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A Leader's Courage - An Honest Look
By: James Smith
Fear can and will keep many good leaders from becoming great leaders. Many mountain climbers have stood at the base camp of Mt. Everest, yet only a small percentage of them have had the courage it takes to actually climb to the top of that mountain.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of what people will say if we fail. Fear of the criticism along the way. Fear of being the only one saying “It can be done.” Fear of our vision being rejected by others.
Fear can kill our God given directive. It can suffocate our dream.
A position or office does not cause a person to become a leader. Though a person be chosen to Pastor a church, they are not truly a leader until they face their fears and actually lead that congregation into the places that God would want it to go. Being chosen to lead is easy. Actually leading is hard.
What defines a true visionary? Is it someone who has a lot of great ideas? Someone who sees the need for change, but never causes that change to take place? About 1 year ago I asked my wife to be very critical of me. I asked her to honestly tell me if I was someone who saw the things that needed to change and caused them to change or if I was someone who pointed out all the areas of needed change and did nothing. Her response though honest, was not what I wanted to hear.
I have determined, that if I am unable or unwilling to cause change in a given area, I will keep my mouth shut. Although I may see a need to change, I will say nothing, unless it is to spark a vision in another person who is capable of creating the needed change.
When I see another person or ministry who is successful, I go to them and find out how/why they are having success. I try to learn from them. Yet, I usually find that the reason they are having success is something I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me about in the past. I get beat up pretty bad as I realize that God told me to do this same thing several years ago, only I lacked the courage to launch into it. You must admit with me that some of the more successful people around you are doing things that you yourself have considered, only they did it and you didn’t.
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Identifying that next leader is not easy. You must often times select a few prospects and begin to work with them waiting for the cream to rise to the top. While you are mentoring and waiting for maturity, here are a few things to begin to look for.
Leadership in the past. The best predictor of the future is the past. Is this a person who has worked well on a team previously? Maybe, they needed a break and stepped aside for rest, but are now able to get back on board.
The capacity to create or catch vision. When I talk to people about the future, I want their eyes to light up. I want them to ask the right questions. When you are sharing your vision with people do they get excited along with you? Do they offer suggestions that spur your imagination further? When you find someone who is able to catch the same vision as you, you have found someone that you can entrust much of the responsibility with. They will have a similar passion for the work as you yourself would.
A constructive spirit of discontent. Some people would call this criticism, but there's a big difference in being constructively discontent and being critical. The unscratchable itch is always in the leader. These people are a bit hard to sift from the genuine critics, but when you do you may have found a diamond in the rough. Just because they are questioning a few things does not mean they are not on your side. Give them an opportunity to help make a needed change and you may have found a great friend
Practical Ideas. Not everybody with practical ideas is a leader, of course, but leaders seem to be able to identify which are and which aren't. A person's experience will often times lend practical ideas. When someone offers an idea that is helpful, it may be that they have been involved in a project much like what you are facing which will make them a helpful candidate for your ministry team.
A willingness to take responsibility. Leaders will bear work, for the feeling of contributing to other people is what leadership is all about. When you find a person who is willing to take responsibility for not only the ministry you have given them, but also the success of it, you have found pure gold. These are people to build upon. The ministry is dependent on individuals who are willing to take responsibility.
A completion factor. In the military, it is called "completed staff work." The half-cooked meal isn't what you want. Someone who competes what they have set out to do is invaluable. When looking for leadership that will help you move your church forward, look for people who finish what they start, no matter how small or trivial the task is.[ read more...]
In his book, The Turning Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes the work of the connector. The connectors he explains are important to social epidemics. The reason why a new restaurant would become the new hotspot in the community might well depend a great deal on the work of the connector. You see, a connector is the person in the market place who tells all their friends about the great deal they just got at Wall Mart. Or the fantastic food they ate at a new restaurant. Every church has connectors in them.
I have identified my wife as being a connector. Should Natalie find a bargain at say Wall Mart, she will immediately call her mother and sister on the phone and them about the great deal and why they should head over to Wall Mart as soon as they get off work. My wife is a connector. She loves telling people about everything from the newest restaurant, to the store who has a sale on paper napkins.
My life was changed by a connector. I was 17 years old when I came into contact with this person. 95% of the relationships I have today are a direct result of this one connector in my life. Mike was his name. Had this person never told me about and invited me to his church, I never would have met most of the people who I now know as my close friends and colleagues. He was not a preacher. He was a connector.
