Leadership

My Farewell Address: The Meaning of Life

What does one say in a farewell address?

In biblical times, we have a record of parting words from people such as Jacob (Genesis 49:1-33), Joseph (Genesis 50:24-26), Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1 - 32:47), Joshua (Joshua 24:22-28), David (1Chronicles 29:10-20), Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20 and John 13-17) and Paul (Acts 20:18-25).

In modern times, we can consider the farewell speeches of kings, presidents and prime ministers, as well as sports personalities, actors and entertainers. Whether it's Michael Scott saying 'goodbye' on the TV series The Office, Truman exiting The Truman Show (“In case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!”) or Bilbo Baggins's speech in Lord of the Rings at his 111th birthday party ("I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve!"), we all seek to say something meaningful in significant moments such as this.

I am 55 years of age and I see and feel things very differently than when I was younger. Life goes way too fast, kids grow up far too quickly, and as a result you start to ask questions about what it all means and what really matters. 

People have grappled with the question of the meaning of life since time began - whether it be Solomon, the ancient philosophers, or Victor Frankl and his associates in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust wondering what they would live for ... if they survived. 

For me, there are three pursuits worth giving my life for:

1. Love God.

CSEach human being is born with longings and cravings for something or Someone beyond themsevles - for transcendence. C.S. Lewis once said,  “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

God is personal and if we seek him with all our heart we will find him. I first heard God speaking to me when I was 19 years of age as I meditated on the story of a young boy named Samuel in 1 Samuel chapter 3 of the Old Testament. It's one thing to know about God or even to study God but it is another thing to have a relationship with him. Some people find God within the walls of a church. Others find him outside of the halls of religion. After all, the whole world is a Temple where God dwells. We are each invited into the life of God who is Trinity - Father, Son and Spirit. Some days God is silent .... but God is always there. 

Jesus himself said that the most important commandment was to " love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind" (Matthew 22:37-38).

2. Love People.

Jesus went on to say, "A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:39-40). Jesus summarised over 600 Jewish laws into two simple practices: love God and love people. 

Elsewhere, Jesus gave us some good advice as to how to truly love people:

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12. NLT

We call it the Golden Rule: think about how you want to be treated, then grab the initiative and treat people that way, especially those who are different than you. If you are white, what would it like to be black? If you are straight, what would it be like to be gay? If you are an Australian citizen, what would it be like to be a refugee? If you are a Christian, what would it be like for a Muslim or a Hindu to move into the neighborhood? If you are healthy, what would life be like in a wheel chair? 

Sadly, in many parts of our world, Christianity has degenerated into primarily a ‘system of beliefs’ rather than a ‘way of life’ characterised by love. Jesus did not say, “The world will know that you are my disciples by your statement of faith”. In fact, the Bible isn't a theology book… it is a grand redemptive narrative - a love story of God at work in our world throughout history. People write theology - some of it is good and some of it isn't (because it doesn’t reflect God accurately). Even our creeds are inadequate. The famous Apostle’s Creed, often used as the marker of orthodox Christianity, doesn't even mention love or justice, two topics Jesus constantly talked about. It also has no reference to mission, something Jesus was passioante about in his farewell address (Matthew 28:18-20)!

So let's hold our beliefs, statements of faith, and creeds lightly. Don’t be too quick to push people away who see or believe differently. Try saying something like, “Help me understand.” But let's hold love very firmly. It is the mark of a true follower of Jesus.

3. Serve the World.

BoothIt is said that the Founder of The Salvation Army, General William Booth, once sent a telegram to officers around the world to remind them of the main focus of their work. The telegram contained only one word - "others." That single word captured the foundation for the entire organisation.

In the same way, God desires each one of us to discover, develop and deploy our gifts and talents for the benefit of others. The apostle Peter put it this way:

1 Peter 4:10. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. NLT

Life is not about YOU. Don’t end your life only to look back and find it was a SELFIE video!

When we look at all of the problems in the world today, it is easy to ask why God doesn't do something. But the prophet Isaiah tells us that God is actually waiting for us to act!

Isaiah 59:16. "God was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed." NLT

As they say in chess, “It’s your move!”

Chess

P.S. You can watch the video of the entire farewell service at CityLife here. My message starts just after the 59:50 minute mark.

See also Time to Say Goodbye

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The Stresses of Church Work

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I would never suggest that pastors and church leaders work harder than other people ... but church work has its unique challenges and pressures.

Here are five of them:

1. Ministry work is never done. It is open ended. There is never full closure. There is always more to do. It just keeps coming at you - day after day, week after week. There are no finish lines. Finish one counselling appointment and there's another one coming. Get through last weekend and there's another one coming. Preach that sermon and you'll need to start preparing the next one - and it needs to be even better (the continual pressure of forced creativity). Today a baby is born. Such joy. Tomorrow, a church member dies, a tense conflict erupts, or a married couple files for divorce. Such sadness and pain. It's an emotional rollercoaster. And it just keep going. Ministry is relentless. Listen to talk-back radio on Friday afternoons and everyone is saying, "Thank God it's Friday!" Listen to pastors and they're probably thinking, "My God, it's Friday!"

2. There are no boundaries. Ministry and church work will fill as much of your life as you allow it too. Most people have a job, a family and a church community they are a part of. There is usually appropriate segmentation between those spheres. Have a problem with someone at work? At least you can head home or to church and put it behind you for a little while. Have a problem at home? At least you can go to work and get it off your mind for a bit. Pastors don't have that privilege. Work is church is family. One big circle. If something isn't going well, it fills all your world.

3. Not everyone likes you and your family. This is really hard to understand - because us pastors  are such nice people! But it is a reality of life. Criticism will continually come and often from people who really don't even know you. 

4. You can never please everyone all of the time. At any given moment in time, someone is not happy with the way things are. There isn't enough worship, Bible teaching, evangelism, prayer, social justice, mission, or whatever. The sermons are too shallow or too deep, too funny or too serious, too long or too short. The music is too loud or too soft. The lights are too bright or the room is too dark. It goes on and on and on.

5. Much of your life is in the fish bowl. Everyone is watching you and your family ... all of the time. I can never forget going to a men's public toilet on my day off while Nicole was shopping. I was standing at the urinal doing what men do, when someone leant over and said,"Excuse me, are you Mark Conner?" They had heard of me and obviously wanted to chat. Can't even pee in peace!

All of this adds up to quite a lot of stress. No wonder there are 13,000 ex-pastors in Australia today and surveys reveal that 50% of those still in church work are emotionally depleted, depressed or clinically burnt out. It's not easy work.

That's why pastors need our support, encouragement, and prayers.

Of course, it is possible to not only survive the pressures of church work but to actually thrive as a pastor or church leader. How? Only through healthy habits


The Art of Coaching

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The role of a leader includes many tasks, including vision-casting, planning, directing, building teams, communication, training, problem solving and coaching people.

The primary means of leadership development in the Bible is through mentoring and coaching. Think of Jethro and Moses, Moses and Joshua, Samuel and Saul then David, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and his disciples, and Barnabas and Saul. The apostle Paul once wrote, “Jesus is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:28-29).” Our goal should be the same - to help the people on our team become fully mature in Christ – reaching their God-given potential. People rarely do that without input from others – friends, team members, teachers, mentors, and coaches.

John Whitmore, in his book Coaching for Performance, defines coaching as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” In their book TransforMissional Coaching, authors Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl define coaching in the Christian context as: “helping people develop their God-given potential so that they grow personally and make a valuable contribution to the kingdom of God.” Good coaches think in terms of a person’s future potential, not just their past or current performance.

In the excellent book, The Coaching Conversation, Brian Souza uses a fable story to reveal the four types of managers: the Nice-Guy Manager, the Do-it-all-Manager, the Micro-Manager, and the Coach. Through the narrative of the story, he suggests the following three steps:

  1. Change your approach - stop acting like a manager and start acting like a coach.
  2. Create an environment that is conducive to coaching.
  3. Transform the conversation into a weekly constructive coaching conversation.

