Leadership Weekly

What Kind of Fishermen?

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers--Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew--throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, "Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!" And they left their nets at once and followed him. — Matthew 4:18-20

A good leader looks for undiscovered qualities in people and provides opportunities for those qualities to become assets. The ability to nurture talent and encourage growth in others can also create deep loyalty.

One of the tasks Jesus had to accomplish in his three years of ministry was to put an effective team together that could follow through with his mission after he had ascended to heaven. One problem was that no one had ever been trained in the field of church planting. Jesus had to pick people for his team who could grow into their jobs. His ability to see potential in people brought twelve very different men together.

How did Jesus persuade the disciples to join him? No begging, no buttering up. Jesus did not give the disciples false hope or exaggerate their potential. He simply told them that they would remain fishermen but that the bait and the catch would be much more significant.

Scripture tells us that Andrew and Peter responded immediately to the offer Jesus made. They faltered and fell along the way but always got back up and continued to follow Jesus. History records that they were loyal to Jesus unto death. Jesus called them away from an unexciting, common existence to a compelling and challenging career. The disciples could not have envisioned themselves as part of future earth-changing events, but Jesus knew exactly how they would be used to further his kingdom. Jesus had a vision and he invited simple men to step out of the common and into something completely new. That invitation made all the difference for the disciples and for the world.

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Synchronized Harmony

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. — John 16:13

While hiking in the lower elevations of the Alps, I saw small white clumps of sheep darting back and forth in the distance. Suddenly, among all the white spots I noticed a black border collie tenaciously herding the sheep. At first glance it appeared that the border collie was running randomly, chasing the flock around. It appeared that he was simply wearing the sheep to exhaustion. Upon closer examination, I noticed a man with a walking stick perhaps as far as half a mile away paying close attention to the collie. How was the collie receiving its directives from this shepherd? I stood very still and listened. Soon I heard a faint whistle: sometimes short, sometimes long, one high tone, one low tone. With every tone the collie changed his tack. I thought, He hears the whistle and knows it is his master's call. He has learned what each tone means and what his next move should be. He is completely synchronized with his master. The master and the collie worked in perfect harmony to lead and protect the shepherd's flock.

Unless we have our ears pricked high, we may very well be simply running our people and ourselves to a frazzle. Listening for the faint voice that directs our tactics and guides our words is absolutely essential. We may think that just plowing through will get things done more efficiently, but we are called to be in synchronized harmony with the Spirit. He will relay to us all we need to direct his people. Though there may be times when we aren't certain of the path, we can be certain that the Spirit is with us and directing us. We need only listen and obey when we hear. How well do you recognize the Shepherd's voice? How closely do you listen for the Master's whistle?

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A Credible Identity

For I know where I came from and where I am going . . . I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. — John 8:14, 16

There is nothing more attractive than a confident leader. "I know who I am, I know where I'm going, and I know how to get there," are statements that exude certainty and vision. But the most critical issue for confident leaders is whether or not they have the right to be confident. Do they have credibility? Credibility is related not to the amount of confidence one exudes but to one's past résumé of achievements. Credibility answers the question, "What is the caliber of the people who have already placed their trust in you?"

By the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus had fed thousands, healed multitudes, taught the scholars, and forgiven sinners. Still the Pharisees were compelled to challenge the credibility of Jesus. Fully aware of the agenda of the lawyers he was facing, Jesus nevertheless stated that he was sent by the Father and that the Father stood with him in his claims. He used language that forced them to make a choice about him.

The words Jesus spoke resonated with some and offended others. But they all understood him. Jesus knew that regardless of his resume, regardless of his Father's support, some would be dead set on opposing him.

Interestingly, Jesus did not focus long on those who rejected his call to redemption. Instead, he turned to those who did believe and encouraged them: "Jesus said to the people who believed in him, 'You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'" (v. 31).

Jesus' dialogue with the Pharisees served not simply to defend his credibility, though he was impressively successful in doing so. His statements primarily called some to saving faith. He then encouraged them to press on toward the freedom that comes from being pulled out from under the condemnation of the law that they knew so well. Jesus never allowed personal pride to interfere with the redemption of one heart. He never allowed the defense of his reputation to take precedence over his overall purpose: to bring sinners home.

Confidence and credibility are useful tools to have in carrying out leadership functions. They certainly affect our effectiveness in guiding people to Jesus. But they must be driven by a passion for others to experience spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ. Jesus calls us to be completely available for his service in this grand purpose.

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Distractions

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. — Mark 8:11-13

When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign." So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.

"I can't seem to get anything done. I spend most of my day just putting out fires."

Do those words sound familiar? Those little "fires" can distract us from accomplishing our major goals. They seem to take up all our time, and in the end, we realize that we haven't made any significant progress all day.

Jesus was familiar with distractions. The disciples sought him out while he was in the desert praying to his Father. The multitudes hunted him down and begged for healings or bread. His family dropped in unannounced. Often Jesus consented to the requests of the people. Indeed, much of Jesus' ministry centered on meeting the real needs of people. He willingly provided food, healing, or forgiveness. What may have appeared to be distractions were, in fact, vital parts of Jesus' ministry.

Still, there were times when Jesus flatly refused to be interrupted. When the Pharisees demanded signs after they had witnessed countless miracles, Jesus simply said no. Certainly the powers of Jesus were boundless. He could have complied with the requests of the Pharisees. But Jesus had set boundaries to his ministry. He came for the sick and the imprisoned. He came for the poor and the weak. He came for those who would believe. Knowing that his ministry on earth had limited time, he focused on those activities that proved fruitful.