Something excited him about his church and he could not help himself to share it with someone else. Mike is not an orator. He is not a teacher of God’s word. But he connected me to the people who would eventually change my life.
We all have had the work of a connector in our lives. They introduced us to the church. They introduced us to our spouse. They told us the kind of car we should buy. They work behind the scenes to promote projects, products and agendas and they do it every day without pay or recognition. You might say it’s their personality. I would say it’s more of an obsession with some people.
My wife can’t help herself. She has to share her good fortune. I have told her in the past to keep some bargains to herself. Like the beautiful new dress she just got off a clearance rack for a few bucks. I tell her let people think you paid a little something for it, but no, she has to tell the world where they can get the same deal. She loves to be the connector.[ read more...]
The expression of guarding the gates really has to do with guarding the mind. As noted in the previous message, John Bunyan wrote another classic although much less recognized than Pilgrim’s Progress entitled The Holy War which tells the story of Mansoul being captured and taken over by Diabolus because of the gates being compromised. That same plan is still being effectively carried out in our generation. People of every kind and status within the church have a responsibility to not let this kind of thing take place. This is especially true of those who are actively called into the ministry. If the shepherd can be toppled, the sheep will scatter.
It was explored how that study allows a man who serves a church to guard his mind. While that is a good measure to take up, there is another crucial “guard” that we have to recognize. It is the aspect of prayer. Of all the disciplines involved in a Christian’s life, prayer is the most difficult one to maintain conversely it can be one of the most joyous and powerful tools we can find in our spiritual arsenal. A preacher must maintain regular habits of communion with God in prayer. If a minister is not careful he can come to the place in which he will neglect his place of prayer because of his attention to the Kingdom. He may have all kinds of grand truths rolling through his soul because of the constant exposure to the Word. He can be so busy with various meetings, discipleship of new converts, and counseling of those who are in the throes of some dilemma of life, and obligations to duties of the organizational stripe, that he can entirely neglect his prayer life. In fact a minister is more likely to omit his praying than a new convert who has just come in to the church.
Diabolus loves to get the men involved in ministry to fall to the temptation of substitutes for prayer. Sermons on prayer, reading books on prayer, attending prayer conferences, and hearing sermons on prayer can never take the place of prayer. One can even come under the belief that church attendance, praise, singing, giving, and doing measures of physical labor at church can be a valid substitute for prayer. What soon happens is a tendency to resort to all of these things to move us into a position for revival without true heart-felt prayer.
Pastoral prayer is a great biblical concept and it has great authority. There is an ingredient of spiritual authority that comes to life when a pastor will discipline himself to prayer for his people. From the outset, I have to tell you that this is NOT an easy task to do. Prayer that is truly heart-felt and sincere rarely takes place (for me, perhaps not others) when we just decide to get on our knees and begin to pray. There has to be some stimulus of preparation that is involved in it. There are useful things that you will learn to use to help put your mind into a vein of prayer.
There are times when reading books on prayer will be very helpful to put you into a mindset of prayer. Some of the ones that I have regularly gone back to frequently and year after year are listed below:
E. M. Bounds Complete Works on Prayer—There are eight books in a single volume and are very rich and motivational toward opening my heart for prayer. The Necessity of Prayer, The Essentials of Prayer, The Possibilities of Prayer, The Reality of Prayer, Purpose in Prayer, The Weapon of Prayer, Power Through Prayer, and Prayer and Praying Men.
Leonard Ravenhill on Prayer—Ravenhill’s material is becoming increasingly rarer to find in bookstores these days. He was a staple for many of the preachers who attended the Deeper Life conferences scattered around the nation in the 1970’s. There have been times that I have read just a page or so of Ravenhill’s material and found it incredibly rich in preparing my heart and mind for prayer. Particularly helpful a [ read more...]
What is failure? Is it permanent? Is there a second chance? Complete the sentence by circling the right phrase “a person is a failure when…”
- He makes a mistake;
- He quits;
- Someone thinks he is.
Review - Failure should be a teacher, not an undertaker. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end street. A winner is big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them and strong enough to correct them.
Repress - Perhaps your own personal problems and hang-ups caused the failure. If so, begin to work immediately on self-discipline. If you were the problem, put yourself under control. Lord Nelson, England’s famous naval hero, suffered from seasickness throughout his entire life. Yet the man who had destroyed Napoleon’s fleet did not let illness interfere with his career.[ read more...]
