by Gary Johnson
As we bring a close to a tough 2020, the teacher in me recalls “the three Rs” we learned years ago in school: ‘readin’, ‘rightin’ and ‘rithmetic’. But, whether we serve as elders or ministers, we need to pursue a different set of three Rs in 2021: reach, realize and remember.
Every day, every person reaches for something. We reach for the phone when it rings and for food when we are hungry. Reaching is both an intentional and natural action. Similarly, leaders of the local church need to intentionally reach as a natural part of their skills. This is particularly true in the way a leader thinks. To move the church forward, we must think forward.
Case in point, are we thinking only about December? It is easy for us to be mentally consumed at this time of year with places to go, people to see and things to do. It is common for leaders to shift into neutral during the holiday season, when it is essential for us to mentally reach past December 25 into the new year. Elders and staff need to be thinking about what lies on the leadership schedule in January. For example, are you planning a leadership winter retreat? If not, put Saturday, January 16 (9am-noon eastern) on your calendar. Along with CFR (Christin Financial Resources), e2 is live-streaming an elders’ conference called Jump Start! Charging Up Ministry that Moves. We will explore the four areas of ministry that are essential for building momentum in the local church: 1) evangelism, 2) discipleship, 3) the next generation, and 4) developing leaders.
Paul had a mindset to reach forward: “This one thing I do; forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…” (Phil. 3:13-14). Paul’s mind was set on that which awaited him eternally. Like Paul, when we think forward, we have every greater likelihood of moving forward. Intentionally reach for what’s next as you lead the church.
You and I need to face facts. We must realize that we can only take people as far as we ourselves have gone. Are we developing as leaders, increasing our skills, deepening our walk with the Lord? Are we growing increasingly like Jesus, yielding to His sovereignty over us?
Before being martyred, Peter penned this final thought: “But grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). The final comment to flow from Peter’s pen prior to his death was not a suggestion, but a commandment! He told us to continue growing, maturing, transforming into the likeness of Jesus. We must realize that we cannot offer grace to others if we do not “grow in grace.” We must realize that we cannot help others “grow in knowing” unless we, ourselves, are growing in Him.
Case in point: what’s your leadership development plan, both as an individual and as a team? I coach elder teams to put words up on the board that describe their team on December 31 of the following year. From those words, compose a short paragraph that describes the team on the last day of the next year. This is your preferred future and becoming that kind of a team does not happen naturally, but only intentionally. To experience transformation requires self-leadership. How can we lead the church if we are not leading ourselves?
If you would like some help with this, send me an email so that we can start a conversation. It is our first priority and greatest passion to coach elder teams to win against the kingdom of darkness. Remember, those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). We have been given the trust of the local church for which we will be held accountable. Realize we must grow spiritually if those we lead will become like Christ.
Think about these phrases: “Out of sight – out of mind.” “How quickly we forget.” We know and speak these phrases because they describe reality. As 2020 comes to a close, we must look back and remember the many ways God enabled us to not only survive, but also to thrive in one of the most challenging years of ministry.
King David knew challenging seasons of leadership, yet he still wrote: “Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits” (Ps. 103:1-2). Remember the many conspicuous moments when God’s presence was intense and encouraging. After all, one of His many names is Immanuel – God with us. He has promised never to leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). As well, remember God’s promises. Everything written in the past has been written to teach us, that through endurance and the encouragement of Scripture, we have hope (Rom. 15:4)!
When we were in school years ago, we may have let as lesson or two go in one ear and out the other. Friends, we are still students. As Christ followers, we are life-long learners, and we must take to heart the three Rs of a leader for 2021: reach, realize and remember. Be a doer of the Word, and not a mere hearer (James 1:22). It’s been a tough year. If you are exhausted and could use an encouraging, helpful word, give us a call or drop us a note. Let us be a “Barnabas” to you, for we are “brothers of encouragement” at e2.