As a pastor I have experienced moments where I connect so well with a crowd while I stand on the stage and speak, only to turn around and be an awkward ball of awkwardness in a one on one conversation running for the safety of my office (fortress of solitude). I find it so interesting that many pastors have become much more comfortable in front of the crowd than they are with one person.
Are we afraid that someone may have connected with the sermon and ask us a question? Are we afraid that we may lose our voice if we actually talk to people between sermons? Are we afraid that someone who needs some help may take more time than we have to give?
This is not a soapbox blog, because more than anything this is a confession. However, when I look at Jesus I see it repeated over and over that the shepherd should be more concerned for the individual than he is for the crowd. That’s why the parable talks about leaving the 99 to go and find the one sheep that has wandered off. (Matt 18:12)
At that moment it’s the one that wandered off that needs the most help.
It’s the one that leaves the crowd and comes and finds you in the hallway to ask you to pray with them that needs the most help. It’s the one who so resonates with your message because of the painful memories it stirred in their heart that needs the most help in that moment. In some moments the individual needs more help than the crowd. I pray that I will know those moments and be more like the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
Leaders must hear the voice of God. The leader who seeks the will of the sovereign God of the universe is at a very distinct advantage. At times this is a discipline that is much easier said than done. Leader’s can be intimidated by the idea of seeking the will of God in their decisions. However, I believe this is a practice that draws not only the leader closer to God and leads them to glorify God more in their lives, but it also leads every person in the organization to that same end.
Depending on your organization you can determine how overt you are with your intentions or how subtle you are. But whether it’s a church, a law firm, or your family when you as the leader set out to seek God’s will and bring others on the journey with you they will glorify God whether they know it or not.
1. God’s speaks through scripture. This is the revealed will of God. You don’t need to pray about lying, cheating, killing, or stealing. The Bible already reveals God’s will on these and hundreds of other matters you will face as a leader. It’s important to study God’s word with the perspective that the Bible is living and active, and it applies to your life each day. I know you are extremely busy, but you can listen to podcasts while you drive of great Bible teachers. You can listen to audio books and the Bible on audio while you work out. You can skip an episode Moonshiners and spend that time in God’s word and you will quickly find answers to many of life’s questions.
2. God speaks through other people. It’s important to put people around you who will guide you in your decisions. One way to make sure your organization doesn’t improve is to put “yes” men/women around you who will only agree with everything you say. If people are willing to speak honestly many times God speaks through the wise counsel of others. Put people around you that search the truth of the scriptures and seek God’s will in their own lives and in your organization.
3. God speaks through the Holy Spirit. It is important to take time each day and commune with God so that you are sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes you have to intentionally drown out the noise of the world around you and all the distractions that come with it and tune in to God’s voice. The Holy Spirit will remind us of all that Christ has taught, and will lead us in all truth.
Imagine what your organization could like if you listened to God’s voice each day. Take courage leader. You’re not in this alone. Listen to God’s voice and He will lead you to places you couldn’t even dream of.
Prayer: God tune my heart to the voice of the Holy Spirit each day. Speak to me and drown out the noise that keeps me from hearing you.
Accountability is one of the most important weapons in the arsenal of any leader. Let’s face it, bad leadership is rooted in sin. The character traits that cause many great leaders to fall are things like; insecurity, selfishness, greed, lust, lying, cheating, etc. The power of the scripture from James is that he lays out a formula for successful leadership. Success comes from healing, and healing comes from accountability.
Here are three ways for you to pursue accountability in your leadership.
1. Be transparent. Let’s open with the hardest one, like ripping a bandage off as fast as possible. If you are not open in your accountability relationships then there will be zero benefit from these relationships. James says confess your sins to one another. I really can’t think of being more open than that. If the point of this relationship is to bring healing in your areas of struggle then one critical aspect of success is that you each know what your struggles are. Be open, be honest, be transparent.
