Category Archives: Leader

Honour

honourlogo_8001While boarding the plane I noticed that the executive class seats were mostly empty. In fact, many of the economy seats were vacant too. I took my place amoung the commoners and peasants in the cheap seats. My seat was 12D, which was an aisle seat in the row immediately behind executive class. Across the aisle from me was a middle-aged woman who was fumbling to find her ringing mobile phone. She launched into her loud-talker voice, telling her friend how “unfair” and “not right” it was that Air Canada would make her sit in economy when there were empty seats in executive class. I chuckled to myself as she expressed her frustration to her friend (and the entire plane) about how she shouldn’t be in economy class. In her twisted thinking, she was due a greater place. Though she paid the same fare as the rest of us, in her mind she was more deserving than the other 300 passengers. Perhaps she didn’t notice other passengers that were more deserving of that honour than her: senior citizens, folks with mobility issues, Canadian soldiers, and the like.

There are a few areas where I think we have departed from the way things used to be–to our detriment. One of these is the way we honour one another and those in authority amoung us. From child to parent, parishioner to pastor, peer to peer, employee to boss, dishonour is rampant in our society. We live in a culture of dishonour. Roasting and lampooning leaders is a common practice. Often we are experts at faultfinding. We think we are helping by pointing out these flaws but it has a harmful effect.

I visited two of our Bible colleges last week and it struck me as odd when the students referred to President Morrow and President Demchuck as “Bill” and “Dave.” I know the new catchword in modern leadership culture is relationship but in our attempts to equalize the hierarchy, and make everyone common, is there not still room for us to show honour? After 15 years of working together I still default to referring to my friend, and former District Superintendant, as Pastor Doug. Sometimes in our interactions he gets the tag “captain,” “chief,” or “boss,” but rarely “Doug.” He has no preference of the name I call him; it’s just been the honourable label I’ve used – given his position and his advanced years. [insert chuckle here].

Children, especially, should be taught to honour adults. My children are not permitted to call our pastor, Joe, by his first name.   The names of unfamiliar adults in their life are called Mr. or Mrs.

Showing honour, of course, has little to do with name we use to address someone, but the way in which we speak about, or act around, another person testifies of whether or not we honour them. I believe that honour should be given to everyone; including those we work with, work for, and who work for us.

A pastor is worthy of honour because of the office he or she holds. Honour is not to be withdrawn from someone based on his or her performance.

I almost came unglued in a recent meeting when a layperson, on a tangent unrelated to the agenda, begin a rant about the excessive “perks” given to pastors. This man lives in ignorance, and is prone to dishonour. I would be the last person to advocate for a pastor’s pity party, but there are some realities unique to pastoral ministry. Apart from the perpetual state of readiness a pastor lives in, there is a continual pressure of being evaluated and assessed in every area of life and leadership.

Pastors don’t get 2-days off in a row, except on vacation. And, generally, the pay stinks – especially the pay-to-expectation ratio. What parishioners don’t know is that 45% of pastors will experience burnout or depression that will force them, permanently or temporarily, to leave their job. Almost half of all pastors have seriously considered leaving the ministry within the last 3 months. A third of pastors say that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family. 75% say that they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.

I know that there are people in our congregations that work harder, longer, and for less pay than their pastor, but that regrettable reality is not license for pastors to be under-appreciated. Why can’t we give our pastors more than they deserve? What are we afraid of? What would happen if a pastor was over-paid, over-rested, and over-honoured? I think that might just be biblical: “And now, friends, we ask you to honour those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!” (The Message)

Leaders must honour their followers and colleagues.

“In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) Every person is worthy of honour because of the high value inherent in being a creation of God. If we see God in the person next to us, we would treat them with honour.

We are to show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour those in authority. Romans 12:10 reminds us to, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.” Scripture also take the time to remind us to honour widows (1 Timothy 5:3), elders (1 Timothy 5:17), the elderly (Leviticus 19:32), parents (Ephesians 6:1-3), spouses (1 Peter 3:7), and bosses (1 Timothy 6:1). There are also verses instructing older ministers to honour the younger ones (1 Timothy 5:1-2).

