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Over the past two weeks, I have shared information about the challenges of navigating conflicting values and polarization. Last week we left off with “know your values, be honest about your context, and lead people toward your goal”. Sounds simple enough, but it is not as simple as it sounds. I asked you to reflect upon: Being vulnerable, developing self-control, being generous, and showing care. With that in mind, I want to focus on how best to navigate the challenges.  

Through a “Question and Answer” format, Sara Thomas and I want to offer some insights to help equip you to be the leader you have been created to be. We want to offer some guardrails to help you navigate the challenges (If you are joining this conversation with this blog, I encourage you to go back and read the two previous blogs, “Who You Are Is How You Lead” and “Who You Are Is How You Lead Part 2”). 

Question 1

Tim:  

Let’s get specific regarding being vulnerable. I have heard friends and colleagues say things like, “I’ve repeatedly been told by family members (and church members) that I’m wrong about wearing masks or about COVID-19. Some conversations have been hurtful. And if I’m honest, some words and insinuations come close to being hateful. You want me to be vulnerable with them?” Sara, what does it mean to be vulnerable within that context? 

Sara:

Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is agree to disagree. You may not be able to be vulnerable with your brother in law about politics or faith.  Can you practice vulnerability around your nieces and nephews? Your sibling? Parents? About work? The hobby you’re both learning?  

And one more thing, vulnerability isn’t bleeding all over people. That’s a medical emergency. Vulnerability is the emotion we feel during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. Know this: vulnerability necessitates trust. To build trust necessitates vulnerability. Where one is lacking, neither will happen. My encouragement is this: practice naming when you feel vulnerable. That’s the first step. Then take a second step.  

As I coach leaders, I often see when we’re stuck, we’re trying to address the whole challenge. Instead, ask yourself, what CAN I do? What’s the baby step, first step, or starting point to get moving? Said differently, don’t try and run the marathon before you’ve run to the corner.

Question 2a

Tim:

I have heard leaders ask the question, “When is enough, enough? How much do I have to tolerate?” I get the feeling there are times we want to just let go and give people a piece of our minds, or to let them have it. Let’s take a current example of wearing masks inside the church building. What does it mean to “develop self-control?”

Sara:

Self-control is a fruit of the spirit. So, you’re not off base in encouraging it in leaders. And, as you encouraged leaders to remember, “who they are is how they lead” you pointed to values, goals, and current reality. Say more about mask-wearing because I feel like there is a question behind the question.  

Question 2b

Tim: Well, let’s take the person or group of persons who refuse to wear a mask.

Sara: Ok, that’s where I thought you were going. But I wanted to hear it from you. 

I don’t know that any of us can say, “I am going to have self-control” and it just happens. You have self-control because it’s tied to something that is important. When it comes to disagreements about masks, as silly as it seems to some, people are getting information from different places to inform their decisions. So, in one sense, it’s complex. In another sense, it’s a simple act of compassion and care. Self-control comes into play by asking yourself, is it worth fighting over where you get your information. Or is it more important to love and care for others? If it’s so important to you to be right and that takes priority over loving others, I’d invite you to ask yourself what is your primary value? Then, invite the person with whom you’re in conversation to do the same. Then, you’ll begin to understand what’s motivating the actions. Without that, you’re going to continue to test one another’s patience and at some point, someone will likely lose self-control.  

Question 3

Sara:

I remember saying to you, “What’s the most generous interpretation you can make of this situation?” It’s a question about one aspect of building trust. Several months later, you talked about making a decision to ask that question. Because we have lots of conversations, I don’t expect everything we talk about to be acted upon. What made you embrace the above question and begin to integrate it into how you lead?   

Tim:

As leaders, we often encounter people who disagree with us, who disappoint us, and who say one thing and do another. Our tendency is to go to the worst-case scenario. Because I was going to the worst place I could go, I asked myself the question, “Is this where I begin as a follower of Jesus?” I realized the worst-case scenario was NOT the best place to start. Instead, I chose to love people as Jesus loves me. That is where I wanted to begin. As annoying as the question seemed at one point, it’s where I start now.

Sara:

So, it was a conscious decision you made to ask the question, “What’s the most generous interpretation I can make?  

Tim:  

Yes. 

Sara:

Has that question been easy to answer in the midst of disagreements and disappointments?

Tim:  

Easy? No. 

Loving? Yes. 

It’s been a helpful way to reframe what I was initially thinking and to start in a more loving place with people. It is the way I took another step toward becoming the person and the leader God created me to be.

Sara:

What’s another way you show generosity? 

Tim:  

By care and compassion. 

Sara:

What do care, and compassion look like? 

Tim: 

One way it works for me is not to dehumanize people. I don’t want to make people my enemy. If I have a disagreement with someone, I want to have a face-to-face conversation with him or her. It is in the conversation that we can find common ground and at the very least connect as humans. What I have discovered is, there are times that the care and compassion I extend to others by listening ends up being care and compassion for myself. 

Sara:

How? 

Tim: 

Well, if I make a decision that the person I’m in disagreement with is a child of God, I’m choosing to love one of God’s children. To love that person as God has loved me. At the end of the day, if I’ve responded in love, then I know I have done what I can – whether or not that person ever agrees with me. By loving, I am not only being who God created me to be, but I am modeling unselfish compassion and care. 

Your Next Step: Who You Are is How You Lead

So, how are you doing? The question and answers offered above are intended to be a guide for you as you continue to lead during a time of conflict and confusion. Remember, be clear regarding your purpose in life and love others as God in Christ has loved you. Who you are is how you lead.

Let me remind you again, you are not alone. 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 the LeaderCast podcast and the show notes. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. You’ll find resources and questions to guide you in living into your purpose. It’s one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021.

Who you are is how you lead. Let’s face the challenges of leadership together.  

Over the past several weeks you have been navigating the waters of conflicting values. Whether it has been the civil and political unrest, the numbers of people dying from COVID-19, or the displays of racism and white supremacy, the conflicts keep coming as angry waves in the midst of a storm. 

At best it is surreal and overwhelming.  At worst it is numbing and paralyzing.           

How do you care for people and lead during such upheaval and conflict? To answer that question, you must be clear regarding your values. 

Who you are is how you lead. 

Differentiate Yourself as a Jesus Follower

As a follower of Jesus, how do you differentiate yourself when you encounter people of different values?  To care for and lead the people entrusted to your care, you must know your values. Last week I asked you to look deep within to discover what values motivate you. 

To care for and lead the people entrusted to your care, you must be honest about your current reality. Last week I asked you to make an honest assessment of your current reality. To navigate the waters of conflicting values, you need to know yourself and know your context. This is where we stopped last week. 

So, let’s continue with naming another part of current reality. 

Know current reality. Be truthful about your context. 

Prolonged hatred leads to dehumanization. 

Dehumanization is the act of seeing a person as inferior, uncivilized, or less than human. This happens when feelings of hatred developed toward an individual become redirected toward the entire group that person belongs to.