2. Build mutual respect. It’s hard to define this so I’ll tell what it’s not. I know people who claim to have accountability in their life. The people who are supposed to hold them accountable are also people who know their future success and livelihood are based on their leader’s happiness. One can look at this situation from the outside and see clearly that because of fear and a lack of mutual respect the accountability portion of the relationship only goes one way. Don’t go to someone who is too timid or too wise not to say an unkind word to you and expect that person to hold you accountable. Find people who will actually speak the truth without fear of your backlash when you are faced with some brutal honesty.
3. Be trustworthy. Don’t complain that people are not open and honest with you if you are constantly gossiping or talking bad about others. This sends a clear message to people that you are okay with putting the private lives of others on public display if just given the opportunity. Watch what you say about everyone, especially those who are taking the difficult step of confessing their sins to you as they seek help and healing.
As an east Indian I also understand there are cultural barriers to transparency. Honestly, as an honor/shame culture we are taught to always present ourselves as better than we really are and don’t let anyone know what we or our family are going through. You have to be willing to overcome whatever discomfort you feel and find someone who will hold you accountable. You will see growth in every part of your life, and those you lead will see a noticeable difference in your leadership.
Prayer: God lead me to the people that can speak the truth to me in love. Those who will not rejoice in my shortcomings, but who love me enough to help me get past them. Give me the strength to be transparent and bring healing as I work through my struggles.
1 Kings 9:4-5 And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever (The Lord speaking to Solomon)
A person of character walks with integrity. If there is a chasm in leadership today I believe it shows itself most often in leaders who lack integrity. The media gives us an insider’s view of lying politicians and athletes, cheating CEOs, unfaithful spouses, etc. I wish I could say things change when you step out of the public eye, but sometimes church leaders and family members also lack integrity in their day to day lives without the nuisance of cameras following them.
God created us with the desire to be awesome, and God desires that we be awesome. What we often do is take any shortcut necessary to get what we want to get when we want to get it. We don’t want to seek God’s will and do it His way, and though our faith is not works-based our work becomes faithless. Our beliefs and values have no effect on the way we live and the way we lead.
Here Solomon gets the secret to success (godly success) spoken to him by the giver of every good and perfect gift. It’s not a magic formula or anything complicated, but it is difficult.
For Solomon this simple truth would have led to his throne being established over Israel forever. The nation of Israel faced great struggle following Solomon’s reign. When you read this passage of scripture you can’t help but see that God uses people to carry out His providential will on the earth. As a leader your actions have consequences that may not just effect you, but countless lives that you may not even know now. Walk with integrity and God will bless you in ways you could never imagine.
Prayer: Lord give me strength to live by your word, to seek your will each day, and do what you command. Lord let me walk in integrity being the same person in private that I am in public, and let your favor and blessing follow those I lead as I follow you.
I Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT) Never stop praying.
I believe that my character can be molded each day. For the most part there are “features and traits that form my nature” that are set, but there are also essential attributes of my character that need to be built up on a daily basis. I’m not selfless without help. I’m not humble without help. I’m not a servant leader without help. I’m not looking out for others’ needs without help. I’m not bold and courageous in decision making without help.
So, for every person who follows Christ prayer is such a powerful tool to build our character each day. My wife says I’m like an old man. I like to wake up at 5:30, drink some strong black coffee, go sit in my study and read and write and pray. This is my morning ritual, and I have found huge benefit in doing this, but as the scripture says I should never stop praying. Walking with God is a moment by moment life of prayer. Here is how it grounds me and builds my character every day.
Prayer reveals God’s will. As much as I want to believe this isn’t true I have to admit that I don’t always naturally want to do the will of God. (Have you ever thought, “Man, I just want to punch this guy in the neck right now?” Yeah, not God’s will) Every day is filled with decisions that don’t just effect me, but my family, my coworkers, my senior pastor, my entire congregation, my community, on and on. Daily communication with God is what reveals His heart for His people to my heart which is only concerned about me and my family.