As pastors and leaders we must commit to speaking honourably of other pastors and ministries. It is easy to find the faults, but godly leaders look for the positive. Andrew Carnagie said, “Finding greatness in an individual is a lot like mining for gold. When you go into the mine you realize that you will have to move a ton of dirt to find an ounce of gold. However, you never go to the mine looking for the dirt. You always go to the mine looking for the gold!”  If you go looking for dirt you will find plenty of it.

It is always sinful to join with others to create alliances around a cause that dishonours others.  There are appropriate times, situations, and places to voice criticism and complaint. Wise and godly leaders are able to discern these times.

Honour is held in the heart and shown in physical expressions.

Dress – When I ran a small business I occasionally would interview potential employees. I was shocked at the way interviewees would dress. One potential salesperson even came wearing flip-flops, shorts, and an ugly Hawaiian shirt. He had no chance of obtaining my employment. We show honour to another person by what we wear when in their company.

Deference – If we preferred and honoured one another as Scripture says, wouldn’t church parking lots fill up from the farthest space first, and then be filled from there to the more preferable spaces? [insert groan here]

Dialogue – How we talk speaks the most about whether we honour others or not. Whatever is in the heart will eventually come out the mouth.

To honour means to value. We honour what you value. We keep it in special place. We hold it in high-esteem. Honour for another person is displayed in our actions, evidenced by our words, and reflected in our thoughts. Most importantly, honour originates and is held in our heart, for if we do, speak, and think about honouring someone we still fail if we do not honour in our heart.

Withholding honour always produces negative results.

“If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs.” (Matt 10:41)

Some leaders and churches are not successful simply because they neglect to dispense appropriate honour to one another and authorities. Honour, according to Scripture, begets reward.

John encourages us to live in such a way that we will receive the full reward. We see this in Scripture as different people connect with Jesus. Mark 6:5 says that Jesus “could do no mighty works” in His hometown of Nazareth. It doesn’t say He wouldn’t do them, but rather, he couldn’t – he was restrained. What restrained Him? The same thing that restrains our churches and ourselves: a lack of honour. They dishonoured Him and received only small, partial reward – only a few minor healings.

Those who honoured Jesus, like the Roman centurion in Matthew 8, received a full reward. Honour was the key. Those who honoured Him in part, like the people of Nazareth, only received a partial reward. And, those who dishonoured him – even if only in thought, like the teachers and preachers of the law, received no reward.

The Scriptures declare that the way we treat others is the way we treat Jesus Himself. If we honour others, we honour Jesus. And there are rewards for showing honour. The blessings of God rest upon one who honour others.

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Sightless

doubtIf God was small enough to be understood, He wouldn’t be big enough to handle your sin.

The Bible says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1). It sounds weird, but you can only be certain by faith. You can stay seated on the edge, or you can fall into God and be certain. The Word says that no one can come to God unless the Spirit of God draws him or her. The tug that people feel inside, in the middle of all the unanswered questions, is the Spirit’s drawing. It is the Holy Spirit (think instructor or dive coach) that invites people into that relationship—not the reasoning alone.

Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed.” (John 20:29). John 20 also gives us four instances of those who had to see before they could believe. First, it mentions John who comes to faith not by seeing Jesus himself but by seeing the empty burial wrappings. Second, Mary Magdalene sees Jesus but does not recognize and confess Him as Lord until He calls her name. Third, the disciples see Jesus before believing it is really Him. Fourth is Thomas; he also sees Jesus and then believes, but only after insisting on a sign.

When Jesus left the earth and went to the Father in heaven, He left a new kind of faith: a belief without having physical, visible “in the flesh” encounters with the resurrected Christ. He tells us about another kind of faith: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). So we must cease being so cerebral. Sure, we must be reasonable and approach faith intellectually, but we cannot neglect the beautiful mystery. It is a wonderful complexity. One of the most conflicting yet profound statements in Scripture is: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

Across Germany at the end of World War II, Allied forces searched farms and houses looking for snipers. Allegedly, at one abandoned house, searchers with flashlights found their way to the basement. There, on the crumbling wall, a victim of the Holocaust had scratched a Star of David. Beneath it, in rough lettering, was scrawled: “I believe in the sun—even when it does not shine; I believe in love—even when it is not shown; I believe in God—even when He does not speak.”

