Archives for : Humility

#1 Leadership Quality

When you think of what is required to be a leader what qualities do you place on your list?  What are your top five?  Many mention capabilities (skill sets), charisma (likeability), chemistry (ability to get along), and character (morals and ethics).  Unfortunately, even in some parts of the church world, it seems that character can sometimes be overlooked for capabilities (what the leader can accomplish) and charisma (who they can convince and win over).  Have some allowed flashy and glitzy to become more important than Godly and faithful?

Through the years I have always gravitated towards two qualities when looking for staff, church planters, and missionaries: loyalty and being teachable.  When looking at past behavior there must be a consistent pattern of faithfulness to the Lord, family, church, work, and to their friends.  Can a pattern of and a commitment to life-long learning also be seen?  Have they arrived and figured it out or are they on a journey of growing in the Lord while also seeking to learn from others around them?  Are they ready to listen to those who have gone before them?

Both of these qualities have a fundamental foundation in what Jesus emphasized as the #1 quality of being a leader, humility.  In Mark 9 we have one of the accounts where the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest, sound familiar?  In verse 35 we read, “Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”  That does not sound like the world’s Leadership 101 at all does it?  Jesus emphasizes this again in Luke 22 telling them to not desire domination over others as the Gentiles did.

Pride is insidious because it is always ready to trip you up, trap you, and trick you into thinking you are the only one doing it right.  If you have a large church you must be doing it right and others would be wise to do what you are doing.  If you have a small church then you begin to believe that you are the only one preaching the truth correctly and that has to be why you are small.  Carey Nieuwhof says that pride is like a weed because it does not need any help in growing and it is always there ready to show its ugly head. 

Pride has a way of showing up and taking over without any effort at all.  Solomon said that pride comes before destruction.  Pride causes you to believe that you are always being overlooked, unappreciated, and unnoticed.  Pride is that little voice inside your head asking, “Why am I not getting the recognition I deserve?”  When some recognition does come your way it is pride that says, “Finally people are beginning to notice just how valuable I really am!”  Solomon also said, “Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide the plunder with the proud.”

In John 13 Jesus gives the perfect example of humble leadership by washing the disciples feet.  Then in verse 15 He says, “For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.”  Servant leadership is driven out of a character of true humility.  Humility desires our participation not our applause.  It is a call to help and assist by dedicating our lives to serving others.  Jesus was willing to do what, normally, nobody else wanted to do.  He made certain that they understood that they were to follow His example.

Humility is the ability to take your eyes off of you and focus on others.  When you remain humble the applause of others will not corrupt you nor will the criticism of others crush you.  It enables you to avoid comparison to other preachers and ministries.  Humility does not allow envy and jealousy to raise its ugly head in your heart.  It keeps you from being driven by strategy and planning while your personal intimacy with Christ suffers.  Humility is what causes you to be more concerned about what He thinks than being motivated by pleasing people.

Here is a good test.  Does your ministry draw attention to you or to Christ?  Francis Chan wrote, “For many of us, our default is self-preservation and self-exaltation.  In our insecurity, we worry about what people will think of us rather than hoping they will not.”  Never forget how crafty and tricky pride can be.  Some take pride in how many love and applaud them while others take pride in proving that no one likes them.  The challenge is clear for the follower of Christ by John the Baptist, “I must decrease and He must increase.”

Pride maintains your natural inclination to focus on yourself while humility causes you to focus on Christ first and then others.  It enables you to lead by example in placing others first.  Read Philippians 2:1-8 real slow a couple of times.  This is when the beauty of your church family will be displayed by how everyone will begin assisting in ministering and caring for one another.  Then the weight of serving is distributed more evenly. 

Carey Nieuwhof says it well, “Only humility will get you out of what pride got you into!”

Do Not Steal My Glory

Jeff Christopherson in Kingdom Matrix says, “Churches can be reduced to man-centered organizations but the Kingdom of God cannot.  Should a church find itself functioning in the miserable state of pragmatic human-centered strategic planning, it is in exceedingly dangerous territory.”  The extreme example of this is putting into practice whatever works believing that the end justifies the means.  Churches focus on spicing up their messages, speeding up their music, and sprucing up their facilities and many times nothing actually gets any better. 

Paul tells us that one plants, one waters, and that it is God who gives the increase.  Christopherson puts it this way, “Whenever we focus on the goals over the process, we will always be tempted to produce the fruit ourselves,” This leads to a belief that bigger is better and size determines our worth.  The reality is that numbers do not equal gospel influence anymore than attendance to church guarantees spiritual maturity.  Just because you listen to truth it does not mean your values and priorities are being transformed. 

Joshua was a mighty warrior and man of faith.  He challenges the Israelites to decide, once and for all, who they will worship.  In Joshua 24:1-13 he communicates God’s word to them and shares seventeen rapid-fire proclamations.  It begins in verse 3, “But I took your father Abraham from the region beyond the Euphrates River” and ends in verse 13 with “I gave you a land you did not labor for, and cities you did not build.”  God tells these mighty warriors who had conquered this land in verse 12, “It was not by your sword or bow.”

We must be careful to never take credit for what God has and is doing.  Yes, we still must accept our responsibilities and obligations but we should always remember that God will not share His glory with anyone.  When Jeff Christopherson was planting a multiplying church in Toronto one of the things God impressed on their group very clearly was, “Do not steal My Glory!”  Joshua would concur and challenges us to always obey God’s word, to not pursue the gods of this world, and to never give our allegiance to anyone but God.

