Next Level Leadership Needs No Insignia

The first leadership position that I remember was in the Boy Scouts. I remember organizing, planning, delegating and communicating to get a couple of dozen other young men from one place to the other. Those places included Italy, Austria and all over Germany (we lived in Germany for a few years when I was growing up).

At 18, I was promoted into a supervisor’s position as an assistant warehouse manager ahead of 30-somethings and candidates that had been to college. Later, I went to college and became the president of my fraternity, cadet commander of the school’s ROTC detachment, and a Resident Assistant. From there, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and led soldiers as a tank platoon leader, eventually as a company commander. Along the way, I became a corporate manager with responsibility for subordinate supervisors and teams of employees.

There were other leadership experiences that have led me to where I am today. Almost 50, I have believed that I am well positioned to hit my stride. I have felt equipped, called and suited to lead in the places where I currently have responsibility. What I am finding as I hit the half-century mark is different from I had expected. Hitting stride is different from I thought.

The tactics, impact and ability to get things done as a leader shift. The shift is from control to influence. The direct cause and effect of my effort is no longer the plan. The shift I am being invited into, I believe, is into the next level of leadership. It’s what Jim Collins calls “Level 5” leadership. Level 5 leadership is described as a “paradoxical blend of humility and willpower.”

The “x” factor is in the humility. While I have battled pride over the years, the Lord has done a work. I am not the man who I was, by His grace. Yet, there is more. There is a depth of humility that calls out to my soul which holds the unlocking of the power of maximized leadership.

I don’t know exactly what it is or what it means, just yet. I am interested, but still a bit ignorant. The best picture I have so far is a picture of a military officer. A military officer is adorned with rank that is worn on their collar. I see the invitation being encapsulated in the taking off of the rank and laying it on the table. It doesn’t change the leader; it reflects their lack of a need for any adornment.

The best picture I have of who that person of authority looks like is Jesus.

Boldly Pursuing Encounter

A few years ago I was the men’s pastor at Northwood Church and had the incredible experience of working with the men there to create a men’s program we called “Bold.” The response was powerful, not because we put together a great program, but because we facilitated an environment where men could come to realize the presence of God. Until and unless there was that realization, nothing changed. Once there was that realization, however, everything changed.

We would take breaks during the summer or over holidays and men would return to our next gathering following the break with a tangible anticipation for what was about to happen. I started to notice that the environment on those nights where we were returning from being away for a while were particularly charged with what seemed to be the manifest presence of God.

In some church circles, there is a phrase to describe those times where He is particularly noticeable. People will say, “God showed up,” to indicate a powerful time of encounter from which people are moved. The problem is that the same churches correctly teach that God is omnipresent; not dependent on time or space to be there. He was already there before the worship service and will be there afterwards, as well.

The difference, I believe, as we saw with the men returning to Bold was the hearts of those that were pursuing Him. When those men showed up expecting to encounter Him, the community of hearts was positioned to recognize Him. He was always there, but the collective posture of expectation and desire opened the window between the natural and supernatural. The supernatural is constant; it’s the natural that struggles to break through.

Church buildings and worship services don’t tend to the presence of God; that is the Mosaic temple where God lived in a box. God doesn’t live in a box; He lives in hearts. When there is a gathering and critical mass of the hearts present seek Him with an earnest desire to break through the restraint of the natural for a glimpse into the supernatural, God “shows up” to a place where He already was. The feeling that God showed up is the agreement of hearts in their pursuit of God and His faithfulness to reveal Himself to them.

When you go to some form of church gathering or faith-based pursuit, consider the invitation. Seek Him in a way that exceeds your understanding and breaks through to connect spirit to Spirit. If enough people in the room agree in that pursuit, the corporate encounter will, in fact, be a transformative experience of dwelling in the presence of God as hearts agree and see.

Giving Up to Gain and Gaining Abundantly

A friend of mine is a missionary in Guatemala for the past twenty years. He has been instrumental in the development and transformation of a remote area that otherwise would remain primitive. With multiple projects going at any given time including assisting with medical, educational, hygiene and other basic needs, he has helped the locals start a viable chile/salsa business. They export their product as a source of income as well as purpose.

He and I were talking recently and his conviction is that there is nothing of any significance in Guatemala or anywhere else that he has ever been able to accomplish. The conditions and challenges they have been presented with leave him completely dependent on God. The more they are called to, the greater the challenge and the greater the challenge, the smaller he gets. He has discovered with great certainty that God’s favor comes where it is the only hope for success, if not survival.

The more that he gives way, the more clearly the way that is made becomes visible. Striving, worrying or controlling produce nothing but frustration while prayer, release and faith allow for multiplication. Their conditions demand respect of the harshness of an environment that is literally life threatening and the life that is given as a result is deep and rich, even when difficult.

If everything in our lives is under control and manageable, we likely are missing the potential and capacity for life to the fullest. Jesus came to restore everything that was lost with the promise of abundant life (John 10:10). The abundance of life is in the depth of dependence. Where we will allow, He will multiply within us and transform our capacity to recognize, appreciate and further depend on Him for multiplication around us.

The Kingdom of God contains the greatest adventures life has to offer. Vacations, excursions, expeditions or other attempts to simulate the adventures of a life given over to the King pale in significance to the depth that is available in Him. There is nothing mundane, domestic, religious or safe about heaven colliding with earth. If your taste or perception of Christianity lacks the flavor of the Kingdom, the possibility is that you’ve accepted an incomplete or inaccurate version of the Gospel.

Where you are willing to risk the benefits of control for the depth of living, the exchange will be intimidating, exciting, fun and terrifying all at the same time. Where you will give up, He will increase in every way; starting within.