When you see others as less than human, you rationalize violence, cruelty, and hate by comparing persons to animals. Individuals who would never murder another person find it easy to kill a “subhuman” enemy. Especially when you can shoot first and ask questions later.

When someone says “Black Lives Matter,” if you immediately want to dismiss it because you feel you are being left out or, even worse, you are elevating black persons to the same level you are, pause and check yourself.

What happened to “loving one another as I have loved you”? If you say, “Oh, that doesn’t mean everyone, only humans.” Once again, check yourself. Remember, who you are is how you lead.

Harboring Hate, Feeling Powerless

Hatred leads to a desire for revenge or to take action against a perceived threat. Some people harbor hatred for others, become energized by it, and express it through violent acts. 

I have learned that such people feel powerless. 

Rather than facing their anxiety they project it negatively upon another person or group of persons. They attach themselves to someone who they perceive has power.  Then, all in the name of power, they blindly follow the dictates of that person. To say that hatred can have you do some crazy things is an understatement.

There is little self-awareness, vulnerability, or empathy. This is the one big mistake that people motivated by hatred make. 

The power is not in strength. The power is in vulnerability.  

After all, it is the vulnerable act of Jesus dying on a cross that saves us. The power is in the new life brought about through vulnerability. Who you are is how you lead. 

Know where you are going. 

This is your mission or goal. For the sake of this article:

  • Create, equip, and resource a community of Jesus followers where radical love is practiced in acts of kindness and compassion; a community of relationships where love transcends cultural and racial division. When talking about such community and relationships, G.K. Chesterton put it this way, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” 
  • Create, equip, and resources a community of Jesus followers where poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated; where racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of relationships to all people; where love and trust will be vulnerable in the midst of fear and hatred; and where there will be peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation of adversaries.

Dr. Martin Luther King said it this way, “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men (people).” 

That sounds like a lofty goal, but it is the description of the kingdom of God. Isn’t God’s love our goal? Know your values, be honest about your context, and lead people toward the goal. 

A Few Reminders

Be vulnerable.

You have a right to protect yourself and your family. You don’t have the right to take human life. As a citizen of this country, you can stand your ground. As a citizen of the human race, you do not have the right to take a human life. Who you are is how you lead.

Develop self-control

Don’t use hurtful harmful words but helpful words, the kind that build-up and do good to those who hear them. It matters what you say and how you say it. What is on the inside will find its way to the outside. Who you are is how you lead.

Be generous

As a leader, you will encounter people who disagree with you, who disappoint you, and who say one thing and do another. Be generous in your response to persons. Considering the situation. Are they doing the best they can? How can you assist persons in becoming who they were created to be? Who you are is how you lead.

Show care

As difficult as it is, love the people around you as you have been loved. Be creative and commit yourself to be a model of unselfish compassion and service. Who you are is how you lead. 

I’ll have more to say about the above themes next week. Until then, reflect on what I’ve shared above. Know that each theme has boundaries. Knowing who you are is about defining expectations. I’ve outlined some expectations of Christian leaders in this two-part series. Next week, I’ll share more about boundaries.  

An Invitation

Please know you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. If these expectations leave you recognizing you need support to lead in this way, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to come alongside you as you deepen your understanding of courageous, faithful leadership.

Another place to begin is by listening to the LeaderCast podcast.

This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. (See Episodes 159, 160, 161 and next week, episode 162). This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.

How are you doing today? Since I last checked, you have celebrated the hope of Advent and the joy Christmas. You ended the unbelievable year of 2020 and started a new year with expectation and resolve. I am assuming the events of the past week were not part of your plan for the new year. So, I am checking on you. How are you doing? 

With the COVID pandemic and racial unrest as present realities, I don’t need to go over all the events of the past week. But from the funeral service for Andre Hill, to the Stand Your Ground bill that was passed by the state legislature, to the domestic terrorism at the Capitol in Washington, it has been one emotional roller coaster.  

How Do You Lead in Times Like These?

I understand if you are feeling angry, disappointed, afraid, frustrated, and weary.  I say I understand because those are the emotions I felt last week and continue to wrestle with today. I have talked with colleagues and friends who are feeling the same. With all this stuff, piled onto what you were already navigating, enough is enough. There is even a penalty in football for piling on.

So, how do you lead in the midst of the times in which we are living? Last week I asked the question, “wouldn’t it feel good to be in your sweet spot, to be in the groove where you are your most effective and are making your greatest impact, and at the same time living a joy filled life?” 

Sure, we all want that. Well, it starts with becoming who you are created to be. Who you are is how you lead.  Even in the middle of pandemics, racial unrest, and political violence.  Who you are is how you lead.

Check In on Emotions, Voice Your Grief

Last week, when I was getting angry and feeling helpless and weary, I called a few friends to talk about what was happening and to voice my grief.  I have found that a few good friends, who love and accept me for who I am, help me think clearly and to speak responsibly. 

At the time I was feeling that my writing in response to racial injustice, the pandemic, and the political climate, was not making much difference. But through those conversations, prayer, and reflection, I have decided I needed to share what I am learning regarding courageous leadership. It is my hope these insights will assist you as a leader at this point and time in history. 

Who Are You?

The big question for me is, do you know at your core who you are? This is a question of values. As a follower of Jesus, how do you differentiate yourself when you encounter people of different values?  Your answer is revealed in the way you lead when you either respond or react to people with whom you disagree. 

Who you are is the way you lead.

When you know and honor your values, life is good. Even in the midst of uncertainty and turmoil, you have a place to stand. But if you don’t know and understand your values, you will be shaped by the values of others. 

I’m going out on a limb here to say, part of what you have experienced over the past several days and weeks are values contrary to your own. So, how do you lead in such conflict? 

Know your values. 

As an example, as a follower of Jesus, one of your core values might be love (I certainly hope it is). Now, I’m not talking about warm and fuzzy feelings centered on romance or friendship. Although both are important, I’m talking about love, regardless of feelings, that is centered in the well-being of others  

It is the love that takes others seriously. It is centered in action. It works for the good of others even in the midst of disagreement and misunderstanding. It is vulnerable, empathetic, and listens.  It provides a caring and safe place for all people to develop relationships and to become who God created them to be. (For more on the value of love in leadership, read “Lead With Love” October 13, 2020 at www.transformingmission.org/blog or listen to Episodes 131 and 132 of LeaderCast, “Love as You  Have Been Love” August 3, 2020 and “God’s Love for the World” August 5, 2020 at www.transformingmission.org/podcast). 

Know current reality. 

In other words, be truthful about your context. Over the past several weeks, we have experienced different expressions of hatred. From the shooting of an unarmed black man to the acts of violence at the Capitol, hatred is at the root of such actions. I know that is a strong word, but what I have learned is hatred is a value expressed by some people today. 

As a follower of Jesus, hatred is not on your radar. You don’t even like talking about hatred. But hatred is part of our current reality. So, how do you lead in the midst of hatred?

Leading Amid Hatred

Hatred is a sustained feeling of intense dislike for another person or a group of persons. It is shown in an ongoing hostility that uses up emotional energy. When someone has hatred for another person, they often spend much of their time fixated on their anger, contempt, or dislike of the other person.

