Tag Archive for: leadership development

We do a lot of talking about mission, especially the mission of the church, “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” My perception is that you, as a leader, keep that mission in mind in most of what you do. My question is, do you feel connected to the mission? Do you feel what you are doing really makes much of a difference? 

You might be doing all the right things. You love the people entrusted to your care. But you just don’t feel the spark any longer. What’s happening? What’s going on? 

Bring Meaning to the Mission

What I am learning is a sense of fulfillment is needed to bring meaning to the mission. The question is, what brings that sense of fulfillment? 

You might think of it this way: goals are good and necessary. You can define and track your goals and you can show how you have reached your goals. Yet, you can feel disconnected from a larger sense of purpose. Chasing goals day after day, week after week does not bring the engagement needed to bring a sense of fulfillment. 

Interrelated Leadership Models

Over the years, I have identified and defined at least three models of leadership. Each model is needed to be an effective and courageous leader, but it is only when the models are intertwined and focused upon the mission that they are effective. Refining your leadership skills in each area will help you become the missional leader needed today. 

Qualities of the Leader

One model of leadership is defined by the qualities of the leader. Are you a person of integrity, transparency, and empathy? Do you inspire loyalty, communicate clearly, and develop relationships? These qualities are necessary and vital to effective leadership. But you can learn all the right qualities and do all the right things and still feel disconnected and unfulfilled. 

Servant Leadership

A second model of leadership is servant leadership. It is best seen in how you care for the needs and interests of those entrusted to your care. Have you developed an environment of support in which people can flourish? Are you providing what followers want from their leader: trust, compassion, stability, and hope? These qualities of servant leadership are necessary and vital to effective leadership. But you can care for the needs and interests of people and still feel less than fulfilled as a leader. 

Missional Leadership

A third model of leadership is missional leadership. When grounded in a mission, people become both leaders and followers. They lead by living into their strengths and by offering their expertise. People follow by learning how to work in partnership with others. They share the values of the group and share a mutual sense of purpose. Missional leadership is an integration of servant leadership and the qualities of the leader. The three together provide what is needed for leading in the times in which we live. 

Many of us do well in leading by the criteria of models one and two. We offer clear direction and guidance, stay connected with people, and care for their needs. Yet, in midst of all the good work, we do not feel fulfilled. We can articulate the mission with little connection to it. 

More to Explore

You will find these blogs to be helpful in becoming a missional leader.

 Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church

Leadership Challenges for the Missional Church-Part 3

Mobilize for Ministry

So, what do we do? Below are seven questions that will assist you and the leaders of your church to brainstorm, reflect, and mobilize for ministry. They will require prayerful reflection, dialogue, and discernment. Some of the questions will require you to move beyond the walls of the church building and to talk with people in the community. Others will require you to explore the areas of overlap between the mission and the responses to the questions. 

These questions are simple and challenging. I can promise that, when you take these questions seriously, you will find meaning and purpose in your leadership. For a more detailed explanation and direction click here.

The 7 Missional Questions 

1.      God’s Presence: Where have you witnessed God’s presence in your community? Neighborhood? 

This is a good question to ask at the beginning of every meeting, with small groups, and at the end of each day. It is one of two foundational questions that contribute to congregational health. People who follow Jesus should be able to articulate God’s movement in their lives and identify God’s presence in their communities. 

2.      The Church’s Mission: What is the mission of the church? 

This question is not about mission projects or service opportunities. The question is about purpose. What is the purpose of the church? Does everyone know the mission? Do they not only repeat it but embody it? 

This is the partner question to naming God’s presence. Recognizing God’s presence and embodying the mission of the church are essential for healthy disciple-making movements. 

3.      The Mission Field: What is your mission field? 

Your mission field is the geographic region in which your church is located. Once you have decided your geographic region, define who lives within the mission field. After you know who lives there, define their habits and interests. Listen to their stories. Pay attention to their symbols. What do you need to learn about the people in your mission field, the people entrusted to your care? 

4.      Assets: What are the assets of your community? 

Make a list of the assets of the people who live in your mission field You are identifying skills, resources, and relationships. Other assets to explore include property, service, businesses, a community focus or physical attributes like a beach, a park, etc., and financial assets. 

To identify assets, take a walk through our community and meet the people in your mission field. Ask people this question: “What do you love about our community?” Neighborhood? City? 

5.      Needs: What are the needs in your community? Neighborhood? 

Make a list of the needs of people in your community. Remember that food, water, and shelter are the most basic needs. These are followed by safety, love, belonging, self-esteem, and respect. Recognizing and realizing your potential, learning, faith, and service round out your list.

To identify needs, when you take your walk through your community and meet the people in your mission field, ask this question, “What do you love about your community?” This question follows the question you asked in #4. 

6.      Relationships: What relationships exist with leaders in your community? 

Who are you and other church leaders in relationship within the following areas of your community: education, business, government, social agencies, first responders, faith/religion, arts and entertainment, health (hospitals, doctors, nurses, clinics)? What relationships need to be nurtured, reconciled, and re-established? 

A good place to start building relationships beyond the walls of the church building is with the principal of your local elementary school. 

7.      Collaboration: What is one way you can collaborate with another church? 

Develop relationships with other church leaders. Listen to their stories and how they express their mission, and what disciple-making loos like in their faith communities. Even though theology and practices might differ, you are on the same team. How do you join together to cover the community with God’s love? 

What Overlap Exists?

Now, here is where your missional leadership is most needed. What is the overlap between the mission and the responses to the other six questions? 

Your overlap might be where you see God at work in the lives of children, or in community leaders of in service organizations. Begin to tell the stories of God being at work in your community and invite people to participate in what God is doing. 

You can also go to the LeaderCast podcast for helpful information. Here are episodes that will help in becoming a missional leader. Purpose and Presence  Set the foundation for missional leadership with these two questions. Needs and Assets Bridge the needs and assets of your community with these questions. Relationships and Partnerships Leverage the people and connections of your community for kingdom impact.

It is time to move from talking about the mission to becoming the missional leader needed to have influence in the world today. I can promise you and the people entrusted to your care that once you are focused on the mission of the church, you will find the meaning and purpose that has been missing in your life and in your church. 

It is my hope that you can and will begin to build a file of resources that assists you in becoming the leader that makes a difference. 

Remember, who is are is how you lead.

How was your Easter celebration? Although you have been back to “in person” worship for several months, celebrating Easter in person for the first time in two years must have felt extraordinary. I know it sounds silly, but you must have felt good getting back to some form of normal. 

The desire to get back to normal has been part of our thinking for months. The pandemic not only interrupted worship and church activities, but it also interrupted all of life as we were living it. So, I’m sure it felt good to celebrate Easter for several reasons, not the least of all the feeling of normalcy. 

Unexpected Interruptions

Unexpected interruptions have been part of human life from the very beginning. You can think of all the natural disasters, wars, deaths, births, and accidents that created a new normal for you. And when you look at the scripture, whether it was talking to a serpent in the garden, discovering a ram in the thicket, noticing a baby in a basket floating in the river, finding manna in the morning, getting water from a rock, human life has been interrupted with events that changed what was considered normal. 

Follow Me

Consider the lives of the first followers of Jesus. Fishing all night without catching anything was normal. Not fun or productive, but normal. Jesus comes along and tells them to do something that was not normal, “Cast your nets on the other side of the boat.” 

They were fishermen. They knew it was too late in the morning to catch any fish. Yet, they dropped their nets in the water and they caught more fish than they could handle. They had to call for help. Jesus came along and interrupted their lives. He said, “Follow me and I will teach you to catch people.” For the next three years, interacting with people became their new normal. 

Interrupted by the Resurrection

They gave themselves to the teaching and ministry of their new leader. Their new normal was living with Jesus. Although he was a little unorthodox in his dealing with people, life was good because it had become normal again. Then their lives were interrupted, not by a pandemic but by the resurrection. 

