Tag Archives: Spiritual leader

Three Daily Tasks of a Spiritual Leader

1 Chronicles 22 provides a good example of what I consider to be the three daily tasks of any spiritual leader.  In this portion of the Bible King David is making necessary preparations for the building of the temple.  It has been his dream to provide a permanent place for the presence of God among His people.  But God communicated to David that he would not be the one to actually construct the temple and see it to completion.  Because David was also a warrior and had blood on his hands, God limited David to the preplanning, but not the construction or the completion of the temple.  That would be reserved for David’s son Solomon to do.  Yet, even in his limitations, David exhibits the following three qualities that are a daily necessity for leaders.

1. Give clear direction.  Followers simply and rightly want to know what is expected of them.  They want to know where the enterprise is headed.  They want to know what is “true north.”  A good leader should be able to provide that for those he leads in daily doses.  David does so in verses 1-5.  He communicates clearly that a house of God is to be built and an altar must accompany the temple.  He communicates clearly to the laborers that it will be Solomon who will see this through.  There was no doubt as to what the direction of the endeavor would be.

2. Provide adequate resources.  Leaders must also provide their followers with the necessary resources to actually carry out what they have been directed to do.  Resources can come in the form of money, tools, or people. It could be in the form of training or expertise.  It can even come in the form of providing hope.  Again, this should be a daily consideration for the good leader.  What do my people need today to succeed?  In verses 14-19 David clearly communicates to Solomon all of the resources he has provided for him for the construction of the temple.  David has provided both raw materials and expertise so that his son can complete the vision.

3. Point people to Christ.  Finally, good leaders must continually point their followers to Christ as their ultimate source of dependence and hope.  There is not doubt that there will be days when the task will be discouraging.  There will be other days where wild success will tempt people to be proud.  The good leader knows how to handle both imposters and direct the people’s gaze back to Christ.  David does this for his son in verses 6-13.  Not only does David porvide Solomon with a clear picture of what is to be accomplished, but he also reminds him that God will be with him every step of the way.  It is God who will grant Solomon success.

I truly believe that every spiritual leader can measure his or her day according to these three tasks and know how well they have done in leading.  As I start my day and end my day I try to ask:  Did I give clear direction so that people knew what was expected of them?  Did I provide adequate resources so that people had what they needed to succeed?  Did I point people to the deep well that is Christ for their ultimate source of hope and dependence?

If I can say that I have done this to the best of my ability, I can know that I have led pretty well and fulfilled my daily calling.

6 Major Barriers to Finishing Well

As I have contemplated my own personal leadership over this past year-one aspect has stood out.  It is hard to finish well.  Think about it.  In almost any arena it is rare to see leaders who end their leadership lives with integrity and vibrancy. I am more convinced than ever that a leader will not finish well without great intentionality.  Part of that intentionality is understanding what could keep you from finishing well.  Below are six barriers to finishing well as identified by J. Robert Clinton.  Clinton is a Senior Professor of Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and has done extensive research on leadership formation and development.  Below the list are two links for further reading from Clinton.  I highly recommend him to you.

1. Finances-their use and abuse.  Leaders, particularly those who have power positions and make important decisions concerning finances, tend to use practices which may encourage incorrect handling of finances and eventually wrong use.  A character trait of greed is often rooted deep and eventually will cause impropriety with regard to finances.

2. Power-its abuse.  With leadership comes power-and the tendency to abuse it.  Leaders who rise to the top in a hierarchal system tend to assume privileges with their perceived status.  Frequently, these privileges include the abuse of power.

3. Pride-which leads to downfall.  Pride which is inappropriate and self centered can lead to a leader’s downfall.  There is a dynamic tension that must be maintained.  We must have a healthy respect for ourselves and yet we must recognize that we have nothing that was not given us by God.

4. Sex-illicit relationships.  Illicit sexual relationships have been a major cause of downfall for leaders in every culture in every era.

5. Family-critical issues.  Problems between spouses or between parents and children-or even between siblings-can be a major source of a leader’s downfall.  This aspect is often ignored, but always carries greater consequences.

6. Plateauing.  Leaders who are competent tend to plateau.  Their very strength becomes a weakness.  When leaders plateau they stop developing.  This can lead to the slow erosion of leadership vibrancy and competency.

Which of Clinton’s six barriers caught your attention?  What are your thoughts?

