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Priorities

priorities picture

To what will you give your time and energy? What are the most important things in your life and ministry? It has been suggested to make a list of the things you find yourself doing that really don’t make a significant difference. It is very easy to get caught up in busy work that is not very productive. All of us can find ourselves just like Martha did in Luke 10 where she was distracted by her many tasks.

The next step is making a second list of the things that are truly important. This includes things like sitting at the feet of Jesus (Mary; Martha’s sister), investing in building relationships with people far from God, and discipling those who are hungry for God. These are the things we should be giving our lives to with all of our time and energy. We must be careful not to nickel and dime our time away on the less important.

  • Decide what is truly important and what is not. Priorities are like banks of a river that keep the water flowing in the right direction. Every day you must be intentional and make choices about what you will do, where you will go, and how you will spend your time. Jeremiah 42:3, “That the Lord God may tell us the way we should walk and the thing we should do.” Saying yes to one thing means you must say no to something else.
  • Discipline yourself to focus on what is important. Time alone with is a priority and that means you must discipline yourself to schedule that time. You have to protect it and be willing to say no to other things that you could be doing. Determining your priorities requires a decision about what are essentials and non-essentials in your life and ministry. You cannot be everywhere and you cannot do everything so you must make wise choices.

Here is a good checklist from Leaders Who Last by David Kraft.  It is a process that helps you stay focused on what is of the greatest importance. You can apply this to your personal life, your entire church, or an individual ministry your oversee. You must be concerned and focused on being productive not simply busy. Leaders must be proactive and intentional compared to reactive and always putting out fires when they ignite.

First, determine your purpose! This is what you are called to accomplish in your life and in your church. Our calling is to passionately follow Jesus and to help others find and follow Him. In Luke 24:48 Jesus told His disciples, “You are witnesses of these things.” What steps are we intentionally taking to build relationships with people who are far from God so that we might demonstrate the love of God to them?

Second, be passionate about your purpose. This is a sense of enthusiasm about your purpose and direction. Passion comes from spending time with the Lord and allowing Him to set our hearts on fire. When Jesus walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus they later said in Luke 24:32, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the scriptures to us?”

Third, you must develop goals. What do you want your life to look like in two to three years from now? What would you like your discipleship program to look like in that time frame? What does your preferred future look like? How many books would you like to read this year? How much weight would you like to lose this year? Goals help you to make the right choices to get where you want to go.

Fourth, write out a plan to accomplish those goals. Every individual and church would be wise to determine their present reality and then envision their preferred future. The plan is what you are going to do to get to that preferred future. What steps are you going to take to make that happen? What needs to be done next to move forward and who needs to be the one doing it? Make sure everyone knows who is responsible to make the plan work.

Fifth, place the plan on a timeline. When does each step of the plan need to be accomplished? Deadlines help us with follow through. Is this doable by the time you have designated? Are the goals you have established SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) goals? Place the goal and plan on the calendar and then be willing to hold yourself responsible for its completion.

Sixth, then you must execute the plan. Nike has said it well, “Just do it!” At some point and time you must pull the trigger and move forward. It has also been said many times, and is still true, “Plan the work and then work the plan!” The everyday choices you are making are your priorities. Are they producing the outcome you desire? Brian Tracy says, “Eighty percent of what you do on a daily basis needs to be intentional as opposed to responsive and should be directly tied to your purpose.”

Seventh, make sure you evaluate your progress. Always be assessing your progress and how you can improve. In Leaders Who Last, David Kraft says, “If I don’t create a daily plan that is a reflection of my God-given purpose and direction in my life, there are sufficient numbers of people who will create a plan for me. I have those in my life who would say with smiles on their faces, ‘Dave, God loves you and I have a wonderful plan for your life!’”

Healthy Christians have a plan to intentionally prioritize their lives and ministries in order to accomplish God’s purpose.

