People Power

by J. Michael Shannon 

Linus once told Charlie Brown, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand.” 

Sometimes, we all need a break from people.  That may especially be true after coming off an intensive week as many of us just have at the NACC.  But if we “can’t stand people,” we’re in trouble in church work.  Churches are full of people.  The world is, for that matter.  Nearly everything we do in life is dependent on us being able to manage relationships with each other.  No great thing is ever accomplished without cooperation.  No one person can perform all the tasks that need to get done – especially in the church.  When a congregation succeeds, it’s always the result of the labor of many.  

Some of the qualities that define a leader are the ability to motivate people, utilize their gifts, and marshal their resources.  Nehemiah illustrates this for us.  Even though the needs of Jerusalem – rebuilding the wall especially – were heavy on his heart, he knew there was no way he could do all that needed done by himself. 

Nehemiah first got permission from his king to go about the task God had laid upon his heart.  No doubt, Nehemiah’s faithful service gave the king a good reason to grant his request.  Nehemiah found favor in the eyes of Artaxerxes.  The king even seemed to take a genuine interest in what Nehemiah wanted to accomplish.  Not only did he give Nehemiah permission, but significant resources as well.  Our cultivation of good manners and courtesy will allow some people, even some outside the church, to help us with our task.  Nehemiah marshaled resources. 

Nehemiah also knew he had to motivate God’s people.  He did this by having a plan and challenging people.  People can be expected to react or respond to a plan, but they don’t craft one without the guidance of a leader.  It is the leader’s job to set the agenda and the goals; the people’s job is to amend and adopt them.  The vision Nehemiah cast for the people of Jerusalem was a great challenge – it seemed nearly impossible.  But the people responded and rose to the challenge, perhaps because of Nehemiah’s careful planning, and perhaps because of his enthusiasm. 

Notice his willingness to work side by side with the people.  Sometimes leaders do not receive respect because they insulate and separate themselves from the hard work and labor.  Nehemiah was, in today’s terms, a player/coach.  That is not a bad model for a minister, elder, or deacon. 

The satisfaction of seeing the walls built was not motivation enough, and Nehemiah knew this.  He helped motivate the people by allowing them to work near their own homes.  Each man was vitally interested in his own home being protected.  That personal buy-in kept the people going when the labor got discouraging. 

Finally, Nehemiah knew the ultimate reward for volunteer laborers – words of thanks and commendation.  Too seldom do we give words of commendation in the church.  Maybe this is because we have been erroneously taught that to work unselfishly means to work without thanks.  They are not the same thing.  Very few people in the church are paid anything for the labor they give.  The least they can expect are words like “well done,” “thank you,” and “we couldn’t do this without you” from their leaders.  Many people are convinced, but would never admit it out loud, that they are inept, have failed, and are not making any difference.  Our words of encouragement can keep them going and build them up for future service as well. 

We must cultivate our people power because we desperately need people.  The old saying is true: “It is never too heavy when we all lift together.” 

4 Ways

by Mark Taylor 

If church problems keep you awake at night, you’re in good company.  Even Paul wrote that “I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28, NIV). 

Let’s be candid: sometimes we cause our own worst problems.  It’s true that selfishness or sin among church members brings untold grief and uncounted setbacks for the cause of Christ.  We can’t control that.  But we can control our actions, decisions, and relationships.   I remember four commitments we, elders and church leaders, can make to minimize stress and maximize effectiveness with the simple acronym DISC.
 
Display loyalty. 
We cannot marry someone to change them, and it’s unwise, even unethical, for a person to become an elder to “straighten out” the church.  If you have a problem with your minister, talk with him.  If you don’t agree with elders’ decisions, tell them.  But we can’t join the leadership unless we can display heartfelt loyalty for the minister and elders.  We’re on one team, fighting one enemy – and it’s not the music minister.
 
Insist on confidentiality.
When I served on a church staff, I sometimes learned unfortunate facts about people in the church.  My wife knew very little, or nothing at all.  I did not want her to be disheartened, especially when we on staff were giving the offender time to repent.  There is nothing to be gained by spreading bad news widely.  Elders do well to adopt a similar position.  Leaders will always know information that should be kept private.  If a staff member is being disciplined, if a minister is getting a raise, if a complainer’s demands are being denied, the church is not well served by everyone’s gossiping about it.  Start by not telling your spouse, and it will be easier to keep quiet with everyone else too.
 