He goes on to say:

  • As a coach the more you give, the more you’ll get. The more you care, the more your team will contribute.
  • Great coaches consistently get the most out of their people because they consistently put the most into their people.
  • As a coach, the only way you can achieve your potential is to first help your team members achieve theirs.
  • Coaching is not merely something that you, as a manager, must do. A coach is someone that you, as a leader, must become.
  • When all is said and done and we’ve completed this journey we call life, what will matter most is not what we have achieved, but rather who we have become.

The Coaching Process

Through the process of coaching, we are seeking to do two primary things:

  1. Raise awareness.
  2. Build responsibility.

Creating awareness is all about helping the individual see themselves (self-awareness) and their situation (what is happening around them) accurately. People can only deal with what they are aware of. Without awareness, no true change or progress can be made. John Whitmore says that “a coach is not a problem solver, a teacher, an advisor, an instructor or even an expert; he or she is a sounding board, a facilitator, a counsellor, an awareness raiser.”

Building responsibility is the next step. Until an individual accepts and takes responsibility for themselves and their situation, no change will occur. Telling someone to be responsible for something doesn't make them feel responsible for it. People have to choose to be responsible.  

The Power of Questions

Good questions are the best tool for raising awareness and building responsibility because asking is more effective than telling. Bob Logan says, “Good coaching isn’t the art of giving good answers; it is the art of asking good questions.”

Questions are a powerful way to develop people. Even the Bible highlights the impact of questions. God himself often asked questions when in conversation with people (see Genesis 3:8-9). Jesus, although he had so much to say, often used questions when talking with people (see John 1:35-38). Precision questions go straight to the heart. Jesus used questions not because he needed an answer but in order to bring a person to a new level of understanding. Questions help build relationships, are a key to creativity and problem-solving, enhance education and learning, and are an aid to personal growth. After all, experience is not the best teacher; only reflection on experience turns experience into insight.

The GROW Model

John Whitmore has developed a simple but effective model (or mental map) for sequencing good questions. It is called The GROW model.

GOAL – “What do you want? What are you trying to achieve?”

REALITY – “What is happening? What action have you taken so far and what were the effects?”

OPTIONS – “What could you do? What are the alternatives?” Seek possibilities, not one solution.

WILL – “What will you do? When will you do it? What obstacles will there be? How can I help?”

This requires active listening (Proverbs 18:13. James 1:19) so as to gain clarity on the issues. The coaching cycle is ongoing and includes celebrating progress and ‘wins’ along the way. Encourage small steps towards a person’s goal.

Try using the GROW mental map in conversation with someone in your world today - a family member, a friend, a colleague or team member. Only use questions, listen attentively, and refrain from giving advice, just for a while. Notice the impact - on you and them.

Conclusion

Through effective coaching, we can develop the potential of the people who work around us, achieve our goals, and enjoy the journey together.

Recommended Reading


Your Home Base

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Luke 5:16. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. The Message Bible

This is an amazing description of how Jesus lived and did ministry.

  • He loved solitude - by the sea or in the country, on a boat or in a garden. 
  • This required withdrawal from people, busyness and activity. 
  • It was his home base - the place he continually returned to. 
  • He spent as much time there as possible. 
  • Out from here, he left to do ministry and serve the people God had sent him to.
  • His life was full of conversation with God - Father and Spirit; a dance of divinity. 
  • Maybe this was the key to not only his survival from the pressures of life and ministry and also his triumph over the pressure of life and the temptations from the devil.

What's your home base?

[Picture: The Sea of Galilee: View from Magdala]


The Art of Loving Confrontation

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Life can be very rewarding and fulfilling. It can also be very difficult at times. Two of the hardest things to do are handling criticism and confronting people, not that we should love confronting people (!) but learning how to do so in a loving manner. The apostle Paul once wrote in Ephesians 4:15 that one of the marks of a mature church is the ability to “speak the truth in love”. Some people speak the truth but not always in a loving manner. Others are so loving that they never speak the truth. Finding the balance of doing both well is essential.

Being Lovingly Assertive

We all need to be lovingly assertive, when appropriate. Assertiveness is all about being able to assert your rights. Errors in this area can lead to a lot of relational problems. Christian counsellor Arch Hart notes that sometimes as Christians we have adopted a belief that says that it’s not right to be assertive. We should surrender our rights and even be willing to be wronged in the name of love. The key issue is how we define ‘assertiveness’. The truth is that you can be both loving and assertive. Of course, Christian love may involve choosing to sacrifice our rights when appropriate.

Over-assertive people lack tact and sensitivity, hurt other people, steam-roll their ideas and opinions, and tend to be autocratic (‘we’ll do it my way’). In contrast, under-assertive people can’t set limits, they can’t say “no” (without feeling guilty), they are easily manipulated by stronger people, they are unable to express feelings of anger constructively, they avoid conflict situations and shirk responsibilities, they are excessively apologetic (“Oh, I’m sorry!”), they can’t send clear and unambiguous messages, they experience anxiety and guilt when they do not assert themselves, and they tend to fantasise after the conversations (replaying the situation over and over). This often leads to passive-aggressive behaviour. They are always assertive in their imagination (fantasy) but never in reality. How many of us have said some real assertive things in our mind but never had the courage to speak them out! As a result, under-assertive people find that their relationships remain superficial, they develop other unhealthy ways of expressing their anger, and they are often the most stressed people around due to a feeling of helplessness.

There is a balance between ‘under-assertiveness’ and ‘over-assertiveness’. We need to avoid swinging unnecessarily or inappropriately between the two. If you are angry, you have forfeited the right to be assertive. When anger is involved, assertiveness is no longer a healing activity. Aggression is not what assertiveness is about. When you do it right there should usually not be offence.

A Few Thoughts About Confrontation

Confrontation is not easy. In fact, it is very difficult. Confrontation is difficult for a variety of reasons, including: we all fear being disliked, we want everyone to like us, we may be afraid of making things worse (however, usually it is the attitude in which you confront that makes things worse, not the confrontation itself), we may fear rejection, we may find it difficult to share our feelings, we may think that confrontation will destroy love and trust (actually, if done correctly, confrontation can build more love and trust into the relationship) and we may lack confrontational skills. Good leaders learn how to confront in love.

1. Deal with conflicts quickly. Deal with issues the moment they come up. Don’t save all your complaints and problems up and then dump them all on a person. When tensions arise, clear the air immediately and personally. When you let tensions continue without dealing with them, they usually get worse rather than better (Eph.4:26-27).

2. Confront with the right attitude. Don’t be either overeager or too hesitant to confront. Confront, not because it makes you feel good, but because you are committed to seeing people mature in Christ (2 Cor.10:1. 2Tim.2:24. Gal.6:1). Confronting with the right spirit comes out of having the right goal in your confrontation, which is: (a) a better understanding, (b) a positive change, and (c) a growing relationship. The goal is not to ‘win a battle’ or to ‘unload our frustration’. Think Win/Win.

3. Outline the problem clearly. Be open and honest. Clearly define what the other person is doing to cause you a problem, how this makes you feel, and why this is important to you.

4. Seek to understand their perspective. Encourage a response. Get the issue out, then let them talk as long as they need to. Their feelings need expression, so give them time to do this. People may feel shock, hurt or resentment. At this point, your goal is to understand their perspective on the situation. You want to learn and to gain understanding. Don’t automatically assume that you are right and they are wrong. You may not agree with them, but be sure you understand where they are coming from. You may need to repeat or rephrase their comments to ensure you’ve understood correctly.

5. Seek to resolve the issue whether it is an action or an attitude. Re-establish or clarify the issue and ensure understanding or forgiveness. Indicate the desired action be taken. Place the focus on the future at this point. Clearly define what needs to change and what your expectations are. Don’t mistake an emotional release for fixing the problem. Let it happen but move to a resolution.

