The Everyday, Anytime Guide to Christian Leadership

LEADERSHIP. What is the essence of true, biblical leadership?

“Walt Kallestad talks about leadership in the sense of influence, asserting that such virtues as love, grace, and an affirming spirit are more powerful tools than authority and command.”  (Review on Amazon.com)

Robert Schuller calls it “A fresh perspective from an outstanding leader!” Lyle Schaller says, “For those who agree that leadership is the key to the future, this is the book they should read and heed.” And Bill Hybels adds, “This book will make a significant contribution to leaders who practice its principles.” Discover how to become a more effective leader by following Kallestad’s ten principles of Christian leadership. The book’s concise, motivational message, easy- to-read format, and entertaining cartoons get to the heart of what Christian leadership is all about. (augsburgfortress.org)51qv2ripldl-_sx322_bo1204203200_              Holy cow, can it really be 24 years since Walt, my pastor,  asked me to help him write this book? It was the first of five I was  blessed beyond words to work on with him, and literally the answer to a prayer I’d prayed one morning as I dropped my younger son off at the bus for Kindergarten,”Lord, you know I want to write, but I have no way to get into publishing. I’m nobody. Show me a way to use what you put in me!” Two weeks later, sitting in Walt’s  office getting the next quarter’s sermon titles to pass out to the Message Research Team, Walt paused and said, “You and I think a lot alike. You’ve never wanted to write, have you?”

This post is not to pat myself on the back, no way, no how.  Rather, it’s about God’s perspective on leadership. One thing I’ve always believed is that leadership means being a servant of others, not a lord or boss over others, not a controller of others, not top person on the totem pole, but a servant of those you work with, and yes, where the buck frequently stops. As such, it’s a role or responsibility demanding integrity, good judgment, and teamwork ethic regarding others as equally important and essential to accomplishing the group goal.

I’ve never sought to be  the leader of anything, but sometimes  I’ve  been voted in or  asked to lead, which was the case with the Message Research Team. The coordinator had moved, and the pastors needed someone to get the message topics and hand them out to the other  volunteers on the team; thus  I became coordinator of the team by being asked, not by seeking out acclaim. I saw myself pretty much as a funnel, not a “commander,” and that suited me just fine.

Walt created  acronym for the word “LEADERSHIP” with one chapter filling out each thought:

Love Unconditionally

Envision the Future Exceptionally

Affirm Continuously

Discipline with Determination (as in be  disciplined, not mete out discipline)

Energize Others Enthusiastically

Risk Boldly

Serve Selflessly

Hope  Relentlessly

Imagine Immeasurably

Pray Persistently

Nowhere in the book  did Walt suggest cracking the whip, making sure  everybody knew YOU were the boss, seeking your own way and will and imposing it on others, or expecting to be continually affirmed and validated unquestioningly by everyone else. The model we as Christians ought to take – without question – for leadership is our Lord Jesus. Jesus made his authority over blindness, deafness, lameness, leprosy, winds, waves, and even death VERY clear, and he was King of Kings before he came to Earth, while he was here, and is today and always, and yet he told his disciples:

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 25-27 ESV

Yes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 ESV

And “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:8

And yet as Paul wrote to the  Philippians:

“In his very nature he was God. Jesus was equal with God. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of that fact. Instead, he made himself nothing. He did this by taking on the nature of a servant. He was made just like human beings. He appeared as a man. He was humble and obeyed God completely. He did this even though it led to his death. Even worse, he died on a cross!”  Philipians 2: 5-8 NIRV

Again, Jesus modeled a life of loving, sacrificial service to show us what true leadership is.

Matthew 23:11
The greatest among you shall be your servant.

Mark 9:35
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.”

The well-known Psalm that even non-Christians have probably heard and know the first lines by heart gives a word picture of true leadership: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me  in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me.  You prepare.a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

A shepherd is a leader, but he leads in order to protect and help his sheep grow in health, safely, free from danger and lack of what they need. When threat comes from lions or bears, the shepherd risks his own life for his sheep – he doesn’t consider his sheep expendable and use his sheep as a shield to protect his own life!

That doesn’t seem to leave much room for,”Hey, listen up! I’m the boss, and you’ll respect me just because I’m the boss and do as I say, because you are here for ME” in Christian leadership. Honestly, does anyone, whether in Christian work or secular work, enjoy working for someone who has an attitude of entitlement? I’ve experienced that, and I’m guessing you have too, and it doesn’t make getting up for work every morning a delightful, positive, hopeful prospect.

In the 13 years I worked as a substitute teacher, often the first question children in classes asked me was, “Are you a nice sub or a mean sub?”  I replied that it depended upon them, but of course my true attitude was that I was there to serve those children, follow the lesson plans of the absent teacher as closely as I could (if I even could find plans to follow) and give the children a positive day of real learning, attending to their needs, answering their questions, helping them with difficulties, and hopefully  adding some fun to help install in them a love of learning. Yes, I was the”boss” of the classroom that day,  but that meant I was there to serve  those students, not myself. I heard about subs who would come into the classroom, tell the students, “read this, do that,” put their feet up on the desk and read the newspaper, and act miffed when a student asked a question.

Even, especially, in families, dictatorial expectations and attitudes of entitlement have no place. Yes, the military is an exception, where people’s lives depend on executing orders from above without discussion, but our families and our  relationships and churches and even our workplaces aren’t meant to be regiments, but teams led, or more appropriately shepherded,  by servant-hearted, Jesus-modeling leaders who truly know and follow Jesus’ words:

” You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you.…” John 13:13-15

The full text of Paul’s admonition and encouragement to the Philippians shows that servant-hearted leadership is not without value in God’s sight:

Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves. None of you should look out just for your own good. Each of you should also look out for the good of others.

As you deal with one another, you should think and act as Jesus did.

In his very nature he was God.
Jesus was equal with God. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of that fact.
Instead, he made himself nothing.
He did this by taking on the nature of a servant.
He was made just like human beings.
He appeared as a man.
He was humble and obeyed God completely.
He did this even though it led to his death.
Even worse, he died on a cross!
So God lifted him up to the highest place.
God gave him the name that is above every name.
When the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone will kneel down to worship him.
Everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will kneel down to worship him.  Philippians 2: 3-10  Berean Study Bible

I hope, then, I’ve been on track in seeing any leadership position I’ve been “elevated to”  as actually lowering myself to serve the people who were doing the job  with me, counting on me to keep people informed, picking up the slack when someone couldn’t fulfill their role.

Honestly, I’ve always preferred to be just a team member,and I’m VERY glad to see myself as  simply a team member and collaborator, that is, co-labor-ator , in God’sKingdom work  that he calls  each of us to join our leader and head,Jesus,in pursuing on Earth so His Kingdom CAN come, and His will BE done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  I do remember learning The Great Commission in my college fellowship Campus Crusade days, and I’ve never regarded it as”optional”  or “not my job” for me as a Holy Spirit-filled for a reason follower of Jesus:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

Yes, you matter, no matter what your gifting or calling, and yes, in some way, then, you are a leader. to the person who needs to see Jesus in you.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 ESV

I think both Jesu sand Paul would add, “Now live like a LEADER and the servant of all.”

No, I don’t get any royalties from the book,so I can freely encourage you to buy a copy and let me know if any part of it speaks to you. It  was Walt’s idea and vision, me filling in details, and enormously cognizant, yea verily fearful with reverential fear and a bit of “What was I thinking?” stark terror, of my responsibility to Christ as I was writing. All I  can say these many years later is thank you, Walt, for trusting me, thank you to the guy who moved us to Community Church of Joy, and thank you, Jesus, for hearing and answering my prayer and entrusting me with a bit of your work to do. (Please hear my prayers for him, too)

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, sometimesI’ve wanted to be a leader,sometimes I’vewished peoplewould see my capabilities, BUT I know you know how you made me,who you made me,and what  purposes you mademefor.So GodAlmighty, loving Father, please show me  where I fit in the Body of Christ  and give me the courage to walk out your purposes for me with  the same attitude Jesus had: that of a gladly serving servant. Give me an attitude adjustment if  and where I need it, and I know when you do, it  will be out of  your Father love for me. Holy Spirit, I’m listening ___________________________________________________ In Jesus’ name, amen!

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Riding Tandem: Training Wheels

“Gosh, I can hear the Bible as I’m riding,” I thought as I pushed a little faster than I wanted to and shot down the hill on two thin tires at 38 miles per hour, keenly aware there was nothing between my skin and the asphalt but a thin jersey and bike shorts. Others must surely have seen the same parallels riding on the back of a tandem road bike; now I entered their cadre, not entirely willingly. I ride with a man who loves cycling. Before I met him I enjoyed riding my bike to the grocery store and back, and noodling around the neighborhood on evening pleasure rides. He, however, is of the “conquer the hills, the faster, the better” squadron, and he knows I’ll love riding once I get more miles under me and build up my endurance. Humph.

I look at the hill he’d love to climb, at least an 8% grade all the 20-mile way to the top of the mountain, and I shudder. I never want to be THAT fit! When we ride independently, I usually “flake off” at the eight-mile mark, cut across a road lined seasonally with wildflowers and with a walking/biking path where I’ll generally find someone to stop, say hello to, and pray with. The surprise of a perfect stranger offering to pray for them delights me. I am God’s carrier pigeon on two wheels, bringing a word of His love to someone in their day, and I have fun being part of the “air drops” He allows me to make.

I remember riding on the handlebars or on the back book rack od my brother’s bike. That was fun, and I didn’t have to do any of the work

But when I’m on the back of the tandem …. new rules apply.

  • Where he’s going, I have to go. (And last week wearing his jersey and staring at his dorsal side, I wryly thought of how Peter must have felt when Jesus told him, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18 and Amen!)
  • I can’t see or control where we are going.
  • As far as he goes, I have to go. (And I thought of the woman in the cycling club who replied to her husband’s comment that she wasn’t giving him enough on the back of the bike, “If I give it all to you know, you aren’t getting any of it when we get home!”)
  • I have to match his pedaling speed because I’m “clipped in.” (Because against my protests, he did put clip pedals on and even bought me cycling shoes to lock into the clips so I can “give it more power” and use my hamstrings too. My hamstrings were quite happy letting my quads do the work, thank you very much, quit when they got tired, and I liked being able to freely leap off my bike if I started to fall.)
  • Which brings me to this point: if he falls, I fall.
  • When he stops, I stop. (Generally gratefully. At intersections I counterbalance his foot on the ground.)
  • I’m dependent upon his judgment and character.

These may sound like negatives, and in some ways they are, but I choose to rename them “sobering realities.” He has a few “sobering realities” to face as well:

  • He has to put his muscle to the pedals, but if I so choose, I can pretty much rest in his strength when I’m tired.
  • I can take my hands off the handlebars and sit upright because he’s steering.
  • I can communicate my needs/limitations, and he will out of consideration choose an easier or shorter route. (or face my stiff neck, sore wrists and sat-out seat)
  • When my energy is used up, it’s up to him to get us home.
  • If I shift my weight, he has to compensate to keep us upright. (Whew, I have to learn to reach for my water bottle without leaning to either side)
  • He is responsible for my safety.

I have heard the test of a relationship is if you can ride a tandem without killing each other. The rule is: what happens on the bike, stays on the bike. But every time I click my feet into those pedals, the word “captivity” springs to mind: the state or period of being held, imprisoned, enslaved, or confined. BUT that is one perspective, half of the truth. The other truth is that riding on the tandem makes a way for me to be with my friend and do what i couldn’t do, without great exertion, on my own.