Seek accountability.
We are human, of course, and make mistakes.  Accountability helps blunt the effects of those mistakes, and we should be held accountable when we mess up.  I’m thinking of times a leader violates a principle mentioned here, or if an elder takes it on himself to speak for the whole eldership without their permission, or when someone agrees in a meeting but sows doubt afterward in the parking lot –a so-called “meeting after the meeting.”  When an elder acts or speaks contrary to the will of the whole group, the rest of the elders must hold him accountable.  Good leaders do not avoid difficult conversations.  God has not called us to be nice.  Rogue behavior cannot be tolerated.  Undermining is not good for the eldership, not good for the individual elder, and it will be devastating to the church.
 
Commit to unity.
Some church members, perhaps without realizing it, will seek to divide the eldership.  They will complain to one elder about another.  They will criticize a minister or object to a change with the elder they think they can get to agree.  Be on guard against allowing them to recruit you for their cause.  Otherwise we become party to wrangling and restlessness that can fester till it divides the whole congregation.  Our pastor at Christ’s Church Mason, Trevor DeVage, has written a great piece addressing similar ideas.  I am not saying criticism isn’t allowed or everyone must blindly agree.  I’m saying we should establish two principles for discussions with unhappy church members: 

  1. Critics should go to the right person with their questions or concerns.  Jesus Himself directed us to our aggrieved brother or sister in Matthew 18:15.  Trevor’s practice: “When someone complains to me about a decision some other leader made, my first question is, ‘Did you talk to him (or her) about this?” 
  2. Nothing should take the place of the church’s primary mission: seeking and saving the lost.  That was Jesus’ self-described mission in Luke 19:10, and we are following Him alone.  “If we don’t fight for putting lost people first,” Trevor says, “our tendency to prefer personal pleasure will always get in the way.”  

When we put aside personal preference to support the Church’s mission, we will better handle the stress of serving.  We’ll be more effective.  And we will set an example and create an atmosphere that will help the whole congregation flourish.

“Asymptote” – Forward

by Jim Estep

“Asymptote” is a geometry term, but in a general, non-geometry sense, it can mean “always advancing, pursuing, but never achieving.”  Consider: if someone stands 10 feet from a doorway, I can tell them to close the distance by half, then stop.  If we repeat the exercise several times, they will be 10 feet, then 5 feet, then 2.5 feet, then 1.25 feet, then 7.5 inches away, and so on – but will never actually step through the door.  

Our pursuit of God’s mission is like an asymptote exercise!  We will always be in pursuit, endeavoring to move closer and closer to achieving its ultimate ends, never, this side of eternity, fully satisfied the with results; we’re committed to continuous improvement in our ministries.  With my role at e2 and 25 years as a practical ministries professor, God has given me the opportunity to visit, teach, and coach a large number of congregations throughout North America.  While visiting these congregations, those that were vibrant, growing, evangelizing and disciple-making had one factor that kept surfacing:  their relentless quest to fulfill God’s mission in the church.  They never settled for what they had already accomplished in the past, they wanted to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, ESV). 
 
We will never “arrive,” but we also don’t stop pursuing.  Ministry will never be 100% perfect, 100% effective, 100% inclusive.  Take risks, make changes, be innovative, seek to improve on how far you’ve traveled so far.  Ask “what’s next?”  The only time we’ll actually reach our ultimate goal is when Christ returns and we experience for ourselves the fullness of His Kingdom.  Until then, we continue to move closer and closer to His prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mathew 6:10, ESV).  
 
Asymptote churches are led by asymptote leaders; elders who are on a habitual quest for improving ministry effectiveness, guarding the mission by never compromising it – and advancing it through any iteration.  This will make our congregations both biblically sound and practically relevant.  And our congregations will keep moving perpetually toward God’s calling.

Excellent Work

by Ken Idleman

I like the way the Good News Bible translates 1 Timothy 3:1:
 

If a man is eager to be a church leader [elder], he desires an excellent work.
 