5 Dangers of Giftedness

giftedIt is bizarre that the most capable among us are occasionally the same people who feel inadequate and unaccepted. Many insecure leaders possess a wealth of talent, ability, and gifting, but they are still unsure. This is because our abilities can also be our most significant weaknesses. A person who is at ease when talking within a social circle risks becoming a person who doesn’t know when to shut up. An organized person can administrate a project—to death. Musical people often forget that there is more to ministry than singing or playing an instrument.

The more gifted you are, the more likely you are to be dangerous to follow. Gifted people are more likely to neglect spiritual disciplines, struggle with being personally dependant on God, and limit their vision to those things for which they do not need supernatural assistance. In other words, they have a harder time finding their security in God when they can easily find ways to be sure in self.

I am not suggesting that giftedness is wrong, nor am I suggesting that you suppress your gifts. In fact, Scripture tells us to hone them and fan them into flame. But we are also told to keep them in proper perspective. You have probably noticed many gifted people who live only in their areas of skill, to the detriment of the other tasks that need their attention. Those who only live in this safe arena never learn of the security that can only be found in Christ.

Danger #1 – Identity

Based loosely on Robert Ludlum’s novel, The Bourne Identity is a film about a man whose wounded body is discovered by fishermen who nurse him back to health. He can’t remember anything and begins to try to rebuild his memory based on clues. In one scene, Bourne sits in a restaurant struggling to reboot his memory. He has no idea who he is, but he is keenly aware of his innate abilities—he instinctively knows the sight lines in the restaurant, the license plate numbers of every vehicle in the parking lot, and the weight of each restaurant patron. He even knows the most likely place to find a weapon. But none of that information tells him who he is or what he does. Similarly, you cannot look only to the areas in which you are gifted when you are seeking a definition of yourself or a discernment of your ministry role in the Kingdom. Giftedness only provides the clues.

Likewise, you cannot allow a lack of giftedness in a particular area to be the sole reason to exclude yourself from a ministry task. A sovereign God prepares you and makes you ready for the work. As with Moses, who’s skillset never matched the task, God’s promise (“I will be with you”) holds in it the implicit promise of supernatural equipping.

In my case, according to the personality assessment and gift inventories, I have operated outside of my giftedness many times. This only serves to prove the sovereignty of God and the constant supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Danger #2 – Approval

Giftedness can be mistaken as God’s approval of how we are living our lives. Success and prosperity do not always indicate endorsement, nor do struggle and suffering necessarily point to God’s disapproval. There are many gifted people who enjoy tremendous success while their lives are void of integrity.

There are very few formulas in Scripture. We like “if… then” formulas, but they simply don’t work. Job walked blamelessly before the Lord and yet endured tremendous hardship. Jacob was blessed, even though deception was his common practice. We want to say that “if” we are experiencing success, “then” God is pleased with our performance. This is simply not always the case. Success does not necessarily mean that God’s will has been done. Os Guinness further suggests:

One of the most common, subtle, and manipulative distortions of all is in religious empire building. God only knows how many churches, missionary societies, charities, colleges, crusades, reforms, and acts of philanthropic generosity have trumpeted the call of God and advanced their leaders’ egos. In a generation’s time this law will probably be seen as the single greatest problem of the mega-church movement. More than any part of the church of Christ should, today’s big churches and parachurch organizations rise and fall by the strength of a single person.

Some ministries have had a lot of success when analyzed with a worldly view, but in the light of eternity they may not have been the desire of God. Thankfully, God has been gracious. In my life, even in the times when I have been “out of God’s will,” He has used me to minister, but that still did not validate my waywardness. In His kingdom, obedience is always preferred to sacrifice. Doing some right things never trumps doing the right thing.