Although Jesus was arrested, convicted, and put to death by crucifixion, it was the resurrection that interrupted their lives. John tells us that Simon Peter and six other disciples wanted to get back to normal. After their experience of the resurrection, they went fishing. As far as their experience, life with Jesus was over. It was good while it lasted, but it was over. So, they were longing for life to get back to normal. Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” 

Do You Love Me?

It was while he and the others were going back to what they considered to be normal that Jesus appeared to them. Jesus serves them breakfast. It was in the normal experience of eating that Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, do you love me?” In the normal experience of eating a meal, like a stranger on the road to Emmaus, or the dinner parties Jesus attended, Jesus shows up and asks, “Simon, do you love me?” 

Even though Simon Peter responds with, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” Jesus asks repeatedly because the desire to go back to what we consider normal blinds us to the new normal. So, with Peter’s confession, Jesus then gives him the words of the new normal, “Feed my lambs.” “Care for my sheep.” 

Resurrection Gives You a New Normal

Simon Peter wants to get back to normal. But Jesus shows up as his new normal. This is a wonderful, frightening thing. Jesus, the risen Christ, is on the loose and is at work, where you live, with the people whom you lead. Notice that Sunday is the first day of the Jewish work week. It is interesting that Jesus wasn’t raised on a Saturday, a holy day, but was raised on the day when everything was going back to normal. Everyone was going back to work. 

The resurrection interrupts our normal and says that you demonstrate your faith in the places you live, work, and play. That is because the resurrection puts today and every day into a new perspective. Every day is sanctified and all of creation, even your community, is the Holy Land. Every person is sanctified and every person you meet is one of God’s children in whom you can see Jesus. You might long to go back to normal, but as a follower of Jesus, the resurrection gives you a new normal. 

Resurrection Interruptions

We are the people whose lives have been interrupted by the resurrection. We have had something happen to us that the world is yet to experience. The risen Christ has come back to us. In one way or another, you are here because Jesus, the risen Christ, has sought you, met you, caught you, and commissioned you for God’s purposes at this point and time in history. 

When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, look up. You are not walking alone. When you come to some dead end in life and you look over the edge into the dark abyss, look up. He is there waiting for you as a light in the darkness. When you listen to the news, skim social media, read reports on the internet, and you feel overwhelmed, remember that Jesus confronts the powers and principalities of the day. He comes in the midst of the normal, no matter how bleak the normal might seem, and when you want to give up in despair, don’t be surprised to find him nearby. 

As you lead, you will find yourself stepping into unexpected interruptions. As a Jesus follower, living in a new normal, you might consider summarizing your leadership in light of the gospel. In an overall sense, in the Bible, it gets dark. Then it gets very, very dark. Then Jesus shows up. But Jesus doesn’t just show up; he shows up for you and for the people entrusted to your care. 

Experiencing the Resurrection

Several years ago, I visited a man in the hospital. He was a leader in the church and well known in the community. He was near death. We talked for a few minutes then I asked what I could do for him.

He responded, “I’m glad you came to see me. I want you to know something that you can tell the people at the church. I have had several people ask me if I was afraid. I want you to tell them at the church that I am not afraid. My faith is in Jesus.” 

I responded, “I can do that. We all have hope that our future is in God’s hands.” 

I’m sure I sounded too pious because he said, “Well, I’m not hopeful because of what I believe about the future. I’m hopeful because of what I have experienced in the past.” 

He captured my interest. I said, “Tell me more about what you mean. I want to represent you well.” 

He said, “I look back over my life, all the mistakes I’ve made, all the times I’ve turned away from Jesus, gone my own way, strayed, and got lost. And time after time, he found a way to get to me. He would show up and get me. He was looking for me when I wasn’t looking for him. I don’t think he will let something like my dying defeat his love for me. So, tell them I’m not afraid. Whether I live or die, Jesus is with me. 

I experienced the resurrection again that day. 

A New Normal

Simon Peter and his friends decide to go fishing. They want to get back to normal. Jesus shows up and gives them a new normal. He says, “What I have been doing, I want you to keep doing. As the Father sent me so I send you.” Or in other words, “Feed my lambs. Care for my sheep.” 

So here is a question for this week and throughout the Easter season. What if you are called to be the resurrection, to live a new normal? What if the presence of Jesus could be witnessed in who you are and what you say and do? 

Think about it and then decide what one thing you might say or do to reveal the new normal. It’s a tough assignment. To “care for my lambs” is to face the fact that some are going to stay lambs for forty years and never become sheep. “Feed my sheep” is not simple at all. Some of them refuse to eat. How will you lead into that unexpected interruption? 

You Are Never Alone

There will be moments of exasperation when you might be more of a nursery school teacher than you are their leader. But just as God sent Jesus, you are now being sent. Once your life has been interrupted by the resurrection, in whatever leadership situation you find yourself, look closely. The One who has called and equipped you for this ministry is nearby. You are never alone. 

That is the new normal. Leading into unexpected interruptions changes what is normal, especially when the interruption is the resurrection of Jesus. 

Who you are is how you lead.

Leading is not easy. In addition to the responsibility of making tough decisions, there are relationships that need care, systems, and networks that need attention, and your personal health to be considered. 

Whether you know it or claim it, what you say and do as a leader leaves an impact upon the people entrusted to your care. That impact is the legacy of your leadership. 

What is your legacy?

Usually, when people talk about legacy, they are talking about making an impact at the end of their lives. They leave money, build a building, or add a wing to a building in memory of a loved one. I’m not questioning the goodness of those legacies, but I do think there is another legacy that makes a greater impact over a longer period of time. It is your legacy as a leader. 

You leave an incredible legacy through the relationships you develop and sustain on a daily basis. What you leave behind lives in the hearts and minds of the people entrusted to your care. It is measured by what you do and what you say every day. 

Begin with the End in Mind

Habit number 2 in Stephen R. Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is “Begin with the End in Mind.” He wrote, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

How will you be remembered?

The same is true regarding your legacy. So, how do you want to be remembered? 

People could say, “You were extremely busy and that you always seemed to work hard.” What they say might be true, but it is easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at trying to move up the ladder of success only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy and to work hard without being very effective. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Live your Life By Design

According to Covey, “to begin with the end in mind” is to live your life by design. He wrote, “Before you go on a trip, you determine your destination and plan out the best route. Before you plant a garden, you plan it out in your mind, possibly on paper. You create speeches on paper before you give them, you envision the landscaping in your yard before you landscape it, you design the clothes you make before you thread the needle.”

By Design or By Default?

The same is true regarding your legacy. So, how do you want to be remembered? Living by design or living by default? In your personal life, if you do not develop your own self-awareness and become responsible for the direction of your life, you give other people and circumstances the power and influence to shape your life by default. You reactively live by the direction of work, family, circumstances, and the agenda of others. These agendas are usually rooted in your deep vulnerabilities, dependency on others, and your need for acceptance. You allow your sense of importance and worth to be directed by default. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Five Characteristics of a Leadership Legacy

What legacy do you want to develop and leave behind? How do you want to be remembered? Here are 5 characteristics that will help you design your leadership legacy.

Develop your character. 

Character plays a critical role in leadership. It will leave a lasting impression. Too many people are concerned with their reputation when they should be concentrating on their character. Your character is who you really are, while your reputation is what others think you are. Developing your character and your leadership legacy will take care of itself.

We live in a time where character does not seem important. Whether it be in politics, social media, or just truth-telling, the focus seems more upon what you can get for yourself rather than what part of yourself you give to others. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Your character will leave a legacy for others to follow and to emulate. 

Develop the potential in others. 

Your legacy will be seen in how you value the people around you. Bene Brown, in Dare to Lead, describes a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” God has gifted every person with special strengths, talents, and gifts. Your care and connection are irreplaceable in developing the strengths and gifts of the people entrusted to your care. 

Too many leaders overlook the gifts of the people with whom they work. Instead of becoming vulnerable and trusting colleagues, they begin to micromanage and become defensive. Whether it be at work, with family, or in daily relationships, your ability to help others be who they have been created to be is vital in developing happy and healthy relationships. 

