Leaders bear a heavy load.
Thank you for all the things you do that no one ever notices.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for serving. Thank you for your time. Thank you for you energy.
May God bless you as a leader, refreshing your strength, renewing your vision and providing all that you need to do the work He calls you to do! He is faithful to do so.
You are a gift!
And I am thankful for you.
Benefits for leaders who are quick to listen:
Leaders who are slow to speak and quick to listen have time to respond thoughtfully—instead of reacting—protecting leaders from rash and regretful words and actions. (See James 3:7-12).
Benefits for the community where leaders are quick to listen:
Allowing others to finish their thoughts communicates respect and gives less aggressive talkers the space they need to participate in conversations. This in turn creates a more hospitable and collaborative environment for problems to get solved and new ideas to blossom and grow.
Biblical inspiration and support:
The book of James gives us this direction:
“19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19–20, ESV).
Later we read the author’s very sober view of the power of our words:
“7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” (James 3:7–12, ESV).
Let’s take a moment and let that sink in.
Every kind of beast can be tamed, but not the tongue?
It’s a restless evil?
Our tongue is full of deadly poison?
Can you think of some words you’ve spoken in the last week that have caused harm? I can, and I only have to think of yesterday.
Then James continues to explain the phenomenon that salt and fresh water do not pour forth from the same spring. If we want to bless, we ought not curse.
As uncomfortable as it is, we leaders need to be reminded of the power of our words. It might be tempting to make excuses that we are tired or overwhelmed and our words just flow without much thought. Perhaps that is why James advises being slow to speak.
If we are concerned we may say things we will regret, the book of James offers this advice: be quick to listen. It suggests having our go-to posture be listening instead of reacting.
Being slow to speak gives us time to listen, consider and then respond instead of reacting. This helps us be less likely to become angry. Anger sometimes results from assumptions, whereas listening and asking questions can help us really understand.
If this conversation is making you feel uncomfortable, let me point out that leaders typically spend much more time learning to speak and write well than to listen or read well. Both sets of skills are required for effective communication. Many of us have not been trained in how to listen but it is definitely worth the time to invest in learning to listen well.
This illustration was contributed by a friend:
“As a Chaplain in the jail, it is my job to listen. There are many who desire a conversation, a person to share their worries and hear their story. As the time allotted slowly runs out there are the quiet ones who look longingly for a glance their way. How easy it would be to leave with just a smile and wave. But that is not what the Holy Spirit is calling me to do. You sit. You wait. Their story often starts confusing because of all they need to say. How I want to finish sentences and offer a quick conclusion to their story! But it's in the patient listening you come to hear their heart where Jesus longs to minister.” How powerful it is to be reminded what the Lord does in the hospitable space created when we listen.
Practice “slow to speak” phrases.
Take some time to think of times you feel pressured to speak, especially when it goes poorly. What are some other ways to respond? How could you be slow to speak in that situation? How could you be quick to listen?
Here are some suggestions to get your brainstorming started:
“I am not sure, I will get back to you.”
“Thank you, you’ve given me something to consider.”
“I’m not prepared to engage in this conversation right now, let’s schedule another time.”
A final word:
Leaders who are quick to listen create hospitable space for people to ask questions, point out problems, and suggest new ideas.
Comment: What helps you to be quick to listen?
Benefits for leaders who are powerful but not dominating:
1. Leaders sometimes become bitter, feeling their role requires an endless supply of energy that no human has. But, if God is the source of energy, leaders are able to draw on God’s endless resources.
2. Powerful leaders cooperate with God in the work He is doing and do not need to force their way. They are able to relax and trust in God.
Benefits for the community where leaders are powerful but not dominating:
When leaders trust in God’s power and see themselves as God’s servants, stewarding the gift of leadership entrusted to them, their confidence in God protects them from the fears that lead to using authority to suppress others. They have no need to dominate but are able, instead, to invite.
Biblical inspiration and support:
Christian leaders are powerful, but maybe not in the same way we often think about leaders being powerful. When James and John asked to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand in glory, Jesus taught His disciples:
“ …'You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" (Mark 10:42–45, ESV)
So, those who were not God-followers lived a certain way, but Jesus taught His disciples not to follow their pattern. How did they live? Those who were considered rulers, or leaders, “lord it over them.” What does it mean to “lord it over” someone? The word used here is a Greek word that has the sense of subduing, bringing into subjection, and being master over. The leaders who were not following God were bringing others into subjection and acting as master over them.
