Tag: values

Grace-Centered Leadership

A Foundation Misplaced?

If you are into leadership, there are a lot of fast food leadership troughs from which to consume.  Six steps to this, five principals to that. Talking point after talking point. A pithy tweet here, a 45-characters-or-less quote there. Well intentioned and valuable I am sure. But have you ever just thrown up your hands and said, “How am I suppose to remember (let alone do) all that in the real world?”  To be sure, the functions and behaviors of leadership are and will always be critical and worthy of much study and internalization. But if the foundation of leadership is faulty or malnourished, there is more going on than fast-food-leadership can remedy or redirect.

In fact, I wonder if our foundation for leadership within the realm of church ministry isn’t whole-heartily askew. For example, in relationships and organizations, the less trust there is, the more rules are created. Rules become remedies to what’s broken or missing. Pretty soon what was a foundation of trust and shared vision becomes replaced by a foundation of rules, policies, and procedures.

In the same way, I wonder, with all the rules, principals, techniques, steps and do’s and don’ts of leadership being articulated in waterfall proportions, if this is perhaps indicative that the foundation of ministry leadership has been misplaced.  Whether it has or hasn’t is a topic better suited for another post, but what is critical to articulate is the foundation of ministry leadership.

The Gospel of Grace

In simple terms, the foundation of ministry leadership is the Gospel of God’s Grace.  It begins and ends with the Gospel established through Grace.  The Gospel provides everyone, through faith in Christ, what they need. They need to become a completely new person, with a new identity, that they may have a new life. The foundation of leadership is not what you do, but who you are. Who you are is determined and defined by your belief (trust) in the pure Gospel of God’s Grace in making you into a new person, with a new identity, and thus a new life. Ministry leadership is from the Gospel, by the Gospel, for the Gospel.

Yet, for many in ministry leadership, their trust is not fully in the Gospel of Grace, but more in their skill, capacity, and insight.

“Grace is a gift only the non-religious can accept. They’re the only ones who can understand it, and put it to use. ‘Religious’ folk see grace as soft and weak, so they keep trying to manage their junk with willpower and tenacity. Nothing defines religion quite as well as attempting impossible tasks with limited power, all while pretending that it’s working.” -John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, & Bill Thrall

My sense is that the sentiment of this quote is easily and additionally applicable to “religious” leaders and segments of the current state of ministry leadership.  Much of today’s ministry leadership focuses largely on willpower, tenacity, skill, principals, strategies and alike while pretending it’s all working as we create large, multi-campus ministries of primarily relocated, re-baptized, or rededicated Christians who are commissioned to try to live better lives by following the rules, all while America becomes the only country in the world where Christianity is declining.  Our ministry mindset concludes that Grace doesn’t work in leadership nor discipleship, so we’d better focus on willpower and skilled leadership. Indeed, we live in the age of performance-driven church and leadership culture. The sad reality is we think it’s working.

Here again, nothing wrong with skills, principals, churches with large multi-campus ministries etc. as long as the foundation is the Gospel of God’s Grace. Leadership is a serious calling and should be taken very seriously with a desire to steward the gifts and calling of leadership vigorously. God loves excellence. However, foundations in leadership matter. The only foundation of which can be…  from the Gospel, by the Gospel, and for the Gospel of God’s Grace.

What does that look like? Here are a few thoughts…

Grace-Centered Leadership

Believe it or not, ministry leadership is actually about you, that is, who you are in Christ. It isn’t about what you bring to the table, but it is about your trust in Who God has brought to the cross and what God brought to you through the cross on your behalf, received through your faith.

We say leadership isn’t about us, but “do” leadership as if it is.  The truth is, it is about us. That being our faith in the Gospel of the Grace of God. When it becomes about our faith in God’s grace, it is our work and skills that no longer matter, but His. The focus shifts as faith turns our eyes onto Jesus, away from our old selves, and onto who we are in Him (provided and protected solely by Grace).

Faith is not a work, it is a trust.  Through the Grace of God, by faith we can look at ourselves and see Him. If we don’t see Him, we do not believe, nor can we truly lead.