Who you are is how you lead. Your leadership legacy is seen in how you recognize, value, and develop the potential in others. 

Be a person of integrity and respect. 

When what you say is what you do, and when you live up to your promises, you make a lasting impact. If your behavior is the same in unguarded moments as it is when someone is watching, you are creating the kind of legacy anyone would want.

When you act with integrity it will be remembered. If you treat others with respect it will be honored; when you are trustworthy it will be recognized; and as you live by your values, you will make a lasting impact upon the people entrusted to your care. 

Followers want leaders who they can trust, who respond with compassion, who bring stability, and who offer hope. Be authentic and vulnerable in your relationships. Be caring and clear in your communication. The way you relate to others and conduct yourself shapes your leadership legacy. People will remember how you valued and cared for them long after they forget your name. Who you are is how you lead. 

Make courageous decisions. 

Because life is made up of decisions, the decisions you make from your legacy. As you make choices and decisions every day, keep in mind you are leading by design. Your decisions help form your leadership legacy. 

You always want to make the right decisions, but do not get stuck in “paralysis of analysis.” You want to learn from your mistakes, but do not be afraid to step out and take the risks needed to move forward. In the end, your leadership legacy will reflect not only the decisions you have made but how you made those decisions. Who you are is how you lead and is reflected in your decision-making.

Be a person of compassion. 

Compassion grows out of your care for people more than your attention to processes and procedures. Leadership, at its core, is the ability to relate to people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives. When they experience and trust your care, they help shape your leadership legacy. Through compassion, you leave a long-lasting impression. 

You cannot fake compassion. So be yourself. Love and care for people in the way others have loved and cared for you. It is okay to be vulnerable and to trust the people around you. You will leave a long-lasting impression through your compassion. Who you are is how you lead.

Your Leadership Legacy

So, how do you want to be remembered? Start today to design the legacy you want to leave. Step out with confidence. Develop your character, develop the potential in others, live a life of integrity, make courageous decisions, and be a person of compassion. As you do, people will learn to trust your actions and you will become more you God has created you to be. You will be remembered as a leader who helped others feel significant and empowered. 

This week, if not today, take a few moments to reflect on how you want to be remembered.

  • Compared to the way you are leading today, what behaviors need to change? 
  • What disciplines or patterns need to be established? 
  • What do you need to learn? 
  • What relationships do you need to develop? 
  • What do you need to do to create a leadership legacy that leaves something not for people, but leaves something in people? 

Who you are is how you lead. How do you want to be remembered? 

Leadership can be about doing the things that most other people don’t like doing. Confronting interpersonal conflict is one of those things. Whether it is called conflict resolution or conflict management you must address the tension head-on. When it comes to conflict, leadership is not easy. Here is another place I want to say, “Who you are is how you lead.”

Conflict and Disagreements

Abraham Lincoln once remarked that his father had taught him the value of hard work but had never succeeded in teaching him to enjoy it. I confess that I find myself with the same feeling when it comes to conflict and disagreements. To be honest, I like it best when people relate together in warm and harmonious ways. The psalmist says it best, “How good and pleasant it is when people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). Yet, after 47 years of ministry, I have come to the conclusion that such a harmonious state is not always possible or, at times, even desirable.

Barriers to Health

You and I have seen what happens when “being nice” becomes the mode of operation and “peace at any price” is sought out in the midst of conflict. Such actions do not lead to relational health. In fact, they inhibit any honest interaction in which real differences are shared and true fellowship is experienced. 

That is why I say I feel the way Lincoln felt about hard work. When it comes to conflict, I cannot say I “enjoy” it, but I do see its value. With that in mind, there are several insights that are necessary for courageous and effective leadership.

Conflict is Inevitable

First, conflict is inevitable. It is part of who we are as human beings, and it happens in every ongoing relationship. Because it is a part of who we are, it is an opportunity for growth and understanding, as well as change and improvement. It is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed. 

Think of it this way, we are created differently. You and I have different strengths, talents, and abilities. If we love and respect one another, there will be times we find ourselves in disagreement with one another. 

Diversity and Unity

In fact, if we take seriously the doctrine of the Trinity, there is individuality and diversity within the nature of God. There is a dynamic interaction between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is not surprising that a world created in the image of this kind of deity would be full of diversity. 

You and I do not think, feel, or act in the same way. This means there will be conflict between us when our differences interact. It also means there will be a richness and creativity that will emerge when we acknowledge our differences and love one another in the midst of our differences. Conflict is the price we pay for our individuality. It is inevitable.

Conflict Shapes Who We Are

Second, conflict shapes who we are. It is through conflict that we become more who God created us to be. Theologian Paul Tillich defined reality as “that which comes against, that which resists us.” It is through conflict that our individual natures are shaped. Conflict is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed.

Again, think of it this way. It is through encountering resistance that a child begins to distinguish the limits of her/his being. At first the world is an extension of themselves. But when the child pushes on the side of the crib and it does not move, or demands something from his/her parents, and they do not comply, the child experiences conflict. Without it, the true shape of the child’s personality would never be known. 

Disagreements Can Bring Clarity

You and I may not really know each other until we disagree. When I come up against something in you that is not the same as what is in me, then the shape of who you are begins to stand out clearly and distinctly against who I am. 

Our distinctiveness is neither good nor bad. It is just who we are. We each can love and respect each other for who we are and to move forward from there. Only then is there a chance for us to have real fellowship together. Conflict is a gift we receive that helps us love and respect one another as God has created us to be.

An Opportunity for Courageous Leadership

Third, conflict provides the opportunity to lead courageously. Conflict is a daily occurrence. Whether at home, at work, or within relationships, each occurrence is an opportunity to lead with courage and compassion. 

Remember, leadership is taking the responsibility for finding the potential in people and the courage of developing that potential. When conflicts arise, you can embrace the situation and the people involved. You work not only to address the problem, but you learn about your own leadership as you lead others through the adverse circumstances. Conflict is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed.

Tension Leads to Growth

As a leader, you see opportunities that others do not see. You assist others in growing in healthy relationships, because you know that the most authentic relationships do not truly begin until they experience some form of tension with each other. 

Think of it this way. In I John 1:5-7, John writes, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all…if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” 

This means that God is willing to be Godself in all openness. God, by nature, is transparent. God does not hide his uniqueness in darkness or in the shadows. Walking “in the light…” means practicing the same kind of authenticity and transparency. This is the only way you can have true fellowship with those entrusted to your care. You openly acknowledge the realities of the differences of the people around you and interact with them with honesty and clarity.

Courage to Lead

This is where your courage as a leader takes place because this way of leading and relating brings with it the possibility of conflict and disagreement. When two individuals who are not the same come down on opposite sides of things, you must have courage to be authentic and transparent. 

As I stated earlier, this is the price you pay for the kind of fellowship that grows out of honest interaction. It is inevitable. On the other hand, it is a gift that helps you lead with love and respect. It is not easy. Don’t try to avoid or minimize the conflict. See it as an opportunity to become the person and leader you were created to be. 

Your Next Step

This week, take a moment to reflect upon the conflict you are facing. As you focus upon the people involved, are you able to set aside your personal feelings? Are you able to listen to what is being said and to the feelings being expressed? As you listen, where can you work for positive and constructive change? 

Decide how you can best lead in the midst of the situation. Share your decision with a trusted friend. Offer your decisions and conversations to God and move forward with courage. You are not alone. Walk in the light and be who God created you to be. 

No matter how difficult, when you dare to lead with authenticity, working to transform conflict into healthy relationships, you will discover the fellowship God has intended for all God’s creation. 

Who you are is how you lead. 

Last week, in a county board of education meeting in Tennessee, the board voted to require masks for students, staff, and visitors in elementary school buildings and on all school buses. The vote came after a contentious 4-hour meeting that was frequently interrupted by anti-mask residents who were in attendance. 

The tension of the meeting spilled out into the parking lot. Two men, who were among the anti-mask contingent, directly threatened a doctor who testified in favor of the mandate. As the doctor was getting into his car, a man yelled, “We know who you are, and we know where to find you!” 