Danger #3 – Over-definition

Ministry leaders are often typecast into specific roles, and the Kingdom never gets the full advantage of their more subtle gifts. Giftedness can over-define who you are. This is especially true for those who have public and obvious gifts and skills. Many times, leaders are overlooked because of their primary gifts. If this happens several times, leaders can soon forget to develop other gifts—the ones that are dormant inside them. Time and again have heard people excuse themselves from personal evangelism or other Kingdom tasks because it’s “not their thing.” Scripture is clear on what tasks are our “things.” Unfortunately, sometimes we use our giftedness to excuse ourselves from God’s commands.

Danger #4 – Hardship

Giftedness does not assist us during times of struggle and hardship. Eliphaz, one of Job’s first advisors, was quick to point Job to his gifts and accomplishments, but those words offered no comfort. In days of trial, true connection with Christ is the only remaining anchor. In dark times, leaders who have not cultivated closeness with Christ will find that their resources are not sufficient for conquering present struggles. Gifting can never eliminate the insecurity felt in hardship.

Danger #5 – Self-reliance

Worst of all, giftedness can lower our dependence on God. Poor leaders rest on one or two of their primary abilities. Great leaders, however, live just slightly on the other side of their ability. They blaze trails to where their skills alone could not bring them. They see the natural but also consider the supernatural. They live in such a manner that if God doesn’t show up, they will fail.

I have had the blessing of being with many gifted people. I have envied (or have been jealous of) their abilities. But when I’ve been with gifted people who truly have a relationship with Christ, I find myself not only considering their gifts, but challenged by their connection with the Almighty. Each of us has gifts according to the grace given us, but greater than gifts is the presence of Christ in our lives. Gifts are dangerous, unless we have learned to speak with God as a friend speaks with a friend.

Paul summarizes it well in 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3)

 

 

Sweet Spot

Sweet-SpotLiving mostly in your “sweet spot” will breed confidence. The sweet spot is actualized when a person operates at the center of his or her skill, knowledge, talent, and gifts,  reaches full ministry strength, and lives in empowerment. A skill is something acquired through training over a period of time (such as typing). Knowledge is something you learn (such as knowing that if you kick a wasp nest, you will get stung). A talent is a natural aptitude for something which is developed and formed over time (such as playing the piano). A gift is given by God beyond one’s natural ability and is always given as “ours for others” (such as serving). All of these can only be discovered by “doing,” not “hearing.” The only way to learn to lead is by leading. You find your calling by examining your gifts, but you can only determine your gifts by serving others.

Oscillation

oscGood leaders know when to get out of the game for a break. It’s like tobogganing as a child. There comes a point when the sled is going too fast and it is best to simply jump off. The trick is to get off while it is still possible. In his must-read book, Leading On Empty, Wayne Cordeiro writes: Your system has to recharge, but it requires a trickle charge, one that restores you with a sustained low-amperage.”

Stress is good. We need stress. It is by stress that we grow. It is not the presence of stress that destroys a leader; it is the absence of rest. In the sport’s medicine world, this need of stress and rest is called oscillation. Athletes increase their capacity by stressing their bodies to the limit and then resting/refuelling their bodies.

Jim Loehr, a performance psychologist, states: In the living laboratory of sports, we learned that the real enemy of high performance is not stress, which, paradoxical as it may seem, is actually the stimulus for growth. Rather, the problem is the absence of disciplined, intermittent recovery. Chronic stress without recovery depletes energy reserves, leads to burnout and breakdown, and ultimately undermines performance. Rituals that promote oscillation—rhythmic stress and recovery—are the second component of high performance. Repeated regularly, these highly precise, consciously developed routines become automatic over time.

For exercise, I sometimes to swim in the mornings at a local pool. When I first started to swim again, I expected to be able to perform like I did when I was a teen. Halfway down the lane, I thought I was going to pass out! My body wasn’t used to exercising like that. The next day, I could barely move. But time after time, swim after swim, I began to move past sore muscles and shortness of breath. I went from taking a full minute to complete a length, to fifty seconds, then forty seconds, and then thirty seconds. Sports scientists say that what I’m doing is damaging my muscles and letting them heal. This healing takes about forty-eight hours, and surprisingly my muscles have then become stronger. Conversely, when I fail to oscillate between stressing my muscles and resting, I send my muscles into atrophy.

