Food for Thought
If you want to be an effective and influential leader, what should you do? Write a book? Start a church? Come up with a vision plan for [insert world-changing vision here]?
If you’re looking for influence and impact, don’t overlook the greatest leader who ever lived. He started a movement that has been growing ever since his birth and has now spread around the globe. Here are two statements that Jesus made that should be the foundation of our leadership and influence:
The greatest among you shall be your servant.
But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
In both passages Jesus takes the human picture of leadership and turns it on its head. In Luke 22:27, Jesus makes the most important leadership statement the world has ever heard: “But I am among you as the one who serves.”
Are you in a position of leadership right now? Here are three ways you can be an influential leader who serves:
1. Learn to follow.
Being a leader is lonely because one of the definitions of leadership means you’re out in front, like a shepherd leading the way. But as followers of Jesus we’re not the chief shepherd. He is. Our ability to lead and influence is only as great as our dependence on Jesus. We never arrive in our process of becoming more like Him (in this life) and so we need to be expert followers to be good leaders. How does this affect our ability to serve those under our leadership? We need to be reminded that before God we are all sinners saved by grace and that our position before Him is the same. This type of leading says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
2. Value everyone
In today’s culture, your position, title, and influence can often give you permission to separate yourself from others. Why should the CEO of a large company care about the individual factory worker who can easily be replaced? The farther you’re separated from those you lead, the easier it is to see others as a commodity as opposed to a uniquely created individual. As a Christian leader, if the vision or goal of your leadership becomes more important than the people you serve (lead) then you have a value problem.
The servant leader places high value on people by:
- Seeing people as God sees them
- Putting people over programs
- Creating a culture of listening – not just directing
- Being willing to extend grace and teach others, instead of creating rules that eliminate those with perceived weaknesses
3. Serving means doing
Do you remember the time when you had to stack chairs, clean toilets, or some other activity that you’re glad you don’t have to do anymore? While it’s true that roles change, leaders have to guard against the mentality of “I don’t do that anymore”. As a leader, people are counting on you and you do have to prioritize where you invest your time and energy. In light of this, how can you balance the unique role that only you can fill while still being a servant leader?
Do what you say.
Don’t preach anything you aren’t preaching to yourself and don’t recruit for a vision that you aren’t fully behind. Church leaders rely heavily on volunteers but rarely volunteer time themselves. Yes, practice what you preach.
The power behind our faith and our leadership is action, and leaders who shepherd like Jesus aren’t afraid to get dirty, smell like sheep, and serve with all their heart.
My son has what I would call an irrational fear of ‘bad guys’ in our basement. Sometimes this fear is so overwhelming he won’t even go downstairs by himself. This fear isn’t based on any prior experience but somehow it’s a very real fear for him.
Whether our fears are rational or irrational they often have the same effect on our lives. Fear both paralyzes us and has the power to veil the truth. Ultimately fear doesn’t save us from danger and actually leads us to death. Fear was present during the temptation that was offered in the garden to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. We certainly don’t know all that was going through Eve’s mind as Satan tempted her but she may have thought:
What if what the serpent is saying is more true than what God has said? What if I don’t eat this fruit? Will I be blinded forever, as the serpent is saying?
Fear can be a powerful motivator and in this case it was used to lead Adam and Eve away from the truth of God, not toward it. Fear didn’t lead them to life; it led them to death.
I’ll never forget the first time I went cliff jumping into the Pacific Ocean. I was living in Hawaii and my small group Bible study guys thought it would be a good bonding experience to hurl ourselves off a cliff into the ocean. As I stood looking down the 40 feet or so into the clear blue waters of the Pacific, with the waves crashing below me, fear took over. As the more daring guys in our group jumped off the cliff into the waters below, my fear should have subsided but it didn’t. Even though I saw one guy after another land safely in the water, my belief that I’d be okay still wasn’t greater than my fear. I could logically see that everything would be fine, but knowledge alone wasn’t enough to make me jump.
Eventually, when I finally did jump, my faith grew and my fear diminished. Sure, I still hesitated a bit on the second jump but now that my faith was greater than my fear, it was easier.
Belief changes everything. When we believe that Jesus is who he says he is than our faith is about more than belonging to a religious club. And so we pray because we believe that God answers our prayers! And we read the Bible because we believe it really is the word of God!
Trusting in the truth of God allows us to respond to the lies of fear and tell them to go to hell where they belong. Faith believes that the one who created us is he is who he says he is. That he is right and true!
What lies have you believed that have paralyzed your life? Where have you allowed fear to keep you from stepping out in faith?
Spend some time with God asking him to speak truth into areas of fear in your life and to fill your mind with the truth of his Word!
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
A friend of mine overheard her daughter and my daughter talking one afternoon, saying what each of their moms were good at. My friend’s daughter said her mom was good at crafts, scrapbooking, cute hair styles, and picking out clothes. My daughter said her mom was good at “packing things into small spaces” (which turns out to mean backpacking and camping), identifying birds, and general outdoorsy stuff. So I told my friend, “Great! Between the two of us we’re the perfect mom!” Except maybe for cooking. Apparently neither of us shine in that area.