Another man yelled, “You will never be allowed in public again!”

Leading in the Midst of Crisis

I don’t know about you, but such events are unthinkable to me. Frankly, they are disturbing and disgusting. I’m not questioning the right or opportunity to express opinions, but I am questioning the actions of threatening, blaming, and shaming.

As I read that report, I began to think of you as a leader. How do you speak up and lead when you know the people entrusted to your care are conflicted in their thinking, angry in their speaking, and threatening in their actions? Too often the reaction to mask mandates and vaccines pushes aside public health and human dignity.  When there is an opportunity to think of others and to respond with care and compassion, the reaction is self-focused and filled with rage and intimidation. So, how do you lead in the midst of a crisis?

A Good Word

I don’t know how many churches there are in the Columbus metro area, but I do know there are over 200 United Methodist congregations in the Capitol Area Districts.  I also know that the people entrusted to your care wait in anticipation for a good word from you. Although the event referenced above was in Tennessee, you lead and serve people, in your central Ohio communities, who have similar feelings and opinions regarding masks, vaccines, and personal rights.

How do you lead courageously in the midst of a crisis? 

1.      Remember who you are and why you do what you do. 

You are a child of God, and you have the opportunity to let people experience God’s love and care in and through you. Your identity is shaped by who God is and not by your preferences. So, regardless of your personal feelings about masks, vaccines, and personal rights, you are thinking of what is best for the people around you, recognizing their potential, and assisting them to live into being who God has created them to be.   

As a courageous leader, who is a Jesus follower, your leadership is characterized more in the fruit you produce than in your opinions.  So, your life is not characterized as much by whether you agree or disagree with masks and vaccinations as it is by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).

With that in mind, it matters where you start.  You are a Jesus follower. Start there. You are a leader within a community of Jesus followers. Help people start with Jesus. This will take courage because some people will want to start thinking of themselves as “American” or “free” or “white” or “Republican” or “Democrat.” 

Starting anywhere other than Jesus separates us from one another. Starting anywhere other than Jesus, people perceive that their sense of self is being threatened. They feel insecure, powerless, and out of control. Sometimes people feel they must defend themselves and protect their rights.  At other times, people are not thinking in terms of relationships or character. Care and forgiveness are nowhere to be found. Remember who you are and why you do what you do because who you are is how you lead!

2.      Be a peacemaker. 

As a Jesus follower, you are identified as a child of God by your peacemaking. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). It is not always convenient to stand firm in faith. Courageous leaders face their fears, trusting and risking vulnerability because they know who they are.    

Too often leaders think that keeping the peace is more important than making peace.  Keeping peace often comes with keeping silent. If you don’t speak up, then you are keeping things peaceful. 

It is difficult to speak up when you know that most of the people around you are going the other way. But if you stand in fear and react out of emotion, you give power to what is not real and to what is not true. At any given time, people react out of fear.  At such times, silence is not an option.

It is easy to give in to your thoughts and feelings of uncertainty. But courageous leaders look beyond the immediate situation and circumstances. Things are not right with the world. What we are experiencing is more than differences in opinion, lack of knowledge, or poor communication.  It cannot be explained away as someone’s likes and dislikes. The struggle is real and dangerous.

At times like these, people are looking for a peacemaker, someone who leads with trust and confidence. They are looking for someone who can offer hope, not as wishful thinking, but as God’s preferred future of shalom. So, raise your voice and speak clearly.

  • Wear a mask – For your own health and out of care and compassion for others
  • Get vaccinated – For your own health and the well-being of others
  • Your right as a Jesus follower is to love others. Insisting on your own rights negates the love you have received in and through Jesus.

Be a peacemaker. Being a living child of God is not easy, but people will recognize and experience God’s love in and through you.  Who you are is how you lead!

3.      Be the leader needed for this time. 

You were created to lead at this time in history. You have been gifted with the strengths and abilities to lead courageously and effectively.  To be the leader you have been created to be, you will need to join hands, if not hearts, with people with whom you may not associate, agree, or understand. Model for your community and the world God’s design for all creation. Uncertainty and confusion can seem overpowering. Yet, God’s plan for creation is to bring order out of chaos.

It is not easy, but when you know who you are and why you do what you do, you can step up and lead with courage in troubled and uncertain times.  

Here are a few things to remember:

  • Do to others what you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31)
  • Love one another…By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:34)
  • Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 5:32).
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility regard others as more important than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
  • Love is patient, love is kind. It is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on getting its own way. It does not dishonor others. It is not easily angered or resentful and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not celebrate wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
  • Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Be imitators of God as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5:1-2)
  • Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. . . so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Difference Makers

When you come to the end of the day “having done everything” you can, stand firm, because you know that in the midst of all the confusion there is the presence of God. You have been created to lead for this moment. In whatever you face, you are standing firm on the promise, power, and victory of the Risen Christ.  Thanks be to God!

You can make a difference.  You and I know that we can’t do it alone and God is not going to do it for us. But you can be the leader needed in the midst of crisis when you open the door and invite God through Christ to enter in. To you, who has been created to lead at the time, the invitation remains, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Revelation 3:20).

In the midst of crisis, be the leader God has created you to be. This week, how will you model the love you have experienced in Jesus? In what situation or circumstance will you step up and lead with courage and grace? Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Final Reminders

Let me remind you that Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I have a conversation about Doing Hard Things. Listen to Episode 192 here. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Who you are is how you lead.

What do you do to relax? When you disconnect from work, what helps refresh your mind, renew your spirit, and refocus your attitude?  Do you engage in certain relaxation exercises? Do you participate in specific activities? How do you relax?

When I was asked that question recently, I thought of a long-time friend who says, “I work hard, and I play hard.” I have often compared myself to him when it comes to rest, relaxation, and play. He has been an effective leader and fruitful pastor, as well as an avid golfer and successful hunter. I have admired both his work and his play. Although I believe I have worked as hard as he has, I confess I have not played as hard. What I have learned is what my friend says is true for him but not necessarily for me.  

What do you do to relax?

As I thought of the question, I responded to the person asking, “I don’t have a hobby. I don’t hunt, fish, or golf. I really don’t do anything to relax.” Then the person challenged me by saying, “When you think about it, you might find you do more than you realize to rest and relax.”

At that point, I began to take a little inventory. I discovered that even though I don’t engage in some of the activities enjoyed by others, I do have several relaxation practices that work well for me. 

What does time off look like?

As I write this blog, I am preparing for a vacation. When I am asked where I’m going or what I’m doing on my vacation, I usually respond by saying, “I’m not going anywhere, and I hope to do nothing.” Again, I have compared myself to colleagues and friends when it comes to vacations. I know that there are places to go and monuments to see, but when I disconnect from work, I don’t want to replace work activities with another set of activities. Unless I am going to a beach or sitting by a pool, I am satisfied to sit on my patio. For me, I don’t have to have an elaborate itinerary to be on vacation and to relax. 

Questions to consider

So, when I was taking my rest and relaxation inventory, I asked myself this question, “Where have I experienced joy and peace in my life?” This is what I discovered: 

Memorable Experiences

One of my most memorable experiences of joy and peace was on, of all places, a golf course. Although I grew up golfing, it is not a relaxing activity for me. But on one occasion, I was golfing with my mother. It was one of the last times I was totally present with her before she became ill. Through that experience, I discovered that what brought me joy and peace was being present with someone I loved and not an activity in which I participated.  

Another memorable experience of joy and peace was on a lake, fishing with my son. Although I grew up fishing, it is not a relaxing activity for me. Yet, on this occasion, I experienced deep joy and peace watching and listening to him. I marveled at how he maneuvered his boat, his reasoning regarding where we should fish, the number of fish he caught as I listened to his dreams and hopes. I have not been fishing since that Father’s Day fifteen years ago, but I would go with him again just for the joy and peace I experienced that day. Again, I discovered that what brought me joy was not the activity in which I was engaged, but the person with whom I shared the experience.

