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Young Leader

How to be a Young Leader

Much has been said in recent years about the decline of potential young leaders in various organizational and ministerial bodies.  Current executives bemoan the seeming lack of maturity among young up-and-comers, while the up-and-comers argue that they aren’t getting a chance to prove themselves.  Having talked with people on both sides of that conversation in organizations big and small, I have heard the long-time higher-level managers claim that young people don’t respect them, while at the same time I hear the young people say that their managers just don’t listen.

It is no secret that we are facing a significant generational divide; the Baby Boomers running the show are at odds with the Millennials who, at some point, will have to take over.  As a younger person myself, only having worked in my field for seven years, I have faced the harsh reality that there is a generational barrier between where I am today and where I want to be several years from now.  How can the two sides break down the walls of bad communication in order that organizations (and especially churches, which aren’t immune to this leadership gap by any means) can thrive for generations to come?

In leadership, there is a principle young leaders must adopt, called “leading up.” Personally, it is something I have practiced from the time I began my ministry and it has served me well.  Leading up is the skill of guiding those above you, either in age or position, without being overly insistent or rude. And while it was outside of the context of Christianity that I first heard of this principle, I have come to find that leading up is a very Biblical practice.

Paul’s letters to Timothy in the New Testament are basically textbooks on how to lead up, so if you’re a young leader looking for some fresh insight into how to drive change in your organization or church, look no further.  Many of us are familiar with 1 Timothy 4:12, which states, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”  That verse remains for me, to this day, a terrific encouragement to keep on pushing forward in leadership, especially when I feel discouraged about my age. But, stopping with this verse misses out on how the author Paul expected his young leader Timothy to put this idea into practice. Let me explain:

1 Timothy 4:15 goes on to say “Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.”  As young leaders we must work harder than anyone else if we are to be taken seriously.

1 Timothy 4:16 says “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching.  Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”  As young leaders, how we live speaks louder than whatever words we say, so we must endeavor to live lives above reproach so that those we lead can trust our judgment.

1 Timothy 5:1 tells us “Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would your own father.”  Regardless of the situations we face, in order to lead up, we must maintain respect for those older than us.  Respect is mentioned in two ways: never speak harshly, and appeal, or ask the opinion and advice, of those older and wiser than yourself.

1 Timothy 5:2 says “Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.”  As young leaders, especially young male leaders, respecting the women we lead is abundantly important.  Nothing will dissolve your credibility faster than inappropriate relationships with people of the opposite sex.

One of the most important things I have learned from leading up is that while I cannot control the actions and behaviors of other people, especially those older than me or higher up the organizational flow chart, I can control my actions and my behavior.  If it is your desire to develop as a leader so that the gifts God has given you might affect more and more people around you, don’t concern yourself with the behavior of others, work diligently on your own leadership abilities, and ask God to help and guide you.

Introverted Extroverted

Is It Better To Be Spiritually Introverted or Extroverted?

For those of you who have taken the Myers Briggs Test online, you may discovered what makes you, uniquely you. Everyone has a certain God-given wiring that makes them special and this wiring is necessary for reaching and loving others to whom they will be one day be sent to serve. As for me, I am an ENFP (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving) which means that I am people oriented with a deep emotional drive. The interesting thing for me personally is that some versions of the test will give you percentages and the last time I took it my test the results came back one hundred percent extraverted. This means that if given the choice to do any activity alone or with another person, I would always choose to be with someone else. The test was not lying as this is very true about my nature. You may be thinking – how cool is that? Or wow, that’s certainly not me. You see, this can be a doubled edged sword – especially when it comes to finding time alone with God. Now, for those of you who lean more to the introverted side of things, don’t worry, this isn’t all about extraversion. Instead, keep reading as you will learn that we all need to find a balance – we all need to become both introverted and extraverted at different moments throughout our days.

After expressing to a close friend my frequent feelings of loneliness, due to my need to be around people, she made a unique comment. You see, she could have easily agreed with me and said that this is just who I am and this would have served as an adequate response. Instead, she urged and challenged me to spend some time truly enjoying being alone. My initial reaction was simply, “easy for her to say, she tends to be much more of an introvert by nature than I am.” However, after giving it some thought, and some further discussion with this dear friend, I decided to look at Jesus’ life on earth for some inspiration on how to conduct our lives and govern our natural tendencies – be it extraverted or introverted.