My friend and I are very different in our gifts and interests, so each of our daughters are having a very different experience of “Mom.” In some ways, it’s almost like a marriage vow: for better or worse, in sickness and health, tired or well-rested, crafty or not-crafty, good cook or mediocre, my kids have me for their mom. They won’t get everything, but they’ll get me. And I think that is truly what they need: a connection with another person who loves them for who they are, for who God made them to be. God’s own nature is relational: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. And so it is no surprise that some of our most basic needs are relational also: to be truly known, to be loved, to be accepted, flaws and all.
My favorite Mother’s Day present is a variation of this: breakfast in bed made up of soggy cereal, either burnt or barely toasted toast with globs of butter, and something random like dried cranberries or popcorn. I don’t see the food by itself: I see the love that made it and the relationship that has grown, and is growing, between two kids and their Mom.
I can’t help but wonder if I’ve allowed myself to be influenced by a culture that increasingly caters to a short attention span because recently I’ve noticed that I’m easily distracted in my prayers. I always start out my prayer time with good intentions but before I realize it I’ve created a prayer sandwich with a distracted filling that looks something like this:
My unfocused prayer sessions were bugging me so much that one night I even brought it up to my wife as a prayer request. The next day as I was about start my prayer time I tried something different. Instead of softly mumbling my prayers to God, I made them loud. Not only did I make them loud, I actually stirred myself up to speak them as if they were actually really important, as if they were urgent, and as if they really mattered! Not surprising, my prayer time not only lasted longer but it was more focused.
In Hebrews 5:7 the author talks about the way that Jesus prayed:
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
In several places the Gospels record Jesus retreating to solitary places to pray but most likely his prayer times weren’t quiet. In the passage from Hebrews the Greek word behind the translation for ‘loud’ is ischuros and can mean strong, powerful, mighty or robust. In other words, Jesus wasn’t praying some monotone quiet prayers, he was praying with loud passion.
If you can relate with being easily distracted in your prayer times than try some *ischuros prayers. If you’re not used to praying loud prayers you may need to drink some coffee or walk around on your first attempt but you may also be surprised at how easy it comes. And just as Jesus did, remember that your prayers are to him who is able to save you from death. Amen!
What are some out of the box things you do in your prayer and devotional times? Share them in the comment section below.
*I recommend the first loud prayers not be when you’re tucking your kids into bed at night but feel free to try it on your commute to work. Other drivers will just think you’re listening to some intense music.
At the end of 1998 I traveled with a small group of people into a country closed to the Gospel. We each brought a few paperback Bibles and we also brought the Bible on audio cassette. We knew that in one area we would traveling to that bringing a printed Bible wouldn’t be enough because many couldn’t read. Not only that but they didn’t have access to current technology (at the time CD’s were current technology!) which is why we brought audio cassettes.
15 years later and it’s now estimated that more people have access to a smartphone than decent sanitation. What does this mean for missionaries and the advancement of the Gospel? It means that we live in a time where the Gospel can be transmitted like never before!
As the picture above demonstrates, we can now store over 1,600 Bibles on a Micro SD card that is smaller than a penny. If you’ve ever picked up a box of books, you know how significant the idea of being able to store an entire library’s worth of books on a memory card is. That one cassette box I hid in the bottom of my bag years ago could hold enough Micro SD cards to resource thousands of pastors.
We live in a unique time and it will be exciting to see how technology continues to be utilized in the spread of the Gospel!
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Tragedy, no matter what it looks like, always stirs up a wide range of emotions. In tough circumstances, grief, confusion, and anger swirl about and as believers in Jesus it’s in these times that our foundation is revealed. When there are more questions than answers and it’s hard to see through the dense mist of pain, what lens will we choose to see the present circumstances through?
Whether it’s the events of 9/11 or yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, there becomes a swirling commentary in the media that causes our perspective to shift quickly from emotion to emotion. It’s in these moments that we need the ‘anchor for our soul’ that Hebrews 6:19 talks about.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a follower of Jesus in North Korea or the United States, the message of the Cross of Jesus Christ is at odds with the message of the culture and the result is often hardship. In John 16:33, Jesus knew hardship would soon be reality for his disciples and so he says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus was preparing his disciples for the reality of hardship but also promising them that if they remained in him they would not only have peace but they would also have victory!
This morning I was drawn to read Psalm 17 which is entitled, In The Shadow of Your Wings, a prayer of David. I encourage you to read the whole thing yourself but here are the opening two verses:
Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From your presence let my vindication come!
Let your eyes behold the right!
As the psalmist continues his lament over hardship he stays firmly anchored to what he knows of the character of God. He knows these things because he has heard the stories of God’s working in the past and has experienced them in the present. And so in verse 6 he can confidently say, “I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;” His understanding of God’s character, God’s very nature is his anchor during the present times of hardship as he anticipates the faithfulness of God in the future.
As we process the reality of what happened yesterday in Boston and encounter new trials and hardships in the future, it’s important that we remember that God always hears and answers our prayers. So let’s pray through our pain and confusion knowing that God hears us and will answer. Let’s pray also for justice and righteousness knowing that God hears us and will answer. Through prayer our perspective for seeing and reacting to our present circumstance becomes anchored in our God who is faithful.
Our God who has always heard us and who always answers.
For additional scriptures check out: