If that seems like a tall order, it is! Unconditional love is not something people muster up on their own. In order to love this way leaders, like everyone else, need to be vitally connected to the Lord Jesus– like branches connected to a vine (John 15) – receiving the love of Jesus and letting it flow through their lives to others.
Benefits for leaders who are loving:
1. Those who pursue loving others do not need to spend valuable energy and attention avoiding destructive behaviors.
2. Loving others catalyzes transformation in the leader.
Benefits for the community where leaders are loving:
1. Loving others enables leaders to go beyond just accomplishing goals to creating community culture, fostering collaboration and raising up new leadership.
2. Loved people are able to offer more of their creativity and passion to the team.
Biblical inspiration and support:
Recently a friend gave me a book, Renovated by Jim Wilder. While I was reading the first two chapters a thought stirred in me… What if the two greatest commandments are not just God’s demands on us, or even the path to a fruitful life… What if they are also God’s mode of transforming us?
According to Jesus himself, the greatest commandments are loving God and loving each other:
“34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36’“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ 37 And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:34–40, ESV).
It’s of utmost importance for Christian leaders to love God and to love others for so many reasons… because the Lord commanded us to do so, because that is the culture of the Kingdom of God, because that is what Jesus – the author and perfecter of our faith – modeled… but I am starting to wonder if, in addition to all of that, what if seeking to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as ourselves actually engages us in the process of God’s transformation in our lives? We are not able to truly love as Christ loves apart from God’s grace… but perhaps it is through the shaping that occurs as we continually turn our hearts toward a posture of loving God and others that we are transformed into those who love their enemies.*
So, although it doesn’t seem like “love” is critical to commercial success, it makes my Leadership A to Z list. The command to love is all over the New Testament, like in Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome:
“8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8–10, ESV, emphasis mine)
Again, if we pursue love, I do not think we are going to have to spend a lot of time trying to avoid all the “you shall not’s” because all the “you shall not’s” are not loving. If we point our attitudes and actions toward the target of love, we are going to be pleasing God and bringing Him glory.
And Paul seems realistic about the fact that it is not always going to be easy to love one another as he writes:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV, emphasis mine)
“12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.“ (Colossians 3:12–14, ESV, emphasis)
The statement “bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, ESV) itself implies loving others is not always easy. Love requires commitment and effort. Yet, love binds all the other virtues listed together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:14). Love is powerful.
We are called to be loving, and therefore I believe we are empowered by God’s grace to be loving. As we pursue loving God and loving others, we will not be spending so much time on avoiding quarreling, lying or other vices… we will be moving toward the thing that transforms us, others and therefore situations… God’s amazing Love.
* Wilder says in his book that Dallas Willard’s test of transformation was if one spontaneously loved their enemies.
 Wilder, Jim, Renovated (NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 2020), 3.
During the pandemic we are all struggling. There has been a lot of disagreement and isolation. During the last year I started noticing that people often seemed ill at ease during conversations. It seemed like they were wondering if they were going to be rejected as they interacted with me. I have a desire to create hospitable space for people, and so I tried to apply the scripture, “…perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18, NIV) by attempting to create a safe space for people in conversation with me. So I’ve been experimenting with how I might do that. I now make an effort to take time with the Lord before meetings to get my own needs of acceptance met so I can offer acceptance more freely. I ask the Lord to fill me with His love for the person I am about to meet with and to help me be hospitable to them. I ask for the ability to see things from their point of view. During meetings I have tried to go out of my way to let people know that I am committed to the relationship, even if we are disagreeing or having difficulty connecting. I take extra care to communicate what the relationship means to me. It seems that if the person feels secure in our relationship, we might actually get somewhere in the conversation. If they do not, misunderstandings abound and estrangement is likely. When things are challenging, I am trying to gently pursue the other person instead of interpreting the tension as rejection and drifting out of relationship. Love is powerful… and I am exploring ways to communicate love to people and so set them at ease.
The One Jesus Loves.
The author of the Gospel of John describes one disciple as “the one whom Jesus loved,” presumably to avoid saying His own name as he referred to himself (see John 13:23, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20 . What a powerful conviction he had about his own identity! It seems he believed that the most foundational truth about him was that he was the one Jesus loves. What about us? What is our most foundational belief about ourselves? How would we describe ourselves? Does it seem a bit forward or presumptuous to call yourself the one Jesus loves?
Because you are the one Jesus loves.
If you are not sure of this, spend some time in these Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth:
John 15:9-12; 16:26-27
Ephesians 5:1-2, 25
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
1 John 3:1-2
I invite you to spend a few minutes each morning this week, in the quiet, alone with the Lord in prayer, trying on this truth: “I am the one Jesus loves.”
Then, take one more minute to imagine the people you will come across during the next 24 hours, and recognize that they are the one Jesus loves. Pray that they would know Jesus if they do not, and that they would receive His love and would come to know they are the one Jesus loves. (This is fun to do in silent prayer when you are in meetings as well. It often softens my heart toward the other people in the room and helps me be more sensitive to what God’s goals in the situation might be.)
(This is my adaptation of a spiritual exercise called the Long Loving Gaze that was introduced to me by a Spiritual Director who had learned it in studying Ignatius of Loyola.)
