The Spiritual Leader’s #1 Responsibility!

spiritualleadershipSpiritual leadership is a lot of things. It is first a privilege to be involved in the spiritual growth of the precious people that God has brought into our lives. Spiritual leadership is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly, for people look to us for direction and guidance regarding the most significant questions of our existence as human beings. Spiritual leadership is a mandate to make disciples through baptism, teaching of the word, love, and fellowship (Matt 28:19-20, John 13:35, Acts 2:42). Spiritual leadership is carried out by setting an appropriate example for others to follow (John 13:15, Phil 3:17, 1 Tim 4:12). However, there is one thing that all spiritual leaders must understand.

Spiritual leaders are NOT the source of fruit in a disciple’s life!

Spiritual leaders who think that they are responsible for producing fruit in a disciple’s life find themselves living in a state of constant frustration. I must say I have been guilty of thinking this way in the past. My heart was to do everything in my power to help people change and become fruit-bearing Christians. My heart is still there, but my perspective on who is responsible for the outcome is different. There is a long list of things that spiritual leaders do such as feed, care, tend, protect, teach, preach; however, not among that list is producing fruit in a person’s life. Scripture points out in multiple places that a person is responsible for his or her own fruit (Mt. 3:8, Mt. 7:17, Jn 15:16, Rom 7:4) and that Jesus is their source (John 15).

Our job as spiritual leaders is to point them to Jesus in everything we do!

Young believers become attached to their pastors and spiritual leaders and if not instructed properly will believe that the spiritual leader is their source of life. Many leaders and pastors allow themselves to be that source because it gives them significance or helps them feel important. Our job is not to be the source of fruit in a person’s life. Jesus said plainly in John 15:5 “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.Jesus is the only source of fruit in a person’s life; not the pastor, not the Sunday school teacher, and not the small group leader. Our job is to point them to Jesus. If we allow people to abide in us as their source, we are doing them a disservice by withholding the very Gospel that is found only in Jesus.

All spiritual leaders I know have a deep desire to see growth in those they are trying to disciple. This desire is why we do what we do. I encourage you today to evaluate how you see the outcome of your efforts and where you place responsibility for a person’s growth. I pray the Lord will set you free from taking on a role that belongs to him and his sheep. Keep REACHING FORWARD for as many as the Lord would give you to disciple! There’s no greater calling!

Comments are encouraged!


Leading From the Middle – Part III

I recently had the opportunity to appear on The Pastor’s Life video blog to discuss the various nuances of leading from the second chair. I quickly realized that I had a lot to say about this subject based on my current position in a local church as well as 21 years in the military where everyone is second chair to someone.

There are many dynamics at work for a person leading from the middle. Direction, leadership style, desires, and personality come down from the top leader, while personnel issues, problems, tensions, questions, and various other factors float up toward the top leader. In the middle is a leader who is attempting to lead, manage, motivate, inspire, and stabilize from both directions. How does a leader in this position learn to lead with confidence and joy rather than hesitation and frustration? To answer that question, I have broken my comments into three parts relative to the relationship between the first and second leader. You can find Part I and II here. Today we look at Part III which discusses a couple of the major tensions that the leader in middle faces.

Think Synergy: two or more things functioning together to produce a result not independently obtainable.

Part III: Tensions to Manage

1. The tension of progression. Most ambitious leaders are always looking to their next level. I’m sure many church leaders in my position have asked the question that I have asked myself time and again: Should I move on to be a Lead Pastor? I have found that this question is better treated as a tension to manage rather than a problem to solve by forcing the decision. If a leader is constantly battling with this decision inside of himself, he will eventually become discontented and at the very least lose focus. Forcing this decision too early could be a detriment for both the organization and the leaders. I’ve found that the best way to look at this is not to ask “should I move on to be a lead pastor”, but rather, “what is God doing right now – in me as well as in the big picture of the organization.” We have to remember that we are only one part in the equation of what God is doing through us. Keeping the big picture in mind while remaining Kingdom focused is how I have learned to manage this tension best. When the time comes to move it will be clear to everyone involved.

2. Differences in leadership style. One of the tensions that leaders at all levels deal with is style of leadership. Some are more directive, some are more participative, some are very involved while others are mostly hands-off. I learned a long time ago that it’s best as a leader to focus on his or her own leadership style within his or her purview. The key for this tension is to be yourself and focus on your own strengths. I believe an organization can be much more effective when there is an environment where the leaders can lead from their own strengths and style. The most important factor that enables this type of environment is trust that is built on shared values and a common vision. We can embrace differences in leadership style when there is mutual trust that we are all moving in the right direction.

Leading from the second seat is not always easy, but it is rewarding given the right attitude and ability to manage the tensions that exist. Keep REACHING FORWARD for God’s best in your life and leadership! Embrace the season that you’re in and enjoy the journey along the way!

Comments welcome.

What are you trading for convenience?

One of the most famous landmarks in the world is the Diamond Head Crater on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. It appears in the background of most pictures of Waikiki. Leading up to the top of Diamond Head is a trail that moves along in sort of an S-curve fashion. Along the trail are signs posted that read “stay on the path, shortcuts cause erosion.” The problem is that people climb up the side of the mountain instead of following the path causing erosion to occur.

Why do people take shortcuts?

People take shortcuts because of one word: convenience. My wife and I are eating healthy now and exercising. We are discovering that the reason we compromised our health in the past was simply out of convenience. It is so much more convenient to drive through Wendy’s than it is to plan and shop for meals.

What are you willing to trade for convenience?