If you are overstressed, it is more likely that you mean that you are under-rested. The stress is actually increasing your leadership ability—but only if you are permitting “oscillation.”

I doubt there is a formula for oscillation, because every person is different, but every person can optimize his or her stress and recovery pattern. For example, in order to become a great public speaker, you have to put yourself in the nervous place of being in front of a crowd, repeatedly.

You must learn to rest effectively. Rest is a skill. Living in oscillation requires deliberate effort and hard work. Without rest, you cannot live or lead well. Musicians know that it’s the space between notes that makes the music.

Even Monkeys Fall From Trees

monkeyFamiliarity can be an enemy to a leader’s soul. According to an old Japanese proverb, “Even monkeys fall from trees.” The jungle, for which they were made, is the same place that can bring them harm. The environment to which they are accustomed becomes their foe. We, too, can get used to our habitat and the ease in which we move within it. We coast. Our guard drops. We lean on our competence and success. We’ve got the jungle well-manicured. Everything runs well, even though we cannot recall what the machine actually does. We are in control, though. We are not moving forward, but at least things are going smoothly.

But who wants a life that’s always smooth? Those who don’t dare to fail greatly never achieve anything great.

Give It Time

God always works in you before He works through you. God has the final word. What you think about yourself doesn’t matter as much as you might suppose.  Do not be dejected by what others may think of you either.

Os Guinness wrote, “You may be depressed by the pages of your life that are blotched with compromises, failures, trials, and sin. You have had your say. Others may have had their say. But make no judgments and draw no conclusions until the scaffolding of history is stripped away and you see what it means for God to have had his say—and made you what you are called to be.”

Why Are We Insecure?

book

There are several interrelated and broad explanations as to why we operate so often in insecurity. First, our understanding of God’s love is deficient. Our striving to prove ourselves, in order to be validated by those around us, clearly communicates that we really do not believe our own teachings about grace.

Insecurity tells us that you are what you do, and if you do not do, then you are nothing. Yet in fact you are made worthy not by what you do but by the reality that you are a child of God. Therefore, you must not lead for acceptance, but from acceptance. James Lawrence expresses this in his fantastic book, Growing Leaders, and continues by saying, “Unless we know we are chosen, the children of a loving God, we will lead from an insecure place, constantly twisting the privilege of a leadership position to meet our own needs.”

The Bible says that you are his workmanship. In other words, you are a masterpiece. On one of those antique evaluation shows, people show up with junk and walk away with valuable treasures after an appraiser reveals its true value. Have you ever seen the painting Dora Maar au Chat? I have no real understanding of art, but in my opinion it is a creepy image comparable to some of the projects done by school children. However, Dora Maar au Chat is worth at least $102 million! The reason? Pablo Picasso painted it. Because of the artist, it is almost priceless. You have immense worth because of who painted you. His signature is scribed onto you. You may feel low when you consider intelligence, looks, popularity, or ability—but you are “worth more than gold.”

Second, we operate in insecurity because we pursue personal agendas rather than follow Jesus. Without a focus on Jesus, our motives for leadership become skewed by our own needs. Our abilities promote us to places where our character cannot keep us. We become victims of our own giftedness. We have clever strategy sessions to formulate creative vision plans without prayer; yet Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Gerald Harrison contends, “Ministry is what we leave in our tracks as we concentrate on following Jesus.” We should fix our eyes on the Father. Leaders must ask, “What is motivating me to do, or not do, the ministries that I am performing?” The motivation question is the most important self-assessment to consider.

Third, we neglect to cultivate an intimate relationship with God. The quantity of ministry confidence we possess is directly related to the depth of our spiritual walk. It is a “first love” issue. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance… yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:2, 4). We are insecure because we know things are not well in our spiritual lives. Some leaders rarely practice spiritual disciplines. We do not pray as we should. The Scriptures have become “for reference only.” Solitude is not practiced. Fasting has become obsolete. Repentance seems passé. We are so busy trying to change others that we forget to continually change ourselves.