A parting word on love:
Love transforms individuals and communities.
Comment: What helps you “bear with one another in love”? (See Ephesians 4:2 and Colossians 3:13)
Time for a Mid-Series Pause.
The blog was not coming together this week and as I prayed about what to do, I felt the Lord guiding me to take a week off. I hope that by doing that, you might also give yourself, even as a leader, the same grace to take a week off.
I’ve heard that one of the definitions of the word sabbath is to pause for now.
I invite you, dear leader, to pause for now.
See you next week.
Comment: What benefits do you experience when you pause or take a break?
Benefits for leaders who are kind:
1. Kind leaders are able to gently correct others, strengthening connections instead of breaking them.
2. Leaders who are kind and courteous, and therefore not defensive, are approachable and enjoy better communication and collaboration with their teams.
Benefits for the community where leaders are kind:
1. Showing kindness to others helps create a community where people offer one another everyday mercies. And everyone needs some kind of mercy every day!
2. Showing patience and kindness can diffuse tense situations and put people at ease.
Biblical inspiration and support:
There was a time when I thought the leader was the most headstrong person in the room who imposed their will on others. That is not the picture Paul paints as he instructs Timothy in this passage:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24–26, ESV, emphasis mine)
Paul urges Timothy to not be quarrelsome but kind and patient. The following passages build on this idea but use a different Greek word, ἐπιεικής, which the Greek Lexicon defines as, “not insisting on every right of letter of law or custom, yielding, gentle, kind, courteous, tolerant.” It is translated “gentle” in the following two passages. Reading these passages begins to give you a feel for the characteristic Paul is trying to highlight in his writing:
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1–2, ESV, emphasis mine)
“2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3:2–3, ESV, emphasis mine)
Overseers are to be gentle and kind. We see this word used in contrast with quarreling; when tempted to quarrel we are instructed to be gentle instead.
Quarreling is to dispute, to contend – to fight. Fighting is at odds with a leader’s purpose to serve the community by forging connections and fruitful collaboration.
This same Greek word is also used in one of my favorite passages:
“17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17, ESV, emphasis mine)
James says wisdom is gentle, peaceable – not combative, not battling – and full of mercy and open to reason. Leaders are not to be defensive, they are to be confident in their role and able to be gentle with those who oppose them, to be patient, kind. This allows them to be able to entertain new ideas that are foreign to their thinking, to have their blind spots exposed, to gain from the perspectives and experience of others.
Here in Philippians the same Greek word has been translated, “reasonableness,” providing another angle on what is being described. Christians are to be kind, gentle and reasonable.
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4–7, ESV, Emphasis mine)
Christians are directed and encouraged not to be quick to argue but instead to be kind, gentle, courteous and reasonable. Kindness contributes to an environment where small disputes can remain small and people value each other more than winning an argument. It seems to me that kindness is an everyday kind of mercy we can offer one another. It works to create the hospitable space we desire in our homes, churches and workplaces.
What comes to mind is not one particular story, but the many times that team leaders and members have been gracious to me when I have spoken out of turn, or out of agitation. The times when they have shown me patience when I have spoken from anger or fear. The times they chose to be gracious and to diffuse a situation when, if they had responded in the same way to me, it would have made the situation worse.
And since COVID, I feel people’s kindness is even more meaningful to me, both because I have missed interacting with people and therefore missed their kindness, but also because there has been a lot of quarreling and disputing among people in the last couple years. I realize that I have gotten to the point that I almost expect people to be unreasonable, so when people are kind and gentle I find it comforting and I relax. Someone reminded me recently, when we relax “it becomes easier for us to show up as our best selves.”
Being kind and gentle doesn’t happen by accident.
What do you need to do to help you deal with the frustrations and disappointments of life so you can be refreshed and offer kindness? We often see a day off, time to ourselves or a vacation as luxuries, but when it comes to being able to kind, tolerant, patient and gracious we need to give ourselves time to deal with our own hardships and difficulties, and time just to be refreshed.
It seems that productivity, creativity and efficiency are often rewarded in our culture, but not so with kindness. How could we build in ways to highlight, encourage and honor acts and attitudes of kindness among our team?
A parting word on kindness:
Kindness is an everyday kind of mercy.
How has someone’s kindness made a difference to you?
 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 371.
Working definition of this leadership concept:
To be joyful is to rejoice in hope. Joy does not depend on circumstances, but on the hope we have in Christ.
I have a friend who is fond of saying that joy is the fuel of the Kingdom of God. She continues to explain that it is the joy of deeply knowing that nothing separates us from our good God that energizes us to run.