6. Affirm the person and put the issue in the past. Be positive. Affirm the person, even if you don’t like what they have done (Eph.4:29). Thank them for who they are and what they contribute. Express appreciation for them and your desire to work together. Don’t bring it up again unless the problem reoccurs.

The biggest mistakes we make in confrontation are: failing to get all of the facts (relying on hearsay evidence or subjective impressions), confronting while angry (anger causes you to lose objectivity), being vague about the offence (know what you’re talking about by being - people can’t fix things they can’t see), failing to get the other person’s side of the story, and holding a grudge (don’t keep hostilities but let it go and move on).

Your success or failure as a leader will depend more on your ability to build strong healthy relationships than anything else. Unless you learn to get along with a wide variety of people, your effectiveness as a leader will be greatly diminished. Have the courage and the consideration to learn to confront lovingly.

Discussion Questions:

1. Reflect on a time when a confrontation you were involved in went really well (whether you were on the giving or receiving end). What were the contributing factors?

2. Reflect on a time when a confrontation didn’t go so well. What were the contributing factors?

3. What one insight from today’s teaching or discussion will you apply this next week?


Think Win/Win

WinIn his best selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey noted that when it comes to healthy relationships, mature people think “win/win”.

Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all situations, agreements and solutions. With a Win/Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and are committed to the action plan - there is something in it for everybody and everybody wins. Win/Win sees life as a co-operative, not a competition. One person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others - it’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.

It helps to avoid alternative approaches such as:

1. Win/Lose - “If I win, you lose.”  Most people see life in terms of dichotomies: strong/weak, big/small, master/servant, win/lose etc.  Our society is structured around this type of thinking.  In families where there is conditional love children are taught that life is about comparison with someone else or against some standard.  In peer groups children are taught that acceptance is based on conformity to a standard or norm.  At school there is a grading system which compares each child to the other and determines which is the better.  In business, we operate in a “dog eat dog” environment where there is only room for the survivor at the expense of all others.  In our pastimes such as sport there is only a prize for the winner. Unfortunately, most of the quality we want in our lives depends on our co-operation with others not on whether we or they are better.

2. Lose/Win - “I lose, you win.”  People who think lose/Win are usually quick to please. They seek strength from popularity or acceptance.  They have little courage to express their own feelings and convictions and are easily intimidated by others.  In negotiations, Lose/Win is seen as giving in or giving up.  In leadership style, Lose/Win is permissiveness or indulgence, being “Mr Nice Guy” even if nice guys are walked on.

3. Lose/Lose - Some people are so centred on an enemy, so totally obsessed with the other person’s behaviour that they become blind to everything except their desire for that person to lose, even if it means losing themselves. Lose/Lose is the philosophy of war. “If I can’t have it, then neither will they.”

4. Win - People with the Win mentality don’t necessarily want someone else to lose - what matters is that they win.  This is probably the most common approach to everyday negotiation.  Win thinking is in terms of securing your own ends and leaving others to secure theirs.  “Look out for No. 1”

5. Win/Win or No Deal - This is a higher expression of Win/Win which says that if we can’t find a solution that would benefit us both then we agree to disagree agreeably - No Deal.  With No Deal as an option, you are liberated because you are able to say that it would be better not to deal than to live with a decision that isn’t right for us both.  If you can’t reach a true Win/Win, then No Deal is better.

Which option is best?

The most effective option depends on the situation:-

  • Win/Lose - This might be used to stimulate business
  • Lose/Win - If you value a relationship and the issue isn’t important.
  • Win - If someone’s life is in danger etc.

However, in most situations the best result will be achieved with a Win/Win approach - particularly when there are people and relationships involved (interdependence). 

Jesus himself taught that we should think about how other people like be treated then grab the initiative and treat them that way (Matthew 7:12). That's win win!


Navigating Transitions

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At a recent conference, I shared a message about "Navigating Transitions". 

Here is a summary of the main insights I shared:

1. Trust God for the Future.

Life is a journey with many seasons. We can have a sense of where we have come from, where we are now and where we are going. Seasons are marked by endings and beginnings. Occasionally, there are unexpected turns in the road. Some things are within our control while many things aren’t. 

Placing our trust in God is based on a belief that his providence is undergirding everything (Romans 8:28). Trust is active faith, not fatalism. We don't know what tomorrow holds but we do know who holds tomorrow in his hands. He is the Alpha (the beginning) and the Omega (the end). He has begun a good work in each one of us and he will complete it (Philippians 1:6).We can sleep at night because of that assurance.

Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. NLT 

In many ways, experiencing change is a little bit like letting go of one trapeze and you still haven't taken hold of the next one. That's a scary feeling! It requires trust in God that he will not let us fall and that there is a new trapeze for us to lay hold of.

We grow in our faith as we build experiences of God’s faithfulness. When David faced Goliath (a giant beyond anything he had fought before) he recalled God’s help in defeating the lion and the bear. We can do the same, as we recall God's faithfulness in the past. We know he will be with us today and tomorrow. 

2. Understand that the Church's Mission Remains the Same.

Each church's mission should be clear and should continue under the new leadership. Just like Moses passed the baton to Joshua, the mission is bigger than any one leader or group of people. There is more of the mission yet to become a reality as God's vision continues to unfold for the next horizon … then the next and the next. Just like individuals have a unique calling and purpose, so do churches. God has not finished using the church for his purposes yet.

3. Prepare for Change. 

Change is coming. People are never replaced but roles are. A new leader will have their own unuqie personality and style. Things will be different. That means some grief and loss - for me too. Endings require us to ‘let go’ of past (the way we were) yet endings make way for new beginnings.

Isaiah 43:18-19. Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Message Bible

Change is not something that many people like because it makes them feel uncomfortable. It implies leaving the old familiar ways behind and stepping out into new, uncharted waters. It definitely does not sound safe. However, God is in the change business and his plan requires us to change. We are not what God wants us to be yet. God is not finished with us. We must move on. We need to change and grow.

People hold the key to change, and the ability and willingness of individuals to change is the key factor to the future of any group. Change is a process that is both exciting and difficult, and resistance  to it is natural and should be expected. The key is to turn resistance into change-readiness. Change-readiness is an attitude that is open and receptive to new ideas, excited rather than anxious about change, challenged (not threatened) by transitions, and committed to change as an ongoing process. Change-readiness is taking actions to anticipate and initiate change, to challenge the status quo, to create instead of react to change and lead rather than follow.

Individuals and churches that are good react quickly to change. Individuals and churches that are great create change. We must be forward-thinking people. The apostle Paul made it his aim to forget the things that were behind and to stretch himself forward to what was ahead. He refused to become comfortable or complacent. From his point of view, this way of thinking is a mark of spiritual maturity (Philippians 3:10-15).

In case you had not noticed, God is a God of new things. He has made us new creations, given us new hearts, a new spirit and a new covenant. We live in a new day; we have a new name; we have a new commandment; we have been given new garments; His mercies are new every morning; we drink of the new wine; we are headed for a new Jerusalem and eventually a new heaven and a new earth. In the end, God makes all things new!

Embracing the new things God has for us implies leaving the old behind. It requires change and transition. God wants freshness in our lives not stagnation, staleness or sameness. God sent the manna to Israel fresh daily. It could not be kept for the next day or it would rot and stink (Exodus 16:12-31). In the same way, we need to keep receiving the new things God has for us. He wants us to be willing, open and ready to change. Let's be change ready rather than change resistant!

4. Keep Serving Faithfully Side by Side.

During seasons of change, it is important to look after yourself (Acts 20:28). Keep your spiritual tank full through prayer, feed on God’s Word, manage your internal stress, keep healthy and fit, and be sure to allow ample time for recreation – have fun, enjoy life, and do some things outside of ministry.