Prayer aligns me with God will. My will is not always God’s will. It’s important that my will become His will each day. That’s why Jesus doesn’t just teach us to pray that His will be known, but that His will be done on earth as in heaven. Jesus prayed for this alignment in Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” We have to pray this each day until it becomes a part of us. Some days it’s easy for His will to be my will. Some days what He wants may be so difficult and the prayer so fervent that drops of sweat become drops of blood, but we have to line ourselves up with God to live and lead the way He has called us to.
Prayer gives me strength to do His will. In Luke 22 as Jesus prayed the scripture says an angel of the Lord appeared to him, strengthening him. It’s true that there are days where God calls us to have tough conversations, or make difficult decisions. There are days where it may be very difficult to actually do what He wants us to do, but prayer strengthens us. The leader who has a healthy prayer life walks in the power of God. He faces the giant, Goliath, and shouts, “Is that all you’ve got?”, as everyone else trembles in fear.
Start today. Let a life of prayer transform you.
“Honor publicly leads to influence privately.” – Craig Groeschel
Young leaders are constantly looking to challenge the status quo. This is one of this generation’s greatest strengths as innovators and creatives, and this is one of the reasons that I think it’s so important for young people to have opportunities to lead within the church. I’m not just talking about letting them lead youth services or small portions of the service with a lot of direction from other pastors. I’m talking about delegating authority and letting them take ownership of ministry.
However, before influence comes honor. I’ve seen too many young leaders tear apart people in authority, talk bad about current systems, complain about church leadership, bash on cultural differences, and act like their way is the only way and any other way is simply stupid. (It’s easy for me to define because I’m basically describing myself)
When I was 19 I had the opportunity to lead an organization composed of 13 Indian-American churches in Oklahoma City. (You read that right….19) I had a great experience working with this committee and the pastors of all these churches. I saw young people come together from all these churches and God really did a great work of unity within our community, and outside of God’s favor and a lot of prayer this philosophy played a huge part in our success.
I made sure to honor the elders and church leaders. I listened thoughtfully to their questions and concerns before I shared my ideas, and I never entered the conversation thinking my way was the only way. With a clear vision of providing a great launching pad for the organization to take off and sustain future success with some new systems and programs we really got a lot accomplished. My age didn’t hold us back as much as people thought it would, and I really believe this works.
Honor your authorities publicly and win the equity that is needed to gain influence privately. With well thought vision and systems to accomplish your goals listen thoughtfully and implement strategically. I believe you can be a part of challenging the status quo and triggering change.
Do you think that honoring authority can lead to influence? Share your thoughts.
Honor doesn’t only move up the org chart. It should go in every direction. We often don’t think about the ways we can honor the people who follow us. Leaders, it’s important that you honor the employees that report to you and the key leaders and volunteers that serve in your ministry. I have seen many leaders who are so concerned with the masses and go to great lengths to care for their congregation, but mistreat and dishonor the staff and volunteers who make the organization successful and thriving.
I had the opportunity to learn from a great leader named Scott Williams. Something Scott would always mention to me was that it was his responsibility to take care of the 12 (our staff) before taking care of the thousands (our congregation). He understood that as he honored the 12 and watched out for their spouses and children they would be able to better care for the over 3,000 members of our congregation at the time.
This is true in your company, non-profit or church. If you will honor those who are digging the trenches they will better serve the masses, and your organization will flourish. Here are some ways to honor your followers.
Prayer: God, help me to see everyone as your child, and let me treat them as a person created in the image of God. Help me to know that the people I lead are a gift that I’m expected to steward wisely, and give me daily wisdom to do so.
Isaiah 46:9 (NIV) Remember the former things, those of long ago
Leadership is about progress. The ultimate goal is taking people on a journey from where they are to where they need to be. (progress) This is the reason it’s so difficult for leaders to look back. This is also the cause of much of the tension that leaders face. It’s important to honor the past while looking to the future. This scripture from Isaiah comes when God is telling the people of Israel that Idols of Babylon are no help to the people who worship them, but that He alone is God. “Remember what I have done”, says the Lord.