I like the picture of running the race set before us, like in Hebrews 12, and I agree:
Benefits for leaders who are joyful:
1. Joyful leaders are able to enjoy other people and see and celebrate their accomplishments.
2. Leaders who can return to joy when facing disappointment and difficulty are more resilient.
3. Leaders who experience joy are refreshed and energized.
Benefits for the community where leaders are joyful:
Biblical inspiration and support:
“12 Be joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, NIV)
It’s one of the great mysteries that joy and suffering are not mutually exclusive. They can occur simultaneously. Over the last year I have been touched by how, even in the midst of grief, I can appreciate natural beauty, enjoy the words of a song, and even laugh. God has made us with amazing emotional capacity. I actually think that one of the things that enables us to be patient in suffering is that we are joyful in hope… hope that life is more than suffering. Joyful in the confidence that God is with us always, whatever we are facing (2 Corinthians 4:9). Rejoicing in the sure knowledge that there is a purpose to this life. We hope in the glory of Jesus Christ, the risen Savior who sits at the right hand of God. We hope that as He has been resurrected, so too we will have resurrected bodies (Romans 6:5). We can rejoice that through Christ our names are written in the heaven (Luke 10:20) and we have eternal life which means we have the ability to know God (John 17:3).
Joy is not flippant, silly or foolish. It is not reserved for little children. In Nehemiah 8 the people of God begin grieving while they hear the Word of the Lord for the first time. The leaders respond by urging them to celebrate and teaching them, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10, ESV) In the face of disappointment and broken-heartedness they are told that joy is their strength.
Leaders need this joy which flows from a sure confidence of God’s love and an experience of His loving presence. We read about joy in God’s presence in Psalm 16:
“ 11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)
And so, if you do not have joy, do not worry. God is the source of joy. It is actually listed in Galatians as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV, emphasis mine)
How do you produce this fruit? Well, you can’t produce it on your own: it is the product of the Holy Spirit at work within you. I think the key is found just a verse later:
“25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25, ESV)
I have a joy-filled friend who adds, “It’s a dance with the Spirit!”
We will exhibit fruit of the Spirit if we live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit…If we do not rely on our own limited resources but lean into God’s endless resources. If we follow Jesus’ example and do what we see the Father doing, keeping in step with His work in our area of influence. Partnering with God in His will being done releases great joy!
And so, we are joyful in our secure hope, which helps us be patient in our present sufferings, and we are faithful in prayer – aligning our will with God’s will in our lives and areas of leadership (See Romans 12:12).
A friend offered this example: “My sister-in-law lost her husband almost two years ago. She grieved deeply for a long time, but this summer found line dancing with friends from her summer home. She started to move and follow steps and the grief began to lift. She kept dancing and her smile returned. She learned to laugh and let go. It was joy from new friends, lots of fun dancing and of course, her Savior who provided it all!”
One of my friend talks about "joybursts” – little (or big) surprises that bring joy in the midst of your day. Take some time this week to pause and savor the “joybursts”… the phone call from a friend, hugs from family, the laughter of children, ice cream, the beauty of the sky, solving a problem, a happy memory…
Have some fun.
What fills your tank? As a leader, fun is not optional; you need the refreshment that fun and joy bring! Take out your calendar and schedule no less than an hour this week to do something fun that brings you joy. If you don’t know what brings you joy – start experimenting! Maybe you should try line dancing, learning an instrument, quilting, refinishing furniture… What refreshes you? What puts a smile on your face? Give it some time. Those on your team will be grateful that you did!
Joy in the Lord’s presence.
The Lord is the source of joy for a Christian. Spend some time reading and meditating on Psalm 16. Ask the Lord to reveal the fullness of joy to be found in His presence.
Shout for Joy!
The Bible directs God’s people to shout for joy many times. Consider obeying!
(See Psalm 32:11, 33:1, 35:27, 47:1, 66:1, 81:1, 132:9; Isaiah 12:6, 42:11)
A parting word on joy:
Having fun is not optional for a leader!
Comment: What is bringing you joy lately?
Working definition of this leadership concept:
To be impartial is one expression of loving your neighbor as yourself.
It means to not base decisions on assumptions or prejudice but on God’s wisdom (James 3:17).
To be impartial is to not favor one person over another.
Benefits for leaders who are impartial:
1. Being impartial allows leaders to benefit from the gifts and perspectives of all, not just the influential few.
2. Leaders who do not show favoritism avoid creating division amongst the team because of unfair treatment.
Benefits for the community where leaders are impartial:
1. Impartial leaders help create a culture where all are respected and honored.
2. Team members are encouraged because their ideas, contributions and perspectives will be fairly considered.
Biblical inspiration and support:
As I read over the New Testament looking for teaching and models that would inspire leadership principles, I noticed that impartiality turned up again and again as a characteristic of God Himself:
Both of these two examples shows that God shows no partiality based on ethnicity or nationality.
These two examples show we are not to show partiality based on socio-economic level, vocation, status or wealth.
This example really sums it up; whatever reason society may give a person more influence than another – that reason does not hold up among God’s people because God himself shows no partiality.
As leaders we have both the opportunity and responsibility to receive all people in the same way. As servants of the Lord, our leadership is to reflect the character of God.
One of my greatest lessons on impartiality came through being parented along with a disabled sibling. Even though our physical abilities were different we each were given responsibilities around the house. My mom went out of the way to make sure we both had chores and that we both were rewarded for our contributions to the family. My parents were strict and we both faced discipline if we broke house rules. Even though our abilities were different, we were treated fairly. We both were valued members of the household, expected to contribute to the good of the household, held to the standards of conduct of the household and were to enjoy the blessings of the household.
