Leadership Weekly

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I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. — John 13:15

The qualifications for being a leader do not consist solely of sitting behind a desk and barking out orders for others to accomplish. If that were the case, life as we know it would come to a standstill, with lots of talk but no action. Successful leaders are able to delegate duties to others but are also willing to perform them if necessary.

I know of one grocery store chain where the CEO and his team of vice-presidents attend the grand opening of each new location. Instead of simply basking in the spotlight of another success, they get to work, helping the new staff. They can be seen stocking shelves, performing price checks, helping customers, and bagging groceries. They even gather shopping carts from the parking lot. Talk about setting an example for the new employees to follow!

Jesus set the perfect example on the night he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. As the evening meal was being served, he got up from the table, grabbed a towel and basin of water, and proceeded to wash the feet of his disciples. Such a task was supposed to be done by a servant, but Jesus was willing to take on that role. Peter wasn't sure what to think of this, rejecting the foot washing at first. He had to be convinced. Later, Jesus informed Peter and the other disciples that leadership equals servanthood. It's not an easy truth for many leaders to apply to life, but Christ's example that night makes an eloquent case.

So the next time you're ready to tell someone what to do, think back to that evening meal when the Lord, on his knees, washed the dirty, smelly feet of those he loved--and for whom he later died. That's leadership in its highest form. How can you follow that example?

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Food for Thought

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." — Isaiah 55:8-9

At once. Now. Immediately. Deadlines.

These are words that come to mind regarding the fast-paced lifestyle many of us find ourselves in. We expect our newspaper to be on the front porch when we wake up. We expect traffic signals to turn green the instant we approach them. We expect a bag of popcorn to explode into light, fluffy goodness in exactly three-and-a-half minutes. But what happens when our desires don't materialize in what we consider to be a timely fashion? We may experience frustration, grumpiness, possibly even anger.

As one of the fruits of the Spirit, patience is a character trait God desires to produce in us (see Galatians 5:22-23). Yet the only way to really learn what it means to be patient is to experience it firsthand. Patience is an oh-so-gradually unveiled gift.

Noah lived in a time when lawlessness and sin were the rule, not the exception. Imagine his reaction when God told him about his plan to destroy humanity! Picture Noah's reaction when God told him to build a boat, giving him specific dimensions and directions! Imagine having to wait 120 years to see it happen! I wonder if Noah ever said to himself, "Okay Lord, things are getting worse instead of better. Aren't you going to execute your plan? After all, it's already been fifteen years!" Thankfully, Noah learned the lesson of patience, trusted God's timing, and was spared from the flood as a result.

Our response when something doesn't happen on schedule speaks to how well we have learned to be patient. Maybe God has something better just around the corner. He will let you know when he's ready--or perhaps when you're ready. That's something to consider the next time you throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave.

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It's Not About Me

In the same way, when you obey me you should say, "We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty." — Luke 17:10

The goal of any college or professional football player is to help his or her team win the championship game at the end of the season. It takes dedication, strength, and a good measure of teamwork to get to that point. In recent years, however, the sport has focused more than ever before on outstanding individual performances, helped in no small way by the media. Sports figures can rarely avoid the spotlight. So when athletes have microphones shoved at them and are asked questions, they have an opportunity to exhibit a key leadership trait. They can brag and boast about their personal accomplishments, they can criticize another team and its players, or they can make sure that everyone on the team gets the credit he or she deserves.

The ability to deflect praise toward those who deserve it is important for a number of reasons. Giving credit to others keeps us from becoming conceited and self-absorbed. In addition, it allows those who had a contributing role to experience the success as well. Praising others also shows our personal desire to be a servant, a true mark of leadership (see Luke 22:26).

This attitude is not one that comes naturally to people. To this end, we must commit ourselves to God daily, asking him to help us live lives that reflect his character. If we're constantly looking for glory and praise from being a "significant" Christian, then our priorities are wrong. The same is true if we choose to give God and others praise, but in a showy, "look at me" manner. Jesus made it clear that we are to simply do the things he asks us to do and reflect any praise we might receive away from ourselves. We're only doing what he asks, right? And in the end, that's more important than any honors and awards we might receive.

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Good Advice

Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them. — Ezra 5:2

The term guru has become a description of a person so knowledgeable on a subject that people seek him or her out for advice. These individuals are often depicted as sitting alone on a mountaintop, waiting for someone to stop by for some wisdom. And when the time comes to share, their answers are brief and filled with multiple levels of understanding.

However, leadership does not come from dispensing mysterious advice. Nor, to be more exact, does it come from acting in isolation. God created people to be creatures of community, and within that network of relationships come opportunities to allow others to challenge and encourage each other regardless of title or distinction.

Zerubbabel learned this while attempting to rebuild the Temple after the exiles returned to Jerusalem. Some of the Levites were distraught and wept when the foundation was laid, knowing this version wouldn't be as magnificent as the one Solomon built. Meanwhile, Israel's enemies wanted to help with the building, but when Zerubbabel told them no, they used their power and persuasion to stop construction for sixteen years.

During this time, Zerubbabel could have given up on the whole project. However, two individuals offered him advice and help: the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Not only did they prophesy to the people, but they also helped get the project back on track again. Their advice and encouragement helped Zerubbabel and the people to complete the Temple despite all the opposition.

Not only do leaders need to be able to encourage others, but they also need to find their own consistent sources of encouragement. This doesn't mean that a "guru" needs to be found. Instead, a leader needs to find trusted people who will listen, pray, and offer advice as God directs them to. Leaders flourish under consistent counsel. Now that's good advice!

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Finished!

For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. — Luke 14:28-29 

One of the most recognizable landmarks in Washington, D.C., is the Washington Monument. This 555-foot tall obelisk in the middle of town provides a spectacular view of the city and surrounding areas. It also has a rather fascinating story regarding its construction.

Work on the monument began in 1848, but six years later, members of the Know-Nothing Party (the nickname of the American Party) stopped the flow of funds, leaving an unsightly stump in the middle of town. It would be 25 years before construction resumed. Visitors can take note of this by looking at the color of the marble used in the building. A lighter shade is used for the first third of the monument, while the remaining section is darker.

I'm thankful that the Washington Monument was completed. It wouldn't look too good unfinished! And neither will our Christian lives if we don't consider the cost of following Christ.

With a large crowd following, Jesus told a story illustrating how costly faith is. No one would build a tower or go to war without first considering whether the endeavor would be successful. If the builder decided to plunge into these activities with reckless abandon, the results would be disastrous. Faith is not just reserved for church services but has a part in every decision we make at work, at home, and at school. It affects our choices of entertainment, our comments to other people, and how we spend our spare time. It reveals what our true beliefs about God are.

The cost of being a follower of Christ is immense. In fact, judging from the parable of the treasure hidden in the field (Matt. 13:44), the cost is total. But it pays huge dividends in the end. And we will be complete, instead of unfinished.

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Little Things Matter

"Aren't the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn't I wash in them and be healed?" So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. But his officers tried to reason with him and said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn't you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, 'Go and wash and be cured!'" — 2 Kings 5:12-13

In 1962, the Mariner I space probe was scheduled to travel to Venus and provide information to NASA scientists. It never got there, as it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean four minutes after takeoff. An investigation was launched into the cause for the crash and was later traced to the computer program directing the spacecraft. It turned out that somewhere in the program a single minus sign had been left out.

For some people, living out the basics of the Christian faith isn't exciting enough. Too insignificant. Not brave enough. However, the way a follower of Jesus handles small things, both in attitude and execution, determines to a large extent how they will handle larger things.

Naaman learned a lesson about this in today's passage. He was a mighty warrior of Aram but had leprosy. After getting permission to visit Elisha the prophet, he planned out in his mind exactly what would happen: Elisha would meet him, wave his hand, and call on God to heal him.

Instead, the prophet sent a messenger to Naaman, who told him to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was upset with this cure. He wanted something with a little more fanfare. But his officers called him on his attitude and encouraged him to take Elisha at his word. When Naaman decided to bathe in the Jordan, his small act of obedience cured him of his leprosy.

So take the time to get to know God through consistent prayer. Read about the characters in the Bible and their triumphs and failures. Make the most of the opportunities the Lord presents, no matter how insignificant they may seem. After all, little things do matter.

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Come Clean

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. — James 5:16

When New York's Citicorp tower was completed in 1977, many structural engineers hailed the tower for its technical elegance and singular grace. One year after the building opened, the structural engineer William J. LeMessurier came to a frightening realization. The Citicorp tower was flawed. Without his approval, joints that should have been welded were bolted. Under severe winds that come once every sixteen years to New York, the building would buckle.

LeMessurier weighed his options: Blow the whistle on himself. Suicide. Keep silent.

LeMessurier did what he had to do. He came clean. He confessed the mistake.

Plans were drawn up to correct the problem. Work began. And three months later, the building was strong enough to withstand a storm of the severity that hits New York once every seven hundred years.

The repairs cost millions of dollars. Nevertheless, LeMessurier's career and reputation were not destroyed but enhanced. One engineer commended LeMessurier for being a man who had the courage to say, "I've got a problem; I made the problem; let's fix the problem."

You may be at that point where you realize your life is like that flawed building. Although by all appearances you are strong and successful and together, you know you have points of weakness that make you vulnerable to collapse. Sin is corroding the very foundation of your life. What do you do?

You come clean, get help, and get fixed.

Confession is good for the soul. When we hide sin, we hide ourselves from others. Like William J. LeMessurier, when we come clean, we can, as James writes, live together whole and healed.

James is not suggesting merely to confess sin to a preacher or a priest. We confess our sin first to God, but we must confess our sin to those who have been affected by our sin as well. It is also beneficial to confess your sins to a trusted fellow believer who can offer a physical reminder of the grace of forgiveness and encourage you to live rightly.

So, confess your sin. Get it out of your heart. Make it right. And, move on.

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Giving Your Best

They were completely amazed and said again and again, "Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak." — Mark 7:37

Leaders pursue excellence. They lead their organizations, their families, their businesses, and, in fact, their very lives striving for their best.

Jesus was committed to excellence. God gave his very best--his Son. And, as the New Testament writer Mark reminds us, God's Son gave his very best--his life. He made the best wine (see Matthew 14:13-21), and the limbs he restored were perfect (see Mark 3:1-5). His followers should do no less. Less than our best is inadequate, considering the fact that God has given us his very best.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry." Whatever our role, our position, our organization, or our lot in life, we should strive for the best. The measure of our success should not be attached to our particular career or what we earn but on our character and what we give.

Excellence does not mean being the best but being your best, understanding that variation makes all the difference in the world. Excellence is being better than you were yesterday. Excellence means matching your practice with your potential.

Some people have fame thrust upon them. Very few have excellence thrust upon them. Excellence is achieved. What will you do to have people say, like they said of Jesus, "Everything he does is wonderful"?

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