Imagine David sitting down with you and me at the end of his life, offering us the opportunity to ask him what tips he might have for us for our own leadership today. What might he tell us? The following may well be included in his top 10: 1. Be Your Unique, God-given Self. David was a groundbreaker in his day that flowed from his high level of differentiation. His entire leadership trajectory, beginning from his earliest decision to remove Saul’s armor, consisted of one courageous act to after another. Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 1 Sam. 17:38-39 2.Remember. Read more.
In this famous story from Luke 10:38-42, we find Martha working to provide the meal for Jesus to eat and Mary sitting at His feet listening to what He has to say. Like us, Martha complains about her workload. Nonetheless, Jesus defends Mary’s act of preference. Every generation of leaders since the first century has written about this passage. Consider Johannes Vermeer’s (1632-1675) painting: I recently reread Thomas Merton’s comments on the Mary/Martha tensions in his address to monks in his book Contemplation in a World of Action (pp.244-250). Allow me to summarize a few of his insights here: The conflict of Mary and Martha is in ourselves. Having sufficient time with Jesus to sustain our doing for Him is, perhaps, the primary tension of every leader. You are not alone. The Holy Spirit invites us to prefer “the apparent uselessness, unproductivity, and inactivity of simply sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening. Read more.
Almost every church, nonprofit organization, and Christian community I know bears deep scars and hurt due to a failure to steward power and set wise boundaries. I was no exception. My understanding of how power affects relationships and the need for wise boundaries was woefully inadequate for many years. I tried to be a good friend and a good “boss,” but I was neither. I lost relationships I treasured that I had spent years building. I didn’t understand two key concepts – stewardship and dual relationships. Every leader exercises stewardship of power, i.e. we have a capacity to influence others. That power is God-given. When we under-use our power out of fear, a need to be liked, or an aversion to conflict, we hurt people. When we over-use our power to manipulate and push, we also hurt people. Exercising power like Jesus requires we know our shadows and vulnerabilities, and build in healthy safeguards.. Read more.
For the first 17 years of my Christian life I grew in knowledge and leadership experience. I worked with university students full-time, graduated from seminary, and started a church. My leadership gifts blossomed. The size and impact of the ministry expanded. The problem was that growing in love was not my number one aim. I focused on bigger, better, and faster – like most of the leaders around me. I wasn’t asking myself: Am I meeker, patient, soft, safe, approachable, courageous, kind, and honest this year than I was last year? Am I less easily triggered under stress? Am I breaking my bad habits from my family of origin (e.g. stuffing resentments, lying when hurt, resolving conflicts poorly, not being attentive)? Are people close to me experiencing me as loving? A revolution took place in my life when I read Jonathan Edward’s sermons on 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. His exegesis and insights launched a Copernican. Read more.
Looking over our shoulder to more “successful” ministries is one of the most frequent sources of pain for leaders. It is also one of the great temptations that hinder us from faithfully following Jesus. We can learn a lot from the pattern of John the Baptist’s leadership as he responded to the news that he was losing people to the “new, big thing” happening around him (John 3:26-30). Content leaders affirm: 1. I am content. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. “A person can receive only what is given him from heaven.” Yes, God gives gifts and abilities that we want to steward well. But each place of service, employment, success, or failure (a lot of God’s closest servants seem to suffer martyrdom) is under God’s sovereignty. It is tempting to strive, manipulate, and anxiously toil to push doors open that God does not have for us. But we want to. Read more.
For the first 1500 years of the church, singleness was considered the preferred state; it was considered the best way to serve Christ if you were a leader. Singles sat in the front of the church. Marrieds were sent to the back. After the Reformation in 1517 AD, single people were sent to the back and marrieds moved to the front – at least among Protestants. Yet the New Testament describes, and deeply affirms, two types of Christian singles. The first is a vowed celibacy, for those who “renounce marriage because of the kingdom of heaven.” They freely choose not to marry but to set themselves apart in a total, exclusive and lifelong gift to Christ and His church. A very few are invited to receive this grace and gift from him (Matt. 19:11-12). The vast majority of Christian single leaders fall into the category of dedicated celibates. This term encompasses a broad range. Read more.