Take some time this week to consider the people on your team.
Who is the most influential? Why are they the most influential? Is it fair?
As you reflect, have you been showing favoritism in your leadership? Do you need to apologize to anyone? Make it right? Change paths?
As you consider people you are going to invite to the team or those you will promote take a minute to consider how you select candidates. Is there a way you could remove favoritism and make the system more just to all people?
Sticky Note Brainstorm
One way I have seen leaders reduce the effects of favoritism and give people more equal influence in team meetings is by using a sticky note system. Every team member is given the same amount of sticky notes. The topics are put up on the white board and everyone can anonymously add their ideas and solutions using their sticky notes. Then each member is given the same amount of votes to vote for their favorite ideas. Each team member can give all their votes to one sticky note idea/solution or then can give each of their votes to a different one. Then the votes are tallied for the winning ideas. This process removes some of the partiality leaders and members show one another.
A parting word on impartiality:
Impartial leaders value and respect all members of the community equally.
Comments: What have you seen leaders do to create fair team environments?
Working definition of this leadership concept:
To be hospitable is to generously provide space for others to rest, be refreshed, and prosper. It can involve providing food and/or lodging for people as it did in the times of the Bible. More broadly it involves accepting, loving and welcoming others and working to meet basic material, emotional and spiritual needs.
Benefits for leaders who show hospitality:
1. Showing hospitality expands the leader’s heart for others and invites joy.
2. Showing hospitality makes the team environment safer and more welcoming to prospective team members.
Benefits for the community where leaders show hospitality:
1. Leaders are sensitive to and provide for the needs of the team.
2. Leaders welcome others and foster a welcoming culture on their team that make those that feel like "outsiders" become "insiders" who welcome others.
3. Leaders provide hospitable space for people to grow, discover, and attempt new things so that people can develop their gifts and skills.
Biblical inspiration and support:
In the lists of qualifications for an overseer in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 we read that a leader in the church must be hospitable. This is interesting to me. If we were to survey popular books on leadership for leadership characteristics I am not sure that hospitable would top the list. Decisive? Maybe. Persuasive? Maybe. But would we naturally think that leaders must be hospitable? If you call to mind a successful public leader, would you describe them as hospitable? Doubtful. And yet, hospitality makes God’s lists of leadership characteristics. What is it to be hospitable?
In Hebrews 13:2 the noun form of the verb used in the Timothy and Titus verses is used to refer to Abraham’s hospitality in Genesis 18. In this passage Abraham entertains “angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2, ESV). What does that look like? In this passage we see Abraham washing the feet of the weary travelers and providing a shady place for them to rest while he gets them some food. He then stays with them as they eat.
We see in this scene that hospitality involves welcoming people, even strangers, and meeting their basic needs.
In 1 Peter we read:
“8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:8–11, ESV, emphasis mine).
In this passage Peter does not seem concerned about hospitality toward strangers, but rather toward brothers and sisters in the Lord. Hospitality seems to be something that springs from earnest love. And it sounds like some Christians have been grumbling about showing hospitality. So, it is important that hospitality comes from a loving and generous heart. This is followed by the direction to serve one another as we manage and contribute according to the gifts God has given us. Hospitality is nestled in this idea of a loving community of people serving and building up one another. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? To have a loving community where people serve each other requires showing each other hospitality: looking to each other’s needs, welcoming one another, and being patient with each other.
This reminds me of what we read in the letter to the Romans, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7, ESV) Welcome here involves receiving someone into your home, or into your circle of acquaintance. It is to welcome, receive, accept others. This statement is especially powerful because it follows Paul’s exhortation to different groups within the Christian community in Rome, the Weak and the Strong, to stop judging each other and love one another well.
It matters who/how/why leaders welcome. It matters if they welcome people and meet their needs with generous hearts or begrudgingly. It matters if people sense the team is a hospitable space to step out in contributing according to their gifts. Hospitality is crucial to godly leadership.
Jesus showed great hospitality to his team of disciples. He corrected them when they misunderstood the mission (Mark 8:31-33), had bad ideas (Luke 9:53-55) and argued with each other (Mark 9:34). He gave them space to try, risk and grow, and was there to help them when it did not work out (Mark 9:14-29). He even washed their feet (John 13:5) and made them breakfast (John 21:9-14). Jesus models that leadership includes hospitality.
Over the last year I joined a group where I am being trained in coaching. We all come from different areas of the country and different perspectives. On top of that, the training requires a great deal of vulnerability for both the person acting as “client,” as they share real issues in their life in front of the group, as well as for the person stepping out as “coach,” as everything they do and say will be reviewed by the team when the practice session is finished. Even so, I always look forward to our training meetings because it is such a hospitable space. Everyone is for one another. There is a freedom to ask questions without feeling embarrassed about not already knowing the answer. And, there is freedom to be myself. Everyone will coach a little differently depending on who they are, their experiences and their style. And that is not wrong. There is hospitable space for people to try, risk, fail, learn, grow and try again. I think this has helped build a team of people that I am always happy to hear from and one where I would be willing to extend myself and my resources to help if they asked. I’m grateful for the leaders of the group who have prioritized creating a hospitable space for all of us.
Is your welcome mat out?
Take a few moments to reflect on how a stranger or “outsider” might feel as they join you for an event, gathering or as a new member of your team. What efforts have you made to be welcoming to new people?
In Romans, Christians were directed to be welcoming to those who had different opinions and perspectives; how welcoming are you to people who see things differently than you? How could you communicate to people on your team that you are open to hear their thoughts and make room for them?
What holds you back from showing hospitality? What obstacles do you see? Take some time in prayer to write them down and then pray and ask the Lord to show you for His perspective. Ask the Lord to reveal ways to show hospitality despite the obstacles.
I think the idea of having to meet everyone’s needs and please everyone is overwhelming. I do not think that is what it means to be a hospitable leader. Let’s start with one thing. What is one thing you could do to make your next meeting more hospitable? Pray and ask the Lord for an idea, then act on it.
A parting word on hospitality:
Hospitable leaders make outsiders… insiders.
What have you seen leaders do to create a hospitable environment?
Working definition of this leadership concept:
Leaders are both spiritually gifted to lead, and are themselves a gift.
Benefits for leaders who are gifted to lead:
1. Gifts are given to be used. Leaders need not be ashamed of their gifts of administration, their ability to form vision, or their God-given talent to organize, strategize and delegate. They can humbly yet confidently offer their gifts and enjoy contributing to the community.
2. If leadership is a spiritual gift, then there is spiritual empowerment (grace) available from God for every need a leader faces. When a leader turns to God to supply what is needed to accomplish God’s will, God may intervene supernaturally, train and/or provide empowerment to the leader, or He may provide other people to help. (See Exodus 3-4.)
Benefits for the community where gifted leaders lead:
1. Leaders are gifted by God to serve and build up the community. (See Ephesians 4.)
2. Leaders are not just gifted; they are a gift. Leaders are a blessing. Communities of people need leaders, and God has graciously supplied them.
Biblical inspiration and support:
In Romans the Apostle Paul says, “3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:3–8 ESV, emphasis mine).
Paul is teaching that although we are all one in Christ, we have different functions in the Christian community. We do not decide our own role, but God determines it as He gives us grace. Among the gifts Paul lists here is leading. God gives some people a gracious gift to lead. Imagine what endless resources of wisdom, patience, guidance and more are available to leaders who are spiritually empowered to lead!
In 1 Corinthians Paul writes, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28 ESV, emphasis mine). And earlier in this chapter Paul teaches that each person is given “the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7 ESV). These gifts are to be used to build up the community of Christians. Among this list we see administrating. The word translated “administrating” here by the ESV translators is translated “gifts of leadership” by the NET Bible and “forms of leadership” by the NRSV. Again, Paul is teaching that leadership is a spiritual gift. Looking at verse 28 it also seems that just as God provided apostles and prophets to the church, so also he provided leaders. Therefore, I would summarize that God gives supernatural grace to lead and administrate and also that leaders are a blessing God gives to build up the Christian community.
The guys in my family just went on a motorcycle trip. My dad had planned the whole thing. He let everyone know what to pack, he chose a destination and secured accommodations, and he thought through the route. He was the unofficial leader. Everything was looking great and then 20 minutes into the trip one of the motorcycles broke down. My dad was able to assess what was wrong, determine it was not a quick fix, and then he and the rider agreed to park the bike and pick it up after the trip. They talked to the homeowners near where it broke down to get permission to leave it there for the weekend. The rider without a bike joined on a larger cycle with another rider and they continued. Throughout the day the group was met with more obstacles. First a bridge was out, and they had to reroute. Then train tracks were being replaced and they had to backtrack and find a different way. Through it all the leader was a gift. My dad had the experience of many other motorcycle trips, he had thought through the area and alternative routes, and he had the confidence to make quick decisions to keep the trip going. They had a great time. Leaders are a gift.
What gifts of leadership has God given you? Maybe vision? Or strategic thinking? Perhaps administration? Or organization? Recognizing the gifts and talents of others? Team building? Maybe other gifts I have not listed?
As we turn our attention to assessing our gifts it is helpful to highlight two different kinds of errors we often make when recognizing our gifts.
First, we may take our own gifts for granted, devaluing them as we compare them with others’ gifts. We often do not even realize how special our own gifts are, but they are really are! We need to recognize them and invest in developing them. Consider asking a few people to reflect back to you the gifts and talents they see in you.
Another error we might make is that we might see our natural talents, our acquired skills and God’s gracious giftings as our own to use to build up wealth, security and status for ourselves. But God gives gifts to individuals to use to benefit the entire community. We are not to busy ourselves building our own “kingdoms” but to serve God as He extends and builds up His Kingdom. Take a moment to reflect on how you are employing your gifts. Consider praying and asking God to show how you could use your gifts and talents more effectively to build up God’s people and to bless the community.
If God gives grace to lead, what might you ask for in prayer today? What do you need as you lead in your home, workplace, non-profit, and/or church today?
Wisdom? Guidance? Strength? Hope? Vision? Discernment?