The Making of a Leader, by J. Robert Clinton

Finishing Well Factors-Enhancements and Barriers, by J. Robert Clinton

My Top Posts for May

Here are the top five most popular posts from my blog in May:

Young Leaders-Be Easy To Lead  I love leading and learning from Millennial leaders.  And like any leader their is always room to grow.  Here are a few principles on what that might look like for this valuable generation.

Delegation vs Empowerment  I distinguish between these two concepts and argue the need for greater empowerment to raise up more leaders.

Finishing Well  In this post I share three critical principles for finishing well as a spiritual leader.

The Foundation of Servant Leadership   This post highlights a foundational element for all spiritual leaders from John 13.

5 for Leadership on May 25th  The “5 for Leadership” series has proven to be a popular weekly addition.  This particular one really got the hits-check out these five leadership posts.

Lead well!

Finishing Well

Yesterday, I was part of an energizing time of leader development with all of the staff of our church here in Austin.  While I was upfront making a brief presentation on the framework that we would be using for development, a critical question was asked by one of the participants.  I had made the comment that I think it is difficult to finish well as a spiritual leader.  They asked, “How does one finish well?”  It was a very genuine question from a 30 something leader who doesn’t want to blow it.  I have been thinking about that question ever since.  In that spirit, I want to offer three enemies to finishing well and two imperatives to finishing well:

Enemies to Finishing Well as a Spiritual Leader                                                 1. Isolation  This may be the biggest enemy I see of well intentioned leaders who fail to finish well.  Leaders must seek out and remain in community.  I would actually suggest finding community on more than one level.  It can be difficult for a leader to find safe, honest community.  One level must be among peers who are committed to each other to honesty and safety.  Another  profitable level, if that leader is married, could be to develop community with other couples that love and serve one another.  You may need community both inside and outside the organization.  As leaders move up the organizational ladder there is a always a pull towards isolation-and isolation is deadly.  We must know and be known to end well.  To live in isolation  is ultimately the posture of the secluded and deceived.

2. Anger and Cynicism  It is easy as a leader, especially for older leaders, to become angry and cynical about their organization or the people around them.  This can be especially true if the leader’s envisioned path does not work out just as they thought it would.  There is no such thing as an unwounded leader.  We all go through organizational bumps and bruises-but how we respond to them can make all the difference.  If we turn towards anger, bitterness and cynicism we will shorten our effective leadership lives and finish poorly.  This is the posture of a cynic.

3. Power Hoarding  I know of a leader today that seemingly can’t let go of their position and power.  A friend once told me that an occasional “clean white board” is necessary for staying fresh and finishing well.  It’s not that I am against continuity or longevity, but we should regularly ask if we have outlived our usefulness in whatever role we find ourselves.  A “clean whiteboard” forces us to fresh learning and new dependence-which can be a great friend in helping us to finish well.  To hoard power and not be able to relinquish position may serve to shorten our effective leadership lives.  This is the posture of an oligarch.

Imperatives to Finishing Well as a Spiritual Leader                               1. A Surrendered Life  As spiritual leaders we must always be conscious of our broken, flawed lives.  There are no omni-competent leaders.  A spiritual leader is meant to live his or her life in full voluntary surrender to Jesus Christ.  He must be our wisdom, our power, our compassion, our courage-our center. It is only as we live continually surrendered to him that we experience theses necessary leadership qualities in gracious stewardship towards his glory and kingdom.  This is the posture of a bond servant.

2. A Commitment to Being a Lifetime Learner  The other imperative is that we remain humble learners for a lifetime.  There will come a day when all of us will report to someone younger and must be able to learn from someone younger.  If we can’t do that we will begin to see our leadership platform begin to erode.  Remaining fresh as a humble learner allows us to maintain our platform for influence wherever we lead.  Remaining a humble learner helps to assure that we will not see ourselves as the center of the leadership universe.  It helps us to be followers as well as leaders.  It helps us empower others-to raise up the next generation of leaders.  This is the posture of a sage.

Finish well that you might agree with the Apostle Paul when he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

My Top Posts for April

Here are the top five most popular posts from my blog in April:

1. Delegation vs Empowerment  I distinguish the difference between these two concepts and argue the need of greater empowerment in raising up more leaders.

2. 5 for Leadership-April 12th  I highlight Tim Milburn, Angela Maiers, Bill Flint, Tim Sacket, and Michael McKinney in some quality posts on leadership.