What brings you joy?

I love baseball. l grew up listening and watching the Cincinnati Reds. As a young boy, I dreamed of going to Crosley Field, and later Riverfront Stadium. You can imagine how excited I was when I moved to Cincinnati and lived within 6 miles of Great American Ballpark. Although I could attend a ballgame any time I wanted, I did not go to many games. What I discovered, even though I loved the activity, it was not the activity that brought joy or peace. The games I enjoyed the most were games I attended with family or friends. Regardless of whether the Reds won or lost, what brought joy and peace was the interaction I had with the people I enjoyed and appreciated.  Even today, when I am watching a game on television or listening to a game on the radio, I enjoy the activity so much more when I am in a texting conversation with a friend, who is also watching or listening to the game. What I have discovered is, even with activities I like, it is the relationship with people I love and appreciate that brings joy and peace.

It is not so much the activities that bring me joy and peace as it is the people with whom I interact. I learned I find joy, peace, and relaxation with people who are special to me. Persons for whom I am grateful, who bring depth and richness to me as a person.  I discovered that there are individuals who bring an “at oneness” into my life. When I am with them, regardless of the activity, I experience wholeness and joy. 

What provides peace and relaxation?

But that is not all I discovered.  I do participate in some activities that provide peace and relaxation. Activities like: (Below are three)

Reading

Up until recently, I read books and material to help with sermon preparation, leadership development, or some other professional task or goal.  It was all good but did little to bring a sense of peace, joy, or relaxation.  Most recently, I started reading more for enjoyment as opposed to work. I have discovered a sense of excitement and renewal when I read for pleasure.  

Listening to music

I have always enjoyed music, but I have discovered that certain types of music at times provide relaxation and rest. Sometimes I find relaxation in listening to vocal music, whether it be hymns, show tunes, opera, or pop. At other times, I find relaxation in listening to instrumental music like the piano, the violin, or the orchestra. I wish I could tell you what works best for me. At this point, what I know is listening to music brings relaxation and rest. 

Walking

Eighteen months ago, I began to walk every day. I started walking to lose weight. When I reached my goal, I continued to walk because it helped me reflect and focus. What I especially enjoy is walking with a friend or a colleague. It is that “at oneness” again. I am refreshed and renewed when I walk, and I am enriched when I walk with those whom I enjoy. 

By taking a few minutes to focus and reflect upon what I do to rest and relax, I discovered I am most relaxed when I am at one with myself and when I am interacting with people whom I love and appreciate. The activities are good and necessary, but they are a means to my relaxation and not the cause of my relaxation.

Your Turn

So, what do you do to relax? When you disconnect from work, what helps refresh your mind, renew your spirit, and refocus your attitude?

I’m guessing you already have an idea. But, this week, I want you to take a few minutes to reflect and focus upon what you do to relax. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Where have I experienced joy and peace in my life?

2. Who are the people with whom I experience wholeness and joy?

3. When am I my most relaxed?  

4. With what I am learning, what will I do this week to relax? 

Now, in whatever form it takes for you, relax. You will become a more courageous and effective leader. Remember, who you are is how you lead.  

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. This week, 9 leaders are sharing their wisdom on rest, relaxation, and play. This is part 2 of a 2 part series. Tune in and listen to Episode 185: Best Wisdom on Rest, Relaxation, and Play. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

What are you doing to relax this week? 

I am not asking about your day off or your vacation. I am asking about what you are doing to reduce the stress and tension you experience off and on each day? Have you built in time for rest and relaxation? Have you taken time to breathe deeply and to refocus?

We all want to be the best we can be, but we cannot be our best if we do not take time to rest and relax. Research from the National Institute of Health links relaxation to healthy benefits like greater focus and concentration as well as improved problem-solving and memory. There is even evidence that relaxation leads to deeper and more meaningful relationships. As a leader, it is important to build rest and relaxation into your everyday living. 

Stress and Anxiety

You already know that being stressed out and anxious is not good for your health and that checking out of meetings is not helpful in leading people toward your ultimate goal. How many times have you heard that you should get a good night’s rest so you can face the next day? My guess is you know these things and being reminded of them is not always helpful. So, why not build in a few moments of relaxation into your day? 

As you think about whether you can or will add a little relaxation to your everyday living, here a few things to consider:

Leading effectively is hard work.

To do it well requires that you be alert, present, and thinking clearly. It requires energy and stamina. Stress and tension will not get there. Relaxation will.

You want to be the best leader you can be. The people entrusted to your care need and deserve your best leadership. Ask yourself, “I’m the best leader I can be without rest and relaxation? 

Navigating Stress and Tension

There is always going to be some stress and tension, but the right amounts at the right times can and will help you develop as a leader. You will grow and benefit more when you are relaxed, present in the moment, focused, and thinking clearly.

Find Potential

Leading effectively means you are finding the potential in people and helping them to develop that potential. Your job is to help them be who God has created them to be, so why would you put all the pressure and stress on yourself? It is not only about you. You are surrounded by people who want to learn and grow. Your stress will not help develop their potential. So, relax and enjoy the people God has put in your path. 

Your Work & Your Health

Your work is important, but not as important as your health. There are unhealthy physical conditions brought about by stress and tension. Conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension). It is a medical fact that a lack of relaxation can and does lead to heart, stomach, muscle, and emotional problems. Stress and tension have even led to dental problems. Time for rest and relaxation keeps you physically fit for the work you are created to do.

Observations of Leaders

People are watching you and how you lead. They are watching to see what they should be doing. Do they see a stressed-out overworked leader or a relaxed clear-thinking fun to be around leader? Are you stressing them out or are you leading the way to healthy and effective leadership?

I know this will sound strange and counterintuitive, but have you considered that slowing down so you can be the leader who is needed now? Who you are is how you lead. Below are five activities to help you slow down. Any one of these will help you rest and relax as well assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. 

1. Pray and Reflect

A pattern of prayer and reflection, with a focus on stillness and breathing, creates a sense of calm, peace, and balance that impacts your emotional well-being and overall health. Even if it is five minutes a day, it is one way that leads to relaxation. 

There is no “right” time to practice prayer and reflection but taking time in the morning to center your thoughts in prayer or making time in the evening for reflection, has worked well for me over most of my ministry.

2. Get outside

Being in nature helps to clear your head and improve your outlook on specific situations and on life in general. In a study conducted by the University of Essex, it was found that adults could lower their stress levels by simply looking at pictures of nature. Imagine how helpful it can be to experience nature firsthand by simply walking outside. 

Next time you are having difficulty staying present or hit a wall with a project, get outside and take a walk. Become aware of the air. Feel the breeze. Soak in the sunshine. Take notice of the colors. Listen to the sounds. Just a few minutes outside has rejuvenating benefits and boosts your mental energy. 

3. Exercise

Exercise helps control weight, improves mental health, boosts your mood, and increases your chances of living longer, while also building the strength of your bones and muscles. You experience a more restful sleep at night and less nervous energy during the day. To say it another way, physical activity makes you healthier and helps you release stress. It helps you become the best version of yourself. 

I know some of you have gym memberships and you exercise regularly. I know others of you feel like you do not have the time to exercise. Just know, a short walk three or four times a week has significant health and attitude benefits. The more exercise you add, and the time you permit yourself to exercise, the healthier you will be.

4. Take a break

Well-planned breaks can help you relax, lower blood pressure, and assist you in becoming a more effective leader. Just a 10-minute break when you step away from your computer, set down your phone, step outside, take a walk, talk with a friend, or get a drink of water helps your brain rest, switch gears, and restore your concentration and focus. 

I know it sounds simplistic, but a short break is a form of relaxation that provides renewed focus and greater energy, especially if you are having difficulty staying awake when you need to focus and be present in the moment. 

5. Focus on what brings you joy

Joy-filled activity helps to slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your stress level. When you focus upon your joy you are giving your senses a chance to rest and recharge.

