I always like to be sure I have my children’s backs. I’m sure all parents feel the same way, too. We want the best for our children and are always watching out for them, even from a distance sometimes, to make sure there is no one sneaking up from behind to ambush them. We feel that sense of covering for them, a sense of wanting what is best for them, so we keep constant watch and are quick to stand up for them when the circumstance calls for it.
That’s the way Jesus watches our backs. In the book of Luke, chapter 6, we read this from The Message, “But Jesus stood up for them, “Have you never read what David and those with him did when they were hungry?”” Jesus was quick to stand up to those religious folks who wanted to drag his disciples down by criticizing their every move. He spoke up for them, covered them, and made sure they all felt securely covered as they followed him.
Every leader should feel this way about those we are called to lead. We need to love those we are leading, watch out for their best, expect the best from them, and cover them with our words and deeds. It seems like the Church is deficient in this area. Many skeptics say we are the only organization on earth that shoots our wounded. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we were known as the only organization that covers each other, not whitewashing or trying to hide things, and genuinely loves each other enough to stand up for our co-laborers in truth and in love and walk through difficulties together?
Wouldn’t those we follow feel so much safer and more secure with leaders who have there backs in truth and in love? That’s the kind of leader I want to be. As I do this, I think all those that I lead will be able to grow in their gifts and calling because they know they are covered in truth and love and they will know they love, accepted, and forgiven.
Listening is becoming a lost art in our culture. Or, should I say listening has become a lost art in our culture? It seems that, as leaders, we are taught to be assertive, to make snap decisions, and to speak into situations so that we have forgotten that one of the basic tenets of good leadership is listening. It’s good for leaders to be assertive and make decisions and it’s good for leaders to speak into a multitude of situations but we must remember that we are dealing with real humans and leading real humans and that humans are complex and different; their stories are what make them.
The symptoms of one problem might look exactly like the symptoms of another, but the root of the problems could be completely different. That’s where the human element comes into play and that’s what we will miss if we don’t commit to listen.
As leaders, we need to invest the time into people to listen to them. We need to hear them out and know more about them. Then, we can be of a much greater help to them.
Proverbs 18:13 from the Message says it this way, “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” That’s pretty simple and straightforward but it’s also deeply true. Leaders do need to be assertive in their leadership, but not at the cost of not listening to those we are leading.
If I am trying to lead someone and help them in decision making and I do it without listening to them, then I am being presumptuous (not to mention stupid and rude) when I make a suggestion to help them. I can be the most effective leader when I take the time to listen to and love others first. I can show much more love, acceptance, and forgiveness after hearing someone’s story than I can if I refuse to listen.
When King David’s days were coming to an end, he sat his son Solomon, the next king, down and had a discussion with him about how to successfully succeed him as king. David said some amazing things like, “Do what God tells you.” ”Walk in the paths He shows you.” ”Follow the life-map absolutely.” ”You’ll get on well in whatever you do.” These words must have stuck with King Solomon all through his days, whether he was in a good place or a bad place.
Words from our previous generation are gems to us. David’s words to Solomon must have been gems to him and they are still gems for us today. As we live out our days, we need to be sure to be intentional about passing along such gems to our next generations and to those who have never heard these words before. The people that we influence, whether a younger generation or even within our own generation, crave such words of guidance, encouragement, and instructions. They might know they crave them it and they might not even realize they crave them, but there is a deep-seated craving in all of us to glean wisdom from those who influence us.
It’s up to all leaders who have a generation (or two) behind them to speak life into those we influence, to give words of encouragement over them, and to speak guidance to them. Then, they will be ready for the empowerment we give them to lead.
It makes me wonder what I speak over my kids. What do I speak over those I influence as a pastor and leader? I want to be very intentional to speak life into their lives and to believe in them and empower them to become what God has created them to be. I can’t depend on someone else to do it; Hollywood surely won’t do it, sports celebrities don’t do it, and politicians haven’t done it. The gems from God’s Word lived out through me can be the thing that inspires someone to his or her own greatness. The power of life is in my words as the Holy Spirit guides me to speak.
God has set a course for me, for my kids, and for those I influence. So, I want to be a catalyst to begin the germination process for the seeds of greatness that area already planted in them. Any of us can be that catalyst!
I’m reading through the book of Deuteronomy, using The Message for the very first time, and I’m finding some really amazing things. Deuteronomy is a book of sermons, for the most part, that Moses spoke to the Israelites just before they were to enter the Promised Land. Moses was so good at laying out the vision for the Israelites to possess the land while at the same time encouraging them by reminding them of all that God had done for them up to that time. He was a master at capturing the memory of past victories, reminding the people of the potential God had put in them, and then calling them to action to take the land. Remarkable!