Grace-centered Leadership is leading from primarily three things…

From Righteousness

When we lead from righteousness we are leading from Christ. He is our righteousness. Further than that, we have become righteousness through Him and of Him.  Don’t rush past that last sentence, it’s gold. By God’s Grace, the moment we believe, our old self is killed with Jesus on the cross, our sins past, present, and future are put to death, we are no longer worthy of shame or guilt, our sin no longer defines us, and we are partakers of the divine nature, because He lives, and now lives in us and as us.

As leaders, because of Christ and Him making us into our newly created self, there is nothing wrong with us. We don’t lead from any nuance of depravity whatsoever.  We aren’t leading to become, we are leading from. Cosmic difference.  We are trusting in the quality of the new person God has made us into by trusting in the quality of  the One who remade us, Jesus.  We are leading from our identity not for our identity. Don’t rush past that last sentence either, it’s leadership changing.

Personal assessment changes into Christ assessment. We will never be any worse or less than Him.

From Blessing

In addition to a new identity, through faith, a genuine believer has been given every spiritual blessing. And by the way, everything is spiritual. You lack nothing. Not one thing. Your “Strength Finders” (if you are familiar with this assessment tool) assessment has become a riches-of-Christ assessment. He is your strength, and all His strengths have become yours. Through the Holy Spirit, you have been graced with a mix of spiritual gifts, especially crafted for you. These gifts compliment the wholeness you already have. They are a kind of grace upon grace. The grace of spiritual gifts upon your life position and empower you to fulfill God’s plan for your life to help others discover and live the Gospel of God’s grace. From God’s blessings, everyone has the capacity for leadership and is created to lead, some in different ways, settings, and platforms than others. If you have the Gospel, you are a leader. We don’t lead for blessing, but from blessing.

From Rest

In Christ, you are already as great as you can and need to be. The moment you believed, the highest level of greatness in your life was realized and established. The true work in your life was finished, and now it’s time to rest as God accomplishes the work of your life for His Kindgom through your faith. Rest is a posture of the heart and soul that is satisfied with trusting God, not the presence of inaction. When we rest, God works through us. When we work, God rests. He is willing to let you muscle and burst ahead unproductively. Faithfulness is responding to God’s action in our lives, it is not work. Work steps ahead and in place of God, faithfulness steps with God initiated by His movement. Laziness is not rest, it is the absence of rest. Rest is trusting God to work and expectantly waiting on the moments and opportunities of faithfulness. Rest convinces our heart that we don’t have to do anything for God, we get to do things for God. It is a privilege nor a performance. In the same way, we don’t have to be faithful, we get to be faithful.

Our highest leadership job is to trust and to be faithful, anything more or less, is founded on doubt. We don’t lead in order to rest, we lead from rest. We don’t rest from leadership, we lead from rest.

Grace-centered Leadership is leading for primarily three things…

For the Gospel

When we lead for the Gospel, we speak it and live it, trusting in Jesus to be our message in word and action. The Gospel is our success, not a means to it.  Don’t blow past that last sentence, there is a lot of meat on that bone. It is for the Gospel of God’s pure Grace that we were created to lead. We are to promote it, give it, live it and protect it first and foremost it.  The Gospel of God’s Grace is the answer for all of life and living. It is not a theology, confession, strategy, or idea, it is a person… Jesus. It is God’s unmerited favor, forgiveness, and future freely given for all, received through faith. When people become a new person, with a new identity, living a new life, free from guilt, shame and rule keeping, everything changes. This the Gospel of Grace.

What the world needs now is the experiencing of the pure Gospel Grace of God, seldom trusted by modern ministry leadership.

Like the manger was to Jesus, the Church is to the Gospel. It is the carrier of the Savior from which Christ is to be born into people’s lives providing new birth to the spiritually dead and lost. The Church is the package, not the present. We are not church leaders first, we are Gospel leaders first.  Leadership is not about the church first, it’s about the Gospel first. Our churches are not the Savior, Jesus is the Savior. Ministry leadership is not for the church first, it is for the Gospel first. We become faithful carriers of the Gospel only when we first become leaders for the Gospel. The Gospel is not for the church, the church is for the Gospel.

