March 31, 2009

The People's Vision

As I keep mulling over the question, "Whose vision is more important, the leader's or the people's?", I have to look at what the people envision. This is where so many church's & organizations grind to a halt in their effectiveness.

Here's the obvious tension: when leading an organization or ministry, it's possible that there is a unique "vision" for every person that is a part of your group. If you lead a congregation of 300 people, then there could be 300 visions for what that church should be. If you lead a team comprised of 5 people, there could be 5 distinct visions for what your team should be doing. That's the tension that leaders live with everyday, & I'm not sure if the people they lead can really appreciate that.

That being said, the vision of the people isn't always a bad thing. The "micro-visions" of the people can be harnessed to achieve the God given vision that the leader is trying to cast. It's all about cultivating relationships & communicating the vision in such a way that people see how they can be a part of what the leader is sharing with them. The vision of the people doesn't have to be at odds with the leader's vision. Much of that will be determined by how the leader leads & communicates the vision that God has given him/her.

However, it obvious that there are times that the "will of the people" impedes the vision that the leader is trying to cast. That's the problem: the will of the people. The will of people is almost always self-centered & self-glorifying. Leaders have to creatively confront those that they lead while continually casting the vision for the greater good.

Here's the bottom line of dynamics between the leader & those he/she leads. This too came from Rob Jacobs, whose initial question sparked these previous posts. "Buy into the vision, but not the leader= change the leader. Buy into the leader, but not the vision = change vision. Buy into both = RESULTS." Not only do we have to get people to buy into & trust us, but we also have to get people to buy into where we're leading. It's about more than our personality. It's about how we lead everyday. That means TIME. Chances are people will try to change the leader. It's happened to most of us in leadership. They'll also attack the vision. That's where wise leaders slow it down a little, invest the necessary time to know they've effectively cultivated & communicated with those they lead, then take action to achieve the vision.

Leading is hard. It's a grind, but I love every minute of it, even the times when I or the vision come under attack. I know that those struggles have the opportunity to galvanize me, the vision, & those that I lead so that we can move forward & do greater things.
The Leader's Vision

Last week I read an interesting question, "Is the vision of the leader or the people more important?" Deep stuff huh? And it's probably at the core of most of the problems that many of us face as we lead our organizations & ministries. Today I want to look at the leader's vision.

First & foremost, it cannot be the "leader's vision". If it's the leader's vision, it's not big enough! The leader's vision has to be something that is born out of his or her growing relationship with Christ. As the leader pursues the relationship with Christ, God reveals where He wants to take the leader & the people the leader leads. Leaders, is the vision that we claim to have our vision or is it part of God's greater vision for His people & His Kingdom? We have to answer that questions honestly before we can go any farther.

I believe that the vision that God gives the leader(s) of His church is important because that's how God has designed His church to work. It's also the way that leadership works in organizations outside the church-because it's a basic leadership principle. But that's another post for another day. God wants to use His leader(s) to guide His people toward a Kingdom mission. So it is important, yet it's more important for us as leaders to make sure the vision we are casting is actually a God-sized, God-originated vision. Otherwise, we are taking on good things at the expense of being a part of God things.

March 27, 2009


Today I read an interesting question from one of my tweet peeps, Rob Jacobs. He asked, "Whose vision matters most, the leader's or the people that he/she leads?" That little question really got my mind to working. I think if we can answer this question, we can sharpen ourselves as leaders, empower & mobilize our people to get behind the vision, & chances are we will also be able to develop them into the kind of leaders that not only work alongside us, but that also enlist new people to invest in the vision.

But this isn't as easy a question to answer as you might think. I'm going to spend some time really thinking about this because this question has a couple of layers to it that I fear many young leaders like myself overlook, & they end up stuck. Next week I'm going to look at the "leader's vision" & the "people's vision". I want to look at how they're different, how they often work against one another, & how they can work together.

But what's your gut reaction? Whose vision is more important, the leader's vision or the vision of the people?
Hitting the Links

Here are a few good posts that I ran across this week. You should definitely take the time to read some of these. If you're not following these first two guys regularly, you're missing out on some really cool stuff.

Loved this post from Pastor Steven at Elevation in Charlotte. Really challenging thoughts for so many of us young leaders in ministry. And as a guitar player I really appreciate the metaphor.

