Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Exhausted or Empowered Leader? Part Three

The last two weeks, we have focused on healthy approaches to our leadership relationships. By making three simple adjustments, we can go from exhausted to empowered leadership.

The third concept that liberated me as a leader is “Caring” versus “Carrying.”

This is really another variation of taking proper responsibility. However, it provides a powerful picture. I believe the Lord showed it to me as an illustration while I was on a journey of healing, and I use it often with people who take ownership of others’ choices.

God has called us to care about others. He asks us to reach out in empathy, and serve with compassion. It is a good thing to minister with our hearts. Jesus’ ministry was marked by compassion. He had compassion on the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He taught them. He had compassion on them and healed them. He had compassion on them and provided miraculous fish and bread. Our Lord cared deeply about people, and we follow His example. Caring is good. It is what we were made to do. However, we were not made to carry people. It is God’s job to carry, not ours. When we are carrying, it gets too heavy. We get weighed down by this person’s bad choice, that person’s failure, this person’s poor attitude, that person’s family crisis. We become frustrated, angry, bitter, resentful, and eventually cannot move.

Rosemarie Kowalski tells a story which Joanna Weaver adapted in her book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. It’s about a man who willingly receives an assignment from the Lord to pull three stones in a wagon up the hill. As his journey progresses, in an attempt to help others, he adds more and more to his wagon–other people’s rocks, pebbles, and stones–until the weight is too heavy to bear. He can go no further.

“Let others shoulder their own belongings,” God said gently. “I know you were trying to help, but when you are weighed down with all these cares, you cannot do what I have asked of you.”

The man jumped to his feet, suddenly realizing the freedom God was offering. “You mean I only have to take the three stones after all?” he asked.

“That is what I asked you to do.” God smiled. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I will never ask you to carry more than you can bear.”

We often carry others because we care. But Jesus hasn’t asked us to carry them. Thankfully we can go to Jesus. He will unsaddle us from the weight of carrying. Then we will be free to care again.

A simple adjustment in perspective makes such a powerful difference!

Do you struggle with carrying others?

If so, identify some people you are carrying.

In what ways will your relationships change when you care about them rather than carry them?

To recap the last three weeks:

  • A goal is solely under your control; a desire is not. Goals for self; desires for others.
  • You are responsible to others, not for others.
  • God has asked you to care about others, not carry them.

May our Lord Jesus Christ fill you with His wisdom and knowledge to approach your relationships in healthy ways. May you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and lead others from a sincere heart of love.

Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (Colorado Springs, Waterbrook Press, 2002) 48-51.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

The Most Important Step of Effective Goal Setting

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I am all for making healthy and positive changes, but the statistics support my aversion. With a dismal 8 % success rate,1 I have personally committed to begin a new approach either before the year ends or well after the year has begun.

The biggest reason I avoid the New Year as a start date for change is this: New Year’s resolutions are seldom true resolutions based on the conviction and motivation necessary for success. They are typically good ideas based on what we think should happen. Rarely do they reflect a steadfast resolve to achieve something better, but rather are more like wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, January seems to be the prime time for leaders to set goals and engage in strategic planning. Regardless of the date on the calendar, it is crucial to consider your level of buy-in. Is this another good idea or passing fad, or are you deeply committed to doing what it takes to accomplish it over the long haul?

For the Christ-follower, the most important step of effective goal setting is to identify goals that are God-ideas instead of just good ideas. Make sure that your goals align with God’s direction. Books, seminars, and leadership blogs provide excellent tips and ideas. However, they may not necessarily work for you given your context and culture. They may not represent God’s mind for you and your organization during this particular season.

I realize there are volumes written about how to understand God’s will. Even with myriads of advice, it is still a topic that seems mysterious. After all, can we REALLY know His will? How can we distinguish God-ideas from good ideas? Admittedly, seeking God’s will is a faith venture, and I would never pretend to have the definitive answers. However, there are some simple steps that guide the process. I highly recommend keeping notes of your discoveries for easy reference.