Rom 12:11-13. Don't burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. MB

Times of transition also provide us with the opportunity to strengthen our relationships. Life is a journey and it's not just about us and God. He’s called us to do life in community with others. We are created with a need for relationship. It is ‘not good’ that we are alone (Genesis 2). During times of transition, change, and adversity, we need each other more than ever. Don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with some ‘safe’ people who you can be open and real with. Share your heart. Externalise your feelings. This often helps to bring clarity as you process what you are experiencing. Open conversation is vital.

Hebrews 10:23-25. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. NLT

5. Pray for this Important Time.

Pray. Ask for God's wisdom and guidance. Read your own heart. Make your own calling sure. How is your own passion, enjoyment, fulfilment, dreams, capacity, fit, energy and growth? Is it time to push through some discouragement of complacency or maybe to give yourself more time settle in (possibly to a new role or new situation)? Or is God unsettling you for a time of re-positioning yourself? How's your own race going? I have always had the attitude of doing what I am doing now with the commitment that I may do it forever BUT holding it lightly enough so that I am willing to ‘let it go’ whenever prompted by God.

We can transition well. There are good times ahead!


The Power of Priorities

“Most major goals are not achieved because we spend time doing second things first.” Robert J McKain

 “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” John Maxwell

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” William James.

ParetoKnowing what is important (our priorities) and focusing our time and efforts on these things is a key to greater productivity and effective leadership. Yet these are two of the most difficult things to get people to do. Conventional thinking is linear and assumes that all activities and tasks are equally important. But research reveals that not all work produces the same level of results. In fact, there is a universal imbalance between effort (input) and reward (output. Only a minority of activities produce a great impact while a majority of tasks have only a small impact.

This is referred to as The Pareto Principle (named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population) or The 80/20 Principle. It says that 80% of our results come from 20% of our activities.

Greater productivity can often be achieved by doing less rather than doing more. Effective people redirect their efforts away from tasks that only have a small impact towards those that have the largest impact. By aiming for quality rather quantity you will see your impact increase exponentially. This doesn't mean that we write off everything else but this principle helps us tap into the power of simplicity and of the impact of focus.

This simple concept can be applied to any sphere of life, ranging from business to friends and quality of life.

Applications

  1. Identity the 20% of your activities or tasks that produce 80% of your results.
  1. Focus (concentrate) your time here.
  1. As a result, you will decrease the time you spend on less meaningful matters. It’s about maximum result from minimum amount of effort. By dedicating yourself to work harder for a shorter period of time, you’ll find you work improved and your free time expanded.

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Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you believe that this principle is true?
  1. Do you think Jesus practiced this?
  1. How does this principle apply to you in your work or vocational role?
  1. How does this principle apply to the efforts of your team?
  1. How does this apply to your personal life?

Also, check out Pareto in Practice.


First Things First

Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you (Jesus).

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Good is the enemy of best.

Establishing priorities is essential to life and ministry effectiveness. Not every task or project is created equal. The challenge is to put “first things first”. Basically, all of us spend our time in one of four ways, as illustrated in the Time Management Matrix. This matrix defines activities as “urgent” or “not urgent”, and “important or “not important”. Most people discover that they spend far too much time responding to the urgent crises of Quadrants I and III, escaping occasionally for survival to the not urgent, unimportant time wasters of Quadrant IV.

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The ideal is to work toward eliminating time spent in Quadrants III and IV, and increasing time spent in Quadrant II. As you invest more time om planning, prevention and relationship-building activities of Quadrant II, you’ll find that you spend far less time picking up the broken pieces in Quadrant I or reacting to the urgent demands of other people in Quadrant III.

Applications:

  1. What one thing could you do (that you aren’t doing now), that if you did on a regular basis, would make a significant positive difference in your personal life? What one thing in your ministry life would bring similar results? Schedule both of these things weekly.
  2. Draw a Time Management Matrix and estimate how much time you (and/or your team) spend in each quadrant. Then log your time for 3 days in 15 minute intervals. How accurate was your estimate? Make needed changes by concentrating on Quadrant II.
  3. Start organising your life on a weekly basis. Write down your roles and goals. Then incorporate your goals into a specific action plan.

Jesus' Preparation for Ministry

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At the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), Jesus began turning his attention towards his ministry to the people His Father had sent him to. Jesus’ preparation for ministry included his baptism in water (Luke 3:21-23), his relationship with his Father, the empowerment of the Spirit (Luke 4:1-2), and his defeat of the devil and his temptations (Luke 4:3-13).

Jesus prepared for 30 years for 3½ years of significant ministry. It has been said, that people today go to Bible College for 3½ years to prepare for 30 years of ministry.

Proper preparation is essential.

Anything significant is preceded by intensive and thorough preparation (often behind the scenes). Things just don't happen. In fact, the quality of the preparation determines the quality and success of events.

  • A delicious meal requires hours in the kitchen when no one else is around.
  • An enjoyable musical performance requires hours of practice and preparation.
  • A superb sports performance demands hours of training and preparation.
  • A doctor spends years studying before he or she ever take the tools and begins to operate (aren’t you glad!).
  • A significant ministry of high impact also requires the same intensity of preparation. God often takes his time.

The better the preparation, the more significant and lasting the impact. So in the spiritual. God prepares by His Spirit and we also must prepare. 

God sent John the Baptist to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 1:11-17, 76-80; 3:1-6) He was God's prophetic messenger sent before the coming of Messiah “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:27).”

Every significant event in the purposes of God is preceded by a time of intense preparation.

Common Misunderstandings about Ministry:

1. “Ministry is only for people who work on staff at the church”.

This viewpoint misses the fact that every believer is in “full time ministry” wherever they may be – in church, in the marketplace, at school, in the neighbourhood or at home.

2. “Significant ministry just happens.”

This perspective misses the process that God uses to develop us over time and through many life experiences.

3. “You can’t minister until you’re perfect.”

This attitude causes you to keep putting things off until “one day” and this can lead to you missing the opportunities for God to use you today. God doesn’t want you in “school” forever. Yes, we keep learning and growing, but we have to get out there and begin “doing” what we’ve been taught.

What has God been preparing you for?


What Leaders Do

LeadershipLast Thursday night, we had our first All Leader's Summit at CityLife Church. It's always good to get tighter with such an enthusiastic and committed group of people, who help care for our congregation and lead our various ministries.

At the meeting, I took some time to review what it is that leaders actually do. Here is a summary of what I shared ...

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘leader’ or ‘leadership’?

My Story - Personally, I never saw myself as a ‘leader’. It was someone else who first pointed out a leadership gift in my life when I was about 18 years of age. I started out as a volunteer leader over the worship ministry of our church, a role I filled for four years before coming on to church staff. Over the last 30 years, I’ve been involved in a variety of leadership roles. Each of them was taken on with a bit of hesitation as I wasn’t sure at the time if I had what it would take. Often I felt like I had been thrown into the deep end and having to do things I hadn’t done before. But over time, I continued to grow in my leadership – through God’s help, learning from other leaders, some studies, and lots of experience. I became involved in leadership because someone else believed in me and I was given an opportunity to serve. Over time I gained experience, developed my skills, and learned how to lead effectively. I was more of a ‘reluctant leader’ who needed a lot of encouragement to get involved in leading. It wasn’t something I set out to do or even aspired too. 

Your Story - What about you? Do you see yourself as a leader … or not? If you are a leader, maybe your journey was similar to mine – an unfolding of your calling over time – OR maybe you always saw yourself as a leader and wanted to be one. On the other hand, maybe you aren’t a leader and you never see yourself as being one. Many people avoid leadership at all costs and are reluctant to get involved. Maybe you have feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you don’t feel ‘good enough’ to be a leader. Maybe you think that to be a leader, you have to have it all together. Maybe you feel that the commitment level is too high (in time and effort). Maybe you’ve had a previous negative experience in leadership.