The easy way out as a leader, especially a leader who hasn’t been in the organization long, is to forget the past, make sweeping changes, and move forward at all costs. This may be efficient and produce results, but this will also leave a lot of debris in the wake of progress. Progress is important, but as a leader you should know that people are much more important. Here are a few (but not all) ways to honor the past while impacting the future, and leave no one behind on the journey of progress.
1. Research the past. It’s amazing how many people don’t take any time to find out about the history of their organization. Ask the people who went before you about how things got started. Find out what it was like in the beginning. Often their struggles and sacrifices will give you a whole new sense of appreciation for why they hold things so dear. Also, find out about the vision of those who went before you. What made your organizations special? What was God calling them to do? Knowledge of the past will help you to honor the past and honor those who went before you.
2. Connect the past and the future. Now that you know where you are coming from it can help you get to where God is leading you. Leaders who have vision are ready to charge the hill and do what God is calling them to do, and they often get frustrated when everyone else in the church or business or office isn’t ready to charge the hill with them. When you know the past it helps you understand the values of those you are leading. Use these values to help people engage with your vision, and you will get much more done quicker with the buy-in of more people.
3. Don’t hate. It is cheap and lazy to blast they way things were done. “I’m glad we stopped doing this.” or “Who’s dumb idea was that”, are words that should never be spoken by a leader who truly cares about people more than progress. People were deeply impacted and their lives were changed by the methods and systems that you mock. Can you imagine how offensive that must be to someone? Change is necessary, but putting down the way things were done doesn’t build any equity to help you get a new thing done. Honor the past and look to the future.
Prayer: God, lead me to conversations that will help me better understand the people I lead. In my leadership guide me to ways I can bridge the past and the future with your will and your purpose for our organization.
hon·or: to hold in honor or high respect; revere
Honor has become a lost value in our culture. This may be one of the biggest contrasts in my western and eastern upbringings. To honor someone we must hold them in high respect. Unfortunately society leans toward the teaching that we should look out for ourselves at any cost. Even if that cost is elevating ourselves by putting others down.
Romans 13:1 (NLT) …For all authority comes from God
Leadership often revolves around an organizational chart. In my organization I report to my senior pastor and he reports to a board of elders. In your organization, non-profit or for-profit, there is a similar hierarchy. Checks and balances keep us checked and balanced. To honor authority is one of the most challenging things for me.
There can be a misconception that honoring authority means to roll over and be a doormat, or that you will have to do things with which you disagree all the time. The truth is it is possible to challenge authority while still honoring those who are in a position of authority. I have been accused of “kind rebellion” in the past. This means that I would seem to honor people, but really I was disagreeing and planning to do my own thing all along. Since this is something I struggle with here are some shifts in perspective that are helping me grow.
1. Knowing that I don’t know everything. I definitely think I know everything, but it’s just not true.
2. I can learn from the experiences of others even if they don’t have a supremely successful track record
3. Recognize that all authority is from God and try to learn from every disagreement.
4. Consider the sacrifices people have made that have led to their position of authority.
5. Ask questions to better understand where people are coming from if I disagree on the direction of a project or idea.
6. Try to better understand why the people who lead me think the way they think instead of expecting everyone to think the way I think.
7. Communicate openly with respect about disagreements or concerns that I have so my leaders know exactly what I’m thinking when I leave a meeting.
8. Appreciate my leaders, celebrate organizational and personal milestones with them, and intentionally build relationships with them.
Regardless of your organization and how your organizational chart is set up you will quickly see how approaching your leaders with honor and respect lead to increased influence. Craig Groeschel said, “Honor publicly leads to influence privately.” With influence comes greater opportunities to bring about change in your organization. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. These concepts cover a wide spectrum and they will work in organizations from churches to law firms if you approach them with the right perspective.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for dishonoring my leaders in the past, and help me to understand that all authority is from you. Show me how I can honor others in my daily life, and let my life of honor lead to you being glorified through me and the way I treat others.
Revelation 4:11″Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Sometimes we forget that “In the beginning” means the beginning of everything. God created the universe ex nihilo (Latin meaning out of nothing). Where there was a formless void He brought forth beauty and vibrant life.