So the question begs to be asked, was Jesus an introvert or extravert? What about when He ministered to others? Sure, we can argue that much of His story depicts time around his best buddies, the twelve disciples, and, therefore, this must mean He was a people person. Additionally, He clearly had no problem around the multitudes, speaking and sharing time with thousands of people, making any environment His home. Yet, we cannot write off that He also always made time to spend hours alone in solitude, praying to and worshiping His Father. Clearly, Jesus understood the value of both types of personalities: spending time around many people and rejuvenating through alone time. Here are two examples:

 “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12)

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said…” (Luke 14:25)

Perhaps you know exactly where you fall on this spectrum and you are not sure what it means for your spiritual life. I, personally, have come to find that every personality trait is fair game for God to use. So if you find that you, like myself, desperately need people, don’t be afraid to be alone. God needs you to spend some time hearing His voice and being still. It is through the stillness that He ministers to you, so that, you can go back out and bless others. However, if you find what I am saying peculiar and your tendencies would be to stay inside  and read a good book as opposed to socializing, you are probably are more of an introvert and the idea of constantly entertaining seems exhausting. You probably find meditating on God’s Word and solitude much easier than being a social butterfly. And, sure, it may be easy to say that the extraverts can handle the crowds, but the reality is, God needs introverts just as much as He needs the person comfortable holding the megaphone.

We are all called to be missional and that means that we all must go out and serve others. Likewise, we are reminded through Jesus’ life, and those who faithfully followed Him, that nothing can replace time alone in His presence. It is through these encounters with His holiness that we receive strength to fight the good fight that He has called us to.  So discover who you are because God didn’t make a mistake when He made you – challenge yourself to grow by both taking in who He is through solitude and releasing His presence through the accompaniment of many.

Power

An Easter Reminder: Unleashing The Power

Recently I had the unfortunate experience of losing power for an entire day. For any of you who have been powerless before, you can likely recall how unproductive you become once the sun goes down – left with nothing but a dozen candles and a flashlight to continue your night. If you’re anything like me, you also forget that just about everything you normally would do requires electricity. You go to turn on: an appliance…oops…a switch…nope…television…funny…the dishwasher…good try…you get the idea! Living a life without power is discouraging, fruitless, and a huge wake-up call. I thought to myself, how did they enjoy an entertaining and productive life in the olden days? Yet, I couldn’t help but think of all that Jesus accomplished without having electricity, a car, an iPhone, or mass media to help promote His message. Ironically, this is because Jesus had all the power in the world and more. We see in John 13:3 as Jesus began the Last Supper with His disciples, He reflected on His love for them,

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.

Jesus had a power that allowed Him to operate with authority and this power exists today in the form of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, thanks to Thomas Edison, there is another kind of power that allows us the luxury of continuing our lives at ease. I have come to find that we desperately need to have both types of power. However, while we all notice immediately when the electricity goes out, we often miss when we stop living in the empowerment we have as Christians. In case you think this sounds judgmental, let me tell you, I am preaching to the choir. You see, I was the first to discover when we lost power in our home and it affected me greatly. However, it took hours of quiet reflection to come to this conclusion….am I living in the power that comes only from Christ? As we reflect on Easter, we must be reminded that there is power in the blood that saved us on the cross and arose King, may we also be reminded of a verse that gets to me every time I read it:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Why does this verse leave my eyes wide and my head titled? Because Jesus gives His power to us! After creation and our ultimate fall through Adam and Eve, Jesus still honored us and  I can’t help but wonder, are we living without this power? Are we living in a dark house with a small flashlight hoping to lighten every corner of every room without any true means? I read this verse and I am left with so many questions, which all can be summarized by a unwanted yet doubtful thought…greater things…really…me?

I, personally, would be the first to embrace changing the world and enthusiastically listing all the ways, as Christians, that we could bring about a wonderful Jesus-centered movement. However, when I start talking in this manner there is a feeling that nips at my heels. Whether it be from past failures, or a lack of sustained enthusiasm, I give up and become powerless. I know that the enemy must be elated with this state because it is like we are standing at the gate of an international flight without a passport. You see, with the passport we would have no problem claiming our spot and showing our identity to all who need to see it. Yet, without it, we aren’t going anywhere. I think sometimes I am that person, knowing my rights as a child of God to do greater things, but forgetting to show my passport in order to gracefully continue on. Hopefully someone, somewhere, is reading this and nodding their head saying… that’s me too! The good news is that we have permission from God to live in power. He wants us to operate in this way, all the time.