From the earliest messages of the Gospel that were preached by Jesus, until today, preachers have wanted their message to be heard by the masses. We have done everything we could to ensure that our preaching can be heard.
1And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
There was a twofold purpose in Jesus using the ship as a preaching platform. The first reason was that as vs 1 mentions, the people were pressing against him. The crowd was getting too great. As with any size crowd of people, the natural voice can only go so far. The more people you add to the crowd the less His voice could travel as sound bounces off of obstacles which, in turn, hindered His ability to get His message across to everyone that was there.
This brings us to the second reason why Jesus launched out onto the ship to preach. Sound carries extremely well across water. From the ship, more people could line the shore of the lake and His voice would carry to them without being hindered. (Have you ever been on one side of the lake and heard the voices of people speaking on the other side which might be thousands of feet away? When the wind is still, you can literally hear a casual voice speaking from thousands of feet away as the sound travels across the surface of the lake without hindrance.)
Jesus took full advantage of this simple technique. However primitive Jesus’ sound system was on this day, it worked. It enabled him to get His message to many more people than His previous method of simply standing or sitting in a place on the beach as He taught.
Preachers today face the same dilemma most often. We struggle to get our voice out to more people. We purchase sound systems costing everywhere from hundreds, to literally tens of thousands, of dollars for the simple purpose of getting more people to hear our preaching. We oftentimes stop at nothing to get our message across to more people.[ read more...]
As leaders and pastors, many of us are involved in growth programs in our various ministries. Whether you pastor a church or lead a small group, it is critically important to have a plan of action for the growth of your ministry. However, it is a serious error to place the program above the person. You, as the person, must take priority over the program. Your program will only be as successful as you are. Your program will only be as successful as your relationship with Christ. If you make personal growth your priority, church growth will happen out of the excess of what is happening in your own life. Your life will be the example to the people you lead. You will be a living testimony. You will have a story to tell.
It is so much easier to lead people if there is a surplus of energy, ideas and anointing in your own life. Take the time to make personal growth a priority. A Plan of action for personal growth is just as important as a plan of action for church growth.
Three must do's for Personal Growth:
1. Get in God's Presence.
When the Old Testament priest went beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies he was literally stepping into the presence of God. It was there that God communed with him and spoke to him everything he needed to hear.
22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
It is a good thing to talk to God every day, but it sure is a lot better when God talks back to me. That is what happens every time I get in His presence. God speaks to me. God communes with me. God tells me everything I need to hear. I must have the voice of God in my life. If I have God's voice in my life, people hear God's voice from me.
In God's presence we grow our person. The presence of God is where we find God's will, God's anointing and God's voice. If you have those three things in your life, people will follow you. Make the time to get in God's presence every day.
2. Get a life.
Every person in ministry needs a life outside of church. We need to get outside of the walls of the church. There are a couple of reasons for this; First of all, you can't personally win anybody to Christ if you have no life outside of church.
Jesus was very good at building relationships with unbelievers;
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
The reason Jesus built relationships with publicans and sinners was because they needed Him. The people outside of our walls need us more than the people inside our walls. We need to build relationships with the unsaved in our communities. This is how we win the lost.
Secondly, your life needs to be interesting. The reason our messages or ministries lack impact is because they are not interesting and the reason they are not interesting is because we are not interesting. Take the time to get a life outside of church. Do something different. Get a new hobby. Join a softball league. Go build an orphanage in Africa. Start a soup kitchen for the homeless. Get a life.[ read more...]