God and Leadership - What does God think about all of this? Does he need leaders anyway? I believe he does. When God desires to do something on earth he usually works directly through individual people. He first calls them and then them he empowers them to carry out his purpose and plan. He also holds them accountable for their obedience to his instructions. Leadership expert, John Maxwell, says that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” In others words, when something good is happening it can usually be traced back to a leader who is leading effectively. On the other hand, if something bad is happening, or things are falling apart, it can usually be traced to a lack of leadership or to poor leadership. Leadership matters. This truth can be seen in any group of people, including a family, a team, a business, an organisation, a church, or a nation. No group or enterprise tends to rise above the quality of its leadership. Personally, I believe that God calls ALL of us to lead in some way. Yes, there are certain people who God gives a gift of leadership to, but all of us need to lead to some degree based on our unique style and level of calling.

What Do Leaders Do?

Let’s look at three things that leaders do. This will be helpful for everyone, whether you’re an existing leader (in any context), a potential leader, a follower, or someone who thinks they could never ever lead! We’ll take the apostle Paul as an example of a godly and effective leader. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, he said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ”. This short phrase contains three important principles for effective leaders.

1. Visualise a Better Future. Notice that Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor.11:1).” He doesn’t want people to stay where they are. He wants them to move forward to become more like Christ and to pursue his purposes on earth. A good leader has a sense of vision and direction. They are going somewhere, following something or someone. They are moving forward and seeking to get others to do the same. They can visualise a better future and they’re working to make that a reality. According to Bill Hybels, vision is a “picture of a preferred future that produces passion.” Leaders see something that excites them and gets them moving. Nothing much happens without vision. However, when someone gets a vision … something powerful begins to happen and significant movement takes place. What about you? Do you have a vision? Do you have a dream? Do you have a cause that you’re living for and working towards? Vision is very important. Without a vision (a prophetic revelation from God, a sense of purpose and direction) we will live an undisciplined, careless and casual life (Prov.29:18).” With vision, we live lives motivated by a sense of purpose and meaning.

Where does vision come from? Well, we can come up with our own vision for our life (ambition) OR we can take time to see God’s vision – for the world, for the church, for our church, for our ministry. Catching a glimpse of God’s vision takes time and effort. However, when we turn aside to see what God wants to do, he will show us his plans and purposes (Hab.2:1-3). What do you see for the future - for your own life, your family, your career, your ministry, this world, and your church? What do you see through your efforts?

2. Initiate Change - Once a leader starts to visualise a better future, they take the lead and endeavour to get people to move forward. They create movement. An effective leader initiates change. Notice that Paul said, “Follow me ...” Vision must be translated into action. Otherwise it is nothing more than a fantasy. Leaders must lead! They take initiative in changing the situation. The Character First organisation defines initiative as “recognising and doing what needs to be done, before being asked to do it.” Followers need to be asked to do something. Leaders see what needs to be done and getting doing it. Leaders see where they are now (today’s reality) and where they want to be (tomorrow’s vision). Then they take appropriate steps of action (today). Leaders take responsibility for changing things for the better. Instead of blaming others for ‘what is’, they getting moving towards’ what could be’. Leaders are not reactive (people affected by their environment, circumstances or conditions). They are proactive (driven by values that affect choices).

Once you visualise a better future and begin initiate change so that it becomes a reality – you are leading (whether you see yourself as a ‘leader’ or not). That’s leadership. In reality, many people today are leading, in the true sense of the word, without seeing themselves as leaders AND unfortunately many any people who have titles or positions of leadership are no longer leading or are leading poorly.

3. Present an Example - Thirdly, an effective leader leads by example. Paul said, “Follow me”. The Greek word “follow” has the idea of imitation not just of direction. “Imitate me, be like me. I am your example. Do as I do.” This was a common theme and emphasis in Paul’s leadership (1 Cor. 11:1; 4:16. 2 Thess. 3:7, 9. 1 Thess. 1:6). He understood that words alone were not enough to bring about change in people’s lives. They needed to be accompanied by a real life model that believers could imitate. Leadership is about influencing other people positively and your greatest influence is who you are, not what you say. People tend to do what they see other people they respect doing.

Each one of us is influencing and being influenced. The issue is not whether we influence others but what kind of an influencer we will be. What do you want people to be like? You be that kind of person. Do you want the people who follow you to be friendly? Then you be friendly. Do you want them to be enthusiastic? Then you be enthusiastic. Do you want them to be prayerful? Then you lead the way through your example. Whatever you want people to do, you do it first. You are being watched! So think about the kind of example you are giving people to follow. 

See: A Great Sermon

In doing these three things you become a VIP – very important person - because you make the world a better place for everyone around you. If you are already a leader, we need you. Take the lead! Visualise a better future, initiate change, and lead by example. Many of you are potential leaders, and we need you too. Step up and take up the challenge. Consider becoming a leader. Followers, we need you too. Let’s move forward together to make the world a better place and into all that God has for us.

You can be a leader! You can rise up and be used mightily by God. You can lead and influence others according to your gifting and passion. The world and the church need people to rise up and aspire to godly and effective leadership. YOU can lead! YES YOU CAN.

Reflection Questions

  1. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘leader’?
  2. Do you see yourself as a leader? If so, why? If not, why not?
  3. What do you think are common reasons why some people avoid leadership?
  4. What do you think leaders do?
  5. Think of some good leaders you have observed (in business, church or community). What makes them so good?
  6. Think of some leaders you know who you don’t think are very effective. What is missing?
  7. What annoys you? Could this be an indicator of a calling from God for you to do something about it?
  8. If you could change anything in the world at all, what would it be? What could you do about it?
  9. If you could change anything in the church at all, what would it be? What could you do about it?
  10. Discuss the 3 things that leaders do from Paul’s life. Can you think of an example of someone who does this well?
  11. What are some ways you could take the lead more – at home, at your workplace, or in the church?
  12. What would the benefits be if everyone started thinking more like a ‘leader’?
  13. What are the rewards of leadership? Do you think it is worth taking up the challenge?

The Power of Focus

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Proverbs 4:25-27 says (Message Bible translation):

  • Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions.
  • Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
  • Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.

Here is some good and helpful advice for life:

1. Look straight ahead. We need to have a clear vision and direction for our lives. Know where you are going. This requires time aside in prayer and reflection about God's will for our life and the options we have available to us. There are many things we could do or places we could go, but what will we decide to do with the one life we have? What does God have in store for us?

2. Ignore distractions. We then need to focus on our intended direction. Avoid swerving to the left or right. Many things will seek to distract us and pull us to the side.

3. Take one step at a time. In addition to a vision, we need a plan for getting from where we are now to where we want to be. Craft this, then work on your next action step.

How does this apply to your life today? 


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.5)

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5. Believe that God is with you.

Joshua 1:5, 9. “I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you … God, your God, is with you every step you take.”

Joshua was promised God's constant, personal, un-ending presence - “I will be with you; I won’t give up on you, I won’t leave you.” For his next step, the step after that, and every step he would ever take! 

Jesus also promises us as his followers his personal presence. He is: Immanuel = “God with us”. It's guaranteed. We don't have to ask him for it. We can simply thank him for it.

Jesus' presence means we also have his power and everything we need!

WHAT is calling out your courage right now? Take a moment and share one challenge you’re facing right now with a friend and then pray for one another – speak words of life, faith and blessing. 

Pray for fresh courage. 


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.4)

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4. Don’t walk alone. 

Joshua 1:2. “Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people.”

Joshua's journey was not a solitary journey. It was a community walking together. Joshua was moving forward with the elders, the leadership community, and all of Israel.

He challenged them to help each other (Joshua 1:12-15). They were to stick together. Unity was vital. Discord, division or dissent in the ranks would threaten their future. They were many tribes (diversity) - but ONE nation (unity).

In the same way, Jesus' church is ONE body with many members - different but united. “United we stand - divided we fall.” We face the same dangers today - disunity, internal fighting, and division. How we view the 'other' is vital. It's so easy to say, "Those young people ..." or "Those old people ..." or that ministry or that group. But them is us! It’s about WE not ME. It's about turning from competition to co-operation by honouring each other.