Some researchers believe we all have the capacity to hate, while other researchers believe true hatred is uncommon. What is clear is that hatred tends to emerge as a learned emotion that flourishes in the absence of compassion. 

As we have discussed in the past, compassion is one of the characteristics people look for in their leaders. If hatred flourishes in the absence of compassion, then hatred as little to do with courageous leadership. Who you are is how you lead.

Don’t Allow Hatred to Take Over

When you let hatred in, hatred takes over. For example, on September 11, 2001, our culture normalized hatred when we collectively said, “someone has to pay for what has happened.” I don’t disagree. But what we did was to set our sights upon everyone related to the Islamic religion. Instead of holding a few extremists responsible, we placed our hatred toward all Moslems.  

As a country, we were unified in our resolve to bring to justice the perpetrator of the events. We invaded other countries. We became suspicious of anyone who dressed differently and talked with an accent, especially on airplanes. When we found and killed Osama Bin Laden, our hatred did not go away. We redirected our hatred toward persons around us. To maintain such feelings, we put people, objects of our hatred, into categories like immigrants, blacks, Mexicans, etc. Without even realizing it, we placed ourselves in positions of supremacy and privilege.  To maintain such positions, we could not let go of our hatred. Or maybe a better way to say it is, we let our hatred hang onto us. Once you let hatred in, hatred doesn’t care.

So, out of our hatred, we have given normalcy to standing your ground, getting back what is rightfully yours, and making sure no one gets anything you don’t get first. The words “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are words on a page. There is little courageous leadership without vulnerability and empathy. Who you are is how you lead. 

Continue the Exploration

Know your values and be honest about your current reality. I’ll pick up at this point next week. Until then, look deep within yourself and discover what value motivates you.  

Make an honest assessment of your current reality. To navigate the waters of conflicting values, you need to know yourself and know your context. Who you are is how you lead.  

Please know you are not alone. 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 our LeaderCast podcast. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.

Happy New Year!

I want to start with these words for this new year, “Who you are is how you lead.” 

You are now asking, “what does that mean?” Let’s think of this way. How often have you heard someone say about a person who is happy, joy filled, clicking on all cylinders, “She was born to do this” or “He was born to do that.” Those words are often spoken about persons who are being who they were created to be. They have a purpose in who they are and how they live, work, and play.   

Focus on Your Purpose

As you step into this new year, you have the opportunity to focus upon your purpose for living, loving, and leading. Why are you doing what you are doing? What is your purpose as a leader? As a parent? Or as a colleague? As a human being? 

Your purpose grows out of the essence of who you are. It is the natural flow of your strengths and talents as they are related to the people you serve and to the context in which you are living and working.  Too often people inhibit or ignore this flow, but it is always there. It is what you do because it is who you are. How it gets lived out depends on your ability to recognize it, claim it, and live into it.    

What is Your Purpose?

Contrary to what some people think, your purpose is not a list of accomplishments, education, experience, and skills you have gathered in your life. It is not a professional title, limited to your current job or assignment. Each of these things are important and might assist you in living out your purpose, but none of these things define who you are. 

Your purpose is who you were created to be. Paul came close to defining purpose in his letter to the Ephesians when he wrote, “we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives” (Ephesians 2:10 CEB).  You have been created for a purpose. 

In her book, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, Amy Sherman writes that purpose in leadership is significantly related to leader effectiveness. She points out that purpose is found in the center of God’s priorities, personal gifts and passions, and the world’s needs. 

What is a Leader’s Purpose?

With that in mind and using Brene Brown’s definition of leadership, your purpose, as a leader, is about taking responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and processes and then developing that potential. Living out your purpose and how it relates to the people you serve transforms the world. 

My purpose is to assist you in becoming the person you are created to be. Whether you are a leader, parent, preacher, or pastor, I find great joy and satisfaction is assisting you to use your strengths and talents in the context in which you are living and working. 

So, what is your purpose? I know someone, because of who he is, naturally finds ways to affirm and encourage the people around him. He actively engages in ways to help people live into their potential.  When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, he bought coffee mugs, with these words “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” on the mugs and gave them out to the people whom he supervises. I am sure he was not trying to make a statement but was naturally offering himself in helping the people around him live into their full potential.  

So, what is your purpose? 

How are you living your purpose in relationship to the people around you and the context in which you live and work. Here are five reasons your purpose helps you become the leader you are created to be. 

Purpose motivates.

Many of us talk of what we do as our calling, as our vocation. What does that mean to you? Are you called to an institution, a business, a particular way of life, or to being who you are created to be?  These examples are not mutually exclusive, but it matters where you start. 

So, what if you lived your life, related to people, and led from being who you are created to be? Would your life, relationships, work be more creative, more satisfying, more impactful? When you pursue your work with purpose it becomes a reservoir of energy, joy, and well-being that keeps you moving forward when facing challenges and adversity. 

Purpose empowers.

Your purpose empowers you to strive for something bigger than yourself. It is not about a position in a hierarchy or about having power over people. It is about sharing and giving power to others. Just as your purpose is being who you were created to be, you assist others in becoming who they were created to be. In this way, purpose is bigger than you. It includes the people entrusted to your card.

Purpose makes you courageous and resilient.

It energizes you to take risks by facing your challenges and fears with stability and hope. It calls you to grow and to be more vulnerable, more courageous, and more resilient than you thought was possible. The ability to take risks is a key to effective leadership. It is required to lead into and through any situation. Having a bigger purpose is what motivates you to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. 

Purpose helps you engage others. 

When you live into your purpose and assist others to live into their purpose, you build engagement. People go the extra mile because their hearts, as well as their minds, are engaged. Effective leaders inspire action through a contagious sense of purpose. 

Purpose helps you navigate obstacles and uncertainty.

Your purpose allows you to be decisive and courageous and empathic and hopeful in service of a bigger cause. When you are living out of your purpose, you make a unique impact upon the lives of the people around you. You contribute to making the world better. It shows up in your decisions, how you face challenges, how you relate to others. However it shows up, when you identify your purpose, you are energized, and you are able to lead through whatever obstacles and uncertainty you face.   

Your Next Steps

So, as you step into this new year, here is what you do. Set aside 10 minutes to answer these questions and to do the following: 

Step 1

Answer these questions: What brings you joy in life? What do you enjoy doing that helps you come alive? What are the experiences that energize you at work, at home, in life?

Purpose comes from your heart, your intuition, and from your emotions. It moves you because you are one with who God created you to be, one with yourself, and one with the people around you.

You might have to take extra time to truly answer this question. But when you come to an understanding of your purpose, you will be blessed beyond measure.

Step 2

Take notes on your reflection. Make mental notes if you don’t write them down.

What are those experiences that energize you at work, at home, in life? Reflect upon the common themes. What are you doing? Who are you being? What strengths are you exercising? What do people seek you out for? What are the challenges you have faced? What inner resources have you developed to overcome those challenges? Who are you drawn to help? 

