Tag: vision

Is Your Telescope as Big as Mine?

As a Christian leader, I have seen the value of having “vision” and “purpose.”  Both are important aspects of leadership and life. If you look at my ministry, Identity Church, you will see lots of it.

Yet, I believe there is something deeper and more powerful than the concepts of “Vision” and “Purpose.” In fact, I am inclined to say that the concepts of “Vision” and “Purpose” have perhaps been overplayed, giving the impression that Christian leadership and life is simply about discovering and living with purpose and casting a vision of a preferred future for people to follow.  Some Christians and leaders have a kind of telescope envy. Who has the biggest vision, projects, accomplishments, and sense of the cultural trends for the future? Are you completely and thoroughly dialed into God’s exact, specific, and surgical purpose for your life?  Is your telescope as big as mine?

Make no mistake, God uses vision and purpose, but believe it or not, they are not foundations for Christian life or leadership. Rather, I believe the biblical concept of “Promise” is the foundation for Christian life and leadership, and missing in so much of modern, Christian life and leadership. We have indeed, in my humble opinion, placed the cart before the horse. We have placed vision and purpose, before promise.

What do I mean?

“Vision” and “Purpose” are things you work on.  Like putting together a puzzle, we see the big picture and it’s function and start working to put the pieces together.  We see the top of the mountain, believe we are called to reach it, and begin our climb.  Our faith may be utilized and required along the way, but the foundation is our sense of calling and our efforts in climbing.

“Vision” and “Purpose” are inspiring as they bring to our life levels of meaning and direction. But, for many, the attraction to these concepts is connected to the adrenaline that comes from  believing in and clinging onto a hope that one can become something greater and do something better through primarily our actions and efforts.  God may give us a sense of “Vision” and “Purpose,” but we must “work it” for it to materialize. Therefore, “Vision” and “Purpose” typically end up appealing to a desire to perform our way to a better future and becoming a better person who has a better, more significant life.  They call up the resources and hope of our flesh to bring us to a better reality and future.  We all love visionary and purposeful phrases like, “I think I can, I think I can” and the courage for progress these words solicit.  Yet, the inner warrior they conjure up is merely that, an inner warrior of flesh and bones, who is at best, trying to work out something spiritually great in and through one’s physical resources.

Conversely, the concept of “Promise” can’t be worked on, it can only be “lived out” through faith.  As Christians, we are all heirs of “Promise” (not “Vision” and “Purpose”) given to us through Abraham.  The powerful “Promise” that was over Abraham’s life is over our life, through Jesus Christ. It is God’s promise over our lives (and the lives of others) that is foundational to all life and leadership. It was this promise that led, enabled, and assured Abraham his destiny, identity and his significance.

In fact, in the verses below that articulate the promise of God over Abraham’s life and ours, notice the absence of vision. Abraham was directed by God to go to a land that God did not reveal to him from the beginning. He would only see it when he arrived. Furthermore, notice that the pendulum of blessings and accomplishment are heavily leaning towards God’s working, not ours. The foundation is faith, not vision and purpose. Abraham was never applauded for being a man of leadership-vision and life-purpose, but for being a great man of great faith.

 

Genesis 12:1-3   The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 22:15-19   The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Galatians 3:29  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion…” 

 

There are many other passages that speak to God’s “promise” over our lives. Comparatively, there are significantly less that speak of vision and purpose.  The Promise of God over our lives is not future reality to be obtained, but present realities to be lived out.  What are the details and applications of this Promise for us in the here and now?

In addition to our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ , there are several profound applications from these verses…

Because of the “Promise” God has over our lives, we…

1) Reign in Life – We live above our circumstances and surroundings. This is not a future possibility, but in Christ, a current reality. It’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are and what has been promised over your life. The Name of Jesus has become your name through faith. His Name is above all names.

2) Rule with Christ- We have divine power and authority now and in the future. The Kingdom of God is a “now and yet to be” reality. Present or future, in Christ, we are rulers with Christ. The world does not rule us. We are leaders in every way in every place. This is our position. Faith is what brings this reality into reality.

3) Blessed to Bless the world- We have prosperity from God that leads to generosity. True Grace received never leads to living a selfish, lazy life. Rather the opposite. God’s prosperity is attracted to faith in the Promise. Prosperity… spiritually, emotionally, and physically are ours now.