In contrast, as George Barna writes in Revolution, “Revolutionaries zealously pursue an intimate relationship with God, which Jesus promised we could have through Him. They recognize that there is a huge price to pay in this life-time… but an eternal pay-off as well.”

Oswald Chambers adds to this truth when he writes, “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ, the greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for him… The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for him.” Knowing and doing His will depends on the substance of our relationship with Him. If our “first love” is not healthy, then nothing else in our lives will be completely healthy, either.

Next, we lack clear purpose and mission. Mother Teresa for example, had a clear mission. She once said, “I am not [made] for meetings and conventions. Speaking in public and I don’t agree.” She refused to be distracted by the lure of the crowd. Without a clear purpose in life, we are left to work day by day, giving ourselves over to the tyranny of the urgent rather than the important. We bounce from project to project and never get to do that which we were called to do. We try to lay track in front of a moving train. Consequently, we never determine our particular purpose in the Mission. We never figure out our “wiring,” our “sweet spot,” or our “niche.” We become unsure of what we have been called to achieve. We are pushed to a place of doubt. Chris Gardner, the man behind the story featured in the film The Pursuit of Happyness, understood the importance of realizing purpose. He once said, “Find something you love to do so much, you can’t wait for the sun to rise to do it all over again.”

Lastly, we do not make an effort to resolve our issues. Skeletons remain in the closet. Bad habits go unchallenged. Temptations and tendencies get ignored. The love of money, lust, or power strangles our potential. It is impossible for those held captive to their issues to feel secure. Every prisoner feels the torment of being under the control of something. Leadership confidence has little to do with theological prowess, management competencies, personality, or skillset. Instead, such security comes from knowing God’s love, having clarity of purpose, resolving our issues, and developing closeness with Christ.

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Motive

If your heart is right, the skills can be added. But, if you’re in it for fame and fortune, you probably won’t achieve either. Well, you might become famous, but for all the wrong reasons.

Here is my favorite quote: “There are many people who think they want to be matadors, only to find themselves in the ring with two thousand pounds of bull bearing down on them, and then discover that what they really wanted was to wear tight pants and hear the crowd roar.” (Terry Pearce)

Reliance

engine fireSome trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of Jehovah our God.” (Psalm 20:7, ASV)

Following a drastic turn and sharp descent, the pilot announced that an emergency landing was necessary. The slight quiver in his voice betrayed his attempt at nonchalance. Just a few minutes earlier, the co-pilot had awkwardly informed us that the right engine was on fire. They shut down the faulty one. He assured the cabin that they were trained and able to fly an aircraft with a single engine.

I had chosen this airline to save a few dollars. It was a new airline with young pilots and an even younger crew. I was seated in seat 1C on a short night-time flight from Toronto to Ottawa before connecting to another flight that would take me home to my pretty wife and fun-loving kids. Having the closest seat to the cockpit gave me a front-row view of the commotion.

Flight attendants scurried to satisfy all their rehearsed protocols and procedures while trying to reassure a few hundred anxious travelers. Their attempts to soothe passengers failed when another turn, to align the aircraft to the runway, revealed a strip of asphalt flanked on either side by emergency vehicles illuminating the night. Their flashing lights told us, “We fully expect you to crash.”

The pilot instructed the crew to take their seats in preparation for “landing.” A young attendant took her spot in the jump-seat facing me. Our knees were about four feet apart, leaving little choice but for us to engage in an uncomfortable chitchat. At my best, I’m silly and sarcastic. At my worst, well, I’m just plain awkward.

“Are you okay, sir?” she dutifully asked. She added a nervous smirk.

“Yes, I’m fine. How ‘bout you? Are you doing okay?”

“Oh, yes. We are trained to handle this. We learned about this in school.”

Trying to be clever, I asked, “So they taught you how to conquer gravity?”

She didn’t laugh. I fumbled with a magazine. My seatmate started crying. In case you are wondering, we did not crash and I did not die. We landed with a vicious thud and an abrupt stop. Emergency vehicles rushed to the aircraft. After a few minutes, we were dispensed like livestock back into the Toronto terminal, and a few hours later I was on another aircraft heading home.