Your Health & Multitasking

Too often, without thinking about it, you engage multiple senses in multimedia formats. Sometimes multitasking is not a healthy exercise, because before you realize it, you are on visual and information overload. There is power in simply slowing down to experience and enjoy the moment, especially if you are focusing upon what brings you joy. 

Whether it be listening to music, reading a book, interacting with your children, or in conversation with your spouse or a good friend, the focus upon what brings you joy brings a sense of peace and relaxation. 

Intentionally scheduling moments of relaxation could be the very thing that frees you to become the leader you are created to be. Schedule one relaxation exercise this week and add another next week and another the next week. Try each one and discover what a difference they can make in your living and in your leadership. Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

What Will You Do to Relax This Week?

So, relax and become a more courageous and effective leader. The questions are: what are you doing to relax this week? Which of the above activities will you incorporate in your leadership? 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. This week, 7 leaders are sharing their wisdom on rest, relaxation, and play. You’ll hear from 9 more next week. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

We are living in a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. It is a critical time in the life of our country, our communities, and our churches. It is a time that calls for courageous leadership. This is the time for you to be the leader you were created to be. To step up and be the leader needed for this time, you must be in tune with yourself, because who you are is how you lead. 

A Few Reminders

We are in a two-part series on Leading Through Racial Unrest. In part one, you were asked to reflect upon the question, “How did I first learn about race?” You were asked that question because much of the way we view the events that take place around us and what we believe about the people with whom we interact has been shaped by the attitudes and behaviors of the people in our lives. So, to recognize your condition, or why you believe what you believe, or react the way you react is essential to leading courageously in the midst of racial and social unrest. 

In part one we explored an understanding of what racism is and what we believe as Jesus followers. What we know is the reality of racism is perpetuated in powerful ways. It comes through the clash of nations and races. It comes through the differences of cultures and politics. It comes through the assumptions we make about one another. It comes through the experiences we have and the teaching and modeling we have received from those who have gone before us. Racism is passed on when we teach our children what to believe about race. 

If you want to catch up quickly, you can read Part One or you can take a few minutes to do the following: Answer this question: “How did I first learn about race?” Write your thoughts down so that you can get a clear understanding of your first awareness and learnings. What experiences do you remember? Who was involved? What happened to leave an impact upon your memory?

Am I Willing?

Now, after you have an understanding of what racism is and how you first learned about race, you have another question to answer regarding leading courageously in and through racial and social unrest. It is the most important question regarding your leadership. The question is, “Am I willing to be transformed by the love of God?” Let me be clear, if your answer is “no”, there is no reason to continue reading this blog. If your answer is “yes”, then continue reading to become the leader needed for this time and place in history. 

With what you have learned or are learning about your condition is key to our hope in addressing the evil of racism. If you are ready and willing to be transformed by the love of God, read on. 

Biblical Foundations

My point in writing this next section is to lay a biblical foundation for courageous leadership. I am not writing to present a political point of view or to debate the meaning of certain passages of scripture. It is simply to lay a foundation for you and for me to answer the question, “Am I willing to be transformed by the love of God?”

There are several things we know beyond any doubt. Things that are not even debatable. Each statement is found in the scripture and is plain in its meaning. There are many passages throughout the bible. 

Old Testament 

Here are just three passages from the Old Testament:

  • Every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
  • When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34)
  • Be careful when you pass judgment. You aren’t dispensing justice by merely human standards but for the Lord, who is with you. Therefore, respect the Lord and act accordingly, because there can be no injustice, playing favorites (II Chronicles 19:6-7).

New Testament

In the New Testament, every chance Jesus gets, he says and shows that every person matters to God and is a person of worth. Regardless of who the person is or what the person has done, he teaches and demonstrates that all people are equal in the sight of God. 

We have stories throughout the gospels of Jesus demonstrating the love of God. Do you remember the conversation he had with the woman from Samaria? She was at the well to draw water. Jesus asks her for a drink. She is the one who points out the racial divide. She says to Jesus, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink when Jews don’t associate with Samaritans?” Before the conversation is over Jesus has given her hope that will change her life. Why? Because Jesus will not let a racial divide keep anyone from hearing the good news of God’s grace. He will not allow a racial divide to get in the way of loving people. 

Jesus Bridges Racial Divide

Jesus was and still is the bridge of the great racial divide on this earth. Read the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 2:14-20). Paul tells the people in Ephesus that Christ broke down the racial barriers on the cross. His statement came in the midst of a deep racial divide between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews hated the Gentiles. They called Gentiles dogs. They saw Gentiles as less than human. The Gentiles felt the same way about the Jews. They saw themselves as superior in culture and in language over the Jews. 

These two groups of people, who hated each other, God brought together to be the Church. It was the experience of God’s love that brought hope in the midst of hatred. Jesus taught love for all people. He demonstrated love for all people. His love was greater than human differences. The presence of God’s love in Jesus, lived out in and through the people called the church, was greater than historical, social, cultural, and racial differences. 

Our Hope is in Jesus

Where is our hope as a country? As a culture? As a Church? It is in the love of God found in Jesus. He is the bridge over the great racial divide in which you and I live today. 

I just heard one of you scoff. I just heard you say, “this is not realistic.” I want you to hear me clearly, God’s love for God’s creation is the only way we have not attempted to answer the racial divide we face today.

The Answer is NOT…

The answer to racism is not in the political workings of a nation, though politics are important to getting things done. Political leverage has never transformed a heart. It has shaped attitudes and behaviors to the extent we get what we want. It creates lots of rhetoric and even incites fear, but the political power and persuasion of groups of people is not the answer to racism. If it was the answer, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. 

The answer to racism is not about our laws. Laws about equality are good, but laws don’t transform hearts. Jesus transforms hearts. Jesus can take a heart of hate and make it a heart of love. Jesus can bring enemies together to start a movement that transforms the world. Laws do not start such movements. In fact, many laws try to keep such movements from getting started. If laws were the answer to racism, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. 

The answer to racism is not about training. Even though it is wonderful and each of us needs the training to respect and understand difference , to be empathetic, to not put people down or dismiss them, to understand different cultures, and to be tolerant of others, our hope is not in the training. Our hope is not even about tolerance. It is not about good behavior. Hear me, both are important and are needed. If training were the answer, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. The answer is in the living and loving transforming power of Jesus Christ. 

Are you willing?

To move forward, my question is still the same, “Are you willing to be transformed by the love of God?” 

As Jesus followers, we know that the way to life is the way of love. Because love is the way, then leading through racial unrest is based upon allowing ourselves to be loved by God in and through the people around us. To love God and to love your neighbor are related to understanding yourself being loved. No matter who you are or what you think and do, you are loved. It is God’s decision to love, so if God loves you and all the people around you, then love yourself and all the people too. 

Bishop Michael Curry, in his book The Power of Love, writes that loving God and loving neighbor are based on a conviction that God knows what God “is talking about.” With that conviction he tells the following story:

I was a parish priest in Baltimore, and our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was probably three years old. My wife went off to teach school, and I think our oldest daughter went off with her. It was up to me to take the young one to nursery school. So, I said, “Elizabeth, I need you to go and put your raincoat on.”

And she looks back at me, at three years old now. Mind you, I am the rector of St. James Church, the third oldest African American church in the Episcopal Church. A historic church, the church that gave you Thurgood Marshall and Pauli Murray. Yes, this is a serious church, and I’m the rector talking to this little three-year-old person. I said, “Elizabeth, go put your raincoat on.” And she said, “Why?”

I said, “Because it’s going to rain.” She ran to the window in the living room, and looked out the window and said, “But it’s not raining outside. I said, “I know that, but it’s gonna rain later.” She said, “Mommy didn’t say it was gonna rain.” I said, “I know Mommy didn’t say it was gonna rain, but Al Roker on the Today show said it was gonna rain.” I tried to explain to her about weather forecasting, and showed her the newspaper. And I finally said, “Why am I doing all this? Elizabeth, just go and put your raincoat on!”

She actually thought she knew better than I did. I spent more time in seminary than she’s even been on the earth. And she actually thought she knew more than I did. And it occurred to me that must be what we look like to God. 