Consider praying and asking God for supernatural empowerment to do the work of leading today. Then, take one more step. Take some time at the end of the day to reflect. Ask the Lord to remind you of important moments in the day. Where did you sense the Lord’s grace? Where did you sense you were working from your own strength? Ask the Lord to help you walk more and more in His grace.
A parting word on leadership as a gift:
Leaders lead with God-given grace to serve God and His people.
Lead and be the blessing God has enabled you to be.
How has a leader been a gift to you?
Working definition of this leadership concept:
To fail is to fall short of a standard or to not meet a goal. It is to disappoint expectations.
In this article I am going to focus on failing our own expectations, as I think that the shame and disappointment of not meeting our own standards often impedes our leadership.
Benefits for leaders who fail:
1. Failure teaches leaders about themselves, about their limits, about their character and often about God. In fact, often the experience of failure doesn’t just teach, but actually transforms leaders.
2. Living through failure helps decrease the fear of failure which in turn results in greater confidence in facing the unknowns of the future.
3. Experiencing failure can increase our compassion and understanding of others experiencing failure.
Benefits for the community where there is freedom to fail:
1. When the team is free to fail, they are free to risk, and amazing things are possible.
2. When there is good communication providing feedback and accountability, moments of failure can become moments of growth.
Biblical inspiration and support:
Peter. I thank God that Jesus’ disciple Peter, with both his strengths and weaknesses, is included in the Bible. Peter told Jesus at the last supper that he was willing to die with Him (Luke 22:33), and yet when the guards came to arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane hours later, Peter fled. Later that night he was asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples. Three times Peter denied even knowing Christ. That seems like failure to me. He broke his word to Jesus that he would stand by Him. I believe after Peter failed this way his heart was broken. We read in Luke 22:62 that after Peter had denied Jesus three times he “wept bitterly.” Peter had disappointed his own expectations of himself as a disciple of Jesus. But what I see here is that although Peter failed his own expectations, namely, he failed to stand by Jesus in the face of prison and death, I do not think Peter failed Jesus’ expectations.
In The Gospel of Luke we read Jesus' words: “31 ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’ 33 Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’ 34 Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.’” (Luke 22:31–34, ESV)
First, we see that Jesus’ expectation is that Peter will fail; he will deny Him three times. Jesus knows this about Peter, even before Peter knows this about himself. But look at what Jesus said in verse 32, “…And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32, ESV). Jesus also expected that Peter would repent. And when Peter turned, was he to condemn himself, or disqualify himself from leadership? No. He was to strengthen the other believers. He was to continue in the service Jesus had trained him to do—even after failing.
Jesus does not seem to see Peter’s failure as the end of his service to God or an end to his relationship with God or even an end to his participation on the Jesus team. Jesus did not see Peter’s failure as the end of his leadership, instead I think the Lord used it to shape Peter to lead more powerfully. I wonder if failure is an experience that can be used to form us more to the image of Christ. And friends, I wonder if Peter may be better qualified to strengthen others after his failure than he was before failing his expectations?
I really failed my own expectations last fall when I took a step back from a team during one of the most challenging moments the team had ever faced. I felt awful. I could not believe I was doing it. I had prided myself on my reliability and my loyalty. I had told myself I would never abandon my team, and then, in the face of both the COVID pandemic and my own family’s suffering due to a hard medical diagnosis, I was at the end of myself and realized I needed to let go of my position. Even though I took some time and sought the Lord with other team leaders, and we all agreed that I should step back for a season, in my heart I still felt like I had abandoned them. I felt like such a failure for months. But was I really a failure? I was obeying God’s leading. I had submitted myself to spiritual authorities, and they agreed I was obeying God’s leading and blessed my decision. Why then, did I still feel like a failure? I spent months wrestling with my thoughts. I had failed my own expectations and that failure made me examine my pride, my expectations and how I define failure. It has been one of the most transforming seasons of my life. It was the first season in many years that I did not have any ministry responsibilities and that created space for me to just be with the Lord as a person. As I wrestled with my thoughts in prayer with the Lord, He brought me to a place of peace where I could “just be” with Him. I let go. I received God’s love. I was not really sure how to do it, so I would just say out loud, “Lord, I receive Your Love for me. I invite You into this pain.” I now spend some time most mornings sitting quietly and asking the Lord to remind me that He loves me. I prioritize and protect my time with God, realizing that I am better able to help people the way I really dream of helping them if I give myself space in time with God in the Bible and prayer. I am beginning to accept my limits and to release my former expectations. In the process, I am finding that I am becoming more of the leader I have always wanted to be: more humble, patient, hospitable and loving. Through my experience of failure God has brought me much healing and freedom.
When I felt like a failure last fall, I found a lot of people wanted to convince me I had not failed and keep me from talking about myself that way. The thing was, there was something very freeing about being able to look the thing I dreaded in the eye and to stop running. I had been running from failure my whole life, and it had kept me exhausted, with one eye over my shoulder wondering when it would catch up. But now that it was here—I mean, I had definitely failed in my opinion—well, there was something very real about facing my fear and realizing it did not destroy me. I can survive failing. I can survive disappointing myself and others. I can survive not living up to my expectations. And that, that was empowering.
What if we are allowed to fail?
And what if when we turn to God in those moments He can free, heal and transform us in ways we never thought possible?