The God we serve is a creative being, and part of us becoming the full embodiment of who God has called us to be involves our creative innovation. The church sometimes avoids the word innovation, because we believe that our purpose is to preserve an ancient ideal. Indeed the truth of the Holy Scriptures and the gospel are unchanging, but the mechanism of delivering that truth must change. Ed Young Jr. always recalls that we are created by a creative creator in His creative image. Leaders are always looking for new and improved methods to bring people face to face with an ancient message.
Innovation is necessary to preserve the ancient ideal we hold so dear, but innovation takes courage. What will it take to foster a culture of innovation in your organization?
Every concept here is rooted in courageous leadership. Whether it’s the courage the people you lead have to speak up and influence the organization or it’s your courage to admit you don’t have all the answers and you don’t always have to be right. It could also be the courage of your whole leadership team to face opposition and have each others back while putting the goal before their roles. Innovation is driven by courage, but survival of your organization is driven by innovation. If your mission is important enough, then this is a price you will be willing to pay.
Prayer: God, help us to look for ways to improve our methods each day while holding true to the ancient mystery and message we steward. Open our eyes to innovative ways to proclaim the gospel, and don’t let our insecurities and fear get in your way.
I Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV) Therefore encourage one another and build one another up
A courageous leader should not always be the only courageous person in the room. Another responsibility each leader faces is to inspire courage in those who follow you. It’s not enough to be optimistic and enthusiastic when things get tough. You have to get other people to that place as well. This is the only way that optimism trickles down through the whole organization, especially if every person in the organization doesn’t report directly to you. Here are some practical ways to make sure that you are building others up.
1. Cast Vision – Vision drives people to produce. Vision drives people to solve problems. Vision drives people to persevere. Vision is the driving force behind developing courageous leaders. When the people in your organization know the direction you’re all heading it’s easier for them to embrace their authority and make the tough calls. It’s easier for them to be excited during difficulty, because their eye is on the prize. They are looking down the road enough that they aren’t bothered by the speed bump two feet away. Time dims and dulls vision so it must be a consistent practice to remind everyone why they are in the trenches with you.
2. Train - Nothing wears people out or makes them more fearful and timid than when they feel like they don’t know what they are doing. Implement ongoing training. As the leader, always look for new ways to do things, then teach your people something new. You will quickly eliminate much fear by making sure everyone in your organization knows how to execute their part of the vision.
3. Encourage – Don’t take anyone for granted. People want to know if they are doing things right. Even more importantly, what is rewarded is repeated. Do you have a rockstar on your team? Encourage them. Let them know how much you value them. Do this every time they do something the way you want it done and you’ll find it will create habits. Encourage people publicly and you’ll find those habits will become habits for the whole organization. Encouragement builds confidence. Confidence builds courage. Courage builds leaders.
Prayer: God, help me to understand each day that I have a responsibility not just to build an organization, but to build people. Open my eyes to opportunities to encourage others, and let us courageously lead with joy and passion.
Acts 27:25 So keep up your courage men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.
This is one of the coolest and most intense passages of scripture. When you have a moment read Acts 27 and tell me Paul wasn’t a man of great courage. The storm is blasting this ship he is on and everyone is scared to death. An angel appears to Paul and he lets the crew know that none of them will die, but the ship will be destroyed. Sounds like a bad place to be. I wonder what paralyzing fear flowed through the minds of these sailors.
The life of a leader is not a daily string of back to back victories. There are times in any organization where a storm is looming or you find yourself right in the middle of it. The leader will feel the pressure of this more than anyone else, because part of your responsibility is to lead the organization through the storm. So everyone hunkers down with fear and trepidation and looks to you. You can either communicate a culture of world-ending panic, or you can communicate optimism and life.