What struck me during this unexpected descent was the constant repetition of the young crew’s “education.” I suppose that’s what we tend to do when we are in a new crisis or have limited experience. We assert our qualifications and credentials. But education can never carry the ball the whole way. It isn’t enough. I would rather have heard, “We have been through this a dozen times before. It’ll be okay.”

I need my surgeon to have diplomas and certificates hung on his office wall, but before he cuts me open I want to know that he has sliced a few dozen people already—and with a high rate of success. I want my chiropractor to have done more than watch a few YouTube training clips. I want those who are responsible for the ones I love to have cultivated some instinct and intuition. They have to bring to the table more than their education.

There is a difference between “education” and “training.” In leadership preparation, we may have over-promoted education. Leadership cannot be taught. It is a God-given talent. Skills can be taught, but leadership is not a skill. Nor is it a science. It is an art. It comes from within.

In the ministry context, leadership is empowered by a supernatural force that reaches beyond education. The natural talent of leadership can only be enhanced. Skills and tools can be added. We cannot make leaders, but we can make leaders become better. This is why leadership giftings (and callings) can transcend all personality types, self-esteem, upbringing, and dysfunction. It is also the reason why insecure people can still grow as leaders, regardless of their concept of self. Insecure leaders must learn that when they say it is impossible for them to do what God has asked, it is less a statement about their weakness and more a testimony about their lack of faith in God.

Your path to leadership has made you into the leader you are, and the effects of that journey are often the same things that empower and validate your leadership. Ability is the gift of experience, as is intuition, wisdom, knowledge, and confidence. These, therefore, are like gold and should never be squandered. The blessings you have received are always for you to share with others. Likewise, the curses and crosses you have borne are for you to share as well—in the form of warning signs for others. If one’s path into leadership is void of obstacles, chances are that the path didn’t lead anywhere significant. Without challenges, the reward of arriving at the destination isn’t as sweet.

It is precisely these paths which create meaningful leadership. Indeed, there is a deep modern-day thirst for gripping and innovative leadership. People are pleading for leaders who will inspire them to go places they would never go alone and to attempt things they would normally consider unattainable. They want someone who will give them the opportunity to end up somewhere on purpose.

The problem is that none of us are born with the leadership skills we need to help guide those who follow our lead. Our theological institutions have done well with aligning our theology, but they have failed to enhance us as leaders. We are left with a propensity to replicate the poor leadership habits of others, especially when spiritual models and mentors are not easily found.

The root of this crisis is neither cognitive nor academic. It is not church malfunction. It is not institutional apathy. The problem is spiritual, psychological, and yes, in some part theological. Simply, we are scared. I doubt there has ever been an era when leaders have been more timid about who they are or what they are aiming for. Bill Thrall says, “The dysfunctions of many leaders are rooted in a common reality: Their capacities have been extensively trained while their character has been merely presumed.” This assumption cultivates and nourishes insecurity.

These insecurities are most evident in those who are incessant workaholics, or those who have resigned themselves to coast lazily through leadership. We will deal with these more thoroughly in subsequent chapters, but there are initial clues that often point to such insecure leaders:

1. Their conversations center on themselves.

2. They enjoy telling others of their busyness and obligations.

3. Attendance patterns, finances, and the sum of church programs mean more to these church leaders than transformed lives.

4. They have the need to maintain control and they struggle with permitting others to lead, especially if the others lead well or lead better than they do.

5. They feel threatened, jealous, or angry, and display a need to brag or become sarcastic when in the company of a proficient leader.

6. They feel vulnerable when a subordinate outperforms them.

7. They are reluctant to give credit for victories and struggle to celebrate someone else’s achievements.

8. They get annoyed when people do not call them by their title.

9. They default to leading by consensus (what people think) rather than in consultation with God.

These attributes cause us to try to master the “how-to’s” rather than being a called child of God or the “why.” In The Call, Os Guinness describes the calling as “the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.” However, we are now reducing ourselves to becoming ministry technicians.

In the journey toward inner health, insecurity is not defeated by becoming surer about our leadership but rather by being absolutely sure about God.

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