“But it shall not be so among you…” (Mark 10:43, ESV) Jesus confidently and authoritatively states. Christians should not follow that pattern.
Instead, Jesus says, “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43-44, ESV). This is quite a shift, from subduing and ruling over those you lead to serving all.
Jesus redefined what greatness is.
Being great is being the servant of all.
Not only did He redefine it in His teaching, Jesus modeled it.
Jesus continues, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, ESV). Jesus showed us what it looks like to be great as He laid down His life on the cross for people.
Christian leaders are not to dominate as we often see leaders around us doing, pressuring others to submit to our will and agenda. Instead, those who follow Christ follow His example of serving all.
What does that look like? I think Peter gives us an idea as he teaches:
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:1–3, ESV, emphasis mine).
Leaders are to willingly oversee others, not eager for money, and not domineering (our Greek word from the Mark passage above) over others but “being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3, ESV). One of the ways we serve is by being examples. I would suggest we serve as examples as we imitate Christ, our example.
So, what about the power? I believe as we align our will with God’s will, His mighty power is released in and through us. Imagine a gas stove, as you turn the dial to align with “on”- poof! The power is released and the flame is burning! As we line up our attitudes, will and behavior with God’s will in the situation, His power is released in us.
Paul describes how he works with God’s power that works mightily in him:
“29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29, ESV, emphasis mine).
Paul does exert, but it is with God’s energy.
As we seek to resist the common temptation to dominate and pressure others…
As we seek to serve as leaders, following Christ’s example…
As we seek to serve God, serving His agenda not our own…
God’s power is released in us, and through our obedience it is released into the relationships and situations we find ourselves in. And that, my friends, is truly great.
 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 519). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
A few years ago I read about a concept called, “abandoning outcomes to God,” in Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke by Bill Gaultiere. Before that time, I consistently found myself uptight in meetings, eager to share my opinion and use my influence to get my way. As I recall, one of the exercises in the book encouraged the reader to go into a meeting letting go of the pressure to share your own ideas and opinions and to instead, abandon the outcome to God. It seemed like a strange idea, but one day it came to mind as I was entering a meeting and I tried it. I let go of what I really wanted to persuade everyone to do and just listened. As I listened, I realized that people were not really hearing each other. I started praying for those in the meeting to hear and understand one another. I found myself realizing that the conversation did not need any additional new ideas so instead of injecting my thoughts I worked towards facilitating the conversation. I started praying to sense what God was doing and what He wanted in the meeting. This has changed how I approach meetings in general. I am much more open to what God wants to do in the meeting. I think sometimes His priority has more to do with relationships, communication and unity then decisions and action items. Giving up my desire to “rule” in the meeting and have my way “win” has given me the ability to be sensitive to and enter into what God may want to do in the meeting. It has allowed me to serve God and others.
1. Write down some ways you see leaders and rulers “lording it over” people in our world today.
2. Reflect on where you feel pressure as a leader to force your way and to subdue others.
3. Read Mark 10:35-45. Write down any insights you have.
4. Pray and ask the Lord to show you the way to be great as a leader, the way to serve in your situation.
A final word:
Powerful leaders do not dominate, they invite.
Comment: How have you experienced God’s energy working powerfully within you, like Paul describes in Colossians 1:29?
Benefits for leaders who are open to reason:
1. Being open to reason takes the pressure off the leader to have every good idea and solve every problem. The leader guides the group through the process of discovering possibilities, researching solutions and choosing the path forward.
2. Being open to reason can save the leader time, resources and emotional credit with others as they become aware of their blind spots and avoid pitfalls.
Benefits for the community where leaders are open to reason:
1. Leaders who are open to reason create environments where all ideas can be heard and considered, resulting in discovering more creative and effective solutions. It also makes space where it is possible to form plans collectively.
2. Being open to reason fosters the understanding that each of us needs the others.
3. The blind spots of leaders pose danger to the group enterprise. Having a leader that is open to reason protects the group from that danger.
Biblical inspiration and support:
Years ago I thought the leader of a group was the most opinionated person who exerted pressure to get their way. I no longer think that way. The following passage from the book of James is what made me start to re-evaluate what it means to lead and to be wise.