In Deuteronomy 2, Moses had just been reminding the Israelites of how God had been with them, walked step-by-step with them through the wilderness for 40 years. God had given them victories when He had promised victories and safe passage where He had promised safe passage. God had delivered on everything!
Now, it’s time for Israel to move; to get started. It was time for Israel to remember God’s provision for them in the past and use that that as a call to action for the present. It was also time for them to know the potential for the future that God had given them and use that as a call to action for the present. God had indeed delivered for the Israelites and He would continue to deliver, but this was the time for the Israelites to take action. They couldn’t sit still and rest on those kept promises from God and sit still on the potential God had instilled in them. It was time for their past and their potential to rise up and become action.
We can use this as a lesson for us today and every day. God has surely blessed us with so many things and has provided for us over time. He always keeps His word; He’s ever faithful. He has called us to greatness, to do more in the future by the power of the Holy Spirit than we can ever imagine. Now, He calls us to action, he calls our past and our potential together so we can be men and women of action. We can walk in our calling because of the security of knowing God has a history of providing and He has given us a calling.
Past + Potential = Action!
I took my 10 year old son camping last night. It was just a quick, one night trip but we had a good time together. As it got later, we sat by the campfire and just hung out together. As we were sitting there I decided it was a good time for me to do some intentional listening to him. I decided to just let him do most of the talking so we could sit side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder and spend time together. The conversation didn’t get really deep; actually it turned to math and some of the things he learned last year in fourth grade and the Pythagorean Theorem (no really, that’s how geeky we can get). I listened and he talked and I think he got a new sense from me that I really am interested in him and in what he’s doing and that I’m really proud of him as he grows.
Then, later, I started thinking that, as leaders, we probably don’t do enough shoulder-to-shoulder listening. I define shoulder-to-shoulder listening as time I spend beside someone, listening to them, and looking in the same direction. That way, I can see their goals, their visions, and their directions while I’m listening. I don’t think this has to be physically shoulder-to-shoulder, I think we can do shoulder-to-shoulder listening while we are facing each other. We can listen shoulder-to-shoulder while we are sitting face-to-face if we decide within ourselves to listen and view the other persons visions, hopes, and dreams while laying ours aside for a few minutes.
So, maybe I need to be a better listener. Maybe I need to be willing to put my agenda, my hopes, and my dreams aside while I listen to someone share theirs with me. I did this with my son last night as he told me he thinks he wants to be a teacher when he’s older. I got to hear that from him and affirm him in that, and I think we are both better off for it.
Maybe all leaders could be better listeners if we would sit shoulder-to-shoulder with those we are leading and let them explore their hopes and dreams. If it’s affirming and edifying to our children, then it would probably be affirming and edifying to those we are leading.
I always enjoy reading Genesis and Exodus early in the year each year (Leviticus is a whole different story!). There is so much wisdom in these books and there are a lot of timeless leadership lessons to be learned from these two ancient books.
Exodus 10:1 says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs among them.”
God truly does work in mysterious ways. He supernaturally controlled Pharaoh’s heart and hardened it so that He could perform miracles among His people. He did this so His people would fully realize and acknowledge that He is God and He is in control. We fret so much today about who our leaders are and about our leaders making a mess of things; we need to remember that God is in control and He will do as He chooses as He loves us as a Father.
I can stop worrying, then, about which party wins the presidency. I don’t need to listen to all the nay-sayers and conspiracy theorists. God will do His job in our country and the world. He may harden leaders’ hearts or He may soften leaders’ hearts, but it will be done so He may exalt Himself and make His name great.
I just finished reading ‘Tribes’ by Seth Godin. It’s a great book that carries the thesis that we can all be leaders. All we need are followers. There are tribes everywhere in search of a leader. Godin defines a tribe as ‘a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to a cause’.
He describes two perspectives of life; one being the factory perspective and the other being the tribal perspective. Factories were great in their day but only require management while tribes require leadership. In my years in corporate America, I have seen lots of good managers, but a very few good leaders. The corporate (factory) mentality actually discourages leadership and encourages management.
In a short piece about change, Godin wisely states, “change almost never fails because it is too early. It almost always fails because it is too late.” He urges people to embrace change and to become change agents without fear of being criticized or put down because of their willingness to propose something that is out of the ordinary. He says that being criticized is way better than being ignored and being part of the factory!
I learned a lot of lessons from the book and reinforced some older lessons I have learned. I need to find someone to pass it along to , as he asks on the last page. Anyone want to read it?