Leaders are to be in partnership together with others - supporting each other. Leadership can be lonely at times but no one is meant to walk alone. Adversity doesn’t destroy people but rather lack of encouragement. We all need “safe” people in our world who can ask us, “How are you ... really?”

I am so thankful for my wife Nicole and our family, along with friends, team members and associates in ministry who are such a support and encouragement to me as a leader. They help provide perspective, insight, and wisdom in my journey. Even Jesus had 12 others who he did life and ministry with. When you have a TEAM, together everyone achieves more. 

Don't walk alone.

[Part 5 tomorrow]


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.3)

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3. Follow God’s instructions. 

Joshua 1:8. “Don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed."

God have given Moses the ‘book of the law’ to guide them. When we hear the word 'law' we often think of legalism or rules. But to Israel, the Torah was a revelation of God’s character and it contained principles for maintaining a loving, covenant relationship with God. His commands were always “for their good”. Joshua was to read, meditate, study, and obey God's instructions. Only then would he know success in his mission. It was easy for him to drift. God's instructions provided a compass and a map for his journey.

Jesus commanded his followers to “Go and make disciples … teaching them to DO all I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20). Today, in addition to the Old Testament and the lessons we can learn from it's stories, we have the Gospels which contain the stories and teachings of Jesus about how to live LIFE in the kingdom. The Christian life is about “life before death” not just “life after death”!

By reading God's Word, as contained in the Scriptures, we can regularly re-calibrate our lives. It is so easy to end up with a culturized form of Christianity that looks nothing like Jesus. God’s Word provides us with encouragement, direction, and wisdom for our lives. It is our “daily bread”. One good meal once a week, no matter how nutricious and delicious, won’t get you through the week! In the same way, no weekly sermon will feed you spiritually. Learn to be a “self-feeder”. 

[Part 4 tomorrow]


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.2)

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2. Face your challenges.

Joshua 1:6, 9. “Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors … Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged.”

God said to Joshua three times, “Be strong & courageous!” He must have known that challenges were ahead - rivers to cross, cities to conquer, and giants to defeat. Between every promise and its fulfilment there is a battle! He had to possess his inheritance. The reality was that this was a momentus, risky, humanly impossible task. Joshua was leading a group of nomadic herders to take fortified cities! The fears were very real. 

In the same way, the Jesus Mission will take courage to face the inevitable challenges. As I travel from time to time and talk to church leaders all around the world, in the midst of many good things happening, everyone has challenges! Leaders are a bit like ducks - they often look calm on the sufrare ... but they are paddling like mad underneath!

Challenges have the potential to develop resilience in us. The hard times make us strong. Great leaders navigate great challenges. Challenges are the crucible where greatness emerges. The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is the same word for ‘opportunity’. What do you see?

[See more Quotes about Courage]

In their book Finding the Courage to Lead, leadership experts Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner note that leadership doesn’t happen without courage. In fact, leadership can be defined as “courage in action.” Courage is not being fearless so much as it is being able to control one’s fear. Courage requires making a choice in the face of adversity. It is situational and personal. All the stories they research about moments of courage involved hardship, struggle, challenge, or suffering. Everyone has moments of courage. They are not necessarily monumental, life and death struggles. More often they involve meaningful encounters with everyday challenges (taking a stand, making a tough choice, quitting a job, caring deeply enough to act). Courage is not just for heroes after all. It may be precious but it is not rare. It is within you. You may not call on it very often, but its there when you need it.

WHAT is calling out your courage right now? Time pressures, family, finances, conflict, health, coping with change, work, fatigue, habits, negative emotions, keeping fresh? What courageous conversations do you need to have? With other people? With yourself (about your values, challenges, your fears)?

Don’t run!

Don’t ignore them!

Don’t be afraid !

Don’t be discouraged …

FACE your challenges head on … You can do this!

[Part 3 tomorrow]


How to Be a Courageous Leader (Pt.1)

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Last night at our church leader's meeting, I shared some thoughts from the life of Joshua as an encouragement for us to be courageous leaders today. Here is a summay:

Joshua 1:1-9. After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses ‘assistant:  "Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I'm giving to the People of Israel. I'm giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on – just as I promised Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River - all the Hittite country - and then west to the Great Sea. 

It's all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I'll be with you. I won't give up on you; I won't leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you're going.

And don't for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed. Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take. [The Message Bible]

This is a new day for Israel. Over 600 years have passed since the promise of land was given to Abraham. But now the next stage of the adventure begins! The long awaited moment - a dream becoming reality. God commissions Joshua afresh for the task ahead …

1. Accept your God-given mission.

Joshua 1:2, 7. “Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people … Give it everything you have, heart and soul …”

God’s eternal purposes are outworked through the generations of the righteous. Each generatiopn has three tasks: (1) reach back and receive their inheritance and heritage from the previous generation, (2) run their own race by serving their generation, and (3) passing the baton to the next generation. God’s promises to Abraham included a promised land. Moses helped deliver Israel out of Egypt. Now it is Joshua’s time - move forward, get going, cross the river, let go of the past and embrace the future. Joshua was challenged to embrace his calling - wholeheartedly (vs.7) - to accept his mission.

The Jesus Mission as contained in the Great Commission (Mt.28. Acts 1:8) is a similar moment. This comprehensive, holistic mission was given to 11 people! They were a bit slow to get going, but eventually they did … and there's still more to do! “Cross the Jordan” is similar to “Go into all world.”

Jesus wants every church to be a Mission Church and every Christian living their life "on mission".

What about you? What is your personal calling and contribution to the Jesus mission? What has God asked YOU to do? What’s your primary calling? Fulfil your ministry. Focus on your assignment. Get clarity on this.  

The well-known movie series Mission Impossible begins with a mission invitation: "Your mission, should you choose to accept it .... is ..."

Put aside any doubts, fears or uncertainties and accept your God-given mission. Maybe for the first time ... maybe for the hundredth time! Say “YES” again.

It's time for “ALL in!”

[Part 2 tomorrow]


A Call to Courage

Courage wordle

The apostle Paul finished his letter to the church at Corinth, which was facing many challenges at the time, both internally and externally ...

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 1 Corinthians. 15:58. NLT

Bill Hybels writes this in his excllent book Courageous Leadership ... 

"No matter how difficult the hardship, no matter how long the particular storm lasts, no matter how dark and scary it gets, no matter how the winds how and the waves crash … choose the path of courage. Be steadfast, immovable, endure. Decide in advance you are never going to quit. That’s courageous leadership!” 

Mary Anne Radmacher once said, "Courage doesn't always ROAR. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' "

Aristotle said, "You will never do anything in this world without courage."

C.S. Lewis said, "Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."

Dorothy Bernard said, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers."

Mark Twain said, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not the absence of fear."

Victor Frankl said, "There is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bear witness that a person has the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer."

Napoleon said, "Courage isn't having the strength to go on, it is going on when you don't have the strength."

Winston Churchill said, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

"Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." Unknown.

God said to Joshua, "Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take." Joshua 1:9. MB

Do you need to hear a call to courage today?

I do.


Halftime Australia

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Only one hunderd years ago the average human life span was less than 50 years. Today, we are one of the first generations to live long enough to have two considerably lengthy halves of life. Even at the age of 50, although you will have already had 30 years of work and contribution, you have a possible additional 'second half' of another 30 years or more of contribution. In our first half we tend to focus on whatever we define as 'success'. It's wise to have a good 'halftime' experience in order to reflect on our life and ensure that our second half has a greater focus on 'significance'. 

Bob Buford writes about this life perspective in his best-selling book Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance. Building on this concept, the Halftime Institute exists to assist people from all walks of life to pause, reflect and discover what they want to achieve in the second half of their life.

Halftime Australia is led by my good friend, John Sikkema. They provide a range of services including coaching, personal mentoring and round tables with groups of people seeking this similar clarity.

I highly recommend this organisation to you, knowing it will greatly benefit your life, as it has mine. Why not give John a call and see how Halftime could assist you in your life journey.