You should also read Perry Noble's series of posts on "Four Leadership Myths That Aren't Usually Talked About". I love Perry. He's got a "no holds barred" approach to talking about leadership. Everything is on the table with Perry. These are some good thoughts. Check them out.
Myth #1-Anger Is Ungodly:
Myth #2-You Should Always Say Nice Things:
Myth #3-Confrontation Should Be Avoided At All Costs:
Myth #4-You Must Strive To Be Well Like By Everyone:

One last link from Marshall Goldsmith at the Harvard Business Publishing site. A really great post on spotting the "uncoachable" on your team & what to do when you find them.


March 17, 2009

The Aftermath of Accountability

Awhile back I published a post on accountability & challenged us to return to it, even though it's difficult & messy. A few people asked me to think further on the issue & follow up with another post. So here goes! Today I was thinking about a very familiar story from the beginning of the Bible that illustrates how our response to being held accountable has the power to direct the course of our lives.

In the story of Cain & Abel, Cain brings an unacceptable sacrifice to God. He brings cheap worship. Abel meanwhile brings the absolute best offering that he can. His worship was truly sacrificial. God calls Cain out about this. God rejects Cain's offering because it's obvious that Cain is simply "going through the motions". At this point, God recognizes that Cain isn't taking this moment of accountability very well. God warns him & says, "sin is crouching at the door." At this point God has shifted gears from the issue of an empty offering to the issue of how Cain will choose to respond to being held accountable for his actions. Cain of course disregarded the warning.

After killing his brother, Cain was basically exiled, forced to wander the world. The rest of Cain's life was determined by his response to being held accountable for his actions. When we are holding one another accountable we must recognize this. Very rarely does someone embrace accountability. Even when we invite it, it's hard to embrace. However, how we respond to that accountability has the power to forever alter the course of our lives.

How have you seen this played out in your life? How have you seen it played out in relationships where you had to hold someone else accountable? How can we protect one another from making poor decisions in the aftermath of accountability.

March 13, 2009

Sneak Peek

As I was preparing my sermon for this Sunday morning, our Sr. Pastor gave a talk that really paved the way for the talk that I would give one week later. He spoke from the passage where Jesus withers a fig tree that isn't bearing fruit. One of the big ideas was that the tree had all the signs of having fruit, yet upon closer inspection the tree was a fraud. The connection? When we go through life saying that we are "Christians", we are giving people a preview of what the Father must be like. Yet what are people finding when there is really some close inspection? Is there any fruit?

The wild thing is that I had planned to speak from John 15 with the familiar vine & branches metaphor. My point was going to be "We Are Giving The World A Sneak Peek Of The Father, But Unless We Are Connected To Christ & To The Church, We Will Never Connect To Our Community." I love it when God does this. My pastor & I had not collaborated on our talks, yet God has made a connection between them that is pretty cool.

So if we are a "sneak peek" of the Father, what picture are we giving to the world around us? Is that picture making it easier for people to connect with God through Christ, or is it distorting who God is & pushing people away from pursuing the truth? What can you do to better insure that the preview that you are presenting is a clear picture of our Father in Heaven?

March 11, 2009

A Sense of Destiny

One of my favorite writer/pastors right now is Mark Batterson. He's relatively new in the book world, but both In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day & Wild Goose Chase were hugely succesful. I enjoyed both of them tremendously & would recommend them to anybody.

One of Mark's biggest themes that you find in his books, blog posts, & teachings is living with a sense of destiny. It's a thread that seems to run consistently through almost everything he does. However, it's a thread that seems to be missing from the fabric of too many believers' lives.

If we really believe what we say we believe, then we should live with a holy sense of destiny, a sense that God has great things in store for us along life's path. Yet so many people live dull, unadventurous lives that look like anything but the abundant life that Jesus promised. Why is that?

Could it be that we haven't fully believed with our lives the things that we believe with our words? When we live it out, we have surrendered ourselves to our faith, & in doing so we find a freedom that words can't really express. It's the surrender/commitment that breaks down all the barriers that might otherwise hold us back.

March 10, 2009

What If?