These nuances of distinction shift foundations, values, strategies, approaches, and vision. Far too much of ministry leadership is church-success-minded and far too less, Gospel of Grace-minded.  When we lead for and from the Gospel first, effective church ministry flows out. God never meant for us to put our faith and trust in “church” to transform lives. It is only the Gospel that can perform the miracle. The church is the very important manger of the Gospel. But we worship and focus on Jesus, not the manger. Our leadership priorities and values should reflect that.

By the Spirit

Grace-centered leadership is solely enabled by the Spirit. It is the sailing vessel on the ocean that doesn’t (can’t) move without the power and placement of the Wind. It’s role is not to create the Wind, replace the Wind, fabricate the Wind, nor deter the Wind, it is to respond to the Wind in ways that best harness its power towards the purposes of God. Grace-centered leadership will not and cannot go where the Spirit does not enable.

Grace-centered leadership trusts the Wind. In it’s presence and absence there is equally present purpose. Grace-centered leadership is the art of sailing the Wind of God as the icing on the cake of our Salvation. It is from Jesus, for Jesus, and by Jesus.

 

Looking forward to your thoughts…

 

What to Look for in a Potential Leader

What do I need to look for in a potential leader?” 

 Most leaders have first hand experience of where they have raised people up into leadership only to later regret that decision. We don’t want to bottleneck leadership, but we don’t want to get ahead of God either. If you are like me, you spend a lot of time and head space on getting this issue right in your leadership.

Obviously, these are not exhaustive, but here are six critical indicators that will help you have an idea of what to look for in a potential leader.  (These assume a person’s prior salvation through repenting for their sin and putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, baptism, fellowship and membership within the Church)

Humble/Teachable/Gentle Spirit

“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2

One of the main factors that God looks for in a potential leader is a humble spirit. One has to truly worship God before they can lead other people to God.

Every leader God ever raised up in scripture first had a humbling, repenting, worshipful experience with God that shaped their overall attitude into a humble spirit before God.

If you worship yourself (pride) all you will do is lead people to yourself and self-seeking pursuits. Worship is a humbling act of humility. When you worship God you acknowledge your limitations, sin, brokenness and your desperate need for God, His salvation on the cross, and His will to prevail in your life.

Humbleness agrees with God that there are more important things to life and in life than you. When you have a humble spirit, life becomes less about you, and more about what God desires to do in and through you. It becomes much less about what you are entitled or owed, and much more about your indebtedness to God and desire to serve Him and His people.

Some people manage to turn humility into a source of pride as they draw attention to themselves through their humility. The essence of humility is to take the focus off of you and place it on God and his desires. Humility is the branch from which the fruit of gentleness grows. People who have humility are gentle with others, not forceful, abrasive, or deceitful. You can be gentle and an assertive go-getter at the same time.

Over the years, I have seen people with great skills and competency have their pride and arrogance disqualify them as leaders and render their skills ineffective in spiritual leadership. Behind every move they make is an underlying agenda to draw attention to themselves. They put their own benefit over and above the benefit of the spiritual organization. And all too often, when a person of pride is confronted or their expectations are not realized, they become more aggressive or passive aggressive, or they completely shut down and disconnect. Pride is the author of the book some people live by title “Fight or Flight.”

One of the manifestations of humility comes when a person displays a teachable spirit. Humility says there is always something to learn. Humbleness requires surrendering to God and His design and plan for your life. Having a teachable spirit means that you are open to being developed in any way that moves you further into God’s design and plan for your life. People who have a teachable spirit are prone to consider the reality that other people can impart wisdom and instruction from which they could benefit. They are putty in the hands of God, waiting to be shaped and molded by God and the people whom God places over and with them.