  1. Ask the Lord for wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV).
  2. Pay attention to inspirational thoughts during prayer. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. Because we belong to Him, we can recognize His voice (John 10:1-16).
  3. Be open to guidance from the Word of God. God speaks through His Word. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV).
  4. Enlist input from respected, mature believers. Benefit from the wisdom and insight of others. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22, NIV).
  5. Pray for clear direction. Ask the Lord to open doors of opportunity and to close doors that are not potential areas of focus (Revelation 3:8).

Spend time pondering Proverbs 3:5-6, as you seek God-ideas for your plans and goals.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take (NLT).

When you trust in the Lord and seek His will, He will show you which path to take. He will reveal His goals to you, those God-ideas that are worth pursuing.

 

1. Dan Diamond, “Just 8 % of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It,” Forbes.com. January 1, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/2/

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Backstage Living in a Center Stage World

As leaders we are all called to serve backstage in some capacity.

Most of my childhood was spent training to be on center stage. I immersed myself in academics and the arts. In high school I was a member of the elite jazz show choir, I was the first chair cellist in the orchestra, and I played important roles in musicals and other dramas. I loved wow-ing the audience as a soloist at community and church events and at vocal competitions. I was truly in my element performing in front of others. Center stage is where I wanted to be.

After graduation from high school, I continued my musical pursuits. I became involved in music ministry as a worship leader at my local church and on the evangelistic circuit. At the same time, I was in a worship trio for a revival association in my city. These opportunities had an added dimension that I found wonderfully rewarding. When I ministered in song, people connected with God and were visibly touched by His presence. I understood that it was the Holy Spirit and not me doing the work. I lived to be available for Him. By the time my husband and I left our home in Southern Oregon and relocated in the Seattle area to go to school at Northwest University, I was accustomed to leading worship for crowds of 2000 people, and it seemed that anybody that was somebody in the churches of our area knew who I was. I assumed that moving to a larger population would give me greater visibility and thus more opportunities to minister to people.

I was completed bewildered that my assessment was wrong. Some of it was that juggling ministry with children became increasingly difficult. But another curious thing occurred. Music ministry opportunities did arise and I would be eager to accept. However, when I prayed about it, God would unmistakably speak to my heart, You must say “no.” Confused and frustrated, yet obedient, I would decline the invitation.

I lived in obscurity for nearly a decade with no real musical outlet. My time was spent having and caring for babies. I loved my kids and I was committed to raising them for Christ, but I grieved the loss of center stage ministry where I had no doubt that I was used by God.

During those hidden years, God began to teach me the beauty of backstage living, using my experience of the performance world. The backstage crew is necessary to the success of any show. While the audience is engaged in the action on stage, most of the work is done behind the scenes. It is crucial work that nobody knows about (except for those involved) until something goes wrong. A scenery change takes too long. The curtain opens too soon. A prop is missing. But when everything runs smoothly, the backstage crew receives little recognition. In addition, the backstage crew wields great influence in the morale of the show. Their passion and enthusiasm rub off on others, creating excitement and energy for the entire production.

In the kingdom of God, we are all called to support Jesus Christ as the Star of His show. We all possess gifts that must be used to draw attention to Him. As leaders, we are all called to serve backstage in some capacity. When we bring passion and enthusiasm to our unseen position, our attitude will create excitement and energy for the cause of Christ.

For me backstage living does not mean that I never lead up front. It does mean that I reject the notions upon which I had previously built my life and ministry–that those who are truly blessed and anointed are center stage, while the lesser gifted are relegated to backstage. Instead I willingly step back and joyfully allow others to step forward. Every opportunity, big or small, becomes a divine appointment to reveal God center stage, by investing in others to develop their gifts, empowering others to take the lead in a project, lending a helping hand, offering hope to the hurting–in short, by demonstrating Jesus in word and action to the people around me.

Recently I found these words penned in an old journal that sum up backstage living: I don’t want recognition; I only want to make a difference. There is incredible meaning in serving others without the need for praise. How blessed it is to support others in their endeavors to build God’s kingdom without hidden expectations. Backstage living will look different for you than it does for me. The important thing is Jesus Christ be center stage.