I'm preparing right now to re-teach some foundational teachings of what we're about at Revolutions Student Ministries. A lot of it comes from the very familiar Acts 1:8. In this passage, Jesus casts a God-sized vision for His disiciples. He tells a bunch of guys that had never really been that far from home that they would somehow impact the entire world. In some ways, that must have seemed far-fetched, but if you're talking to a guy who has just risen from the dead, you probably don't doubt anything that He says is possible.

The question that I have for my students & really for all of us is "What If We Lived Like We Really Believed What Jesus Said?". I look at my own life & the lives of other Christians around me, & I don't see us living lives that are pursuing this kind of life. In fact, we're happy if we can just keep our own homes afloat, nevermind reaching the world for Christ. Too many times I think we look at these words of Jesus & think that it's simply a nice pep-talk. After all, Jesus was about to leave this revolution He had started in the hands of guys like Simon Peter; you know the loud-mouthed, ear chopping guy. So Jesus had to get them all pumped up right?

But what if Jesus really meant what He said? God's vision & mission has always been global in its scope & eternal in its significance, yet most of us live lives that just want to get by. We don't chase after a call & a mission that even comes close to the mission of Acts 1:8.

What if we did believe Jesus? What would change about how we live right now? What would we stop doing? What would we start doing?

March 6, 2009

A Little Link Love

Here are some good things that I found this week in the handful of blogs I follow pretty much everyday.

Here's some stuff from Craig Groeschel on small groups. So many churches struggle with their small group ministry whether it's Sunday School, home groups, or some other format.

Here is a great post from Steven Furtick at Elevation Church in Charlotte. It's really made me evaluate myself & the people who serve around me.

Here's a link to Tony Morgan's top posts of February. This is a gold mine. Check out the post about "The New Traditional Church". It's very thought provoking

March 4, 2009

Lessons From The First "300"-The Traps

As the story of Gideon begins to close we see some interesting things going on. As Gideon returns as the victorious leader of the army that has defeated the Midianites, the people actually want to make Gideon king over Israel. It's at this point that Gideon eludes that first trap that is set for him as a leader. It's the trap of power. Power & control can be intoxicating. Power can take a once purely motivated leader & twist him or her into a person that is unrecognizable. While the leader may strengthen his positional leadership, his true ability to lead has been compromised.

Although Gideon refuses to be made king, he does ask that he receive some of the spoils of the victory. He takes the gold & precious metals & jewels that were given to him, & he makes an ephod. FYI, that's a fancy name for some sort of structure that would be used as a sort of monument & in this case a monument to what God had done for His people. Sounds great huh? Gideon takes his spoils of war & transforms them into a monument of God's power & faithfulness to His people. Good stuff right? The only problem is that as time went on the Bible says that the people began to actually worship the ephod. The Bible says that even Gideon's family slipped back into the same spiritual adultery that they were in before God revealed Himself to Gideon. It was at this point that Gideon slipped up at the trap of idolatry. Idols don't have to be made out of metal or carved out of wood or stone. My experience is that my biggest idol stares back at me in the mirror everyday. Anything that threatens to usurp God's place as our object of worship & devotion is in danger of becoming our idol. The sad, ironic thing is that the very thing Gideon intended to be a monument of God's faithfulness & power became the very stumbling block back that led people away from God.

The final trap that was set for Gideon along his path is what I call the trap of investment. It's the temptation to neglect the need to invest in the future. Whether it's rooted in an arrogance that thinks we'll always be the leader & that we alone have the answers or whether it's simply rooted in ignorance to the need to invest in future leaders, this is the trap that can destroy an otherwise good leader. When Gideon dies, he leaves over 70 sons, any of whom could have been developed into a leader. The only problem is that none of them were invested in, & Gideon didn't invest in anyone else either. Therefore, there is no leadership & the people, as the Bible says, did what was right in their own eyes. In fact, one of Gideons sons actually rises up & kills the others in an attempt to become king. Pretty dysfunctional huh?

These three traps are common to all leaders. Power threatens to blind us to our need to grow. We think we can simply subdue & rule over our areas of leadership. Idolatry takes on infinite forms & creeps into our lives, often in surprising places. Investment is the key to long term success, yet it does not come naturally. We must make it a priority in our leadership. I believe that if we fail to invest in the leaders around us & the ones coming behind us, then ultimately we have failed to really lead.