Read through Peter’s failure in Luke 22 and then read Acts 2. Peter’s failure was not the end of his story. He was a failure survivor.
Take a moment to look back on a moment of failure in your life. Ask the Lord to give you insight. Why do you consider it a failure? What was the nature of the failure? Was it a bad decision, a moral failure, a human limitation? Is there anything else you need to do to make amends to move forward? Now here’s the big one, what good fruit has that failure produced in your life?
Did it reveal a blind spot?
Did it help you adjust your expectations?
Did it humble you?
Did it bring you to God?
Failure is a town we pass through.
Failure is not an identity. People fail. It’s an experience humans share. It does not define us or our worth.
You are not the worst thing you have ever done.*
You are so, so, so much more than anything you have done, or anything that has been done to you.
Failure is more like a town that we all seem to have to pass through from time to time on our way to other things.
But I think sometimes we start living there. We give up hoping, we give up trying, because the pain is too much. Friends, failure is not a town to live in – it’s just a place we pass through time to time.
Pray and ask God to reveal if you’ve taken on failure as an identity.
Read Ephesians 1:3-8 and write down the words in that passage that describe who you are as a Christian. Failure is not one of them.
A parting word on failure:
Leaders who fail…grow.
* I believe the first time I heard this statement it was being shared by a former inmate in a radio interview as something a mentor had shared with him while he was incarcerated. It has resonated with me ever since.
Comment: What have you gained from experiencing failure?
A leader is not someone who focuses on doing all the work themselves. A leader develops and equips other members of the team to do the work. And when an equipping leader moves on, the work continues because others have been trained, equipped and promoted.
Working definition of this leadership concept:
To equip others is to train, coach and delegate responsibility to other people. (Leaders who are doing all the work themselves are not really leading.) To lead is to raise up and empower others.
Benefits for leaders who equip others:
1.Equipping others increases the leader’s area of influence.
2.Equipping others increases a leader’s influence generationally. This is how Christianity has survived and prospered for over 2000 years. Christians disciple and train other Christians in the life and practices of the faith.
3.Investing in others is satisfying work that lasts beyond reaching a goal. People are a good investment.
Benefits for the community where the leader leads:
1.Equipping others releases people to do the good work God prepared in advance for them to do (See Ephesians 2:10).
2.Equipping others highlights that the work is about what God is doing, not what one superstar person is doing.
3.Equipping others contributes to the collaborating, cooperating, contributing picture of the Kingdom of God… like a body (See Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12).
Biblical inspiration and support:
Let’s start by looking at how the apostle Paul speaks about the importance of unity. He uses the picture of a body to describe the community of Christians.
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:1–16 ESV).
Let’s take a closer look at this passage by working backwards.
What is the purpose? What is the vision or goal? For the body to be built up in love and grow up into maturity, into the head who is Christ. For the community to attain unity in both the Christian faith and in knowledge of the Son of God and to not be vulnerable to deception.
How does that happen? Each part of the body, is working properly and is doing the work of ministry, building up the Christian community.
How does that happen? The leaders equip the Christian people.
It is interesting to note that Paul does not say there are a few gifted and energetic people who will build up the body of Christ while the rest of the people watch or drift away. No, it seems from this passage that God has given some to be equippers and everyone else to be equipped. Every Christian has a vital role, each has ministry to do—which are really acts of service—to do in the Christian community. No role is superior to another. We all work to build up God’s people, to build up the Christian community with our integrity, humility, gentleness, patience and love according to the grace God’s given us. Leaders, as those who develop team members, equip others for the work.
Practical application ideas:
You might consider logging your time this week and seeing how much time you invest in equipping others versus how much time you spend doing the work yourself. Pray and reflect on if that ratio needs to change.
What could be delegated?
Think through your daily/weekly/monthly tasks. Which of these tasks could someone else on the team do 80% as well as you (or even better than you)? Consider training a team member to take on those tasks.
Listen to an audio book on delegating. (Or read one if you prefer.)
I had a coach who encouraged me to invest time and energy in developing the skill of delegating. Just because we find ourselves in a leadership role does not mean that we have developed the skill of identifying responsibilities to delegate, training others to take on those responsibilities, and handing off those tasks effectively while maintaining a reasonable amount of oversight and accountability. Consider investing in learning how to delegate so you are ready to develop and promote team members.
Take half a day away from regular responsibilities to brainstorm what equipping needs your team has. Have some fun and dream, brainstorming what training would help each person who reports to you grow to reach the next level. Take some time to consider which are the most critical needs and how you could begin providing the needed training. Who could you collaborate with to provide what your team needs?
A parting word on equipping others:
Equipping Leaders multiply their influence and glorify God.
Who can you thank for investing time to equip you?
What’s the way to avoid such relational disasters? Discipline. It may not sound fun to us passionate types, but I suggest discipline is not a joy-killer at all. It’s a path to true freedom in living and leading.
Working definition of this leadership concept:
To be disciplined involves being both thoughtful and prudent. It is having one’s emotions, passions and impulses under control. To be disciplined is to be free. True freedom is not doing whatever we feel like in the moment, but doing what we purpose to do. Freedom is doing what is good; it is to follow and obey Jesus. Discipline, or self-control, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in Christ followers.