Step 3

What leadership legacy do you want to leave? What lasting impact do you want to make? In your family? In your work? In your life?

Reflect on and seriously consider what the ideal world would look like if you were in charge? How do you want your contributions to be remembered? A leader with purpose makes a world changing impact when he/she leads out of their purpose.

For me, a perfect world is where everyone is becoming who God created them to be in their relationships with one another. It is your sense of purpose that moves you from being a transactional leader to a transformational leader. 

Step 4

Now find a trusted friend or colleague and share with them your work. Invite them on the journey with you so you can become more the leader you have been created to be. 

Wow! That seems like a lot at the beginning of the year. But, wouldn’t it feel good to be in your sweet spot, where you are your most effective and are making your greatest impact, and at the same time living a joy filled life? It starts with becoming who you are created to be. The question is, what is your purpose? Only you know the answer.

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.

Check out our LeaderCast podcast. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.

A year ago, could you have imagined that you would be doing what you are doing today? What would you have thought if someone had said to you, “this time next year your main connection with people will be over Zoom or Skype or Facetime?” 

Think about it. 

Would you have laughed at the thought of working from home while your children were attending school in the next room? And how would you have felt if you had been told that you would not be worshipping in person through Lent, on Easter Sunday, or on Christmas Eve?

Nothing is Impossible with God

Could you have envisioned not gathering in groups, not feeding people in person, or not providing face to face care for people who were sick or dying? I know this might sound silly, but I am serious in saying it, “nothing is impossible with God.”

You have faced some seemingly impossible situations over the past year. You have developed and maintained relationships through technology. You have kept yourself, your family, and others safe and healthy through a deadly pandemic. No matter how bad things looked or how impossible they seemed, you found a way through. I will say it again, “nothing is impossible with God.”

What Really Matters

You have become more the person and leader you were created to be. You have found a way to achieve the things that really matter to you. In a season of volatility and change, when things seemed impossible and unobtainable, you have dug deep for new and fresh responses. In those moments, when you felt you did not know what to, something transformed the insurmountable into moments of grace. How can this be? How will this happen? Nothing is impossible with God. 

I know it is hard to believe. We are people who think we can take care of ourselves. We rely on our own resources, strength, and power to handle most things. We have convinced ourselves that the absence of conflict and struggle means we are in alignment with God. But have you ever stopped to say, when the phone rings or the letter comes, or the crisis is too big, “nothing is impossible with God?” 

Don’t You Ever Do That Again

I know it is difficult. There once was a pastor who was asked to visit an elderly woman who had been in bed for several weeks and was near death. When he arrived at her house, one of the caregivers led him to her bedside. They talked about her life, her family, her fears, and her hopes. As their time was coming to an end, being a caring pastor, he asked the woman if he could pray for her. She said, “Yes” and then added, “Ask God to let me get up and out of this bed and get back about my life.” The pastor knew she was too sick to ever get out of bed, but because he cared for her, he prayed. He gave thanks for her life and family and he asked God to touch her body, make her well, and let her be back about the life God had created for her. He finished the prayer with, “May God bless you.” As he turned to leave, she sat up in bed, put her legs over the side, placed her feet in her slippers and said, “Let me walk you to the door.” The pastor was flabbergasted. It was unbelievable. This woman, who had been in bed for weeks, sick and near death, was up, out of bed, and walking him to the door. When the pastor got to his car, he looked up to heaven and said to God, “Don’t you ever do that to me again.” 

Do You Believe?

I know it is difficult. But the question is, do you believe that nothing is impossible with God?  That phrase is found twice in the Bible. It appears once in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament. The circumstances are very similar, but different. In the Old Testament it’s found in Genesis 18. An old couple named Abraham and Sarah have no children. A messenger of God comes to their tent one day and says, “You’re going to have children. You’ll conceive and have a son, and from him will come a nation, and that nation will bless the world.” Because of her old age, Sarah laughed and said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” But she had the son. She named him Isaac, which means laughter, because it seemed so funny to her.

From Isaac came the nation we call Israel. Despite being enslaved, persecuted, murdered, ostracized, made fun of, unwelcome, the descendants of Isaac have given the world the basis for a moral and ethical society. The foundation of our own faith, “You should love the Lord your God with all your mind and heart and soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” “You shall not kill; you shall not bear false witness against a neighbor; you shall not covet what your neighbor has. You shall not murder; you shall honor your marriage vows. Have no other God, have no idols, and remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” In those commandments, we have the basis for the whole Western world’s life together. It started when a messenger said to an old couple, “You’re going to have a baby and the world will be blessed.” 

Mary Heard it Too

The phrase is also found in Luke 1. The messenger came to Mary, a teenage girl in a little town in northern Israel. She is not married but promised by her family to a carpenter who lived there in Nazareth by the name of Joseph. Before they are married, the messenger says, “You’re going to have a child.” She says, “But I don’t have a husband!” Then the messenger says, “You’re going to have a child, and he will bless the world.” And Mary gave birth to a son and named him Jesus. 

In spite of the fact that he was mistreated, abandoned, made fun of, mocked, beaten, whipped, and executed, wherever he went, people’s hearts and lives were lifted. Even today, because of the impossible and improbable birth of Jesus, people are kind and generous. People who remember Jesus will repair their neighbor’s house when their own roof leaks. They’ll empty their pockets for other people’s children. They will turn the other cheek. They’ll go the second mile. They will even love their enemies. All because a messenger said, “You’re going to have a child and you’ll name him Jesus.” And Mary said, “I don’t understand it. How can this be?” And the messenger, and angel said, “Nothing is impossible with God.” 

What are you facing that seems insurmountable? If you are reading this you might be thinking, will we ever return to what we once knew? Will we ever worship together again? Will we ever sing together, shake one another’s hands, or hug one another again? 

Leading Into the Impossible

As a leader, you are caring for people who are facing impossible situations. They are asking you and themselves, “will I ever breathe again?” “Walk again?” “See my family again?” They are facing financial difficulties, or broken relationships, or unemployment, and are asking “How will I ever make it?

Let me remind you, if God can give a child to an old couple in a tent and change the world; if God can give a baby to a teenage girl and change the world, what will God do through you? I mean, why should you and I ever give up hope? Why would we ever doubt, or shrug our shoulders in despair? I have learned my lesson over the past year, and I hope you have too. “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Choosing to Offer Hope

Let’s stop and reflect for a moment. As you enter this new year, where can you offer hope and a belief for better days ahead? I’m not talking about positive thinking. I am asking you to give the gift of expectation. Look at the next year, roll up your sleeves, and begin to make it happen.

You have all it takes to see the possibilities in what seems impossible. Remember, the possibilities do not depend entirely upon you, your strength, resources, or desires.  The grace to face the insurmountable is a gift from God, for nothing is impossible with God. 

I had a friend who put it this way, “Write it over the door at your house. Write it on your mind. Write it across your heart. It will come in handy this new year. Nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible with God. 