Do we have the resolve to stay focused on the big picture? Are we able to say no to activities that will prove fruitless or people who are simply distracters? At the same time, are we sensitive to the little interruptions of the day that are really part of our calling? The choices before us require wisdom that only comes from God.

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Dark Valleys

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. — Psalm 23:4

Life in general is filled with highs and lows, but it can especially be apparent for those in Christian ministry leadership positions. Just look at how many pastors, youth ministers, and worship directors eventually leave ministry. The work wears on a person. The constant complaints of doing too little of this or too much of that can drain anyone. As a leader, you are expected to be there for everyone at every moment of the day. No one is able to be there at all times. Still, guilt fills the mind and causes you to doubt your ministry and your effectiveness.

Yet, we are not left alone in this world. Through the darkest valleys of life, through the most difficult times of ministry, God is with us. As we lead his people, we can rest knowing that God leads us. When things get tight, the problems don't seem to go away, and we struggle with guilt--the false guilt of not being able to be there for everyone--God will comfort us. He shields us even during the assaults of bitter people and harsh words. He will always lead us in a path meant to protect us and keep us strong.

When the road is dark and tough, God will guide and protect you. When you feel overwhelmed with loneliness, the Lord is close beside you. When your heart is asking hard questions and you feel beaten down, God will sustain you. We don't need to live in fear, for God is always with you. He is willing to comfort and protect you. He guides you through every mountain and valley of life. He is your true Leader/Shepherd. And the more you trust him as Lord, the more you will experience the wonder of having a Shepherd.

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A Child Shall Lead

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. — Isaiah 11:6

This is a captivating image--a wolf and a lamb, a leopard and goat, a calf and lion. All of them together, sharing one location. But, the most amazing part of all is that a little child will lead them. Not the strong adult. Not the eloquent speaker or elegant host--a little child. Sit and think about that for a while. A little child will lead them.

Why a little child? Wouldn't it be better to have someone with more experience and strength? After all, there are a lot of animals to deal with and guard. How would a little child be able to handle everything? Why a little child?

Children provide something that adults lost long ago: innocence. They aren't tarnished by the criticisms of the world. They delight in the simple things and possess a peace that we can only dream about. They also trust wholeheartedly that they are cared for and loved. There is no doubt. Children are important to God. In Matthew 18:3 we read: "[Jesus] said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.'" In order to enter the kingdom, a person needs to be like a child--pure, innocent, humble, and trusting. Only a little child has the trust and innocence to lead them all.

Take a look at your life. Are you like a little child? Do you humbly trust God for your every need? Are you in a leadership role? How do you lead? Do you lead trusting that people are able to handle tasks? Are you humble enough to admit when you are wrong? Humility is one of the toughest aspects of good leadership. It's hard to admit when we don't know something--we don't want people to think less of us. God tells us to put those fears behind and trust him. Only a true leader will emerge, if she becomes like a child and allows God to use her.

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Leadership Rest

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." — Matthew 11:28

Being in any type of leadership role is a difficult task, and it can really take a toll on you. Unfortunately, I have found that it is incredibly common in ministry roles. I have the wonderful privilege of working with the high school youth group at my church. I am blessed to lead a wonderful small group of freshman and sophomore girls. But, it's not easy being a leader. It can be both energizing and draining. I'm energized when I see that my girls "get it." I'm energized when I see the relationships they develop with each other. Wondering if I am making a positive impact on their lives can be draining--emotionally and mentally. I care for these girls, and I want them to grow in their faith.

Jesus says that we can come to him and find rest. The rest Jesus is talking about is not just physical rest but emotional, mental, and spiritual rest. It's rest for your soul. I long for that type of rest.

In order to find that rest, I need to acknowledge my burdens and hand them over to Jesus. That's the difficult part. I want to have rest, but it is so hard to let go of the things that mean so much to me. I want to be in control--as if the more I do, the more I can influence the outcome. I can never be the leader that God desires me to be unless I remember his role in all of it. I must trust that he will take care of things. The outcome of my small group is ultimately up to God and not me. He just calls me to be involved in ministering to his people.

Are you in a ministry role? Do you feel as if you constantly have to work harder to impress people and to have your ministry grow? Have you really let go and handed the ministry over to God, allowing him to work in your life? Give it over to him. It won't be easy, but only God can allow it to thrive. Spend time alone with him, give him your burdens, and he will give you rest.

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Spotting a Fake

A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thornbushes, nor grapes on bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. — Luke 6:44-45

The British Museum in London received an ancient artifact, a painted rock, in 2005. Titled "Early man venturing towards the out-of-town hunting grounds," it featured animals, a man, and a curious tool. After being on display for three days, the museum removed the artifact from its exhibit. It turned out that the "curious tool" painted on the rock was a shopping cart! A notorious hoax artist was responsible for getting it into the museum, where it remained until experts realized the piece was a fake.

People have the ability to show a certain personality on the outside while being something different internally. And just like the museum's "artifact," one's outward personality can be seen as legitimate if concealed well enough. However, there will come a time when something--a phone call, a speeding driver, a crisis--will expose the person's true identity. The hoax-life will be revealed. Unless our outward appearance matches our inward appearance, we will be exposed for who we are inwardly.

Jesus said, "A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit" (Luke 6:43).

Likewise, a person claiming to know Jesus as Forgiver and Leader should not go around berating or threatening his or her coworkers. These attitudes diminish one's potential witness for the Lord, giving those who don't know Jesus "valid" reasons not to believe him. Sooner or later our outward appearances will drown out our inward claims. We should be doing our best to exhibit Christ in the most positive light we can. Otherwise, our words and actions will be revealed as hypocritical.

Let's be real--to ourselves, to others, and to God--and help others to be the same. That way, the only inward thing that will be exposed is the Lord we love and follow.

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