I have been reading J. Oswald Sanders’ classic work, Spiritual Leadership, on leading spiritually and have been challenged–both as a leader and in my personal devotion to Christ (as if the two were mutually exclusive!). A leader is merely someone who has been somewhere and calls people to that place. Yet, a leader is also one who stands in front and points forward–inviting people to that greater vision. So the qualities I walk through from Sanders’ book are qualities every disciple of Christ should exhibit in some measure at some point in their walk with Christ. There is, however, a distinct call for leaders to exude these qualities in their personal and public life.

The next few posts will merely summarize Sanders’ ruminations on several qualities he sees in Scripture that are necessary for effective leaders. You can find these qualities in chapters 8 and 9.

1. DISCIPLINE

“Without this essential quality, all other gifts remain as dwarfs: they cannot grow. . . .Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer the self” (p.52).

This quality lies at the foundation of cultivating all the subsequent qualities. For example, if you lack wisdom, you must have the discipline (and humility) to ask (James 1.5). If any of us lacks the ability to make decisions, we must be disciplined to know our principles and act accordingly.

If you are not able to follow your own lead, how can you expect others to follow you. If you don’t listen to yourself in the morning to get out of bed or not to eat that extra donut, there might be some fundamental lack in your abilities to persuade. “Many who aspire to leadership fail because they have never learned to follow” (p. 52). Fundamentally, they have never learned to follow the better version of themselves.

One aspect of discipline I found insightful (and out of left field, honestly), is the discipline of receiving from others. He writes, “To neglect receiving kindness and help is to isolate oneself, to rob others of opportunity, and to deprive oneself of sustenance” (p. 55). It requires restraint to say “Yes” to someone’s offer of help. For that “yes” hedges us in so that we must receive. Therein we embrace our finitude and weakness. This will inevitably help us to restrain ourselves when called to delegate and admit we can’t do it alone.

 

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Leading with a Limp

Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip (Gen. 32.31; NLT)

Too many times we focus on the action of leadership and not the ontology of the leader. That is, when asked to define what a leader is, most people’s responses are boiled down to “They lead.” This is what a leader does. This is not what he is.

In my experience, the most important characteristic of a leader is humility. True, a proud and overly confident leader may get the pin to move on the measuring gauge. In the long run, however, her leadership will lose its effectiveness over time. What is more, those who follow her will not be shaped. The primary goal of a Christian leader is to shape the whole person, to see people mature and grow in their love for God and neighbor. If they are coerced or pressed into a mold of conformity, their hearts will not be changed because a law has been imposed on them.

Leaders ought to want to see people changed more than a goal to be reached. Or put another way, the goal to which a leader aims ought to be Christ being formed in those that follow him. This is the metric we see throughout Scripture. This, then, ought to be our goal in leadership. this Christ-likeness

The primary way a leader promotes this Christ-likeness is through his own Christ-likeness. And what do we see in the Lion of Judah save the wounded Lamb.

I remember going through a pastoral assessment wherein the interviewers looked at me and said they weren’t sure that I had worked through past pain. This is after I had shared with these brothers a lot of hurt and told them how the Lord had drawn near in those times. Surely, there is some time that people need to work through their pain. This is, however, a first world problem. How many other brothers and sisters don’t have the luxury to go to a year of counseling or to step out of a painful ministry experience?

No, we are called to minister not after our wounds are healed but in the midst of our wounds. We are called to show the scars and still feel the cold breath of unrequited loves and expectations. This is where we ought to live and minister from. We ought not to hide our limp. We ought to highlight the fact that we lean on another. We are frail. We fail. When we model that kind of bold dependence on God, we, in essence, reveal that we are but pilgrims moving toward another country and the path is hard and the pain is real. Not something we learned from and not something got over–as though it’s something in the past. Rather, the pain and problems ought to be the very stuff our ministry’s are made of.

There is a “ME” in “TEAM”

Too often we equate team with the concept of losing ourselves in the group. As if in some way you blend into this amorphous blob of reality.

The best All teams are made of individuals. The best teams are made of individuals who own their unabashedly own their individuality and seek to serve others by being themselves. Too many teams I have been on conform to the path of least resistance. The team member was afraid to call out a bad decision (or indecision!) The team leader was afraid to welcome dissension or be himself–since he had to give off a certain aura that no one else saw but him.

There is no “i” in “team”–that’s bad spelling, unless you are transliterating it into Spanish as “tim” (and that’s just silly).

The sooner you own the fact that there is an individual. There is a “me” in “team”…you just have to find it.

Stick Out Your Tongue

Some of you may have already seen this video milling about on the internet, but I wanted to share with you just in case and, perhaps, pull out a few pieces to reflect on.

B&A HAKA from Westone Productions on Vimeo.

  1. Community

This video shows the power of community in an unparalleled way. The rhythms of the stomping and beating of the chest show you that this group of men and women are unified. This kind of unity is rare in our self-identifying culture. Sure, we can choose whether we are going to be goth, emo, or any other flavor of the generation. But how many of us own the group to which we were born into? This submission to identifying with who you had no choice to identify with provides a freedom and identity for us that no amount of make-up or dress could provide for us. I remember I went through multiple phases of identity growing up. It wasn’t until I owned who I was born to be that I found great freedom.

2. Acceptance

As the group approaches the couple, I find myself intimidated for the groom! At root of this approach is the burning question, “Do I have what it takes?” If you haven’t asked yourself this question, you will…or you have an inordinate amount of self-confidence.

3. Stick Your Tongue Out

One of the most awkward things I found to get used to was a very strange thing to cringe at–the prevalence of sticking your tongue out. It’s not something I do regularly, nor those I spend time with. In fact, it is at that initial point of tongue wagging that most may say, “How strange!” and stop the video.

Once we have owned who we are, there will come a time we have to unabashedly own who we are. It will look strange and be misunderstood. How many movies have the cathartic moment when the person who has been covering up who he or she is (typically something to be ashamed of–like being poor), when this person owns it and reveals herself. How liberating!

Own who you are. Hit your chest and be accepted as the world looks on. Stick out your tongue.