“13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13–18, ESV, emphasis mine)
Selfish ambition, which makes self the focus and has the need to personally win all discussions, arguments and decisions, is the enemy of true wisdom. Bitter jealousy, which is incapable of celebrating the gifts and successes of others, is the enemy of true wisdom. These characteristics bring chaos and evil.
But true wisdom is pure. It does not change with the tide of opinion. It does not give way to ambition or envy; it is unpolluted.
True wisdom is peaceable and gentle. True wisdom does not demand or pressure, but pursues true reconciliation and connection.
True wisdom is open to reason. This implies that wise people really listen to others. We all need to have the foundations of truth set by the Word of God, but that leaves many issues open to discussion. Wise people are confident that God will work through His Holy Spirit in us as we discuss. Wise people know that every person only sees from their own limited perspective and so recognize God has given us one another as a gift–offering new perspectives and insights, and even challenging questions. It is not always comfortable to entertain foreign ideas. I think that is why it is somewhat uncommon to do so. But I believe we must be open to reason, open to the possibility that our understanding may be lacking and that God might be using other people in our life to uncover our blind spots.
The thing about a blind spot is, you usually do not know it is there until there is a collision.
Being open to reason allows our blind spots to be uncovered without the pain and damage of a collision on our team. (Another way of thinking of blind spots might be the “log in our own eyes” like in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:3-6 and Luke 6:41-42, see practical application below.)
I have discovered that being open to reason requires faith in God. It feels vulnerable to allow the possibility of my mind being changed. Because of this, I need to know that God keeps me safe. To turn to selfish ambition and bitter envy is the opposite of putting our trust in God. When we engage in that kind of “wisdom” we are working to protect and promote ourselves.
We see in this passage that being open to reason complements being submissive, impartial and sincere. To be wise is ultimately to be a peace maker. How amazing.
I remember how stunned I was to read this passage and realize that God was defining wisdom relationally, not intellectually. That is not how I had commonly thought about wisdom. How about you?
Being open to reason helps us move one step closer to true wisdom.
Different people see things differently. I remember a time I was serving on a team and one member left to go on a trip. When this member was gone, it seemed like it was easier to make changes more quickly. So, we came up with an idea and implemented it while they were away without thinking much of it. When she returned, she asked us questions about our decision that uncovered caveats we had not considered. We had not thought about how many people were invested in the old way and we had not spoken with stakeholders and given them an opportunity to be part of the change. Speaking to her, and being open to the reason she offered, helped me see how I had made a mistake in how I had gone about making the change. Had I asked her for her perspective before I made the change, I could have avoided some unnecessary fallout. We probably still would have made the change, but we would have involved more people in the decision-making process and engaged more people in deploying the change. That experience helped put more value on the input of people who see things differently than me.
A friend offered this reflection: “When I lead, I could easily be offended by another opinion or answer, thinking it was targeting my ability instead of helping. That's not Godly wisdom in the body of Christ, it is focused on self. The Lord was gracious to me and I learned, finding that working and learning from others was the best leadership! God just put me there to put the puzzle pieces together!” How refreshing it is to realize our role is not to come up with every good idea or have all the answers but to put the pieces together.
Reflect on wisdom.
Take a minute to write down how you think our society would describe a wise person.
Next go through James 3:13-18 and write down how the “wisdom from above” is described. What differences do you notice? What surprises you the most?
Of all the attributes listed, if you grow in one, which one would you choose?
Pray and ask God to help you grow in that attribute and in wisdom.
Where is there chaos and disorder in your life or your team?
James 3:13-18 talks about disorder and chaos being the fruit of selfish ambition and bitter envy.
Take a moment to pray and ask the Lord to show you if ambition and envy are contributing to the disorder. If something comes to mind, ask the Lord for true wisdom in that situation. (James also shares the comforting and powerful truth: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5, NIV))
Who on your team thinks very differently than you do? Invite them to share their point of view on an issue your team is facing or a new idea you are exploring.
Then listen and really consider what they have to say. Count it a gift to be able to hear a different perspective. Offer a summary of what they said to make sure you heard them correctly. Ask clarifying questions as needed. Make sure to thank them for their time and for sharing their perspective and let them know you will consider what they shared as the team moves forward. (Note: No need to promise to do what they suggest, but do agree to listen well and fully consider what they have said.)