A companion verse that also applies and has always impressed me as a lifelong church leader is Romans 12:11 (NIV):  
 
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
 
The New Living Translation is a little more common and confrontational in the way it translates this Romans text: Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 
 
As a church leader, I am both motivated and a little convicted by these verses.
 
I am grateful for the work ethic instilled in me by my parents.  They set the example with their post-Depression era “early to bed and early to rise” approach to daily life.  As a rule, my little brother and I were not allowed to stay up late, even on Friday nights.  We had chores to do the next day.  (That’s a word you don’t hear much anymore!)  We were not permitted to sleep in, even on Saturday mornings. When the basement flooded, which was basically every time it rained more than an inch, Dave and I were the “drop and mop” brigade.  When the green beans and strawberries were ripe, we were the two-man picking, snapping and stemming crew.  In the summers I could play Little League baseball … in the evenings … as long as I had worked during the day cutting corn out of the beans, and/or weeding the corn for a farmer in our church. 
 
But I have to say, as a result of the diligence and persistence of my parents, I got it.  Some might say I got it a little too well.  My problem has more often been achieving balance from the other direction.  I used to feel guilty for taking a day off.  I used to think I was a “shirker” when I would go on a vacation.  Through the years I have mellowed.  I now have no problem taking a Sabbath day at least once a week and a Sabbath week at least once a quarter every year. 
 
On the other hand, for me, serving the Lord has never felt arduous – not like “work.”  There is something that is regenerating in the process of working hard for God’s purposes.  And I am thankful that there is no mandatory retirement age for doing ministry.  I can do it voluntarily even after I have ceased to do it vocationally.  My 99-year old mother, Lois, is in a retirement facility, but daily she carries on a prayer ministry, a teaching ministry, a reading-to-the-visually-impaired ministry and an encouragement ministry that she discharges for the benefit of her neighbors.  I am still, to this day, challenged by her example of tireless, selfless service. 
 
And through the years, I have become a huge admirer of local church elders for their work ethic.  They typically volunteer many hours of their time for monthly elder team meetings, planning retreats, hospital visits, pastoral searches, crisis management and problem solving.  Of course this does not even count the scriptural priorities of a church leader – the prayer and teaching ministry of God’s Word.  We all get 168 hours in a week, which, in the light of such leadership demands, evaporate pretty quickly. For this reason, Hebrews 13:17 admonishes us to Obey them [our spiritual leaders] so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

A Good Reputation

by Ken Idleman 

Paul’s first letter to Timothy details the character requirements of a local church elder.  1 Timothy 3:7 declares, “An elder must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

AshleyMadison.com launched as a web site in 2001 as a place for people, in ostensibly committed relationships, to go if they wanted to cheat on their spouse or significant other.  Their marketing slogan: “Life is short.  Have an affair.”  The additional allure was the promise of anonymity/secrecy.  But alas, once again the things done in secret were shouted from the housetops!  The Ashley Madison database was hacked.  Their records were distributed in the public domain.  

But this time the national expose of secret sin did not result in the shaming of anyone who was particularly well known.  Rather, this time the dark shroud concealing immorality was stripped away exposing the sad lies and secret lives of a staggering 30,000,000 individuals, mostly regular folks.  The population of the United States is only 325,000,000!  This means almost one in ten people in our country were implicated in this scandal.  It means that no matter who you are, you probably know someone who has pursued this quest to experience marital or relational unfaithfulness.  For some it is just a fantasy you say?  They would never act on their fantasy you say?  Listen … if you shop, there is no guarantee you won’t buy.  If you flirt, there is no guarantee you won’t seduce or be seduced.  If you chase a fantasy, you will probably capture it – sooner or later.  And for many, their secret life of shame became common knowledge.  

Their good reputation with outsiders was at least temporarily damaged.

During the same week as the Ashley Madison hack, an Old Dominion University fraternity made the news by welcoming new female students and their fathers to the campus with garish black letters scrawled on white bed sheets hanging from frat house balconies: “Freshman daughter drop off!” and “Drop off mom too!”