Walking With You

One more thing. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader. 
Check out LeaderCast, a podcast designed to give insights and resources to courageous leaders. Who you are is how you lead. So, let’s face what is coming together.

Are you ready for a little hope?

Who isn’t?

2020 has been a tough year.

More than any other time in recent history, people are looking for any morsel of hope. It is the one thing that lifts our spirits and keeps us going despite our difficulties. It looks beyond life’s hardships to a better and brighter tomorrow. It keeps us believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, tomorrow’s light will shine.  It is seeing a future that we can live into if we keep moving forward adjusting and adapting as we go. We are all looking for a little hope and all we need leaders like you to dispense that hope.   

What is Hope?

The word “hope” comes from an old English word that means to “leap forward with expectation.” It is more than a wish or an optimistic thought. It is a real genuine feeling of possibility. It has substance when there is a clear vision and a defined direction.  Maintaining and dispensing hope has to do with being able to evaluate and understand the present context, recover from discouragement, and hold onto the vision of what can be. 

From that perspective, hope is essential to leadership. To imagine and present a better future requires hope. To recognize the potential in people and processes and work to develop that potential requires hope.  If you feel hopeless about the future, there is no reason to change your behavior in the present. But when you believe your actions matter and that you can change or influence the future, you interact and engage with people differently. That difference in behavior and belief is experienced in and through effective leadership.

Hope is Essential to Leadership

That is why hope is essential to leadership. Hope and leadership are in an interdependent relationship. This relationship shows up in a couple of ways. We either see a preferred outcome and sit back waiting for things to happen or we see a preferred outcome and we work to make it become a reality. We either wish things were different or we do something to make things different.

Joseph, Mary, and Hope

Let me illustrate by using a story from Matthew 1:18-25. Joseph was engaged to Mary. The engagement was like a marriage.  It was serious business, legal and binding in nature. It could only be broken by going to the courts. So, the families of Joseph and Mary came together, signed the papers, and the engagement began. Only when they became of age, would they marry. So, to say that Joseph was engaged to Mary is significant.  

It is during their engagement that Joseph discovers that Mary is pregnant.  Now, what is he going to do? He is a good man, a righteous man, a man who wants to do the right thing. That’s great, but what is the right thing? 

1. He could proceed with a passive hope.

This is called “wishful thinking.” With passive hope you can still see a better future, you just don’t believe you can influence people or processes that make that future a reality. Joseph could have proceeded by:

Seeking Approval

He could go to the coffee shop and ask, “What do you think I ought to do?” He could get on the phone, go to work, sit in a Sabbath school class, and tell everyone who will listen, “Did you hear about Mary? What do you think I ought to do?” 

Could you blame him? We elect people to public office and remove people from positions based upon their approval ratings. What do the polls say?  Joseph could have sought out the approval of his friends.  

Making it About Himself

He could tell his side of the story and expose Mary for being unfaithful. He could disgrace her and humiliate her. “Did you hear about Mary? Can you believe what she did to me? She seemed like such a nice girl.” 

In fact, Matthew tells us that, “Joseph, her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement  quietly.” He didn’t want to humiliate her. But, quietly calling off the engagement would also mean he was saving himself from being embarrassed.

Quoting Scripture

He could do what the Bible says to do.  You can’t go wrong by following the Bible, because the Bible makes everything clear.   You can quote the Bible before killing a person to justify the killing. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Men, you can quote the Bible before divorcing your wife, “If a man finds something displeasing in his wife, let him give her a divorce and send her out of the house.” It’s in the Bible. Women, do you know what the Bible says? “Let the women keep their heads covered and their mouths shut.” Joseph could do just what the Bible says, “She is to be taken out and stoned to death in front of the people.” (Deuteronomy 22) 

That is passive hope. It is when you desire something to happen but feel you don’t have any control over making it happen. So, you wait for someone or something else to make things better. Passive hope ignores current reality. You just wish things were different and hope for them to go back to normal. There is little or no courageous leadership, because you seek out programs or people as quick fixes to problems. There is a lot of activity with passive hope but very little action to change things or to make them better.  

2. He could proceed with active hope.  

He could become an active participant in his future. He didn’t wait for someone else to act. He knew who he was and where he was going, so he began to navigate the obstacles in the way so he could reach his goal.  He had a clear view and understanding of reality

He and Mary were engaged to be married. They are legally bound to one another and Mary is pregnant.

Active hope is anchored in reality.

It knows its context. It understands the current situation. It is able to face reality, name it, and acknowledge what is happening.

He had a clear vision of a goal

He decides to be who God created him to be. He has experienced God’s presence in his life.  He has been blessed through his study of the scriptures. He has read his Bible through the lens of the character and nature of a God who is loving and kind. So, he decides to be a person of grace. He will be loving and kind. He says, “I will not harm her, abuse her, expose her, shame her, ridicule her, or demean her value, her dignity, or her worth. I will protect her.” So, instead of calling off the engagement, he takes responsibility for the situation and sets his sight on being Mary’s husband. 

This active hope pictures a better and preferred future and begins to move toward that vision. So, a second aspect of active hope is to fix your eyes on a goal and move toward that goal.  

He set out to achieve his goal.

Not knowing exactly what is going to happen, instead of passively trying to get out of the agreed relationship, he actively steps into it. He marries Mary and together they raise the baby. I can only imagine that there were obstacles and barriers with his decision. But Joseph moved forward.   

Active hope is aligned with the future it wants to happen. It does not require optimism or positive thinking. But it does require a desire to navigate the obstacles when there is a gap between reality and the desired future. Active hope chooses to move toward the goal even in the midst of uncertainty, chaos, and fear. This is often called courageous leadership.

He takes the initiative to make decisions and to act

He becomes vulnerable.  He steps out in courage. He decides to care for Mary and the baby. He feeds the baby and cares for Mary. He decides to be who God created him to be, a person of grace.

Active hope adapts to the changing contexts and makes necessary adjustments along the way.  With eyes upon the goal, active hope moves forward in courage. 

Aligned with the future, active hope produces energy to make things happen. It invites you to act and to make something happen, even if it doesn’t exist today. 

Active Hope and Leadership

That is why active hope and leadership are so tightly related. If you lead without a firm grip on reality, or without a sharp vision of what you want the future to look like, then your actions won’t matter. Your behaviors won’t align with a better future. Leadership is about showing up and behaving as if what you do matters. When you align your actions with your goal, you not only practice leadership, you dispense hope. 

Today, you can choose your response to your current situation. You can choose to be who God created you to be and lead the people entrusted to your care into a better future. That is what active hope is.

So, what do you want your future or the future of your church to look like? What is one thing you will do to step into the future you see for yourself and for your congregation? What obstacles are in the way? What will you do to keep yourself focused as you navigate the obstacles? To address these questions is to lead with hope.

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.

Are you ready for a little hope? Decide to take another step in becoming the leader God has created you to be!

A year ago, not one of us would have guessed that this Advent Season would be as valuable as it is. Advent has always been an important time to rehearse our hope in God’s love and care as experienced in the coming of Jesus. But who knew that in this Advent season, our proclamation of hope, peace, and goodwill would be interrupted by a killer virus?