Blindspots… the log in your own eye?
Take time to read Matthew 7:1-6 and consider Jesus’ teaching about how we “…do not notice the log that is in [our] own eye…” (Matthew 7:3, ESV). How does this relate to what we commonly think of as blind spots?
A final word:
Being open to reason gives leaders opportunities to spot blind spots.
Comment: How has another person’s perspective helped you avoid a collision?
Working definition of this leadership concept:
Leaders are not: arrogant, violent, quarrelsome, quick-tempered, or lovers of money (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-8).
We are halfway through the alphabet and with the letter “N” we pause to reflect not on what leadership should look like but, instead, some contrasts – What healthy, Christian leadership does NOT look like. These "qualities to avoid" come from the lists of qualifications for church leaders in 1 Timothy and Titus.
We can see how these attributes contrast with leadership concepts we have already (or will soon have) covered in our series; Leaders are…
Benefits for leaders who avoid the “not’s”:
1. Arrogance blinds us and binds us. It keeps us from seeing the truth about ourselves and separates us from others. I believe pride is the flip-side of insecurity, like opposite sides of the same coin. Saying it another way, pride binds us to insecurity and the need to keep up performance and appearances. Cooperating with God as he roots out pride brings freedom and authenticity.
2. Being quarrelsome and quick-tempered escalates conflict whereas gentleness diffuses conflict and helps us work toward resolution.
3. Loving or being devoted to money leads one to have to serve money. It impairs one’s ability to wholeheartedly serve the Lord by offering the gift of leadership He’s given to serve the community. Jesus taught:
“24 ‘No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.’” (Matthew 6:24, ESV, emphasis mine)
Motives are complicated by having more than one master one is serving. When serving God alone, one is confident as a steward of His wealth and resources and is free to follow His agenda. This is the path of peace. A good friend shared, “I believe when you love money you are serving yourself and what you can get, not meeting needs at all except your own. Leaders can make it look pretty and have a following from their talent but God and His people are robbed.”
Benefits for the community where leaders avoid the “not’s:
1. Avoiding the pain and problems caused by arrogant, quarrelsome and quick-tempered leadership.
2. Leaders who are devoted to God, not money, are able to serve God and others whole-heartedly, resulting in the prospering of the community.
Biblical inspiration and support:
The following passages include lists of characteristics of Christian overseers or leaders:
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 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. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” (1 Timothy 3:1–9, ESV, emphasis mine)
“7 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)
In the Titus passage we see the contrast again:
Not a drunkard
Not greedy for gain
Lover of good
As we look at the contrast in these passages, I think we see it illustrating further what it means to love God and others, the two great commandments (Luke 10:26–28). To love the Lord will all your heart, soul, mind and strength does not look like being greedy for gain but rather being a lover of good. Loving your neighbor as yourself does not look like being quick-tempered or violent but rather disciplined and hospitable.
Paint a picture in your mind.
Consider taking some time with the Bible passages in this blog and:
1) Bring to mind people you have encountered with the positive characteristics listed and recall how their behaviors and attitudes affected others.
2) Bring to mind people you have encountered with the characteristics to avoid listed and recall how their behaviors and attitudes affected others.
3) Spend some time praying and asking the Lord to reveal to you if there are any of the “Not’s” that are finding their way into your behavior and attitudes. Read through the scripture slowly. God uses His scripture to bring correction. If you notice an area where your attitudes and/or behavior are out of alignment with His word accept this revelation as the Lord’s invitation to walk in His ways through His power at work within us (as the apostle Paul teaches).
"20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20–21, ESV)
Ask the Lord for forgiveness for being out of alignment with His will and ask for grace to be like the overseer described in His word. Ask Him for other people to walk alongside and help you.
I am praying for you, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comment: What leadership characteristics would you like to grow in?
Working definition of this leadership concept:
To be meek is to not be overly impressed by a sense of one’s own importance. It is to be considerate, humble and gentle. It is not to commend one’s self, boast or compare.
To be a leader is NOT to be more important than others, importance is not a matter of comparison. Each person is of such value to God that He sent his only Son to earth so that whoever trusts in Him would have eternal life. Christian leaders are to be meek – never overly impressed with themselves.
