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Photo by Aaron Burden
My boys love our swing-set in the backyard. This weekend I found myself pushing them with an urge to go inside and complete some tasks that waited.
Nothing wrong with completing tasks, and nothing wrong with having set times for being present with children and tending to work.
But here is what I sensed.
In that moment, the healthiest, most God-honoring, fully alive thing for me to do was be present and keep pushing my children on their swings.
My bent is naturally towards goals, forward progress, getting things done. And though I love my children with all my heart and delight in them deeply, I still have to guard against letting ministry and work in general creep in and take over unhelpful and unhealthy positions in my heart and life.
We recently moved houses and the back yard is one step away from an over-grown jungle.
In the first two weeks I bought hedge trimmers to cut back even some of the plants we enjoyed the most because they were over-grown.
Good things that become over-grown have negative consequences.
For me, this can look like:
- The drive to produce
- Working without healthy boundaries
- Not being present
- A lack of mutual relationships
- Overly focused on one area of my life/opportunity/challenge
To guard my life against over growth leads to many actions, but two to highlight in this post.
- Be present in each of the key roles and relationships in my life
What does it look like for you to carve out a rhythm of life that honors each of the key roles and relationships God has called you to? This can look different in various seasons, but the important thing is be intentional and thoughtful.
- Search my heart and know my idols
Self-deception is one of the greatest obstacles to running our race that God has called us to run in the manner he has called us to run. By assuming my heart is susceptible towards idols and searching my heart to identify these possibilities, it helps me be aware of what may be driving my behavior in those moments like pushing my children on the swing in the backyard. It wasn’t that I needed to come inside and accomplish the tasks that awaited, it was that my heart was driven to find fulfillment in those moments in unhealthy ways. For me, that was a sign of my idol of accomplishment creeping in on my longing and vision to be a present and engaged father.
What drives your heart in unhelpful ways?
There are many times that I have ended pushing the swinging and had no second thoughts. But this time I knew I needed to be aware of what was in my heart to protect the vision and calling that God has placed on my life. And in this moment, I glorified God most by continuing to push my children on the swing.
What does it look like for you to search your heart and identify your idols so you can be present in the key roles and responsibilities God has called you to today?
Let’s keep asking that question together.
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
For leaders who are seeking to run their race well and finish strong, this passage has important implications. While I don’t resonate with judging others on their spiritual habits and practices, I do know what it is like to have too big of a gap between my heart and my actions. I know what it is like to honor God with my lips and go through correct motions while my heart is dangerously adrift.
I also know what it is like to value something my tribe values like “leadership,” above the commands of loving God and loving my neighbor. Leadership can be rooted in a love for God and others, but it can also take on a life of its own and detach from its ultimate end.
Anything that gets ahold of our heart, which takes the place of satisfying and delighting ourselves in God himself, will lead us down a dangerous path towards pain.
Today there will be many people who want our attention. There will be problems that need to be solved and opportunities to seize. Today the pull will not be to find and delight in the heart of God, but rather to posture and polish our image in sight of others by following various versions of the “traditions of the elders.”
Vibrant, God-glorifying, eternal fruit-bearing, long-lasting leadership requires that we love God and are shaped by his love from the inside-out in a spirit led transformation project.
If we become what we love must, where is your future headed?
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide
I like to be the decision maker. I like to be the strong one. I like to make it happen. I like to do it my way.
The first task of faithful ministry is submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, the head of his body who is our Savior and King.
To submit is to bring ourselves under the kingship of Christ.
It is the opposite of Adam and Eve in the garden when they choose to be like God in knowledge of good and evil.
Submission says yes to the purposes of God for our lives. Submission says yes to the person of God.
Notice submission is prominent in the Lord’s prayer. “His name hallowed, his will be done.”
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Submission is born out of a deep trust in the goodness of God and a right recognition of God’s sovereign reign.
Being rooted in the goodness of God, submission means we trust that God is full of light and there is no darkness in him at all. It means we trust he is the perfect shepherd who knows what is best for us and leads his sheep into green pastures.