The difference between confidence and pride is where a person places that confidence and what purpose it serves in their life. A person with a humble spirit will put confidence in God, His power, and purposes and use confidence as way to face the spiritual battles in their life and carry out the good work that God has begun in them. A person ruled by pride will put their confidence in themselves, their ideas, tenure, achievements, and pursuits and will use confidence as a way to intimidate, dominate, and a manipulate in order to compensate for deep rooted insecurity in their lives.

One way of testing for issues of pride is in seeing how a person responds and what they do after you have said “no.” to them.

Though people who have issues of pride may be very gifted, motivated, organized, and competent, their pride will turn their gifts towards the “dark-side” can ultimately go a long way in stealing from the kind of healthy leadership culture and effectiveness you are trying to develop.

Look for people with a humble, teachable, and gentle spirit.

Shared Vision

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.” Romans 15:5

One of the most destructive forces in Church leadership is division and disunity.

Yet, at the same time, having expectations for unity where God allows for freedom can be equally counterproductive. Every spiritual organization needs to search the scriptures faithfully and allow God’s counsel and revelation to determine what are going to be the essentials and non essentials of the values, beliefs and vision of the group. Once that is clearly established, every leader must be enthusiastically aligned to the essentials and allowed freedom in the nonessentials.

With nonessentials, shared vision will sometime need to mean that people agree to disagree and refrain from majoring on the minors. Non-essentials can be turned into essentials when agendas are made out of personal preferences. People who have a divisive spirit and an ax to grind to go with it, are the usual suspects when people gather around non essentials and make them into sources of strife and division.

One of the best ways to discern unity in shared vision is to ask the kind of questions that illumine what a person would do differently if given total freedom to run or shape the organization themselves. Their answers will go a long way at identifying areas of unity and potential disunity.

As many spiritual leaders have articulated, “Vision builds consensus, not the other way around.” Being crystal clear about the vision of your spiritual organization and raising up those who are enthusiastically aligned to the essentials of that vision will go a long way at promoting the effectiveness and health of the organization. Plans and strategies should bend and sway with flexibility, but vision should be well defined and consistent.

Raising up people who you think you can ultimately change, when it comes to areas of disunity in the essentials of vision, is a prescription for future problems. When God is ready, he will bring or identify the right person for the job. Never let the pressures of ministry expansion cause you to take short cuts on shared vision. Furthermore, no matter how large and complicated your spiritual leadership culture becomes, keep a close ear to the floor on your staff and the people with whom you do ministry so as to listen for areas of disunity. A small crack on the ceiling is much easier to fix before it turns into a huge one, but it takes more attention to spot it.

Loyalty

“Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day.” 1 Kings 8:61

Loyalty means that in your conversion, you have forever stepped onto God’s side of the cosmic battle between God and evil and you, first and foremost, will remain steadfast to God, His word, and purposes.

Loyalty means that you have the best interest at heart of the people who oversee you and team with you in ministry. Loyalty means that you put ministry process and parameters above opportunities for self centered pursuit. Loyalty means you care just as much about the relationship you have with those who oversee and team with you in ministry as you do about achieving goals and cranking out ministry product. Loyalty means that you give those who oversee you and team with you in ministry the benefit of the doubt. Loyalty means, within the bounds of integrity, you safeguard the leadership culture in which you operate and give honor and respect to those who oversee you and team with you in ministry. Loyalty means you value the integrity of the journey as much as the prize of the destination.

Loyalty is one of the most important ingredients to look for in a potential leader. Where there is a clear disregard or disrespect of the leadership culture of your organization or of those who make up the leadership, you can know for sure, you have identified a leadership candidate that is “no go for launch.”  A person can have disagreements or areas of concern or counsel for the leadership and still be respectful.

One of the difficult dynamics of loyalty is that it often can’t be tested until you go into battle or face some kind of challenge with that person at your side. Sometimes you can tell a potential leader’s capacity for loyalty by the way they carry themselves in relationships and how they handle power and responsibility. Another way you can discern a potential leader’s capacity for loyalty is by investigating how they finished things up at the last place they worked or led. People who are loyal don’t walk away from things easily nor do they typically do so with carelessness.