It was an ominous harbinger of the very real danger faced by college girls, 25% of whom, according to a survey of graduating senior girls done by the University of Iowa, were subjected to sexual molestation, sexual abuse or date rape during their four years of college.  So, dads – entrusted with the protection of your daughters – what do you think of these odds?

I remember the late 60’s and the ‘free love’ movement in the culture.  It was dubbed the ‘sexual revolution.’  And Ed Stetzer is right: “A revolution means that a war is being fought.  In revolutions, bombs are dropped, attacks are launched and there are thousands of casualties.  Sadly, today the war is being waged against the way of Jesus … that marriage is between a man and a woman, becoming one flesh, in one marriage, in one sexual relationship, for one lifetime.”  And for those who have failed to follow the Jesus way, His cross stands in time and space as a tangible reminder that regardless of anything else, a way of rescue from sin and shame, guilt and judgment, still exists.

The Psalms gave us an infinitely better slogan than Ashley Madison’s to preserve a good reputation with outsiders: Psalm 90:12, “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.”

The Trust Factor

by Jeff Faull

Stephen M.R. Covey calls it “the one thing that changes everything.”  When you have it, you can move forward quickly, confidently and positively.  When you don’t have it, your enterprise, organization or endeavor is hindered, even paralyzed.  According to Covey, that one thing that changes everything is trust.  Covey’s New York Times Best Seller, in fact, is titled The Speed of Trust.
 
Covey maintains the one commodity often overlooked and underrated in organizational health and efficiency is this trust factor.  He is not nostalgically longing for the days of deals sealed with a handshake or a verbal commitment, but he does maintain that where genuine trust exists, progress is made and the speed of our accomplishments and productivity is accelerated.  In fact, Covey introduces one whole chapter with the striking statement, “nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.”  He repeatedly affirms that “the ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is the key leadership competency of the new global economy.”
 
Covey spends the remainder of the book fleshing out practices and behaviors that create, build and maintain trust. He calls them “the thirteen behaviors”. The thirteen behaviors he suggests for trust building are:
 

  1. Talk straight: avoid spin and doublespeak; kindly tell truth and paint an accurate picture of reality
  2. Demonstrate respect: display kindness and respect, even when there is no apparent reward
  3. Create transparency: be authentic and honest; have a “nothing to hide approach” that removes suspicion and mistrust
  4. Right Wrongs: apologize and admit when we’re wrong; try to make it up to people when we fail them
  5. Show loyalty: be loyal to other people on the team.  Never throw others under the bus.  Keep confidential information private.  Protect each other’s reputations.
  6. Deliver results: do what you promised; over-deliver; be punctual and thorough in following-through; as Covey says, “establish a track record of results.”
  7. Get better:  constantly grow and improve; consider and respond to constructive advice and even criticism
  8. Confront reality:  be willing to see things as they are; own what is un-pleasant. Jim Collins said in Good to Great, “confront the brutal facts.”
  9. Clarify expectations:  overcommunicate; never assume that everyone knows what is expected; clarify desired results and unacceptable alternatives
  10. Practice accountability:  insist on ownership of outcomes from yourself and from others
  11. Listen first:  seek to understand; open ears before opening the mouth
  12. Keep commitments:  do what we say we are going to do
  13. Extend trust:  we cannot be trusted if we’re unwilling to trust others first

 
These ideas – this whole book – should be an unnecessary reminder for Christians.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to attach specific Scriptures onto each of these thirteen behaviors.  We are followers of the One who said, “let your yes be yes and let your no be no.”  We believe the claim of the Psalmist when he described integrity as one who “swears to his own hurt and changes not,” (Ps 15:4).  We resonate with the Apostle who tells us to “put aside falsehood and speak truthfully to one another.”  The benefits of the speed of trust should be ours by default.  This is where we live and should be a given for believers.  Nowhere should the value of trust be more evident than in the church world.
 
We all know, sadly, that trust is painfully lacking not only in our culture but in churches as well.  Dysfunction and disingenuous behavior by both individuals and teams in leadership only perpetuates suspicion and difficulty.
 