 

Lead With Passion

PASSION

What ingredient would you consider to be the most crucial for effective leadership? Maybe you would say that character is the most important, and character certainly does matter. What we do does come out of who we are. The number one characteristic important to employees in a recent survey was honesty. People cannot hear what you are saying over what they see you doing. Character counts if you are going to have the ability to influence those you are striving to lead.

Character leads into another important leadership quality – credibility. We live in a time where there is very little trust in leaders. It does not necessarily have anything to do with the individual in leadership as much as it is that they just hold a leadership position. Many have become suspicious of all and it takes patience and time to build credibility. The unfortunate truth is that credibility and trust can be lost in seconds. We live in a day and time where credibility must be earned by the lives we live!

Another important leadership ingredient is capability. Peter Drucker was quoted as saying, “Other than president of the United States, the three most difficult jobs in America today are president of a large university, administrator of a large hospital, and pastor of a large church.” The skill set for a pastor is off the charts with what is being expected and asked of this leader. Paul, when mentioning difficulties he had gone through, also listed the daily pressure on him from the care of the churches.

Perhaps a commitment to learning is the most important characteristic. There is no doubt that a leader must be a lifelong learner. Aubrey Malphurs says that, “a lack of teachability is the potential leader’s cardinal sin.” It is very important to remain flexible and to not think you have all of the answers. There is a trap with our egos when we think we have been doing this long enough and have it figured out. While experience is important, we should always remain teachable.

However, I believe that the most important leadership ingredient is passion! In Being Leaders, Aubrey Malphurs defines Christian leadership as, “the process whereby servants use their credibility and capability to influence people in a particular context to pursue their God-given direction.” Yes, character counts. Credibility and capability are also crucial ingredients as leaders but without passion they will not endure. A key to leadership is remaining close to Christ so that our hearts burn with His fire.

Lyle Schaller wrote, “I think passion is the critical variable. It has taken me a long time to come around to that, but if a pastor does not have a passion for the mission, you can forget the rest. I would insist that the number one quality of a leader is passion.” Aubrey Malphurs agrees, and so do I. If we are not passionate for our church and our city then maybe it is time to step aside? Or at least we must find a way for the passion to be rekindled! Paul told Timothy to “keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you.”

Malphurs defines passion in Being Leaders as, “a God-given capacity to commit oneself fervently over an extended period of time to meeting an objective. Here is a breakdown of this definition:

  • God-given: The only way for passion to burn within us is to spend time with the Lord. Luke 24:32 says, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” Passion comes from intimate time with Jesus!
  • Commit: Passion is not just the “rah rah” of a pep rally but it carries also a game plan. There is an intentionality and commitment to planning a strategy to do something about what we say we are passionate about. James 4:17, “So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.”
  • Fervently: Who will reach their cities for Christ? Those who are passionately in love with Him. What are you contributing to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment? If we truly feel strongly about something it then propels us into action.
  • Extended period of time: This is not a short-term commitment, but rather, it means we are in it for the long haul. Malphurs says, “Passion has tenure!” It is what we have dedicated ourselves to until we have met the objective. Casting Crowns sings, “Until the whole world hears!”

The temptation is to think that passion is only for the extroverts and the outgoing.

In Leaders Who Last, Dave Kraft says, “Personality is a God thing not a personality thing!” Passion is equal to conviction and as you read the book of Acts you see that the early church was passionate. They were on fire with a boldness that created fearlessness in their lives. You do not see them obsessed with safety or comfort. They were ready to place their lives on the line for the cause of Christ and they did!

We read about the apostle’s passion when they were threatened and told to quit sharing the gospel in Acts 4:19-20, “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Paul later says in Acts 20:24, “But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Passion is produced from a genuine joy that flows from being in love with Jesus. Healthy Christians, healthy leaders, and healthy churches are passionate!