You are not alone in your feelings of disappointment, discouragement, weariness, and despair. It has been a long nine months of starts and stops, of foggy vision, and wondering what to do next. Whether you feel it or not, you have done well in providing leadership at critical moments along the way.

A Critical Moment

This advent season is another critical moment. The world, our communities, our churches are facing the unknown of COVID-19. We have not experienced a time like this in recent history. What we know is, when we face the unknown, our default setting is to focus upon every negative consequence imaginable. I usually say, “We make up what we don’t know.” It is a way of expressing fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. When we are anxious and fearful, we are often paralyzed. Because we don’t know what to do, we do nothing and blame those around us for our circumstances. That is why this is a critical moment. 

This advent season provides you the opportunity to use your influence to offer hope and to lead a movement forward, shifting from the paralysis of fear to hopeful action. The question is, how do we make that shift?   

An Advent Opportunity

There are many people working to make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves.  Most people are intentional in their care for one another and for themselves. I am grateful for the many acts of care I have noticed and for the reports I have received. You have done well.

To take advantage of our Advent opportunity and to help move forward, I want to share an image with you. It has been helpful to me as I have attempted to offer encouragement and hope.  

A River of Hope or Despair?

Imagine a raging river full of rapids that surge over a waterfall. You see people struggling in the current of the river. As they are trying their best to swim to shore or grab a hold of rocks, they are being swept downstream toward the falls.

You also see people along the shore trying to help those struggling in the rushing currents. Some are reaching out at the edge of the falls to snatch victims at the last moment. Others are upstream, stepping out on the rocks to grab whomever they can reach. A bit further upstream there are some throwing out lifelines and pulling the struggling people to shore. Even further upstream there are some teaching people how to swim. You even notice that there are some trying to install fences along the river to prevent people from falling in. At the same time, you see others, gathered at the bottom of the falls, trying to recover and save the few who survived going over the edge.

Not one of the helpers along the river back can catch everyone in need, but together they each do their part along the way. The one thing they all have in common is a love for helping others. 

Dispenser of Hope

So, here is your Advent opportunity. As a leader, decide to be a dispenser of hope. Build upon the love and care people have to offer. Give encouragement and support to those who are working to navigate the fear and anxiety of the time. 

You know your present situation (current reality). You also know the goals you have in mind (mission). Now, how will you navigate the obstacles in the way? Your navigation of the obstacles will be where you become a hopeful leader and a dispenser of hope.  

Here are some things to help in your navigation.

  • Use the Advent themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love as ways of leading through the anxiety and fear of this time. Be forward-thinking, inspirational, and positive.
  • Encourage the people entrusted to your care. Be generous with them. Focus upon their strengths and encourage them to be courageous in their leadership.  
  • Embrace change. The quickest path to growth and improvement is by embracing the changes that come your way. Be vulnerable. Step into the changes, even at the risk of not knowing what to do.   
  • Accept failure. Your failure is not final or fatal. Hopeful leadership requires courage and courageous leaders often fail. The question is, are you learning from what you have tried that did not work? 
  • Keep your heart and mind on the mission. Keep moving forward. Invite others to join you on the journey and encourage them to become courageous leaders. Because your hope is in God, be confident in your mission. 
  • Hold the future before the people entrusted to you. Hopeful leaders believe tomorrow holds great opportunities. Even when COVID-19 messes up schedules and routines, morale is low, and discouragement is high, hopeful leaders don’t sit back and let things happen. Hopeful leaders know where they are going and how to navigate the obstacles along the way.    
  • Follow through and do what you say you will do. No matter how significant or insignificant the task or assignment, get it done. Credibility is built over time because of hundreds and hundreds of small assignments done well.

Offer Hope

So here is your Advent opportunity. Offer hope to those who are giving themselves in love to care for and to protect the people around them. 

  1. Write a note of thanks to the individuals who have worn masks, kept their distance, and have helped in keeping protocols.
  2. Send an email or text of encouragement to the individuals who have been doing double duty. Whether as parents working at home and teaching their children at the same time, whether as care-givers to aging family members and neighbors, whether giving up social activities like not gathering in groups to play cards, or not gathering as family during special holiday meals, a note of encouragement and care goes a long way in offering hope.
  3. Be intentional in giving thanks and support to those healthcare providers, whether in hospitals or test sites, whether you know them personally or not, make the effort to share with them your gratitude and appreciation. Your support will become contagious.  
  4. Proclaim with clarity and boldness the hope that God provides in and through Jesus. It is the Season of Advent that provides us the opportunity to remember and rehearse God’s love and care for us and for all people. 

Don’t Get Swept into the River

Even at our best, not one of us can solve the COVID-19 crisis on our own. But as a team of people, as the Body of Christ, the church, we can do our part. We can link arms with those to our right and to our left and trust one another. It really does no one any good if any of us gets swept into the river as we try to help.

Throughout the remainder of this Advent Season be a dispenser of hope. What is the one thing you will do to instill hope and a positive vision in the people entrusted to your care? Okay. Now is the time to do it. 

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.

Power is part of every area of our lives. Whether it is romantic relationships, family interactions, work dynamics, or church connections, most of us spend our lives attempting to acquire and leverage power. 

We seek positions of authority in order to influence people, control resources, and direct information. We pursue decision-making positions to have some control over issues that affect our everyday living. There are experts who say that we all need power to live into our full potential.   

Power Comes with Responsibility

Effective leaders know and understand that with power comes responsibility. During these recent months of disruption and uncertainty, you continue to take on more responsibility than ever before. You are leading without the help of a roadmap. Your decisions are not only affecting the mission of the church but are impacting the safety and well-being of the people around you.  

On good days you understand the weight of this responsibility. But, there are days you want to use your power to put people in their place, or at least help them see the error of their ways.  So, as a leader, how do you use your power to assist people to live into their full potential? How do you empower them to become who God created them to be?

What is Power?

Some people would say that “power is your ability to control the activities of other individuals.” Although there is some truth in that statement, I believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. got closer to a healthy understanding of power when he said, “Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose.”

Some people would say that good leadership is “the ability to inspire people to follow your instructions without exercising any form of force.” Again, there is some truth in that statement, but I believe Brené Brown gets closer to defining a good leader when she says,

“A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”

-Brené Brown

However you might say it, you and I, as followers of Jesus, have the responsibility to use our power, authority, and influence to assist the people around us to live into their God-given potential. It is by sharing your power and influence that helps you become more who God created you to be. So, how are you using your power to lead? How are you developing the potential of family members, colleagues, and friends?

To answer these questions, there are a couple of things to remember:

You Have a Purpose & Power

You have been given a purpose and the power to live into that purpose.  

  •  In The Acts of the Apostles, in response to a question about power, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you to be my witnesses… (1:8).
  •  As a Jesus follower, your purpose is to be who God created you to be, a witness to God’s love.
  • You live out your purpose in a relationship with the people entrusted to your care. You extend the love you have received with family and friends, colleagues and neighbors, those who need special care, to strangers and, yes, even to enemies.  
  • You are given power to live into your purpose and to assist others in living into their purpose. Even when you think you are not equipped to love as you have been loved, you have been given power to do so.
  • How are you using your power to develop God’s love in the people around you? 