Bringing Out the Best in Others

DisI love the story of a man who had dealings with two British prime ministers, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. He said of Gladstone, “Whenever I came away from a conversation with him I was left with the feeling of how brilliant he was.” He said of Disraeli, “Whenever I came away from a conversation with Disraeli I was left with the feeling of how brilliant I was.” 

Disraeli probably earned the right then to quip:

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”

How can you bring out the best in other people today?

When you enter a room, don't have as your underlying script, "Here I am!" but rather "There you are!"


Developing Confidence (Pt.5)

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Here are my own favourite confidence builders, gleaned from years of life and ministry experience:

Confidence Builders

1. SEE yourself as God sees you. Your words and actions are a reflection of how you see yourself. Therefore, you cannot constantly live and/or minister in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. If you think you are a "grasshopper" you will act like one (Numbers 13:33). If you think you are more than able, you will act with that confidence. Gideon had to change the way he saw himself in order to conquer fear and become the mighty warrior God saw he could become (Judges 6:12-14). See yourself as God's child - deeply loved and of great worth, value and significance (Psalm 139:14). You are loved, called and empowered by God! God makes heroes our of ordinary people.

2. LEARN all you can. Ask and receive wisdom. Gain knowledge. We are all confident at something because we learned how. Anything is easy when you know how. Receive training. Prepare well. The better you prepare, the more confident you will be. Gain confidence in new areas.

3. Gain EXPERIENCE. Past successes provide confidence for today. Get a few wins under your belt. David's defeat of the lion and the bear when no one was looking gave him confidence to run towards Goliath the giant in the presence of crowds of people looking on. Start where you are and take baby steps of faith. If you aren't managing well what you currently have been entrusted with, why expect more? Learn from your failures too.

4. Allow OTHERS to Speak into Your Life. People tend to become what those closet to them believe they can become. Our friends/peers have a great influence on us. Are the people around you confidence knockers or confidence builders? Spend time with positive people who believe in you and encourage you to be all you can be in God.

5. Don’t COMPARE yourself with others. Learn from others but don't copy or imitate (2 Corinthians 10:12). Find your own voice. God doesn't want clones! YOU are unique. Be the best you can be for God’s glory. When it comes to skill or knowledge, there is always someone better than you and someone not as good as you. Simply be the best you can be. God’s gift to you is your potential. Your gift back to him is what you do with it. You will be held accountable for only what you received. I can't be someone else but I can be ME! So can you.

6. Cling to GOD. Our confidence is to be in God. That's how David defeated Goliath when everyone else was paralysed with fear and intimidation (1 Samuel 17). Through prayer and dependence on God we can draw on the assistance of the Holy Spirit who is our Helper. God gives grace to the humble. Trust in God - HE is able to do way above what we could ask, think or imagine.

Prayer

Confidence rarely strikes us like a lightning bolt. It often begins with a simple choice - to step out and BE confident in God! May you have a fresh encounter with God today … resulting in a fresh impartation of confidence for life and ministry.

You can boldly declare:

  • “I can BE who God says I can BE!”
  • “I can DO what God says I can DO!”

Developing Confidence (Pt.4)

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Confidence Builders

Your confidence can grow.

What from? Here's a list that I collected from our recent staff meeting:

  • Faith in God.
  • Encouragement and affirmation from other people.
  • Success.
  • Good preparation.
  • Self-belief.
  • Someone believing in you.
  • Forgiveness.
  • The company we keep.
  • Experience.
  • Being empowered by others.
  • Training.
  • God's Word.
  • An encounter with God.
  • Using your spiritual gifts.
  • Practice. 

What builds your confidence? Take some time to think about it. It's important to know how to build yourself up or encourage yourself in God.

Tomorrow I'll share what I've learned about developing confidence. 

[Part 5]


Developing Confidence (Pt.3)

Developing_self_confidence

Confidence Knockers

Your confidence will come under attack.

What from? Here's a list that I collected from a recent staff meeting as we all brain-stormed around our life and leadership experiences:

  • Doubt.
  • Mistakes or failure.
  • Fear.
  • Criticism or negative words from other people.
  • Disappointment.
  • Intimidation.
  • Negative 'self-talk'.
  • Unmet expectations.
  • Lack of knowledge.
  • Poor physical health.
  • Tiredness.
  • Limitations.
  • Opposition.
  • Lack of opportunity.
  • Comparison with others
  • Bullying or abuse fron other people.
  • Unresolved conflict.
  • Discouragement.
  • Frustration.
  • Lack of encouragement.

What destroys your confidence? Take some time to think about it. What's holding you back or holding you down at the moment? We all need to know our enemy if we are going to overcome and develop the confidence God calls us to.

Tomorrow we'll look at some confidence builders.

[Part 4]


Developing Confidence (Pt.2)

Developing_self_confidence

The quality of confidence can be defined as: faith, belief, trust, assurance, certitude, being sure, undisturbed calm. It is a spirit of faith that is certain of success, yet not afraid of failure. 

Every person used by God reaches their potential through confidence in God - despite difficulties, challenges and obstacles.

Encounters with God

Think of what happened to these people after an encounter with God:

  • Abraham left home to become a great nation.
  • Esther conquered fear realising she had come to the kingdom for ‘such as time as this’ - to rescue her people.
  • Moses led Israel out of Egypt.
  • Joshua led Israel into Promised Land.
  • David defeated Goliath.
  • Mary overcame public shame, criticism and gossip to become the mother of Jesus.
  • After Pentecost, Peter preached with boldness. Contrast that to his denial of Jesus before the coming of the Spirit.

Confidence before God leads to confidence within yourself then confidence before others and even confidence in the face of opposition.

Of course, we want to avoid over-confidence, which is more about self-confidence than confidence in God. False confidence can lead to arrogance, presumption and boasting. Pride goes before a fall but God exalts the humble. 

Lack of Confidence

Most leaders I know deal with a lack of confidence. They face regular feelings of fear, unbelief, doubt, inadequacy, inferiority, insecurity, and intimidation.

Timothy was a young leader with a good faith from a godly heritage and good character but he was shy and lacking in confidence. That is why the aposlte Paul wrote to him and said:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7. NIV

Godly Confidence

The apostle Paul models a godly confidence when he says: 

“I can do all things (that's confidence!) through Christ who strengthens me (that's dependence!).” Philippians 4:13.

Confidence (like passion and faith) is NOT permanent! You can gain it, you can lose it, you can maintain it, you can build on it and you can grow it.

Tomorrow we will look at some confidence knockers then some confidence builders. 

[Part 1] [Part 3]


Developing Confidence (Pt.1)

Developing_self_confidence

This week, we want to reflect on the area of confidence.

Let's start by reading and meditating on these statements from the pages of Scripture.

Ephesians 1:18. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called — his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. NLT

Ephesians 3:12. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. NIV

Philippians 1:6. Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. NIV

Psalm 27:3, 13 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident … I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. NIV

Psalm 71:5. For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.

Isaiah 30:15. This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. NLT

Hebrews 5:16. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrew 10:35. Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

Hebrews 11:1-2. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

1 John 5:14-15. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Tomorrow, we'll unpack this important quality further. [Part 2]


A Personal MBA

MbaJesus once said that the children of this world are sometimes wiser than the children of light. That wasn't a compliment! We can learn a lot from those who achieve and accomplish things in fields such as business, arts, sport or leadership. There is wisdom to be gained from the experience of others.

In the business world, the most desired education is an MBA - a Masters in Business Administration. People will often pay a lot of money to earn such a degree, and especially from some of the most reputable universities around the world. 

Josh Kaufman begs to differ. He strongly believes that self-education can be just as effective and acquired for a fraction of the cost. Check out his web site at www.personalmba.com and have a read of his manifesto. You might then want to read his highly educational book by the same title - Personal MBA. Then have a look at the excellent reading list he has compiled on a wide variety of business and life-related topics. 

Worth checking out!