Bishop Curry continues, “I have this fantasy of God putting his hands on his cosmic hips and just saying, ‘They are so cute! They think they know so much, but don’t they know that I was the one that called this world into being in the first place? Don’t they know that I created the vast expanse of interstellar space? Don’t they know that I told old Moses, Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land, and you tell old Pharaoh, let my people go? Don’t they know that I’m the author of freedom? Don’t they know that I’m the creator of justice? Don’t they know that I’m the God of love? Don’t they know that I came down as Jesus to show them the way of love, to show them the way to life, to show them how to live together? Don’t they know how much I love them?’” 

God’s Transforming Love

On the day of Pentecost, God’s love was fully proclaimed and experienced. People were filled with the Holy Spirit. Another way of saying this is, people were filled with God’s presence and God’s power or by God’s transforming love. 

People from every nation under heaven were gathered. It was the greatest ethic, racial, and cultural division to ever gather. And the coming of the Holy Spirit, God’s transforming love, on that day brought unity to the greatest diversity imaginable. 

The answer to racism that day, on the day of Pentecost was the Holy Spirit. God’s holy presence and power. God’s transforming love. 

The answer to racism today is the Holy Spirit. God’s holy presence and power. God’s transforming love. 

The Same Love

We are the church, the body of Christ, the bringers of the love of God to a racially divided world. The same love that came to us in a baby, the same love that was shown to us on a cross, the same love that came in and through the Holy Spirit. 

So, are you willing to be transformed by the love of God? You were created to lead at such a time as this. As a Jesus follower filled with the love of God, you are what the love of God looks like in the 21st century. You are the answer to racism. By God’s grace, you can lead a movement of Jesus followers who will change the world. Filled with God’s love, you are a bringer of hope in the midst of racial unrest. Who you are is how you lead!

Your Next Step

This week, what is one thing you will do to show the love of God? Who will you contact? What action will you take? If you are unsure, contact me. It is the greatest joy of my life to introduce you to God’s transforming love in Jesus and get you started on the path of putting an end to racism.

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I present some ways you might rest, relax, and play. Join us for Episode 182 for a fun episode about Ingredients for Joy and Meaning. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Have you sensed the excitement of the people around you as the directives of the pandemic are being loosened? People are ready to get back to gathering. Whether it is with family, neighborhoods and playgrounds, schools and churches, weddings, graduations, birthday parties, reunions, funerals, etc., people are ready to get back to the community aspects of their lives. 

Before the pandemic, community life consumed most of our time.  Our interactions with one another influenced the way we thought and felt about the world and each other. We came together to exchange information, to inspire one another, and to develop relationships that brought a deep richness and joy to our lives. 

Community

Over the past year, the absence of gathering in community groups and activities has left a void that many people are ready to fill. Because people are hungry and yearning for the relationships of community, you have a unique opportunity to develop and nurture the social interactions people are missing. You were created to lead at this point and time in history. So, how will you lead? There might be other choices or alternatives, but the way I perceive it, you will either slide into the way things were before the pandemic or you will lead into a new way of living and loving. 

Remember, community is about the interrelatedness of people. It’s about belonging to something larger than ourselves. It helps people say, “I am a valued part of this body and have contributions to make”. The essence of community is a feeling of being in relationship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals centered in Jesus.  

With that in mind, I am assuming that you want to lead people into relationships that bring value and joy to their lives. So, how can you take advantage of this opportunity? Below are three questions to help bring clarity to your leading. 

1.What is the purpose of your gathering? 

To nurture community, you must keep your purpose or your mission in mind.  Your purpose becomes your plumb line for your decisions. 

Maybe you could think of it this way: We gather to worship. We gather to solve problems and make decisions. We gather to celebrate, to mourn, and to mark transitions. We gather because we need one another. We gather to honor and to acknowledge. We gather to strengthen our schools and neighborhoods. We gather to welcome, and we gather to say goodbye. There are many good reasons for coming together as a community, but too often we don’t know why we are getting together. What could happen if you looked at each gathering as an opportunity to focus upon your purpose?    

You nurture community by bringing meaning to your gathering. Without a focus upon why you are getting together, you end up meeting in ways that don’t connect with or nurture the people entrusted to your care. 

IRL Example

Let’s say the purpose of your community is to grow Jesus followers who live, and love like him.  Your Finance committee is gathering for their regular meeting. What is the purpose of their gathering? If you say the committee is meeting to oversee the finances of the church, to pay the bills, and to discuss ways to raise revenue, you would be correct in that is what they do. To focus only upon what they do without the plumb line of your purpose, people begin to solve all the problems of the church. They begin to talk about the people who only take but never give. The idea of scarcity sets in and they begin to protect the assets of the community. There is an uneasiness and tension which tears at the fabric of trust and compassion. 

I think you would agree, that is not the purpose of the Finance committee. You nurture community by leading the Finance community in developing the relationships that help people grow as Jesus followers who live, and love like him. So, as the leader, how do you take advantage of the opportunity? Could you introduce a devotional moment focused on scripture? Have members of the group answer a question like, “Who was someone who was influential in you becoming a follower of Jesus?” Or have members pray specifically for one another? 

You already know you can do the same with any group that meets. The question is, how will you take advantage of these opportunities to nurture relationships. 

Explore the blog and podcast page to explore examples of how others are leading and loving in a new way. (Note: Episodes 159 – 162 of Leadercast are all about Purpose.) The point is there are resources to assist you in developing and putting into action a plan for living into your purpose. 

2. Who are the people involved in your gathering?

To nurture community, you build up and equip the people entrusted to your care. People are your greatest resource. 

Every group is made up of different individuals who work for a common purpose. As the leader, you look for the potential in each person and you develop that potential. You not only recognize their strengths and gifts, but you also realize that a diversity of strengths and differences in ability are crucial for the health of the group.  

Each person has unique strengths and gifts for the good of the community. Individuals might find pleasure and joy in their specific gifts, but the gifts are given to the group. As a leader, you have the opportunity to assist in discovering and developing the strengths and gifts of the group. To put it another way, you have the opportunity to lead people into becoming who God has created them to be. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, wrote it this way, “…until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of God” Ephesians 4:13.

According to Paul, Jesus understood the importance of building up and equipping people.  From his perspective, the people nurtured by Jesus were the foundation stones of his movement, “some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 14:11). Each person was given unique gifts to enhance the community of followers.  The gifts were given not only for the enjoyment of the recipients but for the purpose of having all people become who God had created them to be.

Building Up and Equipping People

By building up and equipping the people entrusted to your care, you can find pleasure in developing their strengths and capabilities. There is satisfaction in finding the potential in others, treating even difficult people with dignity and compassion.

Maybe you will consider this. Jesus saw great potential in his disciples. The potential that might have been overlooked by others, was developed by Jesus investing his life in them.  Barnabas did the same in his relationship with Saul. He worked to develop that potential until he had the pleasure of seeing Saul become Paul (Acts 11:1-14:28). Paul did the same with Onesimus (Philemon 1-25). Consider the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 and Paul’s emphasis upon building up the lives of others in II Timothy 2:2

People are your greatest resource. Who are the people entrusted to you? In whom will you invest your life so they and you will become who God has created you to be? 

Sara Thomas can assist you in discovering the strengths of the people entrusted to you.

3. How will you model the love of God with the people around you? 

Jesus told his followers to love one another in the same way he loved them. This was a new and different kind of love. You live this love by:

  • Being quick to listen and slow to speak. You elevate the importance of a person when you take them seriously by listening. It is important for people to know that you care enough to listen to them.
  • Being patient and slow to anger. Regardless of how unkind and hurtful people might be, you show the same patience with others as God has shown to you.
  • Being kind. You build meaningful relationships when you are kind. Being kind helps with connection and cooperation, as well as trust and well-being.
  • Being generous. You are slow to pass judgment and quick to offer grace. You freely offer space and time for people to be who they have been created to be. Ask questions like “How can I help you?” or “What do you need from me to do what you need to do?”  