Remember the various people that Paul recalled in some of his most trying moments:

  • Onesiphorus, who showed up when everyone else deserted
  • Timothy, a son in the faith and kindred spirit to Paul, genuinely concerned with others’ welfare more than his own
  • Epaphroditus, one who persevered in his ministry through life-threatening illness
  • Stephanus, devoted to the Church and her ministry in Greece along with his family
  • Aquila and Priscilla, who “risked their necks” for Paul

Paul trusted all these people deeply; he knew he could count on them because of the integrity and character they had demonstrated.
 
Now more than ever, followers of Jesus need to rebuild and inspire trust in a world that seems to have lost the concept.

What I Wish my Elders Knew about Me

by Rick Grover 

Let’s face it.  The relationship between elders and a senior minister is tricky.  When I started as the senior minister of East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, one of our elders told me we had to learn to dance together without stepping on each other’s toes.  Indeed.  It took time, patience, humility and a lot of communication, but I can honestly say our elders and I are now doing the waltz together. 
 
You can too.
 
When I talk with senior ministers around the country, I hear a similar story: “I wish my elders knew __________ about me…”  Here are five of the most common “blank fillers” ministers wish their elders knew about them.
 
1. I wish my elders knew me personally and not just professionally.  Our relationships cannot completely center on the church’s wins to celebrate, conflicts to resolve, staff/volunteer issues, or finances.  I know that I work much better when I know we are friends and we’ve got each other’s backs.
 
2. I wish my elders knew I am for them and not against them.  I know I get defensive at times, but “we’re on the same team,” and I’m playing to win with you, not to boost my individual stats.  I want to learn from you and share with you.  Forgive me for the times I spout off about my “wonderful” vision and get frustrated when I feel like you’re holding things back.  Thank you for leading with faith, and with a healthy dose of caution.
 
3. I wish my elders knew how hard I work at preaching, leading the staff, visiting the sick, “marrying and burying,” witnessing to the lost, discipling the saved … and still protecting time for my wife and kids.  Someone once told me it must be nice to work one day a week.  It took effort not to hit him.  I know that you, my brother and elder, are working very hard in your career and in leading our congregation well.  Thank you for acknowledging that I am, too. 
 
4. I wish my elders knew how much I love the church.  I really do.  I want to see the church grow in healthy ways, and I get just as frustrated as you do when the church is plateaued or in decline.  My work here is not just a job.  I love the people I serve, even when a few of them get under my skin. 
 
5. I wish my elders knew how hurting and alone I feel at times.  While it’s not my intent to complain, there are moments when I just want to throw in the towel.  I’m sure you have felt that way before.  If I can’t be vulnerable with those who hired me and can fire me, to whom do I talk about these moments?  Fellow elders: ensure that your preacher participates in a pastors’ covenant group where we can let down every guard, talk about how we’re really feeling, encourage and support each other, and let brothers look into every dark corner of our souls.
 
Elders, as one of these senior ministers who wants to know you better and be better known by you, thank you for fulfilling your role of shepherding, teaching, and caring for the flock. 
 
Your task is difficult yet rewarding.  It is demanding yet enriching.  It is burdensome yet fulfilling.  Thank you for getting to know your preacher.  Thank you for encouraging him, praying for him, and letting him know we’re in it together.  All you need to do is learn to dance without stepping on each other’s toes.

To Hear a Word

by Jeff Faull 

Jesus understood the basic, even primal, need for a word from God.  We’re hard-wired as humans to need communication with God.  We look to Scripture for insight and direction to know what to do.  

As we seek Him, we need to keep the balance, tension, and context of Scripture in mind.  When Jesus went into the wilderness after his baptism by John, (see chapter 4 of both Matthew and Luke), He was attacked by Satan with temptations.  Each time, Jesus shot back with Scripture.  And we can’t lose sight of the fact Satan did the same in his 2nd and 3rd attacks.  Satan knew, but misused, Scripture.  The whole counsel of God has been given to us, and we commit equally harmful mistakes if we delete or distort its fullness, as our enemy does.  

Remember that Jesus told the scribes, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. … You have made a serious error,” (Mark 12:24, 27).  