I also know this is true about lasting relationship: “Perfect romantic love never does last, of course. Under the best conditions, it evolves into something more realistic and lasting, where two imperfect people discover one another’s virtues and faults, grow to appreciate the goodness in each other but also to accept the disappointments.” I have to add, though I’d rather not, learn to accept challenges to grow, stretch, get stronger.

As I crank my heart out grinding up the second or third of the of the “only one more hill” hills, I sometimes ruefully sing the old song to myself:

tandem-bike-drawing

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.
I’m half-crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage.
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.

The tandem truth is that, in sending Jesus, God made a way for us to receive what we can’t do out of our own strength or “righteousness”: ride with him, depending on his strength, endurance, blood, love.

A rabbi’s disciples always walked in the dust of their teacher, following in his footsteps wherever he lead them. Jesus’ disciples did the same, and if I want to be His disciple today, I’m going to have to put in some miles. I can’t keep up with him our my own limited resources and “goodness,” but i can clip into the pedals behind him and ride where he’s going.The disciples were on two feet; I’m on two feet with you, Jesus, and sometimes literally on two wheels in the company of some of your competitive “conquer the mountain, harder, faster, longer, first” children who don’t know you yet, but need to. All I want to conquer is the enemy of my soul, not the pavement! Stop and smell the Texas sage, people! There are lonely folks to be prayed for out there…. but they ride on.  Sigh.

Okay. Once a week, at least, I saddle up as sidekick. Hop on the back of the bike and lock in with Jesus, who genuinely is crazy about you and me,  as you read these verses. Ask the Holy Spirit if and how they might apply to your life today:

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, Hebrews 10:23-24 NIV

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1: 4-8 NIV

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Psalm 31:3

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. John 12:26

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight.[Proverbs 3:5-6a]

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

Oh, God, that’s what you want for me, isn’t it? Rats! I’d much rather noodle around the neighborhood and never get serious about going somewhere with the faith and gifts and strengths you’ve given to, and invested in, me. I’d rather quit when I feel tired, hop off when I want, go where I want at the speed I want and not be obligated to anyone for how long it takes me to get nowhere in particular. But I have a sneaking suspicion – and last week at a conference I heard a “name of God” for the first time: “Jehovah Sneaky” – that you want me to do something with the talents and desires and gifts you put in me, you want me to follow the road you planned for me, to go as far as You want to go, willingly stop when you stop, and trust your love for me whether I can see where we’re going or not. I recall speaking on this subject ten years ago, but then I hadn’t been required to walk down a road I never wanted to travel, for longer than I wanted to be in battle and in limbo. Now I’ve had to live it, and it hasn’t been rainbows, bunnies and flowers. It’s been hard, uphill, in the dark, in the rain, against the wind, and a challenge to keep my heart free from bitterness, anger, pulling away from you and fear every turn of the wheel.

God, you told me two things over two years ago: “You’re worth fighting for” and “You are my chosen child. Don’t be afraid of what man tries to do to you.” You didn’t tell me where we were going, how long the road would be, or how steep the climb. I suspect my fear and inability to hang on made this trip take longer and be harder than it needed to be. Did I switch places and try to be the one in front? Did I let go of “manna” you gave me because I was grieving too hard? Well, I know you forgive me and your mercy is new every morning. I want to take the back seat now and let you pull me up the hill, pump hard when I can’t, stop when i/we need to, and yes, I desperately need to trust your character to take responsibility for my safety.

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, I know you want my life to count and have meaning. I do, too, but honestly, “clipping in” with you makes me feel _____________________________________________________. I know you understand, because you know I’m human, and not seeing where we’re going , I feel ____________________________________________. But I know you love me and your plans for me are for good, not for evil, so as I ride with you, Jesus, I’ll give my best to _______________________________________________________________________________________ and I’m leaning on you, holding on to your character and love, and asking you to ______________________________________________________________________________________. When I start to lean, slip, get tired or want to quit and go home, please _______________________________________________________________. Thank you that you “know my frame” and you love me even in my weakness, as well as in my strength. I need your renewing strength to _______________________________________________________________________________. Thank you that you wont quit on me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!