4) Relational Prosperity- We are whole and complete in Christ and able to truly love others from and out of that completeness.

5) Divine Greatness- We are the righteousness of Christ, seated with Him in the heavenly realms. This is a current reality, promised over us. You are greatness before you ever do anything great, and because you are great in Christ, everything you do, by faith, is great. Greatness is not something you achieve for Christ, it’s something you are in Christ.

6) Constant Significance– Regardless or where we are and what we do in life, we have divine significance because of who we are in Christ and God’s promise over us. Before your actions are ever significant, who you are has become significant through faith in your new identity in Christ. When you truly take hold of your identity in Christ through faith, you can’t help but change the world whatever happens from there.

These are the real-life realities of the “Promise” that we are heirs to, right here, right now.  All of these applications of God’s promise over our life happen effortlessly through our faith. They are promised over us and received by us and worked out through us by our faith. They will prompt our actions for sure, but they will not require our work. Big difference.

“Promise” begins and ends with God working in and through us. Our faith is what materializes the “Promise” in our lives.  The foundations of promise our not connected to our performance but rather God’s working and our faith.

The “Promise” of God over your life does not require having “vision.” In fact, our own sense of vision may in fact eclipse our ability to sense what God has “promised” over our lives. Where “vision” bends our sense of purpose in life as being centered around our actions and accomplishments, “Promise” directs our sense of purpose in life to be centered in our faith. One leans towards relying on human responsibility for its fruition, the other leans on believing in God for its fruition.

In fact, “Promise” is a current reality that is lived out in life now. “Vision” is a future reality that is worked on for it to be materialized in the future

Should we throw out “vision” and “purpose?” No, absolutely not! Both are valuable and important. But they must never become foundational nor birthed from anything less than faith in the promise of God.

How can you apply this teaching? Here are a few suggestions…

1) Focus on who you are now in Christ more than what you should do for Christ in the future. Place your focus on what Jesus has and is doing in you today, not what you will do for Him tomorrow. Put much more value on the size of your faith in the present work of Jesus in and over your life, not the size of your telescope into the future.

2) Believe in your position in Christ as one who reigns in life and rules with Christ. This will change your whole mindset and living as you deal with challenges, circumstances, and responsibilities in your life.

3) Don’t spend your energy on becoming significant and successful, put your trust in Jesus that because of Christ and His promise over your life, you are and everything you do is significant, right now. You are great because He is great in you. Live from greatness, not towards greatness.

 

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…

 

Leadership Stages

Critical Stages of Leading People

Jesus was and is the Master of leading people. One of the most powerful things I have observed in His example is the stages He goes through, overtime, with the people He is leading and developing. The way Jesus handles leadership at the beginning of His interaction with a person or group is different from His style and methods later on.  There is something sacred and necessary within the stages Jesus goes through that make His leadership successful. In fact, when followed, these stages do well at preventing us from microwaving leaders or bottlenecking them; both are which are not healthy.

Stage One: Directive

Mark 1:15-20  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news! 16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

This passages marks the beginning of Jesus’ leadership of the disciples. Notice, Jesus is directive, not democratic. He doesn’t begin with consensus-style leadership nor does He call for a vote on His teaching of the Kingdom or try to get these fisherman to agree with His strategy and tactics.

Jesus simple says, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men”

Leaders must have and understand their God-given authority and the need to be directive at certain stages of leadership. Jesus didn’t poll the disciples and ask, “O.k. guys, what kind of people do you want to become and what do you think we ought to do together?” Rather, Jesus came with vision and a sure sense of direction. He didn’t ask the disciples to give Him vision, He asked them to give Him their followship.

In the beginning of leading people, the directive stage of leadership is critical both for the leader and the follower.  It prevents the leader from the early stage temptations of morphing into a managing people pleaser, political player, or an insecure, indecisive gatherer. Yet, it also helps the follower to not overestimate their readiness for the journey, become arrogant, assume false expectations, or develop their own personal preferences and agenda.

Jesus knew, at this stage, giving clear, decisive direction was in the best interest of all involved. He wasn’t interested in managing their lives, He was interested in leading them.

As the common saying goes, “Managers do things right, while leaders do the right thing.”

When we start on a new trail in pursuit of a God-vision, we need a strong confident leader to show us the way.  There will be a time for consensus building, for gathering and listening to opinions from those that follow, but that time is not best placed at the beginning stages.