Different Types of Power

There are different types of power in leadership. Keeping in mind your purpose, to witness to God’s love, there is:

Power over

This power can be seen in parenting or in the classroom, as well as in the workplace and in the church. There is a place for the parent or teacher to have authority. This power is used effectively when exercised in relationships grounded in love (trust and compassion). 

But when this power is seen in the workplace or in the church, it is usually because the person of authority feels threatened or is afraid of losing power. It is difficult to develop healthy relationships of trust when you feel you must control every situation, decision, or person you encounter.

When you focus on having and keeping power, you seek to protect it. You leverage fear and intimidation to keep it. There is little trust and lots of manipulation. Vulnerability and empathy are seen as weaknesses, disagreements are seen as negative, and being nice becomes the major mode of operation. At this point, you have lost sight of your purpose of loving as you have been loved.

To use this power might help you succeed in the short-term, but over the long run you become a detriment to your purpose and you lose any positive influence you could have with the people around you. You might feel you are courageous to face the resistance you receive, but there is little or no courageous leadership when you lead by exercising power over people.

Power With and Power To

This power can be seen in the workplace and in the church, as well as at home and at school. In each context, those in authority know that power is not theirs to keep, so they seek to share it with the people around them. 

Whether at work, in the church, as a parent, or a teacher, you come alongside others as a mentor and you learn and grow together. You model the characteristics of vulnerability and empathy. When fear and uncertainty are present, you lead with transparency and grace. You leverage love and connection as ways of bringing people together to accomplish your purpose.

When you focus upon others, whether it be your children, colleagues, or friends, you create a climate for discovering, learning, and developing. You focus upon the needs, desires, and values of the people entrusted to you. You love them as you have been loved. You seek to serve rather than be served. You empower people to live into their strengths and talents and you benefit from their exercise of power. You love people because the development of people is your purpose. 

To use this power helps you become a person of positive influence. Bob Goff says it this way, “God doesn’t give us influence so we can lead people better. He gives it so we can love people more.” Courageous leadership is rooted in your love and care for people as you share power with them and love them. 

Power Within

This power is about developing your own sense of agency, as well as instilling within others their sense of agency. In the words of Martin Luther King, “I can achieve purpose and effect change.” 

When you lead from within, you genuinely love people. Your care and concern are not about dominating them but loving them. You depend on empathy, rather than showing your strength. You choose respect over friendship and want truth and transparency. You work for the good of the people entrusted to you. 

Your power to influence comes from within. As you learn that the power is not about you, you begin to understand that your character is important. You learn that it is not only what you say, but how you say it that makes the difference. As you lead from within, you discover that courageous leadership is clear and direct in communication. Because you are centered upon the love of God deep within, you become more credible, competent, and persuasive as a leader. 

To use this power helps you empower others to live into their potential. So, you become more the leader you were created to be by “recognizing the potential in people and ideas,” and sharing your power, as you come alongside them to love them.  

Your Next Step 

So, how are you using your power to lead? How are you developing the potential of family members, colleagues, and friends? As you assess your leadership, what do you need to change? In what areas do you need to grow?    

To become the leader God has created you to be:

  • Think of two people who have been influential in you living into your potential. What did they do to assist you? Now, give God thanks for them and for their love and care for you.
  • Think of two or three persons who have been given to you to lead. How are you assisting them in developing their potential? What help do you need to assist them? Now, give God thanks for them. Ask God for the power to love them as God has loved you.
  • What step will you take to become the leader God has created you to be? You have been given the power and you have the courage, what step will you take?

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community. 

Remember, you have received power to be the leader needed at this time. Love as you have been loved.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt “out of sorts”? Although nothing catastrophic happened, there were a few insignificant events that ruined the day? As a result, you weren’t in the best of moods. The bumps along the way felt worse than they really were, and by the end of the day, you were exhausted and frustrated. 

I had one of those days recently. When I recognized what was going on, I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day feeling crummy or as I say, “grousing around”. It wasn’t fair to my family, to the people around me, or to me. The last thing I wanted was to feel badly because I was a jerk. So, I took a few minutes for myself and focused on the things that had gone well and on the people with whom I had interacted. As I named each one, I gave God thanks for the opportunity to make a difference and for the people who enrich my life. 

Gratitude Can Transform Us

I know it might sound strange, but I have learned that gratitude has the power to transform. It is one of the most effective ways to become not only a better leader but also a better person. Gratitude is such a powerful behavior, it can and will enhance your leadership. Almost always, people respond positively to an expression of gratitude. 

What we know is this: A grateful leader is: 

Respected

Gratitude takes people seriously. When you express your gratitude to someone for his/her work, you are showing them respect and appreciation.  When people know you respect them, and take them seriously, you not only gain their respect, but you plant within them the desire to be grateful as well. 

Trusted

Gratitude is an expression of authentic care and compassion.  It cannot be faked. Think for a minute about a time you heard words like, “Thank you for visiting my mother,” or “Thank you for your sermon,” or “Thank you for your leadership with the committee.” How did you feel when you heard those words? Words of gratitude create a feeling of trust. Now, imagine how the people you lead feel when you express your gratitude to and for them. Expressing your appreciation and gratitude creates the trust followers need from their leader.   

Appreciated

Gratitude is always received positively.  Every person you know needs and wants encouragement and affirmation. So, when you say, “Thanks, that was awesome!” you are meeting a deep need. Grateful people are seldom angry people. When you express gratitude to and for someone, you not only gain their appreciation but create a positive culture of gratitude. 

Exercising Gratitude

Again, I know it sounds strange, maybe even too good to be true. But being a grateful leader is not easy. It requires a change of heart and persistent attention. So, how do you exercise gratitude?

Gratitude has an object.

To be truly grateful, your gratitude is focused upon a person or an event. Biblical writers are clear about the object of this gratitude:

o   “Oh, give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 105:1)

o   “Thanks be to God” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

You can’t express gratitude in a vacuum. Gratitude, by its very nature, has an objective.

Gratitude is genuine. 

You can’t fake thankfulness. You may be able to pretend you are grateful for a while, but unless you are deeply and truly thankful, it’s not going to work. The good news is, by intentionally exercising gratitude on a daily basis, you can build up your gratitude muscle, and cultivate genuine gratitude.

Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Thanksgiving is more than one day a year.  A family gathering, with turkey, once a year is okay. But what is needed is a daily reminder to be thankful or a daily pattern of gratitude. To build your gratitude muscle, you will have to express it not annually, not monthly, not even weekly. Gratitude is a daily effort. When you think about it, there are a lot of things for which to be grateful, but the one thing to remember is: Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Gratitude is specific. 