If anyone knew Scripture, it was the religious leaders of the day, the very people that Jesus accused of being ignorant in this confrontation.  But the Pharisees, Sadducees and “teachers of the Law” had misused and misapplied Scripture.  Jesus knew the context, balance, and tension of Scripture perfectly and it was His main resource in dealing with His cloak of humanity.  

If anyone in history was justified in having an “I’m special” attitude, wasn’t it Jesus?  But even He allowed Himself to be limited and defined by the Words of Scripture.  He used Scripture for explaining and understanding life and human nature, to endure physical, emotional, and spiritual pain, to face and prepare for the future, in confrontations and conflict, to give direction and purpose to others.  Jesus used The Word to teach, rebuke, correct, clarify, and encourage – and to reveal His identity and God’s plan.  

We all know words are powerful, and nothing is more powerful than God’s Word!  Jesus wielded the Sword of the Spirit with perfect precision.  Scripture is indeed “a sharp, two-edged sword,” and no one ever did (or will) wield it better than Jesus.  He was so saturated in Scripture that He could recall and apply it perfectly in any and every moment.  

For us as church leaders, that means a few things.  

First, we must absolutely, completely insist that all our content comes from the revelation of God, without compromise.  The Word is God-breathed, not “community-formed.”  We are shaped by it, never the other way around.  Scripture does not morph to fit always-fickle culture.  Let me be clear:  the Bible is God’s progressive revelation to humankind, not our progressive understanding of God.  Reaffirming the Bible’s authority over us is always in order.  After all, isn’t that why we daily seek devotional time in it?  Isn’t that why we worship weekly?  We have been, are, and should be “people of the Book.”  That’s an honor, not an insult.  

Second, we are always fair and responsible in our use of Scripture.  We must maintain a healthy hermeneutic of the whole counsel of God, refusing to play fast and loose with the text or context.  We cannot hijack words or create spin for our own agendas.  

Third, we must cultivate an environment in our congregations where personal gain, pride, and preferences are sacrificed to the overriding truth, beauty, and glory of God – as we know Him through His timeless, Living Word.  If we commit to that, we can then confidently address all the complicated issues of our day.  How do we overcome cultural and ethnic barriers?  What about gender roles?  How do we treat those who are different?  What about immigration?  How best do we respond to poverty?  What’s the church’s mission?  What beliefs are paramount?  What practices are indispensable?  

The sheer magnitude of the thinking shift in our culture, and even among fellow Christians, is sometimes overwhelming.  Believers are expected to rethink and remap massive chunks of formerly settled “territory.”  Many of our predecessors, older leaders and even some of our peers often feel disrespected, belittled, and out of touch.  The entire evangelical world is in flux.  And it’s across this landscape of upheaval we are called to lead – so let’s always have His Living Word leading us.

Streamlined Decision Making

by Jerry Harris

Churches regularly wrestle with their speed and agility in decision-making.  This is especially true with churches that utilize a church eldership that is wholly separated (structurally) from the church staff.  Everyone has an opinion, some informed and some uninformed – irrespective of whether it’s coming from paid staff or lay leader.  

While everyone fits in the body of Christ, Paul teaches us that our individual location and function within that body is highly specific.  There are just some things that others do better than us – and vise-versa.  It’s true for decision-making too; one leader’s opinions will be more informed and gifted than another’s, depending on the topic at hand.  

God designed the Church to run more like an organism than an organization.  Just like the human body, Christ expects His body, the church, to operate according the gifts and abilities of its parts.  The problem arises when, in the church, decision-making is accomplished by committee after hearing each opinion equally.  This might sound fair to our Western ears, but it isn’t the way Jesus designed His Church to operate.  Leaders often don’t shine as brightly as they otherwise could because everyone wants to, or at least is expected to, weigh in on every subject.  Not only does this slow down the decision-making process, but the entire exercise is confused by opinions that aren’t beneficial to the body moving forward. 

In an effort to get a laser focus on this, we did a leadership exercise early on at the Crossing. Before an annual strategic leaders’ retreat, I asked each elder to write down what he saw as the greatest strengths of the others there.  Those papers were turned in to me ahead of the retreat to be compiled.  

At the retreat, we had the elders sit in a circle, put a chair in the middle of the room, and one by one, each elder sat in the chair.  