Paul communicates this way. He tells them to take courage because even though the storm is raging God is in control. This is always true isn’t it? If we are wise in our decisions and seek the wisdom of others. If we pray and surrender ourselves to God’s guidance we can trust that he is in control. Things may not work out exactly like we want them to, but they will work according to His will and providence. Trust in the sovereign God and communicate optimism in the darkest of circumstances and you will bring life to your organization. You will inspire the people who follow you to their strongest and their best efforts, and God will be glorified in your victory.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, forgive me if I have had a pessimistic attitude in the past. Give me strength to trust in your mighty hand, and know that nothing is out of control that is under your control. May I bring light and life to every situation with my courage and optimism. May my joy be contagious and may I lead others to trust in you as they experience your goodness
Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them… verse 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
The Holy Spirit empowers us for ministry. One of the ways he does this is by empowering us to speak God’s word boldly. Here we see Peter and John before the Jewish rulers and religious leaders. These were the same men who worked so hard to have Jesus killed. This was also the same Peter who was too frightened of the conviction of a young girl to admit even knowing who Jesus was. Yes here is that Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming boldly the power of Jesus of Nazareth, and everyone around sees courage in Peter.
There have been times that I have sat over sermon notes fearful that what God wants me to say will not be what people want to hear. Will they let me speak again? Will this church invite me back? Will people be impressed or just offended? Senior pastors face this dilemma each week. If I say what God wants me to say will people come back to our church? Will they feel we are too radical? Will I be accused of the greatest sin…irrelevance?
I’m glad the Holy Spirit empowers our hearts of flesh and fear to speak God’s truth with boldness! I’m glad the Holy Spirit dispels the fear of people, and reminds leaders of the weight of their calling. I’m glad that I don’t have to rely on my self-confidence (because there are days it doesn’t exist), but I can lean on the empowering Spirit of God to lead others to follow me even as I follow Christ.
Leaders, surrender your tongue today, not to the obligation of pleasing those you lead, but to the courage-giving power of God. As He speaks through you you will be endowed with boldness you never knew you had, and all will take note that you have been with Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit without which I could not be the leader that you have called me to be. May the Spirit of God quiet my fears of peoples opinion and build my courage to speak boldly.
Great leadership requires courage. I was very intentional about spending a week looking at courageous Biblical leadership right after a week looking at humble Biblical leadership. Leaders are taking people on a journey, and it’s usually one that people are not willing to go on themselves. This means it’s difficult, and promises obstacles along the way. If you are not leading people on a journey from where they are to where they need to be then you are not leading.
Joshua 7:6 Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing in dismay, threw dust on their heads, and bowed face down to the ground before the Ark of the Lord until evening… verse 10-11a But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11Israel has sinned and broken my covenant!
Following their miraculous victory at Jericho Joshua sent spies to this place called Ai. The spies came back and said there are but a few people there. In fact you don’t need to send the whole army to defeat them just send two or three thousand men. In other words, “We got this Josh!” They had witnessed the power of God at Jericho and they were ready to go and take this measly city of Ai. But things didn’t go as planned. Thirty six Israelites were killed and their forces were driven out.
Joshua and the elders do what seems to be a good thing… the right thing. They get on their faces and seek the Lord for guidance and direction. (Which they did not do before going into Ai) But God’s response in this scripture is what is so interesting. “Get up! Why are you praying?” God is telling Joshua stop praying and go take care of business. There is sin in your camp. Someone needs to be confronted and this issue needs to be handled NOW. ..
It’s tempting for the godly leader to spend so much time seeking God, seeking guidance, and seeking direction that they forget to act. Most certainly there is a time to pray. Things could have been vastly different and lives saved if Joshua spent time seeking God before going into Ai. The Bible says never quit praying. You must align yourself with God’s purposes everyday. But there also comes a time where God says, “Why are you still praying about this? You know what you need to do!”
Courageous leaders take action even when it means doing something tough. In this case it was calling out the sin of one man. (Can you imagine doing that in your church?) What is on your prayer list that God has already told you to take care of? Stop praying. Stop waiting. Stop stalling. Take Courage. Take Action
Prayer: Lord, may your Holy Spirit empower me to take action where you have called me to move. May I not be swayed by the fear of people, but may I hold firm to the power of God.