 


The Dark Side of Charisma

Char

When we think of charisma, we think of inspiring, bold, self-confident leaders who attract many followers who believe in their clear and compelling vision. But is there a danger in an organisation becoming too dependent on a particular person and of a cult of personality developing? We want to build organisations that thrive beyond one person and that understand that a whole team of people are leading the organisation. 

Some leadership researchers have noted the dark side of charisma:

1. Leaders sometimes go from confident to arrogant, from bold to excessive in their risk taking.

2. They begin to have delusions of their infallibility and begin to go from consultative to simply suppressing those dissenting views.

3. They alienate their followers because they begin to take all the credit for their success.

4. They fail to develop successors.

5. They begin to develop impulsive behaviour and  failure to acknowledge and learn from failure. 

Some leaders go way beyond the dark side and are examples of cults of personality, who cultivate hero worship among their followers. 

Professor Michael A. Roberto observes that "there are negative charismatic leaders who are described as having personalised power orientation: they want to get people devoted to them as individuals as opposed to an idea, concept, product or strategy. Positive charismatic leaders, on the other hand, have a socialised power orientation, which means that they seek internalisation of values in their followers. they're seeking devotion to ideas, not devotion to them as individuals." 

Some Reflection Questions:

1. How do you define 'charisma'? What are its ingredients and evidence?

2. What are the positive and negative aspects of charisma?

3. What are the dangers of being caught up by the charisma of a leader and neglecting to observe a person's character?

4. Jesus was clearly a charismatic leader. How did he use his charisma to influence people?

Other Articles

The Dark Side of Charismatic Leadership by Stephen Fogarty.

The Dark Side of Charisma by Tom Chamorro-Premuzic (HBR).


Leadership Myths

Lead

What do you think of when you hear the word 'leader'? We all have different idea and perceptions of what a leader is and what they are supposed to do. Often this is based on our own upbringing, our environment, our personal experience and our learning.

Here are five leadership myths that need busting (by Michael A. Roberto in the course "Transformation Leadership"):

1. "Leaders are born, not made - some people come of of the womb ready to lead others."

2. "Leadership is the act of lone genius, often thought of as the person at the top of the organisation."

3. "Leaders must be charismatic extroverts in order to motivate and inspire others to get them to follow their vision."

4. "Leadership requires formal authority."

5. "All great leaders have a common set of traits."

In reality, none of these statements are true. Can you see why? 

Leadership can be defined most simply as 'influence'. In that sense, all of us are leaders in that we all influence someone in one way or another. The question is not whether we will be an influence but what kind of an influence we will be. 

Lead where you are ... today. You can make a difference!


Love Your Pastor

I-love-my-churchA good friend of mine sent me this earlier in the week. I thought it was quite funny but had some good points. Let's always seek to love and encourage those who lead us, in whatever capacity. 

Pastors have a tough job. They get more kicks than kisses. If a pastor is young, he lacks experience; if he’s grey–haired, he’s too old. If he has five kids, he has too many; if he has none, he’s setting a bad example. If his wife sings in the choir, she’s being forward; if not, she’s not dedicated enough. If he preaches from notes, he’s dry; if his words are impromptu, he’s too shallow. If he spends too much time in his study, he’s neglecting his people; if he makes home visits, he’s not a good time manager. If he’s attentive to the poor, he’s after public approval; if he attends to the wealthy, he’s ingratiating. If he suggests improvements, he’s a dictator; if he doesn’t, he has no vision. If he uses too many illustrations, he neglects the Bible; if he doesn’t use enough stories, he’s unclear. If he speaks against wrong, he’s legalistic; if he doesn’t, he’s a compromiser. If he preaches for an hour, he’s windy; less than that, he has nothing to say. If he preaches the truth, he’s offensive; if he doesn’t, he’s wishy–washy. If he fails to please everybody, he’s hurting the church; if he tries to please everybody, he has no convictions. If he preaches tithing, he’s a money–grabber; if not, he’s failing to develop his people. If he receives a large salary, he’s mercenary; if he doesn’t, it proves he’s not worth much. If he preaches on a regular basis, people get tired of hearing the same person; if he invites guest preachers, he’s shirking his responsibility. Wow! And you thought your pastor had an easy life! How’d you like to change places?

Bottom line: love your pastor.

"Jesus ... gave some to be ... pastors." Ephesians 4:11 NKJV


Spiritual Leadership Lessons from Farming

Location_farming2025

Let's read and reflect on the following related Scriptures:

James 5:7-8. Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. NIV

1 Corinthians 3:6-9. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co- workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. NIV

Mark 4:26-29. Jesus also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain — first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” NIV

Here are the insights I gleaned:

1. The kingdom of God is organic in nature. It is not a machine that can be programmed or advanced by human effort alone. It is not about following a formula (A + B = C) but about learning spiritual principles and engaging with God who is already at work in our world. The kingdom grows "all by itself" - even while we are asleep!

2. There are things we can do to encourage spiritual growth. Our task is to create healthy environments for growth to take place. We can plant seeds and we can water them. We can also remove any growth inhibitors such as weeds or pests.

3. It is important to recognise the times and seasons. Life is cyclic. The seasons come and go: day and night, winter and summer, springtime and harvest.  The wise farmer recognises then works with the seasons. He or she does not fight against them. What season is it for you right now? Good things and lasting fruit take time. Be patient - stay steady and strong.

4. GOD is the one who makes things grow. There are things we can do and things we can't. We can't make anything grow - at least of lasting spiritual value. We can't save anyone nor transform anyone. Only God can do that.

5. The Holy Spirit, like water, is vital to life. Farmers pray and wait for the rain. They water their crops from dams or wells. Is it time to re-dig the wells in your own life and ministry? Is there some clutter you need to remove? Who could help - a spiritual director, counsellor, or prayer ministry team? 

What insights did God give you from today's reflection?


Leading in Changing Times

Hands-of-time1

Back in 1964 Bob Dylan sang, "The times they are a changing." How true and the changes haven't let up. One business writer put it this way:

Winds of change are barrelling in from all directions. Competition is tougher than ever and coming from places you least expected. The customer is more sophisticated and demanding. Technological changes are incessant. Government regulations are tougher. And everyone is restructuring, reorganising, reinventing, downsizing, outsourcing - all at an ultra sonic pace.

Don't look for a safe place to wait out the storm, because these winds are unrelenting. If anything, they're getting stronger and coming faster, blowing the shutters off corporate headquarters and small businesses alike... The weather report? More of the same!

The speed of change is increasing and future changes will be bigger and come faster because the rate of change grows exponentially, not incrementally. So get ready for the storm of your life. The hurricane season has just begun.”

That's a good description of business world but it also accurately defines the wider enviornment we all live in. And it was written in 1996!

How leaders respond to and lead during times of change is vital. The first disciples of Jesus were about to experence revolutionary change. Listen to what Jesus said to Peter:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” [Luke 22:31. NLT]

My good friend, Dale Stephenson, noted recently that Satan's desire was to sift ALL of Jesus' followers but Jesus prayed specifically for Simon's faith, because of the influence he would have on the others. Smite the shepherd and sheep will scatter. No wonder leaders are such a target for extreme testing. Thats why our faith - our trust and dependence on God in all seasons and times, especially during times of great change, is so important.

The current reality is change and more change. We live in times of transition in multiple arenas that affects us all. We are in what Scottish cultural anthropologist Victor Turner a "liminal space" - “a space of transformation between phases of separation and re-incorporation. It represents a period of extreme ambiguity, a marginal and transitional state.” These times are characterised by darkness or fog – an obscuring of vision; an inability to see the road ahead. It's a period of flux - continuous change, passage or movement, a flowing or flow. This can create a lot of insecurity and as Virginia Satir said, “Most people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty!”

What should our response be?

I hear God saying to leaders: stay the course, keep at your post, be faithful, be strong and very courageous, do not be afriad, dismayed or discouraged, the Lord is with you, don't give up, stand still and see the salvation of God!

More Reading: Spiritual Leadership Lessons from Farming.