard that there are more songs written about the moon then there are about the sun. This is interesting when you think about the fact that the moon doesn’t produce any light on its own. All it does is reflect the light it is given unto others. You always shine when you reflect praise and attention on others.

If you have ever wondered why people are not noticing you are giving the credit you deserve then you try to gain influence by giving away what you hope to receive from others. Who can you reflect some light on? Who is it that you can do a better job noticing? How can you help someone else’s tree grow a little stronger? What can you do to spread some empathy and encouragement?

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or share this post with someone else if it resonated with you!

Here are a couple of books that have helped me grow in empathy and making others bigger:

Lead Like Jesus

How to Lead Like Jesus

Jesus said that his purpose is to give a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10). There use to be a part of me that was full of false religion that would skim over a verse like that. I believed that it wasn’t godly to have a rich and satisfying life. I thought you had to be poor to be pious and to suffer to be spiritual. In reality the opposite is true. God desires to give us good things and is leading us to a more abundant life.

But how do we lead others in this same way? In John 10 Jesus gives us a few ways we can do this. I want take some of these principles and look at them in light of modern ministry leadership.

 

Make a personal investment.

To lead like a good shepherd we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for our sheep and not sacrifice our sheep for ourselves (John 10:11). Leadership is about rising in position to take more responsibility and not climbing the ranks so that you can push the work off on others. Too many leaders are seeking a higher position because they want less work and more credit. This is not the model Jesus gave us.

 

Be proactive in decision making.

A good shepherd does not run when he sees a wolf coming (John 10:12). A good ministry leader is proactive and not reactive. Waiting until there is a mess to clean up and then overreacting to prevent future messes instead of solving the real issue is not a sign of good leadership. A good ministry leader is uses prepares and/or avoids possible threats to the team by giving direction before there is a problem.

 

Confront internal issues even when it is uncomfortable.

A hired hand runs away from conflict (John 10:13). Good ministry leaders don’t avoid conflict. They walk through them with wisdom and grace. Having an environment of correction is not fun for anyone. Its discouraging and you people eventually give up. At the same time, not being willing to confront attitudes and conflict in the team will allow those that cannot self govern to run your team culture. As a leader you always get a combination of two things: What you enforce and what you allow (Dr. Henry Cloud).

 

Make relationship the priority and not just projects.

A good shepherd knows his sheep (John 10:14-15). A good ministry leader leads not just with position but also with relationship. Ministry is a business of people. When you put the project ahead of the people the project is designed to reach you are failing to lead like a good shepherd. People are the priority. Put relationship first and then those relationships will make your mission their first priority.

 

Create a culture that echoes your values.

The sheep know the voice of a good shepherd (John 10:16). Your culture echoes your voice when you are not around. What is yours saying? A good ministry leaders creates a culture that reinforces the values they want echoed even when they are not there. They model this in not just want they say but in their behavior and in what they celebrate and reward.

 

Leadership can be messy. It comes at a price of personal sacrifice. We have to be willing to build relationship but also to look ahead for future threats to our team and correct internal turmoil. It can be easy at times to avoid these things but doing so will not create the culture we want to echo throughout the organization.

What did I miss? How do you think ministry leaders can lead more like Jesus?

 

For more thoughts like these check out The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People.

 

Interruptions

The Most Important Ministry Lesson

In this post I want to share the most important lesson I have lever earned in ministry. I first became a leader in ministry when I started a small group at 15 years old. Two years later as a High School Senior I was speaking in high schools and on retreat. My freshmen year at LSU I started a student ministry and eventually was on a team that united all of the campus ministries together for an annual outreach event.

After graduating from college I went on to work on our youth staff where I had the opportunity to see thousands of young people come to Christ and be discipled. Now at ARC I have the pleasure of working with pastors to start new church across the country.

Although I learned a lot in the past 20 years, my most important lesson in ministry did not come while in any of these ministry roles. It wasn’t until I spent a season working outside of full-time vocational ministry before coming to ARC that I learned my most important ministry lesson.

No Time for Interruptions

While on staff in youth ministry we had an internship that eventually grew to over 100 students in the program each year. Many times after their classes some of these students would come up and hang out in our office space. As a task oriented person, this began to be bother me a little as it kept me from finishing my work. I loved those students, but also felt compelled to give my best to the projects I was working on that I knew would help our ministry reach more people. The students lounging in my office and asking me personal questions took time away from these important items. The result? After their classes I would shut the door to my office so that I would not be interrupted. Cold hearted I know!

Years later I would find myself at a different church and no longer working in ministry. Amy and I decided to take a course called L.I.F.E. for Marriage. The class teacher was old enough to be my grandfather and began the class right on time by closing the door and making a bold announcement.

“If you are late to this class, do not come through that door…”

I braced for impact as a I knew he was about to rail on us about the importance of being on time.

He continued, “Make sure you come through the door on the other side so that you can get some coffee before taking a seat. And remember that if you are late, you are not an interruption. I have learned that if you see people as interruptions, then soon you won’t have any interruptions, because you won’t have any people left to interrupt you!”

Boom! That was not what I was expecting. I began to tear up. A little because I was caught off guard by this unsuspected grace that was being extended, but also because of the healing power that comes with being valued.

I bet you can guess this, but I was never once late to this class. In fact, I don’t know that I have ever shown up early so consistently to something before in my life.

Learning My Lesson

When I look back on my ministry life my greatest regret is not something I didn’t do or an opportunity I was overlooked for. I regret not valuing people the way I was valued that day.

This lead me to realize that the biggest lesson that I needed to learn in ministry is that people are the priority.

Roy Stockstill said that his greatest lesson in ministry was that “people are not the enemy.” I love that and it was the beginning of what God would eventually show me is my ministry goal, “Make people the priority while pointing them to Jesus.”

In the Masterpiece, The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People, Leman and Pentak waste no time in telling leaders that “Your people are your greatest asset.” When we treat people this way we are modeling Jesus who, as demonstrated us in Philippians 2, left the comforts of heaven to comfort us. He valued us, and made us the priority.

People are not the enemy. People are not interruptions. People are our greatest competitive advantage. My goal is to make people the priority while pointing them to Jesus.

What is your greatest lesson from life or ministry? I’d love to hear about it! Add a comment of send me a message.