Gratitude is not generic. As previously mentioned, gratitude has an objective, but it also has an immediate cause. Try these words of gratitude: “I’m really thankful for the way you handled that tense situation in the board meeting. You spoke softly, in a controlled way, but you also showed them why we need to move forward. Thanks for doing that.” Or “Thank you for that email last night. I know you stayed up to write it, and it was exactly the information needed for the meeting. Thank you for your hard work, and the detailed information.” You get the point. Be specific. 

If I could give one quality gift to each of my family members and to all you, my friends and colleagues, it would be the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask God to make you grateful. Gratitude is the central virtue of the Christian faith. Over my 45+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, or vengeful. 

Strengthen Your Gratitude Muscle

During the month of November and into the month of December, Sara Thomas and I are inviting you to strengthen your gratitude muscle by participating in two things: 

Daily 8:46 Prayers

Every evening at 8:46, Sara will post a prayer of gratitude for the evening on the Transforming Mission Facebook page and Instagam account. These prayers are short sentence prayers designed to assist you in developing a pattern of gratitude. 

Giving Thanks Podcast Mini-Series

Every Thursday, from November 5 – December 10,  Sara and I will provide a podcast focused upon gratitude for the week. Each podcast is designed to give thanks for the way God has gifted you to lead through these days of uncertainty and chaos. This is one way we want to thank you for your leadership.

Thank You

Every list of the characteristics of leaders different. Gratitude doesn’t make many of those lists. I think it is time to change that. I challenge you to put a little gratitude into your leadership. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sara Thomas and I are grateful for you and your leadership. In gratitude for you, we are making ourselves available to assist you in your work of leading, serving, and caring. When Sara or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

When you think about leadership, what comes to mind? Trust? Compassion? Stability? Hope? Honestly, when I think of leadership, I think of you.

Over the past several months, you have discovered new ways of leading. Through the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, you have led people through protocols, live streaming, and Zoom meetings. You have learned to depend more and more upon the strengths and gifts of the people entrusted to your care. Whether you have liked it or not, you have done your best to respond with grace and compassion. 

Through the causes of the racial pandemic, you have learned more about the situations and circumstances of racist ideas and policies. You have discovered how these ideas and policies are intertwined with the systems and actions of everyday living. As painful as it is to confront the truth of racism, you have found your voice. You now yearn to speak up in the places you have been silent.   

Even in the midst of a political climate that is divisive, you have listened to opposing ideas, helped to keep people informed, and assisted in bringing people together. As time-consuming as it has been, you have worked to put your prayers into action, bringing hope and stability in the midst of complex and passionate conversations. You are to be commended. Thanks! 

The Most Important Characteristic of Leaders

As a leader, you have been a compassionate presence of stability as you have developed trust and offered hope. Trust, compassion, stability, and hope are the characteristics people look for in their leaders. 

These characteristics are, without a doubt, fundamental to good leadership. But there is one characteristic that is sometimes missing. I believe that the most important characteristic of leadership, especially in the times we are now living, is love. 

Yes, love. 

Love in Leadership

Now, I’m not talking about warm and fuzzy feelings centered on romance or friendship. Both romance and friendship are extremely important, but the kind of love I’m referring to is not centered on feelings. 

It is centered in action. It takes others seriously. It makes a place for relationships with people with whom we disagree. It is vulnerable and empathetic.  It listens without agendas and it works for the good of others even in the midst of misunderstanding. It provides a caring and safe place for people to become who God has created them to be. 

Love in Scripture

Paul described this love in his letter to the Corinthians: 

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13 

Who is the Focus of Love?

These words are rooted in God’s action on our behalf.  The problem is, we have made love more about ourselves than about God’s action and more about our preferences than the people given to us to love. 

We have limited the use of love by making it more about sentimentality, pushing it in the direction of weddings, babies, family, and friends. Each is important, but this is not the love referred to by Paul.  When he wrote those words, he wasn’t at a wedding. Although his advice would be good for a couple of young lovers, he was not writing a romantic road map. He was upset. 

Paul’s Reminder on Love

He wrote those words in a letter to the Christians in a little Greek seaport in the middle of the first century. He had started the congregation there around the teachings of Jesus, and now he was hearing stories of bickering, broken relationships, and bad behavior. The members of the church had forgotten the values that he had brought to them. 

They were fighting, splitting into factions according to who baptized them. They were suing each other. Sleeping with each other’s spouses. Some of them were demanding special treatment regarding Holy Communion, while others were just getting drunk at fellowship dinners. Paul wrote this letter and sent it into the midst of their dysfunction. He wrote emphasizing the characteristics and actions of love. 

Echoes of Paul’s Frustrations

When you listen closely, you hear some of the same sounds in our world today. The sounds are coming from political leaders, as well as some people in our congregations. Sometimes it even sounds like the conversations around the Thanksgiving dinner table. The very situation that moved Paul to write to the church in Corinth sounds a lot like many of the situations and circumstances in which you have been leading. 

Paul wrote because the Christians in Corinth had forgotten that at the center of being a follower of Jesus is love. Paul offered them the only way he knew to redeem the mess they had gotten into. They had stopped loving one another, so he wrote about leading with love. 

To Lead with Love is to…

1. Know the love Paul is describing. 

Most languages have several words that capture the different dimensions of love. In the language of the New Testament, there are three frequently used words to describe love: Eros, philia, and agape. Eros is romantic or sexual love. Our English word erotic comes from Eros. This was not the word used by Paul in his letter. Philia is fraternal, brotherly, or family love. The city of Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love. As good as it is, this is not the word used by Paul in his letter. Finally, there is agape, which is love for others beyond ourselves. It is a sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, whether family, friend, stranger or enemy. This is the word used by Paul. 

2. Live with a firm commitment to act for the well-being of others.

It can be personal or political, individual or communal, intimate, or public. But it will never be segregated or shaped by personal preference. Because agape is rooted in God’s dream for each of us and for all creation, it is experienced and expressed in acts of care and compassion. Because its source is Jesus, it is the love that holds us together in the midst of disagreements, conflicts, and turmoil as well as the love that transforms us into the people God has created us to be.   

3. Model a life of humility.

You are patient and kind; not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. You are not concerned about getting your way but are working to make a way for everyone. You are not irritable or resentful. You rejoice in the truth. You are authentic and transparent. You are focused upon people, listening for the purpose of developing relationships, without pushing agendas.

4. Help others stay grounded in the midst of the chaos that has invaded lives today. 

It is to stay decent in indecent times. When selfishness excludes, love makes room and includes.  When selfishness puts down, love lifts up. When selfishness hurts and harms, love helps and heals.  When selfishness enslaves, love sets free and liberates. 

Lead with Love

You might lead through a pandemic, keeping people safe and healthy, but if you don’t lead with love, you do nothing more than irritate the people entrusted to your care. 

You might find your voice to speak up in advocacy of others, but if you don’t lead with love, you create more racism and participate unknowingly in the ideas and policies that perpetuate discrimination.   

You might know the qualities of trust, compassion, stability, and hope, but if you don’t lead with love, you have missed the point of becoming who you were created to be. 

Lead with love. It will not be easy but you will get stronger with practice. 

When Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community