We can read the four Gospels and see a common theme inJesus’ life and those who followed His footsteps. They all owned the power that they knew was their’s to claim. Generations later, we still want power, yet we are looking in all the wrong places. We live in a world where power is needed in a physical sense and craved in a spiritual sense. In fact, it doesn’t take long to even see these themes in the movies be it power through success, money, or even witchcraft and vampires. Power is something always sought after. Therefore, it is time we turn on the lights. It is time that we remember the power we have through Jesus. The empty tomb that churches recreate across America on Easter Sunday should perhaps have the words written:

“I’m no longer here…your turn to demonstrate some power!”  Love, Your Father

What if we embraced this? Could we show the world that all the false methods of gaining power pale in comparison to what we have? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t that bring joy to our Father? I believe it is as simple as waking up, recognizing our need for it, claiming it and actively calling on Jesus’ name to operate in it.  The truth is, it requires some faith to proclaim, “I want to do these greater things you spoke about Jesus.” However, someone’s got to step up, passport in hand, ready to board with the entitlement rightfully given to us.

Focusing on Your Strengths

Focusing on Your Strengths

When I first started Bible College I had the impression of what a Pastor was. For me, it was more about personality than anything else and being someone who is not type A (I am more an introvert to be honest), I began doubting my ability to even carry this role. Even early on as a Youth Pastor, I tried to play a part that was outside my character because I believed what John Maxwell’s saying, “Leadership is about influence”. To be the most influential, I believed I would need to be outgoing, with a big personality. I felt this way because all those around me who were Pastors were that way.

As I got older, and gained more experience, I studied leadership further and what I realized is that what I was looking at it all wrong. Rather than strive to be better at my weaknesses, I should focus on strengthening what God had gifted me with. Andy Stanley says, “Leadership is a stewardship and we are all accountable.” This stood out to me in connection with a passage in Romans,

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. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:3-5)

Being a steward of the giftings God has given me is a key principal I live by today and I challenge each of us to question if we are stewarding the gifts we have to better the culture we find ourselves in. 1 Peter 4:10 reads,

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

For me, I am constantly challenging myself to strengthen the gift God has given me – the building up the others around me in leadership. What is your gifting and are you focusing on your strengths? How will you work to build that specific gifting and use it for the betterment of others?

 

Determining Your Spiritual Strengths

Determining Your Spiritual Strengths

Last year I joined a basketball league. After putting together a team I soon realized something very important – I was the tallest player on my team. Without knowing me, that might not right alarm bells for you, but you must understand that I am only 6’1 and that is on a good hair day. You see, when I put together the team, I tried to put together a team with a lot of skill. We had speed, sound defense, good outside shooters, and everything you needed to be successful… except for height. We were ready to out-hustle our opponents every single game, and we believed we could win using this strategy.

A few weeks later we walked into the arena for our very first game. That feeling of confidence quickly diminished when we realized their SHORTEST player was about 6’5.  Before the game even began, the team was crippled by fear, wondering how they would possibly compete. We didn’t believe we going to be able to defend near the basket and how would we score on offense? Instead of sticking to our strengths, we adjusted and tried to “man up” by playing their style of basketball – we thought we could beat them at their game irregardless of our height differential. As we continued to play, we realized most every team was bigger than we were. We lost our first 10 games before we finally realized that we had been playing this basketball season all wrong, we’d abandon our skills and we were too worried about improving our weaknesses, a weakness we in reality could never change. This resulted in an overall ineffective team and a poor start to the season.

As you consider your role in the Kingdom of God and the team of people he has put around you – are you all playing to your strengths? There are so many opportunities to make a positive difference in the world today, yet for some reason many are locked up by fear and afraid of utilizing their God-given strengths to reach their nearby communities, schools, and neighbors. Personally, growing up in the Church, I have witnessed that many people tend to do this same kind of outreach. Typically, the same few participate in reaching their community, while the other Church members stay away because they feel the particular activity the others are participating in isn’t something they can best contribute to. The select few then serve at food kitchens, housing projects, etc…, while everyone else can easily be found stuck at building we call the Church, failing to ever go out and impact their local community.

God has given us strengths for a reason and it is when we discover what our strengths are, and how we can use them within our community, that we see the greatest results. I encourage you to consider, what are the spiritual strengths that are unique to you? Are you utilizing those gifts or are you playing above your “height,” trying to impact in a way that’s not playing to your particular strengths? These are all simple questions, yet it wasn’t until we made these connections that the basketball season turned around and it wasn’t until I made this change in my personal ministry that I saw tremendous growth in my spiritual journey,  allowing me to be most effective for the Kingdom of God.