The end result for us was that we were trading our health for convenience. People in the security business will tell you that the number one enemy of security is convenience. The farther we got from the 9-11 event the more inconvenient searches and distant parking became. In America, we demand convenience. We must ask ourselves: Is it inconvenient…

  • to eat healthy
  • to take time to exercise
  • to spend time with your children
  • to spend time in prayer or God’s word
  • to take a night out for your spouse
  • to take the hard right over the easy wrong

Shortcuts cause erosion in quality

Taking shortcuts sacrifices quality in just about every area of life. Shortcuts on a keyboard are great. Shortcuts that sacrifice the quality of your life are not so great. Do you want the builder to take shortcuts when he is building your house? Do you want the doctor to take shortcuts when doing your surgery?

Before taking a shortcut for convenience, ask yourself the question: “What aspect of quality is going to be sacrificed by this shortcut?”

Maybe it’s a building project, homework assignment, dinner, spiritual growth, or family relationships.

Not all things that are convenient in life are bad. However, as a word of caution, beware of what aspect of quality you might be trading for what’s convenient. What you see as convenient might very well be a shortcut that is causing erosion in some area of life, relationships or business.

Keep REACHING FORWARD for true significance and quality in life.

Comments welcomed.

What leaders can do to get results.

I want to preface my content by saying that I believe with all my  heart that leadership is influence. Leadership principles such as modeling, inspiring, challenging, enabling, and encouraging (The Leadership Challenge; Kouzes and Posner) are responsibilities of the leader. Leaders set the example, motivate, cast compelling vision, and live the organizational values daily. However, there are times when someone is just not meeting the standard of performance in spite of overall organizational health.

Sometimes it is difficult to put a finger on why people do not perform to standard. The obvious place to start is the leader. Not that the leader is doing anything wrong, but that he or she must analyze and act.

The simple truth is that people get paid to produce results.

Leaders should ask two questions:

1. What is the root cause?

2. What needs to be added?

Root cause is the bottom line that explains why a standard is not met. Leaders must keep asking the question “why” until they have waded through all of the excuses, rationalizations, and shallow explanations. Almost every situation will fall into one of three root causes. For each root cause, there is something that needs to be added.

Root Cause #1: DON’T KNOW. (Knowledge and skill)

  • Don’t know it’s his or her responsibility.
  • Don’t know what the standard is; that is, what the deliverable looks like when the standard is achieved.
  • Don’t know how to meet the standard. He has the ability, but lacks the knowledge and skills to pull it off.

What to add:

  • Clear job description that defines areas of responsibility.
  • Supervision and approval clarifies what the standard looks like.
  • Training until the standard is known, understood, and skill is developed.

Root Cause #2: CAN’T COMPLY. (Resources and ability)

  • Can’t comply because of lack of resources. Necessary tools are not available such as time, equipment, supplies, personnel, budget.
  • Can’t comply because of lack of ability. Sometimes people are simply in the wrong position. Personality along with knowledge, skills and ability matter. Poor performers in one area might be all-stars in another.

What to add:

  • Add the necessary resources. Determine if resources need to be reallocated to align with organizational priorities.
  • Add the opportunity for people to move into positions that are a better fit for their current ability.

Root Cause #3: WON’T COMPLY. (Character and values)

  • Won’t comply because of laziness, procrastination, lack of responsibility, attitude, etc.
  • Won’t comply because of conflicting values with the organization. There is no inner drive to produce in spite of having the knowledge, skill, ability and resources. Are they sold out to the vision and mission of the organization?

What to add:

  • Add open discussion regarding lack of performance during reviews and accountability measures that improve performance.
  • Add disciplinary measures in the form of probationary periods, letters of reprimand/concern, and other appropriate consequences.
  • Add the opportunity for him or her to find a new organization that aligns with his or her values.

Tests That Precede the Promise!

What has God spoken to you about your future? I’ll bet you’re wondering why you have to wait. If things are not going well for you, you are probably asking why? Perhaps you are confused and confounded at the trials in the midst of your promise.

Maybe you are thinking, “what am I doing wrong…where is God in my life right now…why is He allowing this to happen…is God real…was His promise really from Him or just my wishful thinking?”

I’m reminded of the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-41) where his life was a mess between God’s promise to him and its fulfillment. Read it for yourself and compare your story to his. What was going on? Why did the events in Joseph’s life play out the way they did?

Perhaps this verse explains: “Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.” Psalm 105:19.

The very promise of what is to come will be preceded by various tests.

Here are a few tests that precede the promise:

1. Faithfulness regardless of circumstances. Faithfulness has nothing to do with others. It is a matter of character that must be forged in a person’s own heart. Blaming others or circumstances for lack of faithfulness is a fail. In order to get a passing grade, we must be faithful regardless of the circumstances.

How can you be faithful in circumstances you don’t like?

2. Responsibility regardless of position. Responsibility has nothing to do with position. Responsibility is applied to each and every person in their current position and circumstances. Authority can be delegated but you must own personal responsibility for what is yours. Your life is your responsibility!

What are you blaming others for that is yours to own?

3. Self-Control regardless of temptation. You will never be prepared for greater success without self-control. Temptations will come at every level; with $20, with $2,000,000; with leading two, with leading 2,000. Self-control is about establishing a way of life that honors God and builds biblical character.

What areas do you give in to temptation?

4. Care for others regardless of personal interests. Any promise of God for your future will always test your care for others.

Do you acknowledge and care about the needs, thoughts and feelings of those around you?

A final thought: Don’t be discouraged while waiting on God’s promise. Understand the promise is testing you. Be faithful, be responsible, exercise self-control and care for others. Above all, seek God daily and His favor will be upon you!

Keep REACHING FORWARD! His promise is awaiting you!