Planning and strategy are good things but it must be prayerful planning.  Thinking through how we can be more effective and efficient is important but we must remain true to the gospel and the scriptures.  While some will scream loudly that size does not guarantee spiritual maturity it could also be argued that small does not guarantee it either. Jeff makes this clear when he states, “Just because my church claims to be a community of Christ does not automatically mean that it is advancing the cause of Christ.”

New Testament churches have a purpose according to Ephesians 3:10, “This is so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church.”  The local church does not so much have a mission for God but rather God has local churches to carry out His mission.  If we are not advancing God’s kingdom then is it possible that we are reducing its impact and influence?  In Revelation 2:5 Jesus says this to the church in Ephesus, “Remember then how far you have fallen, repent, and do the works you did at first.”  

Daniel Im in No Silver Bullets gives clear and sound biblical direction in developing strategies and systems.  He defines a system as “a group of related parts that move or work together.”  It requires training your members in the areas of assimilation, outreach, and discipleship to name a few.  All of your systems can use prayer planning, strategic thinking, and intentionality.  This is the biblical directive of equipping one another as instructed in Ephesians 4:12, “For the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.”

In the area of discipleship Daniel Im states, “Since the starting point for every church’s vision should be the Great Commission and Commandment, it makes sense to view your discipleship pathway as the strategy that’ll get you to the vision.”  We know that our core identity is that we are His disciples (followers). In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” Jonathan Parnell defines a disciple of Jesus as “a worshipper, a servant, and a witness.”  Are you identified as following Christ with precise compliance?”

Being identified as His disciples means that our core mission and objective is making disciples.  Matthew 28 commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. Daniel Im continues, “After all, a discipleship pathway is the intentional route that you have set up in your church to develop and form missionary disciples for Kingdom impact.” Most discipleship is pouring into people already saved, which is good, but it is not making “new” disciples, which is even better.  Evangelism is inviting people to Christ while discipleship is investing in them. 

Your discipleship pathway is what shapes character, transforms hearts, and develops the believer.  Your leadership pipeline is what equips these disciples to live out their calling.  Daniel Im uses a great analogy that helps us picture what this should look like.  “If your church was a car that had to get you to a particular endpoint, which would be the vision, the discipleship pathway would be the fuel, and the leadership pipeline would be the engine.  Both are equally important and have to rely on one another if the car is going to experience any movement.”

Galatians 6:14 says, “But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.”  Do not steal His glory! 

Who Are Your Must Become Greaters?

He is Greater

   The question is simple but profound, “Why do you do what you do?” or “What keeps you going and what are you passionate about?”  Passion can be determined by watching what brings tears to a person’s eyes or what they pound the table about when discussing it.  Passion is what keeps you doing what you do even when you want to quit or you just don’t want to do it anymore.  It is the fire in your belly that stirs you and motivates you to press forward.  The prophet Jeremiah said this, “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.”

     John the Baptist was passionate about repentence in following God and also paving the way for the Messiah.  He said this, “I must decrease and He must increase!”  He was saying that Christ must become greater but then Jesus said in John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say unto you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father.”  Remember, Jesus invested in a few so that He could reach many through them.  Who are you investing in and preparing to accomplish even greater things than you ever will?

     Recently a friend of mine asked, “Who are your ‘Must become greaters?”  The more you empower, equip, and release other leaders the greater the advancement of the gospel.  Who is it in your sphere that you are championing to be a “must become greater?”  Moses was the great deliverer but it was Joshua and Caleb that took them into Canaan.  Elijah was a great prophet but Elisha witnessed twice the miracles his teacher did.  Jonathan was a great friend who helped David but it was David who became king.  Barnabas was Saul’s mentor but it was Paul who was the great missionary of the New Testament church.

     First, you must decrease!  We must become less so that they can become more, greater.  That is the secret and the key to raising up some “must become greaters!”  Far too often the temptation is to not release those we have mentored and try to control them instead of creating a culture of reproducing leaders who are sent out from us on mission for God.  They may do a far better job than us and our prayer and hope should be that they do so.  That brings up another problem.  Something is desperately wrong when we cannot rejoice when those we have trained and mentored accomplish far more than we have. 

     In John 3 John the Baptist gave us a paradox, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  A paradox is something that is made up of two opposite things and seems impossible but is actually true.  The Bible is full of paradoxes that reveal an upside down approach to life and leadership.  The last shall be first and the first shall be last.  If you find your life you will lose it and if you lose your life you find it.  It is better to give than receive and God loves a cheerful giver.  When you are weak, then you are strong.  Maybe the greatest paradox to our human minds is, “To live is Christ and to die is gain!”  We must die to self!

     Second, others must increase!  God can take nobodies, and in a kingdom sense, make them somebodies!  Who is it that God wants you to focus on who are the “must become greaters?”  For this to become a reality there must be an even greater commitment to a higher level of discipleship.  There must be a greater investment of time and intentionality where you pour your life into others.  You goal is that they will do even greater things than you ever could and you will rejoice in knowing that their increase has happened because you had a vision and a heart for the “must become greaters!” 

     Remeber, God hates the proud and gives grace to the humble.  Our eyes must be focused on others and raising up the next generation who will raise up the next generation.  God has called us to look for and invest in the “must become greaters” by equipping them, empowering them, and relasing them for the work of the ministry.  The secret is exactly what John the Baptist said, “I must become less!”  Jesus said this about him in Matt. 11:11, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not been one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

     Always be looking for the “Must become greaters!”