Showing Love

The early followers of Jesus showed love in everything they did.  For them, to love God and to love the people around them was the motivation for everything. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Everything should be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:14 CEB).

If you need assistance in living in the love experienced in and through Jesus, invite 3 to 5 people to join you once a week for an hour to discover and discuss what it means to live in a relationship with one another. Remember, at the heart of our relationships is the love of God we know in and through Jesus. Jesus is our common bond and it is greater than anything or anyone else.  It is the love of God who draws us into community and who loves us in and through each other. 

Again, you can explore blog posts and podcast episodes to encourage and guide you. In fact, this section on “How will you model the love of God with the people around you?” is directly from two blog posts: One Never-Before Opportunity to Lead and One Thing More Important Than Mission.

People are hungry and yearning for the relationships they have missed over the past year. You have a unique opportunity to develop and nurture those relationships for this point and time in history. So, how will you lead? Will you slide into the way things were before the pandemic or lead to a new way of living and loving? 

Who you are is how you lead. What is one thing you will do this week to help you lead into this new way of living and loving?

Reminders

As I have mentioned throughout this blog, when you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I continue our conversation with April Casperson, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the West Ohio Conference. This will be Part 2 of our conversation of working better across differences.   

If you want to build community, or deepen community connections, join us for Episode 179. If you have not been a regular LeaderCast listener, you will want to start with this episode. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.  

Over the past year, in the midst of a pandemic, you have done some amazing things. You have kept yourself and the people you are leading focused upon the mission. You have learned new ways of doing important things. You have identified obstacles and navigated around them. You have even discovered and developed the potential in people who have stepped up to serve. Well done! 

As you reflect upon what you have accomplished, what would you say has been the most important thing you have done as a leader? Now, you might not agree with me, but as I look at it, the most important thing you have done is nurture community. 

What Does It Mean to Nurture Community?

Community is about the interrelatedness of people. It’s about belonging to something larger than ourselves. It helps people say, “I am a valued part of this body and have contributions to make”. The essence of community is a feeling of being in relationship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals centered in Jesus. 

Through a stressful time of disconnection, you have been a catalyst to holding people together. You have done more than manage people and coordinate events. You have nurtured community.

What does it mean to nurture community?    

Agape

To answer that question, let’s start with the biblical image of “agape”. Although “agape” is not a word we used in our everyday language, it is a concept found in the New Testament of the Bible. It is a Greek word, rarely found in the non-Christian Greek literature, used to describe the distinct kind of love found in the community of Jesus followers. It is the love embodied in the life and ministry of Jesus. This kind of love is at the heart of Christian community.  

Agape defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for us, all of us, as human beings. It is God’s ongoing, outgoing, self-sacrificing interest and concern for creation. God loves you, me, humanity, and all creation without condition. 

To put it another way, this love is not contingent on any value or worth of the object being loved. It is spontaneous and does not consider beforehand whether love will be effective or proper. It is the extension of God’s love lived out in and through our relationships with each other. 

Agape love is: 

More than an emotion. 

It is the highest form of love described and experienced in the Bible. As much as I like Hallmark Christmas movies, the love that holds the community together is not a Hallmark movie love. As much as we talk about the church being a family, this love is greater than friends and family. In fact, this love is greater than race, color, or belief.

More than unity. 

As much as I dislike conflict, this love is not about “getting along” with one another. Sometimes, for the sake of unity, we set this love aside and become nice instead of loving. It is in the midst of our differences and disagreements that this love is the source of our relationships. The purpose of the early church was not unity but agape, the love of God as experience in Jesus.

More than transactional. 

Too many times we talk of loving others so we can save their souls, get them into the church, or meet our budgets. This love is greater than our institutional concerns.  We love because God in Christ first loved us.  Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This love is about being who God created us to be for no other reason that being who God created us to be.

Expressed through action. 

Too often we talk about love and loving others but are slow to live the love we talk about. John, in his first letter wrote, “Those who say, ‘I love God’ and hate their brothers or sisters are liars. After all, those who don’t love their brothers or sisters whom they have seen can hardly love God whom they have not seen! This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also” (I John 4:19-21).

I have a friend who tells of when his son came into his office one day and said, “Dad, can we go to the park and practice ball today?” My friend said he was busy and told his son they would go later. His son came to him everyday that week asking him to go to the park and practice ball. It so happened that every time his son came to him, he could not go to the park at that moment. At the end of the week, the boy came to him again, “Dad, can we go to the park today?” My friend replied that they could go later. It was at this point that the boy looked at his father and said, “Dad, we have been talking about going to the park all week.  When are we going to do it?”

A different kind of love. 

Jesus told his followers to love one another in the same way he loved them. This was a new and different kind of love. You live this love by:  

Listening

You are quick to listen and slow to speak. You elevate the importance of a person when you take them seriously by listening. It is important for people to know that you care enough to listen to them. Too often, in conversations, we are forming our responses and interrupting before the other person finishes speaking.  As important as your position and opinion might be, it is more important to listen, especially to those with whom you disagree.

Being Patient

You are slow to anger. You are patient with people more than patient with circumstances. Regardless of how unkind and hurtful people might be, you show the same patience with others as God has shown with you. The patience of love always wins.

Being Kind

On one hand, you are quick to compliment and to affirm, and on the other hand, you are clear with feedback. You build meaningful relationships when you are kind. Being kind helps with connection and cooperation, as well as trust and well-being.

Being Generous

You are slow to pass judgment and quick to offer grace. You freely offer space and time for people to be who they have been created to be. So, when people don’t move as fast as you, you are generous with “they are doing the best they can do.” Then you ask, “How can I help you?” or “What do you need from me to do what you need to do?” Being generous means, you are providing what is at the time. 

This love is so important, that the early followers of Jesus showed love in everything they did.  For them, to love God and to love the people around them was motivation for everything. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Everything should be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:14 CEB). Agape love is the essence of God. So, it makes sense to love one another as God has loved us. 

With that in mind, there is one thing more important than the mission. Without it, there is no mission and there is no church.

One Thing More Important

Fred Craddock tells the following story, “I was walking one afternoon, and I passed a corner where a man was doing something that fascinated me.  I stopped my walk and watched him.  He had a pile of bricks, and the thing he was doing was measuring each brick; how long it was, how wide it was, and how deep it was.  He threw a bunch of good-looking bricks out.  He said, “I have to get them all exactly the same.” 

I asked, “Why?” 

He said, “I’m building a church and I want it to stand.” 

Craddock said, “There are people who think that the way to really have a church is to get people that are from the same economic and social and educational background, then they will all be together.”  He said, “The man started stacking those brinks; they were all just alike.  I went by the next afternoon, and they were all just piles of brick.  They fell down.” 

I went on around the corner, and I saw a man with a pile of rocks.  You have never seen such a mess in your life.  No two of them alike, round one, dark ones, small ones, big ones, and little ones.  I said, “What in the world are you doing?” 

He said, “I’m building a church.” 

I said, “You are nuts!  The fellow around the corner had them all alike, and he couldn’t make it stand.” 

He said, “This will stand.” 

“No, it won’t.  It won’t stand.” 

“Yes, it will.” 

Craddock said, “You can’t get it to stand.  The fellow around the corner… 

The man said, “It will stand.” 

The man went over to a wood tray, took something like a hoe, and began to stir something back and forth.  It looked a lot like cement to me, but that’s not what he called it.  He put healthy doses of that between the stones.  I went back thirty-four years later, and it was still there.  It was that stuff in between that looked a lot like cement that made the difference.  That’s not what he called it.  But you know what it’s called. 

There is one thing more important than mission. You know what it is, don’t you? Let me know what difference it makes in how you lead within your community.

Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

A Reminder

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I continue our discussion on “community” with our guest, Christ Wiseman. Chris is the pastor of the Marne, Smith Chapel, and Perryton United Methodist Churches. If you have not been a LeaderCast listener, I invite you to join us for Episode 177. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.