Benefits for leaders who practice discipline:
1.Being disciplined reduces the time leaders have to spend addressing the pain and hurt created by thoughtless words or actions.
2.Having self-control allows us to walk in step with the Spirit of God, sensitive to His leading even more than we are sensitive to our own passions and able to join in His work everywhere we go. This is the most satisfying and fruitful life for a Christ follower.
Benefits for the community where the leader leads:
1.When a leader responds to difficult situations with restraint and thoughtfulness, avoiding the damage produced by thoughtless actions, the team is able to continue pursuing the mission with trust and confidence.
2.Resisting impulsive decisions grants more time and space for communication, cooperation and collaboration. This allows the leader to get helpful counsel from others and to get buy in from team members before moving forward.
Biblical inspiration and support:
In Titus 1, Paul directs Titus to appoint elders in every town and explains:
“For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:7-8 ESV, emphasis mine)
The Greek word translated disciplined here is defined by the Greek Lexicon as “[pertaining] to having one’s emotions, impulses, or desires under control, self-controlled, disciplined” Paul is directing that elders, overseers – I would say leaders – be self-controlled. By adding not “quick-tempered” in the mix Paul was emphasizing that it is very important that God’s overseers, those serving as leaders of the flock, are not impulsive but are able to regularly restrain their passions in order be to holy, upright, lovers of good and hospitable to people.
The Greek word, translated “self-controlled” in Titus 1:8 is found again in our next passage:
“2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” (1 Timothy 3:2–3 ESV, emphasis mine)
Here again Paul is training one of his delegated leaders how people should conduct themselves in Christian communities. The Greek word translated self-controlled here and in Titus 1:8 is defined by the Greek Lexicon as “[pertaining] to being in control of oneself, prudent, thoughtful, self-controlled.” The word thoughtful is helpful here. Christian leaders should not be impulsive, victim to their passions, but instead be thoughtful and self-controlled. Today we might communicate this by saying leaders should be purposeful. Every word, every action should be done not as a reaction, but as a considered response.
This may seem like a tall order, especially for those of us with more passionate personalities. Ah, but with God there is always empowerment to live as we are directed to live, grace to lead as we are commanded to lead. In Galatians 5 we read of the fruits of the Spirit – we read a description of what the Spirit Himself produces in us:
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22–24 (ESV)
The word translated self-control here is defined by the Greek Lexicon as “restraint of one’s emotions, impulses or desires…” Where we lack the ability in ourselves to be self-controlled or disciplined, the Spirit himself is able to produce what we lack. This is a mystery and a miracle that enables us to walk by the Spirit which Paul discusses in this same chapter. Here Paul reminds us that we are called to walk in freedom but this freedom is not an opportunity to indulge our every whim or feed whatever hungers we have but instead “…through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:14 ESV).
How does one receive this spiritual power of discipline and self-control? I believe when we submit ourselves first to the Lord, seeking His will, and we take a step to obey we will see this fruit of the Holy Spirit at work in and through us.
True freedom is not the ability to serve our selfish passions and desires, but it is the freedom of self-control and discipline that we might serve and love God and others.
Recently I was blessed to have a meeting with a coach. In our short time together, I shared all the ideas and passions whirring about in my mind and heart for this blog, website and such and I was ready to run out and do them all. He wisely cautioned me to limit my plan and shared the advice, “under-promise and overdeliver.” Friends, this is not what my heart wanted to hear. I love feeling passionate, it is so energizing. But I heard what he said, and saw the loving concern for me in his eyes through the zoom screen, and I took it to heart. As I’ve made decisions about how much to do and how much to commit to do, I’ve been thoughtful and often waited days to make decisions while I prayed and consulted others. The result has been avoidance of the dangerous but well-traveled ground of over-promising followed by the inevitable back-breaking work to avoid under-delivering. Restraint, thoughtfulness, and self-control have their place, even for creative-entrepreneur types.
Take some time. Consider requiring a waiting period before acting on decisions. Whether it is sleeping on the email before sending it in the morning, or fasting from making decisions for one month a year* so that you can seek the Lord for the next season – take some extra time to respond and not react.
* I have often set aside July as a decision free month. I do not decide to take on any new projects or say yes to any new opportunities or commitments in the month of July. In July I collect them, I pray over them and I ask the Lord to guide me in the next season. Important to note, I do not believe I have ever lost an opportunity because of this practice.
Daily Examen. One way to grow in discipline is to spend some time reviewing each day, praying for the Lord to guide you to recall important moments and asking a simple set of questions. I suggest the questions:
When did I feel pressured today?
When did I feel free?
Over the last year I have become convinced that God does not guide through pressure. I believe He guides through invitation. If that’s the case, where is the pressure coming from? That is a powerful question to take to the Lord in prayer.
A parting word on being disciplined:
Disciplined leaders don’t react, they respond.
“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” (Proverbs 19:2 ESV)
 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. “ἐγκρατής,” Page 274 in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. “σώφρων,” Page 987 in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
 Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. “ἐγκράτεια,”Page 273 in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Hi! I'm Jeri Howe.
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