Shifting Gears

Gear Shift

The very first car my wife and I bought together, right before we married, was a 1974 Mustang II. It did not have an automatic transmission but, rather, was a five-speed manual. She had never driven a stick shift before, so the training began. Nothing like learning to drive a five-speed to see how well you will really be able to get along. She was doing quite well until one day we had an errand to drive where the area was quite hilly.

Unfortunately, the traffic light caught us where the hill was the steepest, and now the real test was about to begin. When the light turned green she tried, but we rolled backwards. Again, she tried but the result was the same. The man behind us was quite concerned waving his hands and honking his horn. I pulled up the emergency hand break in the middle console, told her to gun it, pop the clutch, and I let the brake down.   You can get rubber even in a 4-cylinder!

She became very proficient with a manual transmission, which proved to be quite useful while we were living in Romania.   Learning to know when to be in the right gear at the right time allows the engine to function at its optimum. In the wrong gear at the wrong time and the engine labors and can even shut down. Being in the right gear at the right time is also important in our lives for us personally, our families, and wherever we may work. If you are in the wrong gear at the wrong time damage can be done.

The following gears are used in the book Five Gears: How to Be Present When there Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram. The key is being aware of the gear you are in, the gear others are in around you, and then being willing to shift into the needed gear for the moment. We will run over people if we choose to continue at the speed we are traveling and are unwilling to down shift, slow down, and be fully present and focused on them where they are at the moment.

  • First Gear is the Recharge Mode. This is where you completely unplug and are able to get refreshed, recharged, and reenergized. This is your time alone with God and making sure you get the rest and relaxation that you need. This is why there is a day and a night, a Sabbath, a time to work and a time to rest. God placed these rest rhythms into our lives for our health and well-being. Do not skip over first gear and try to start off too fast in another gear because eventually you will damage your engine.
  • Second Gear is the Connect Mode. We must learn to be fully present with our families. The people we love the most deserve our best in the area of our undivided attention during quality time together. We cannot afford to always be distracted and guilty of being physically present but not emotionally. Are you connecting appropriately with your wife and with your children? The reality is that miscommunication grows exponentially the busier our lives become.
  • Third Gear is the Social Mode. This middle gear gives us the ability to shift down or up pretty easily. We can downshift into second gear where we can spend quality time with someone that allows up to get to know them more personally. Look for these opportunities and capitalize on them but also be ready to upshift to being able to multi-task. The key to third gear is being aware of what is needed at the moment and having “EQ” which is emotional intelligence.
  • Fourth Gear is Task Mode. This is where we are multi-tasking and working hard in several different areas. It is interesting that 85% or people are usually in this gear but you cannot stay there forever. It is not good if the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night is to check your email. There is a time that all of us need to learn to shut it off and to shutdown. This gear can be exhilarating and bring a lot of personal satisfaction as we check things off of our to-do list.
  • Fifth Gear is the Focus Mode. Now you are 100% focused on the task and you are uninterrupted as you complete it. This has been described as being “in the zone.” I have asked several what that looks like in their particular field. A policeman shared with me that it is when he is able to help someone. An owner of a factory shared with me that it is that 2-3 minutes every day when everything and everyone is working in perfect harmony. An NFL quarterback said it is when he can see the whole field and knows what everyone is going to do and how the defense will react, the opposite of tunnel vision.

When are you in “the zone?” Where is your sweet spot when you are at your best and can be the most productive you can be? It may be in 90-minute segments, early mornings, or right after lunch. Maybe you need to get around people to be “in the zone” or you need to be locked in a room by yourself with a white marker board as you dream and visualize. Once again, though, you cannot stay in fifth gear forever. There will be time to downshift into multi-tasking and then even downshift again to be social again.

To properly drive a five-speed transmission you must be aware of how the engine sounds, the terrain, the correct speed needed, and sensitive to what is needed at the moment. The same is true in our lives as we become more self-aware of the gear needed for us to be productive and personable. You cannot always be the social butterfly because there is work to be done nor should you continually be all about the work while ignoring relationships.

Healthy Christians know when to shift gears!