Stage One dynamics…

The Follower has : High enthusiasm, high confidence, low experience, low competence

The Leader gives: High direction, high example, low consensus, low explanation

 

Stage Two: Visionary Coach

Luke 12:32-34“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus, in this stage, adapts His style into more of a coaching style. He increases His time with the disciples in order to help them work through their developing insecurities and fears.

Leaders do well to help their followers go through the doubts and insecurities that occur as one pursues anything of God. Growing in relationship with Him and leadership capacity within His Kingdom is not always pleasant nor easy.  People are often excited at first about moving forward with you and God, but soon they realize there are challenges, internally and externally. It is during this time that a leader must help their followers along, knowing that some may choose to abandon ship and go back to the bliss of stage one with someone or something else.

Continually coming back to the vision and articulating it is critical at this stage.  Vision helps us see where we are going when we can’t see it for ourselves and those we lead. Vision is what reminds us of our calling and keeps our eyes on the prize. Vision is what rekindles the flames of our hearts and brings us back to centering on Jesus and His purposes and plans.

Helping followers understand that what God has called us to become and do is impossible apart from Him is a key accomplishment in this stage.  Vision is what enables our souls to expand with increasing room for faith.  Without leading people to develop their faith and character, the potential of what God has and can do with them will never be reached.  A coaching style enables a continuation of the directive style of stage one while adding a dimension of developing responsibility and personal growth for the follower, and developed trust levels between the follower and the leader.

Stage Two dynamics…

The Follower has: Low enthusiasm, low confidence, low experience, low competence

The Leader gives: High direction, high discussion, high example, high accessibility

 

Stage Three: Coaching / Pastoral / Team

John 15:12-17  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

This is the stage where Jesus starts to shift to a “You do it, and I will help and watch” style and strategy of leadership.  Over time, the followers have demonstrated increasing levels of loyalty, shared vision, competency and spiritual growth and are now ready to be given new levels of responsibility and intimacy.  Their relationship with Jesus has been strengthened, and now it’s time for more of a team approach as Jesus opens the door to input, ideas, and consensus building.

It is during this stage that Jesus begins to introduce the idea that one day, Jesus will be much more distant from them. This is a kind of pre-commissioning stage.

The major challenges of this stage is to ensure that the vision has been passed off to your followers through tests as you give them increasing levels of responsibility, decision making, and influence with you.  At this level, the leader needs to learn the art of watching without being noticed so as to create an environment where risk is minimized while testing the follower for readiness for increasing levels of leadership.

It is tempting for leaders to rush this stage, so it’s important to remember it essentially took Jesus three years to get to stage four.  As in a relay race, the passing of the baton is highly practiced, carefully timed, clearly communicated, and very critical.  A bad transition can undo months of hard work.

Leaders do well to help the follower understand the expectations and pacing of this transition period so as to be in continual communication and connection with the process.

Stage Three dynamics…

The Follower has: Increasing enthusiasm, growing experience, intermittent confidence, growing competence

The Leader gives: Lower direction, higher consensus, high discussion, high accessibility

 

Stage Four:  Vision Reproduction / Delegated Authority

Matthew 28:18-20  Then 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.”

Jesus is preparing the disciples to spend less time with Him. He is reducing their hours of contact with Him because He is now delegating authority.  They are now becoming extension and representatives of Him.  Jesus has moved them from “Come follow me” to “Go be Me, stay true to the vision, and do what I taught you to do!”

When the leader sees the individual or team is highly competent, spiritual developed, loyal, trustable, and deeply shares the vision, it is time for delegating authority and responsibility at higher levels.  It’s not about perfection, but it is about progress.  To be highly directive and restrictive when the follower is ready for delegation is to squelch the potential and work of God in and through the follower.

Delegating before stage four at high levels is a recipe for disaster.  The follower may think they are ready for it, but until they have completely gone through stages 1-3, they are not.

At this stage, the closeness with the leader and follower remains, but it is not defined by the amount of time together, but rather the openness, loyalty, and shared vision they have with one another.

Stages of delegation:

1-    I do, you watch

2-    I do, you help

3-    You do, I help

4-    You do, I watch


Stage Four dynamics… 

The Follower has: High enthusiasm, high confidence, high experience, high competence

The Leader gives: Clear but lower direction, high consensus, clear but lower example, high explanation

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