 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 861). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Benefits for leaders who are meek:
1. Meekness helps the leader keep expectations of themself as a leader in line. What does anyone have except what they have received? (1 Corinthians 4:7) Leadership is in part a spiritual gift. A leader is not to take credit for what they have received as a gift, but to steward it to serve God.
2. Meekness helps leaders keep the perspective that everything does not depend on them. Leaders are not God. They benefit from keeping their cosmic importance in perspective. This can help leaders recognize that there are other people that are able and willing to contribute making it easier to delegate and collaborate. Keeping one’s importance in perspective also helps leaders take time to rest and relax.
Benefits for the community where leaders are meek:
1. Leaders who are meek help cultivate a humble, considerate and gentle culture where people can be honest about their abilities and limitations.
2. Meekness is a way of avoiding the temptation to compare and find a “winner” and a loser (2 Corinthians 10:12). We are all servants, serving with what we’ve been given in the role God has given us with the grace He has given us. (Romans 12:3-8)
Biblical inspiration and support:
Sometimes contrast helps us understand a concept. So, the concept I offer in contrast to meekness is boasting. If meekness is not being overly impressed with your own importance, boasting is being overly impressed with your importance and seeking others would be impressed as well. Paul addresses this human desire by warning that we should think of ourselves with “sober judgment” and goes on to explain we are all a part of one body, a body that needs each member (See 1 Corinthians 12).
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)
And addressing boasting directly Paul teaches:
“17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (2 Corinthians 10:17–18, ESV)
Boasting’s close cousin is comparison. Meekness is a way of avoiding the temptation to compare and find a “winner” and a “loser”. We are all servants, serving with what we’ve been given in the role God has given us with the grace He has given us. (Romans 12:3-8).
This verse, preceding the passage above, speaks of the foolishness of comparison:
"12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12, ESV)
“...They are without understanding.” does not seem like a compliment. I think Paul is saying it is foolish to compare with each other. What is the antidote to boasting and comparing? I submit to you that it is putting on meekness.
“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.” (Colossians 3:12–13, ESV)
Paul chose some powerful and somewhat similar words to link together here: compassion, kindness, humility, patience and… meekness. This is how God’s chosen, holy and loved people are to be toward one another. We are to be considerate and meek.
Meekness is listed as a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:23 (translated below as gentleness).
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.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:22–26, ESV, emphasis mine)
It seems we do not just have meekness, it is something the Holy Spirit produces in us. As we abide in Christ like branches in a vine (John 15), the Spirit produces meekness in us. And in this passage again we see meekness related to not becoming conceited (Galatians 5:26)– not thinking too highly of yourself or of your importance.
In the first church my husband and I attended together after being married, we had a pastor with a PhD who was nearing retirement. He was a powerful orator and well respected. I remember driving in to the church parking lot early one frigid Sunday morning and seeing him in his suit shoveling the walk in the dark, a job that was assigned to someone else but at this moment was not completed and needed to be done. It made an impression on me. Another time I walked by the chapel and saw him on his hands and knees placing hymnbooks back in the small hymnbook shelf under each seat. He did not say anything about it, or make a big deal about it, he just humbly did what needed to be done. Those sightings made a big impression on me. That pastor did not have an inflated view of his importance. He was humble and willing to serve however was needed in the situation. I took inspiration from him and hope to serve in the same way, in meekness.
Questioning Your Importance:
Truth #1: You matter so much to God that he sent His Son Jesus that you could know Him and have eternal life (John 3:16). You are pricelessly important to God.
Truth #2: If you feel like you have the world on your shoulders, you are wrong. The world is resting on God’s shoulders.
Years ago, while in a counseling session I was telling the counselor all the reasons why I was exhausted and overwhelmed. He reached in a drawer and pulled out a foam ball model of the world and tossed it to me. He told me to put it on my shoulder. I understood exactly what he meant. I had gotten the wrong idea of my importance. I felt like everything depending on me, like all my loved ones’ happinesses depended on me… and well, they don’t. I am not God.
A parting word on love:
Meek leaders are not overly impressed with their own importance.
Comment: How have you seen leaders exhibit meekness as described in this post?
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?
Hi! I'm Jeri Howe.
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