 

A Priest, A Lawyer and a Business Owner Walked Into a Bar

I’ve been doing this for a living for about five years. Before I did this, I was practicing law. When I practiced law, I was responsible for the representation of clients as an advocate. That advocacy sometimes meant investment that exceeded their legal questions. Life questions got them in legal problems so my advocacy sometimes meant life investments.

Before that, I was a business owner. There were things I did well as a business owner and there were things that I did not so well. My intentions were to serve my clients and my employees in a way that was honoring and gracious. For those that didn’t know Jesus, my hope was to put Him on display in the ways that I interacted with them.

Now I am a professional minister. I’ve had several roles, but my job is Christianity. This has afforded incredible opportunities to  grow, share and multiply in the life I have found in Christ. It has also afforded me a perspective of what is challenging in the professional endeavor of Christian leadership.

The truth is that I am no more or less of a Christian leader than I was when I owned a business or practiced law. I was a born again believer in Jesus Christ, committed as a disciple to carry the good news of the Kingdom of God then as I am now. The recognition, credibility or validation that comes with vocational positioning does not qualify me any more or less than He did in those previous roles.

The problem, to some extent, is that we struggle to accept that. We struggle to accept that lawyers and business owners are the same as pastors and ministers. The separations are subtle, at times, but insidious, just the same. The little hints of superiority or separation feed the lies of inferiority and disqualification. In every way that we elevate professional clergy, we disqualify the saints that are called to do the work of the ministry.

I’m just as righteous in Christ today as I was in the courtroom, and so are you. I’m also working out that salvation through my flawed and wounded soul as a professional minister as you likely are as someone who is engaged in the marketplace. We’re the same. Our flaws don’t disqualify us nor does our knowledge validate us. There is no more pressure on me to live a perfect application of religious expectations as there is possibility that you are able to pull it off outside of grace.

Tuning Out, Turning Off to Tune In and Fill Up

There is nothing wrong with routine; in fact, the framework of “normal” can help to define the supernatural by contrast. When normal becomes distracting, however, it’s possible to miss the tell-tale signs of the Kingdom of God. That’s where I got to recently.

I have known times in my life when I knew the presence of God. I could discern His voice and fingerprints and drew life from the breath He would breathe into otherwise routine situations. Lately, however, it seemed that there wasn’t much fellowship in the flow.

About two weeks ago, I realized that I had formed a habit of distraction. I was on my phone almost constantly. Checking this or checking that left me missing what might otherwise be noticed in the spaces now occupied by technology. Then I went on Quest.

I’ve been going on Quest since 2008 and got into a bit of a routine there, too. I got used to the time away and didn’t value the disconnection. This time, however, as I was recounting the routine I had gotten into I heard an invitation. As I shared that I had not been to the river in several years, I heard a whisper of invitation to “come to the river.”

I went to the river, crossed it and climbed up a slope on the other side. I found a rock and spent time reading, writing, listening to music, praying and just being. I was connecting. I was relating. I was enjoying the breath of God in the moments afforded. I didn’t have to; I had chosen not to plenty of times before. This was good and right and refreshing.

The next day I didn’t perceive any specific invitation, but went out of my own accord. I made my way to the middle of the river on rocks that protruded just above the surface of the water and considered stepping off of those rocks into the stream just to get further into the middle. Any urgency that I might otherwise respond to had faded with 48 hours away from the routine and I was in no hurry to jump out to the middle. Then, after waiting and considering the present reality, I saw little stepping rocks just up a little further that took me out to the middle of the middle.

I can’t explain it other than to say it filled me from the inside. God met me in that time of no distraction and ministered to my soul. He filled me and healed me and called me His son . . . and the phone wasn’t a distraction to detour me from receiving.

There is One Church in the City; Not a Bunch of Clubs

img_1502I had an opportunity to visit with a church down the road from us this weekend and was impressed with the hospitality and relationship which was extended. Their pastor and I have been developing a friendship over the past couple of years; he has spoken at Heritage, where I pastor, a couple of times and I have spoken to their men previously. This weekend was fresh vision for what the church of the city could possibly be.

When Paul wrote his letters that we find in the New Testament, he was writing to the church of the city (Rome, Ephesus, etc.); not a church on the corner. He was addressing a movement of the Kingdom in a region; not the club of a celebrity in a building. The Kingdom is designed to be advanced across gatherings that have a common interest in an area.

The gatherings of separate congregations are separate by logistics, but not purpose. They are not isolated to their own “brand” and what they might be able to build for their own expansion. They are together for the purpose of building up the house of God, which is people together with Christ as the Cornerstone, not brick and mortar with an attractive sermon series as the foundation.

Julie and I were received incredibly well by this church in our city. We were loved and honored because their pastor, Gabriel Andrade, loves and honors them. He makes it safe for them to receive from others without the dance because he has built trust with them that can only come from caring about their hearts. He ministers to them, which makes it possible for them to receive ministry from others. The word “ministry” comes from the word “serves,” by the way. Ministry is service.

Going forward, it will be imperative for the consumerism and attraction to be secondary to the sacrifice and service. The collaboration between congregations to take advantage of diverse demographics and gifts is what will change the city; not a better worship service in one corner of the city pulling people from one gathering to the other.

In the current culture of the United States, the consumeristic, attractional model of church for the sake of the provider of the attraction that appeases the consumer has not worked. There has been a shift where certain churches grow large but they do so by transfers from other churches in the same city more so than new disciples of Jesus Christ. Among us, there is a slide from building to building based on latte’s, lights and services more than an advance where light overcomes the darkness.

It’s time for the slide to stop and the advance to begin. With congregations locking arms to agree to not only receive but also to serve others. Individually, we can be transformed; together we can be transformational.