3. The Posture of a Spiritual Leader  This post takes a look at some critical principles out of John 8 on how a spiritual leader should view themselves.

4. What Is Fairness  I explore the concept of “fairness” and contrast it to the principle of “justice”in our society today.

5. Principled Leadership  In this post I make the case for not getting caught up in all of the leadership or ministry fads-but rather looking for the timeless principles behind a strategy or innovation.

I hope these will be of benefit to you.

The Posture of a Spiritual Leader

Today I was reading John 8 and was struck by some sayings of Jesus.  If we count Jesus as a preeminent leader and we are to emulate Him in all facets of life, then these sayings bear on our leadership lives.

Jesus was speaking to a mixed crowd of devoted followers and religious zealots.  As he is being questioned about his identity and purpose, he makes three very curious statements.  The first of these is found in v.28, which reads, “So Jesus said to them,’When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.'”  Jesus identifies himself as Messiah with the title Son of Man.  This comes from Daniel 7:13.  But remarkably he also clearly states that his authority is a derived authority.  He tells these religious leaders that his authority comes from the Father alone.  There is no claim of any authority that stems from his own works, title or efforts.

The second saying is found in v.42.  As the crowd questions Jesus link to God the Father he says, “I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”  Not only did Jesus not claim personal authority but he also claimed that his will was totally submitted to that of the Father.  He was a “sent one.”  In obedience, he did the will of his Father regardless of any human emotions he was experiencing.  This attitude of submission shows up in the Garden of Gethsemane as well–right before Jesus heads to the cross.  As the God man, Jesus shows us what humble submission looks like–lest we think that we show up anywhere and do anything by our own will and power.

The third saying is found in v.49-50.  The Jews around him are still confused as to his true identity.  They somehow believed that Jesus was a Samaritan and had a demon.  Jesus responds, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.”  Jesus clearly states that when it comes to his identity he does not seek his own glory–but the glory of the one who sent him.

Do you see the three points worth emulating?  These three principles form the foundation for the right posture of a true spiritual leader.  And I would question any spiritual leader who does not embrace these three principles.  Here they are in plain language:

1. I do nothing on my own authority.  All authority is derived authority.  As a spiritual leader, I have nothing except that which God has granted to me.

2. I came not of my own accord.  As a spiritual leader, I do nothing of my own accord.  I daily submit my will to the will of the one who sent me.  When I show up to lead, I show up as a servant of the one who sent me.

3. I do not seek my own glory.  As a spiritual leader, I always seek to glorify the one who sent me.  To live for my own glory is counterintuitive to my very nature as a spiritual leader.

If these are the principles that Jesus lived out and put on display for us, then they are worth our emulation and practice.  Only by the grace of the gospel are we able to reflect these well.  Lead in the posture of our Savior.

Complexity Part 3-Getting to Focus

Last time I detailed some possible poor responses to complexity. Now I want to look at what it takes to get into focus–since focus is the key to solving complexity.

I believe that focus begins with knowing the right questions to ask to analyze the situation–first, which questions does a spiritual leader need to ask weekly?
1. Am I treasuring Christ personally? Am I helping others to do the same?
2. What is it only I can do?
3. What are the highest leverage activities I can be involved in today, this week, tis month? (These will most likely be issues of critical mass-investing in your team, funding issues, building partnering relationships, etc.
4. What are the systemic problems in the ministry? Keep asking “Why?”
5. What are the next steps in the mission?

Another critical component to getting to focus is a leader taking time to prayerfully consider his leadership. This can happen through weekly times of thought and reflection and through periodic personal retreats. Consider the following:
1. A reflective leader is a forward thinking leader.
2. A refreshed leader is a gracious leader.
3. A refocused leader is a refreshed leader.
4. A called leader is an enduring leader.

A third piece in getting to focus is prayerfully considering your team:
1. Who is on my team (paid staff, volunteers, partners, etc.)?
2. What are their gifts and abilities?
3. What is our sense of unity-relationally and in the mission?
4. Do they have clear direction?
5. Do they have adequate resources?
6. Do they appropriately own the mission?
7. If they are doing the best they can with what they have–what do they need to get better?
8. Are they experiencing Christ–personally and in community?

To sum up–the key to complexity is not simplicity but getting to focus. In my mind this is essential for every spiritual leader. To not lead something with complexity is to not be leading anything of significance. Complexity is part of the job–but so is a keen sense of godly focus.