Matthew 15:18-19; James 4:1-12 There are times when we as Christians are called to arms, as the song goes, “onward Christian solders.” As they said in the Middle Ages, “if the cause is just…”of course most of the causes were not just. But for us, if there is a situation that must be defended, we need to prepare ourselves and be willing to fight for our Lord. Conflicts that are worth fighting for are such as moral and value issues, spiritual warfare, evil desires, or physical attack. “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” (Galatians 2:11) If someone is going to assault you or a family member and all means available to involve the authorities is exhausted, then we fight. I personally do not get into fist fights, but as a youth pastor, I was on a trip where one of my girls was being assaulted and I had to respond to that situation with physical force or the girl would have been raped. There have been numerous times I had to keep bad intentioned people away from my group to protect them and even use physical force. We as leaders must protect the people God entrusts to us. In working in some inner-city areas, I hired security to prevent potential problems with various events. Yes we are to trust in the Lord, but we are also to use commonsense and practical judgment. As Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword, we to need to follow suit. I do not believe we need to literally be buying swords and wearing guns like the old west. But, we do need to protect the people under our care. A case in point, several years ago I was doing some intervention counseling with a couple. The husband was severally beating his wife. So I put her into a battered women’s shelter. He then came to me very violently, threatened my life if I did not disclose her location. The police were immediately called, but there was nothing they could do. I heard that the husband found her location so I took some elders with me to the women’s shelter to protect the wife. She got scared and left the shelter and went home. The husband was in the process of literally killing her when we showed up; the police were called and we had to wrestle him to the ground. He was a very big man. I had to knock him out in order to subdue him. It was one of those situations that you may never have to deal with, but they do accrue. By the way, it took the police over two hours to show up as we sat on him; life in the inner city of America.
There are times when we as Christians are called to arms, as the song goes, “onward Christian solders.” As they said in the Middle Ages, “if the cause is just…”of course most of the causes were not just. But for us, if there is a situation that must be defended, we need to prepare ourselves and be willing to fight for our Lord. Conflicts that are worth fighting for are such as moral and value issues, spiritual warfare, evil desires, or physical attack.
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” (Galatians 2:11)
If someone is going to assault you or a family member and all means available to involve the authorities is exhausted, then we fight. I personally do not get into fist fights, but as a youth pastor, I was on a trip where one of my girls was being assaulted and I had to respond to that situation with physical force or the girl would have been raped. There have been numerous times I had to keep bad intentioned people away from my group to protect them and even use physical force. We as leaders must protect the people God entrusts to us. In working in some inner-city areas, I hired security to prevent potential problems with various events. Yes we are to trust in the Lord, but we are also to use commonsense and practical judgment. As Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword, we to need to follow suit. I do not believe we need to literally be buying swords and wearing guns like the old west. But, we do need to protect the people under our care.
A case in point, several years ago I was doing some intervention counseling with a couple. The husband was severally beating his wife. So I put her into a battered women’s shelter. He then came to me very violently, threatened my life if I did not disclose her location. The police were immediately called, but there was nothing they could do. I heard that the husband found her location so I took some elders with me to the women’s shelter to protect the wife. She got scared and left the shelter and went home. The husband was in the process of literally killing her when we showed up; the police were called and we had to wrestle him to the ground. He was a very big man. I had to knock him out in order to subdue him. It was one of those situations that you may never have to deal with, but they do accrue. By the way, it took the police over two hours to show up as we sat on him; life in the inner city of America.[ read more...]
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].
The world has always seemed to be a stage for war. Tales of armed conflict fill written history. The Korean War had ended shortly before my arrival on planet Earth. Vietnam dragged on through my college graduation. American troops have fought and died in Grenada, Somalia, and our current endeavors in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless of the cause, it seems that there will always be conflict.
As we look back in history, we see one of the most powerful armies that ever walked the globe, The Roman Legions. In those ancient days there were no radios, satellite cell phones, or laser guided bombs. Discipline and order ruled the day. This army conquered the known world using three basic tenants.
1) Uniformity. The centurions all wore the same uniform. They understood that they were part of something bigger than just themselves. They carried a flag-type standard called a vexillum, which showed what legion they belonged. Each century (a 100 man detachment) carried their own standard called a signum. These standards helped the troops to keep in the right positions during battle.
2) Communication. A general would relay his commands to the cornice, (Latin for ‘horn-blower). Each command had a unique set of sounds. The cornice had the duty to blow the exact order from his commander. Under penalty of death he could not, by pride or mistake, change the order he blew through the horn.
3) Loyalty. The Legion carried a portrait of the emperor, the imago, this was to remind the troops they owed their loyalty to him. “. . . just as we make Rome great, it is Rome that makes us great. Without Rome, we are nothing”. (quote from Caerleon.Net)
The eventual destruction of Rome occurred when they dropped their qualifications for membership in their army. Where Roman citizenship had been a requirement, outsiders, or barbarians, were allowed in as paid mercenaries. Discipline and uniformity were dropped in favor of attracting large numbers. Communication broke down due to language barriers and lack of formal training. The commands blown through the horn were not understood. Additionally there was no loyalty to Caesar or Roman culture or values.[ read more...]