Being rooted in God’s sovereign reign, submission means we believe rightly that God set enthroned above every name, authority and power. He is the rightful king on the throne of the universe. It is a recognition that the totality of our lives purpose is to bring him glory by the way we worship, love and enjoy him. We choose to bring our lives under the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Submission cannot be done without the power of the Spirit and the grace of Jesus. It is a daily choice to intentionally align ourselves under God’s reign, submitting our thoughts, affections, wills, and the totality of our being to Him.
Jesus provides us a rich example of what submission looks like in the garden before he goes to the cross.
37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Take this cup. Jesus was asking the Father for another path forward. The weight of this path was weighty upon Him. Sorrow and a weight sits upon his inner being.
What sits on your soul in this moment? What sorrows break your heart? What temptations overwhelm you? What path is in front of you that you do not desire to walk?
“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
For Jesus, the Father’s voice will have the last word because there is a relentless trust in the goodness of the Father.
Obedience is born out of a Spirit empowered submission to the will of God.
David invites the Lord to search him. What a powerful invitation.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Search me. David knows his heart needs to be searched. He knows this side of the finish line, he is prone to wander. He is prone to let idols take over, let pride build up, let temptation run wild.
Search me. That is the cry of a heart seeking to submit.
James speaks to the desires that battle within us and the outward attacks that come from the kingdom of darkness. Submission is an act that says God is lovelier, more satisfying and more desirable than indulgence of sin and the temptations that entice.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
In every moment we are either submitting to the Spirit or we are submitting to the flesh. We are either submitting to the kingdom of darkness or the kingdom of light.
As he begins to give specific instructions to households, the Apostle Paul calls the church to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Our submission to Christ ultimately leads to our submissions to one another as the same attitude of Christ is formed within us.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Submission is a mark of presence of the Spirit of God among his people. Fleshly desires and selfish egos do not submit naturally. The Spirit of God must reshape a disciple at the core of their being to enable submission in the way of Christ. Submission only possible as it is empowered by the Spirit.
Submitting means choosing to:
- Trust God’s character
- Take a dependent posture
- Delight in God’s glory
- Bring the whole of our lives under Christ’s rightful reign
- Trust God’s grace
- Submission is a daily choice
- Submission requires facing ourselves as we are today, putting down masks for authentic faith
- Submission involves searching our beings and inviting God to search us as well
- Submission requires us to create space in our lives for the Lord to do his work
- Submission includes both receiving and responding to God
- Submission is both an act of war and joy
Start with the Why
Strategy is birthed out of what God has called us to do and where he has called us to do it.
The why is our purpose, our reason for existence. Strategy always begins by being reminded of why we have been called by God. This sets the trajectory of everything else that follows. It is the thread that connects everything else together and is a glue that binds team members together.
If your ministry lacks a clearly defined why or it is not owned by the team, you may notice:
- A lack of enthusiasm
- A lack of sacrificial stories or willingness to reach
- Silos between departments
- A lack of clarity
Here is the core question: Does our WHY resonate in the hearts (motivational) and minds (clear and logical) of our key stakeholders?
The beginning questions is have we clearly understood and articulated our why in a manner that (1) motives the heart and is (2) coherent to the mind?
We can state truth on ice or we can state truth on fire. As a leader of God’s people, it is imperative for us to get extremely clear about why we exist and to think through the messaging of our why so that we help our people connect to this why in a meaningful manner. Once we’ve articulated it in a motivational and understandable manner, we are commissioned to energize it and bring focus to it by the way we lead.
Checkpoint question: Is our Why visible and integrated?
Is our why visible in the life of the church? In the lobby, in worship gatherings, in small groups, throughout the building, in the parking lot…is our why showing up in stories and in other rhythms and rituals that are important to our body?
Is our why integrated across ministries and does it drive the key decisions of the church? If it isn’t integrated across ministries, it will be far less likely to get rooted at the level necessary to motivate and guide the church towards God’s calling. It can’t be a statement on wall, it must be lived out in the leadership by both staff and lay leaders.
As you read this if you find it hard to articulate your why in a motivational and compelling manner, taking some time to get away and dream is a great first step. The second step would be to invite some key stakeholder leaders (elders, other staff) to get away with you and dream together.
Here is the core question: Why do we exist?