Once seated, I read to each elder what had been written about him.  It was wonderful, encouraging, affirming, and humbling.  After the comments were read, all the leaders gathered around the elder in the chair and prayed.  Each elder broke down as he humbly received the praise.  

There were two very important things that became apparent through the exercise: 

First, we saw that in one or two areas, each leader was especially equipped and gifted.  We realized that we each had a specific role inside the leadership and that our opinion was vital in specific areas.  This did not mean that opinions in weaker areas were useless.  It did, and does, mean that God has provided us a well-rounded team, with each part of the team having more insight than others in specific matters.  Recognizing this, we work more like an organism, not an organization, reaching decisions quickly.  

Second, we saw that God had given us great talent in nearly every necessary area when we viewed ourselves as a body rather than a committee.  It was awesome to see that God had already provided all we needed to make great, highly competent decisions.  Discussion also streamlined as each leader gave the weight of opinion to the leader or leaders with recognized expertise.  This also has the entirely Biblical effect of affirming each leader as we rely on the gifting, equipping, and expertise of each part at different times.  

John Wooden, the great basketball coach, was often heard saying, “Be quick, but don’t hurry!”  Operating as a body makes the church quick to move, pivot, adjust, release resources, and to trust each other while they do it.  It accomplishes all this without feeling frantic as deadlines approach, or feeling insecure because insufficient time was spent on a particular subject. 

There are dozens of “one anothers” and “each others” in the New Testament.  God has provided for us, especially through fellow Christ-followers – and we can trust His provision in our leadership’s decision-making process.  Lean on your fellow leaders, and watch our Father do the remarkable.

Self-Leadership before Others-Leadership

by Dr John Turner
Be an example to all believers in what you say,
in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 

1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT) 
 
Before we can effectively lead others, we must first be willing and able to lead ourselves.  I believe it is actually the most difficult aspect of being a leader.  Anyone can bark, “do as I say, [not as I do]!” 
 
But that model is not biblically appropriate, not in concert with how Jesus led, nor empowering to those we are called to lead.
 
To lead others effectively we must lead and empower ourselves.  Let’s examine three areas of life to see if we are leading ourselves well.
 
Walking with God is the first step.  Leaders worth following cultivate a vibrant, growing, dynamic and interactive relationship with Christ.  Leadership skills without spiritual vitality are useless.  Christian leaders of all roles – elders, staff, deacons, volunteers of every stripe – exercise spiritual authority, which is a combination of holiness of our character, empowered giftedness, and deep experiences with God.
 
Effective leaders continue to grow personally.  Effective leaders know there are multiple areas in which self-leadership is expressed; consider: deepening character formation, authentic relationships, constant skill development, remaining a life-long learner, and staying ministry/harvest-focused.  The possibilities here are endless. 
 
Leading ourselves requires the removal of personal blockages and obstacles from life and from our roles as leaders.  Leaders who have been in leadership for a significant length of time can develop a complacency with the status quo of the church’s ministry.  This complacency, “mission-drift,” etc., simply means we lack a vision for the harvest.  Jesus was on-mission “to seek and save those who are lost.”  Lacking a sense of vision, lacking urgency for the harvest breeds fear and timidity in the leadership of the church because conflict inevitably comes when we pursue Jesus’ mission above all else.  Vision requires change, and change is often resisted – conflict.  When we lack the leadership skills to enact change, it can make us fearful and timid about addressing any change, even necessary change. 
 
We shouldn’t forget that poor delegation or other management skills can also impede our self-leadership.  We are not the only Kingdom leaders.  To know what we can delegate and realizing what we alone need to do releases ministry into others’ hands.  And that’s a huge part of self-leadership – knowing when to let go.  “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”  No matter how often we repeat that to each other, we need to remember in all humility that God has, in very tangible ways, given leadership of His Kingdom to us…for a time.  If He’s entrusted us to be His hands and feet in this world, we can certainly give away ministry to others. 
 
To lead others well, we need to lead ourselves.  “I can’t lead others where I myself haven’t yet been.”  So let’s stay close to God, first of all; constantly pursue personal growth; and tirelessly knock down our personal roadblocks and blind spots.