Ministry challenges are often the tmes when true loyalty is tested. Loyalty is easy when things are sailing smoothly, but kick up the winds and the waves and you will quickly find out who is with you and who isn’t. You will find out who sees your relationship with them as an end, or a means to an end. People who are loyal will be careful, committed, and conscientious about what they do and how they work within the system and culture of your spiritual organization. They will see their relationship with you as one that transcends ministry and not depends on it. They will look for every reason to be for you when others are looking for ways to be against you.

Great “Followship”

“They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”  Matthew 4:20

Among our leadership at CRBC, we have a saying “Bad followship never equates to good leadership.”

One of the greatest hallmarks of a genuine Jesus follower isn’t that they carry around a huge Bible and parade their spirituality so that all can see and adore. Rather, it is that they are doing serious battle with the evil within and around and are passionately seeking to “work out” their salvation and grow some spiritual fruit on the vine. The godly sorrow that led them to repentance and thus salvation remains with them as they learn to, more and more, hate what is evil and love what is good. The greatest hallmark of a Jesus follower is that they are in fact following. And in turn that “following” results in self leadership.  As in the book of James, faith without works is dead, so is leadership without followship.

Bad self leadership never leads to good people leadership.

People who are great followers are the kind of people you can tell are seriously fighting to grow spiritual in their lives, not for hype, but for true transformation that is evidenced in behavior. Words of correction or guidance don’t just roll of their back or become dismissed by cheap grace, but are seriously considered and put through the mill of discernment so they can be sure to hear God’s heart and desires.

People who are great followers understand that God created them to be in a constant state of spiritual progress. They embrace God’s growth movement in their life and value God’s life changing truth instead of consistently resisting it. People who are great followers have a healthy “fear” of the Lord. To be sure, none of us are always excited when God comes in and wants to move things around in our life. But in the end, great followers have an overall hunger and openness to putting more and more of their lives and living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

People who are great follower will take the heart the reality that you don’t really know the truth of Jesus Christ until you are actually live it as a lifestyle.

People who are great followers will have a meaningful, daily devotion life as they pray passionately study the scriptures and commit them to their heart and memory. They will take the Word of God seriously and see it as the ultimate authority for their living. People who are great followers will be life long learners and engaged in classes and small group offerings where they can spiritually grow in the context of meaningful relationships. They will be people who practice the spiritual disciplines of financial giving and serving on a consistent, regular basis.  They will be people who desire and utilize opportunities to share the Gospel with the lost and worship the Savior in His sanctuary.

People who are great followers will be lovers of healthy accountability so that their leadership and service can be protected by Godly guidance and authority. And when they fail, as Charles Spurgeon suggests, their repentance will be louder than their sin.

Positive Attitude

“Be joyful always” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

A person with a negative, high maintenances personality will be one that will require more attention and energy than you will probably be able to give in a leadership context, especially if you raise them up for significant areas of leadership. Attitude reflects the mindset of the person, and the mindset of the person reflects how they interpret, react and, respond to all of life, especially challenges.

Leaders need to always keep in mind the chemistry and ethos of their ministry teams and staff. Bringing on board a person with a bad attitude will potentially pull a dark cloud over the ministry and the team that leads it. Nothing weighs down the work of God more perhaps than a bad attitude.

The greatest challenge with people who have attitude problems is that it is very hard to change them. Often times, only the power of the Holy Spirit can brighten up a person’s outlook, especially since no one can choose their attitudes for them. If we have a bad attitude, it is no one else’s fault but our own.

At CRBC, we typically move people who have considerable attitude issues into a discipleship mode, not a leadership mode. The context of leadership is not the most conducive environment in which to deal with and minister to serious attitude problems, nor is it the most appropriate context to deal with issues where a person is significantly lacking in other indicators mentioned in this article.

Waiting to raise only people up who have positive/joyful attitudes is like waiting for the ice cream to melt a little bit before you try to scoop it out; it’s so much easier, it doesn’t take so much energy, and it won’t make unnecessary messes that you are going to have to clean up instead of enjoying your ice cream.

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