CONNECT SKILL #1: Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is our ability to know what we are feeling, thinking and what is driving our behavior in the moment. If we lack self-awareness, we will be blind to the impact of our behavior and presence on others. “Understanding yourself is probably the starting point for emotional intelligence; it provides a foundation for managing yourself, spotting emotions in others and managing the relationships in that situation.”[i] Assuming that we connect well with others is like leaving for a trip assuming the car has a full tank of gas. If you are right, no problems. If you’re wrong, you could find yourself in trouble quickly.
Applying self-awareness to connecting well with others means we are aware of the signals we are sending and not sending to other person. Awareness of our own signals prepares us for social awareness, how those signals are being received by others. With self and social awareness we are able to adjust the signals we are sending in the interaction to form stronger connections.
Reflection questions to raise performance:
- How aware are you of the signals you are sending to others in conversations?
- Write out 5 phrases you want others to use to describe how they experience you in conversations.
[i] Emotional Intelligence (2012). MJF Books, by Dr David Walton, pg 25
One of the leaders strongest tools for moving forward the vision is focus. It is also one of the greatest needs of the organization and the team members.
A leader who is focused knows their priorities, is disciplined in staying the course, and communicates these clearly to their team. Focus begins with self-leadership, the leader must lead themselves to get perspective and identify what they MUST do out of all of the options of actions they COULD do. The difference between clarity on MUST vs COULD is the difference between a focused leader, a focused team, a focused organization, and one either adrift or with a diluted focus.
The temptation to make everything a priority is a temptation to dilute the energy, resources, and commitment of the team.
5 Results Greater Focus Brings:
- Alignment of Resources
- Greater energy behind priorities
- Less drag on organizational progress towards goals
- Increased clarity on financial & staffing decisions
- Less unnecessary anxiousness and stress throughout the organization
The key for greater focus is to discipline ourselves as leaders to create space in our schedules to get perspective and do the hard work of identifying what is most important. Then we are able to create reminders and metrics to enable us to stay focused and track progress. This operationalizes the focus and lets it drip down through the organization. When we combine these steps with compelling communication, focus will empower results and forward progress around the vision.
Silos kill missional fruitfulness and effectiveness. Silos are a drag on communication, processes, and teamwork.
The silo mentality is built around:
When one aspect of the ministry is not working in concert with another, frustrations arise, resources are wasted, and impact is diminished.
Which description below best represents your current ministry context?
Sail down, sitting still
This team is in turmoil. They are not communicating well and team members are disengaged. They spend so much internal time arguing that they make little process on the bigger mission. Trust is dangerously low. Like a sail boat whose sail is down, they are sitting still or drifting.
Sail up, but missing the wind
This team has established processes and good management that has enabled the sail to get up, but they have not shifted the mindset and values of team members to become owners of the larger mission and not just their ministry area. To catch the wind, the team members must shift their values and increase their awareness and concern for other ministry departments. Seeing other team member’s win as their shared win is an obstacle for this team to overcome.
Sail up, wind at your back
This team has made a fundamental shift in their allegiance from their ministry area being primary to the bigger win of the church/whole ministry. This means they own and are concerned for the ministry that is specific to their ministry area, but they understand the larger vision and view their ministry area as one piece in the puzzle helping to fulfill the greater win. This opens team members up to thinking about how their actions impact others, what they need to communicate proactively, and how they can work in collaborative relationships with other ministries.
A silo mentality lens looks at the ministry through the perspective of a fortress. The primary role the leader has is to take as much as possible and protect against anyone else taking from them. It is a closed off and protective mindset, defensive in nature. This perspective is blinded to the great synergy necessary.
To experience the wind at our backs as a larger church or ministry, we must shape the mindsets of the leaders on our team to protect against fortress and to ingrain a jazz band mentality.
A jazz band recognizes that each team member brings something unique and valuable to the team. Each team member is responsible to play their part well. But the shift that is important is that they recognize that they don’t play alone, but their primary role is to play in harmony, in sync with the rest of the band in such a manner that a beautiful sound results.
A primary responsibility of every ministry leader is to foster a jazz band mind-set that will reshape the values of the team and result in the collaboration, communication, and commitment needed for the missional future God has laid before them.
Helpful short article from SHRM on the pros and cons of communicating with employees around 9 box.