What traps are on your path? What do you do to keep your eyes open for those places where the enemy wants to take you out?

March 3, 2009

Lessons From The First "300"-Facing Opposition

In the wake of Gideon's miraculous victory over the armies of Midian, he encounters something he has never had to personally face: opposition. Earlier in the story, stiff opposition reared its head, but it was Gideon's father who came to face them. Now Gideon is faced with opposition & conflict as he & his army are in hot pursuit of the remnant of Midian's army, including the kings of Midian.

Gideon recruits the people of Ephraim to help him track down the soldiers who managed to escape in the self-inflicted massacre at Jezreel. The leaders of Ephraim are pretty upset with Gideon that they were not a part of the initial army that faced off against Midian. The Bible says they "contended" with Gideon. So apparently this was a pretty heated incident. Gideon's handling of this is brilliant. We know that he could have easily pulled rank as the man God called out to lead, but instead he talks up the tribe of Ephraim. He talks about how great they are. He even says that the mission could not have been accomplished without their involvement. He simply helps the leaders of Ephraim see how they played a vital role in God's plan. Their part was just different from his. The Bible says that this approach calmed everyone down, & the contention simply melted away.

After this Gideon sets out with his men to capture the kings of Midian. They arrive in the towns of Succoth & Penuel, & Gideon's army is tired, hungry, & thirsty. In each town Gideon asks for some help from his countrymen. The response is pretty harsh. In each place, they are told to get out of town. Apparently the leaders of these cities did not want to help Gideon because he had not yet captured the kings of Midian. They were covering their backside in the event that the kings escaped. Needless to say, Gideon was ticked. He vowed to capture the kings & return to both of these towns & discipline them accordingly.

Gideon does capture the kings & makes his way back home, & of course, he goes back through Succoth & Penuel. Now it's time for Gideon to go Old Testament on these guys. The Bible says that in Penuel he tore down the great tower they had & killed the leaders. Then in Succoth he took the leaders of the city outside the city & "disciplined" them with thorns & briars. Ouch!

So what's the lesson behind this? The lesson is that leading in the face of opposition requires both wisdom & strength. In the moment, all opposition feels the same. It feels like someone or some group is standing in the way of God's vision, & without wisdom, a leader will always overcompensate. Ephraim's opposition to Gideon was rooted in a misunderstanding. They misunderstood their role in what God was doing. It took wisdom for Gideon to see that & deal with it properly. However, the opposition he faced in Succoth & Penuel was rooted in a total disregard for God's mission. These towns were concerned about themselves & their comfort. And while the discipline may seem harsh to us, there is no way that Gideon could deal with that situation the same way he handled his conflict with Ephraim.

Leading in the face of opposition requires both wisdom & strength. Where do you struggle? Do you need discernment to know how to balance the two? How have you messed this up in the past?

March 2, 2009

Lessons From The First "300"-Fearless, Focused, & Faithful

OK, I could camp out here forever because there is so much good stuff, but as Judges 7 begins we find Gideon & his army camped out awaiting the battle against the armies of Midian. As they are there, Gideon gets a word from God. "Your army is too big!" By the way, Gideon's army is outnumbered by over 100,000 soldiers. On top of that, Gideon's soldiers weren't really soldiers. They were not only outnumbered but outclassed by their enemy, yet God's word is still that the army is too big. So Gideon tells anyone who is afraid that they can go home. No consequences, no questions asked, if you're afraid, then go home. Just like that, Gideon loses 22,000 men. All he has now is 10,000 volunteer fighters to take on over 130,000 enemy troops.

Then God says, "Your army is still too big!" At this point, I think I would have thought God had lost his mind. The odds were plenty long enough to insure that victory would be considered a miracle, but no, God has to mess around some more. So Gideon take his army to the river to get some water. Any man that lays down & drinks from the river like a dog is going to be sent home. When they get to the river, all but 300 men lay down & drink like a pack of dogs from the river. So 9,700 men are sent home.

Finally the time for the battle has come. Gideon has 300; the armies of Midian number well over 100,000. Do the math. There is no way to fight this battle. So what kind of plan do you implement to not only fight the battle, but to actually attack such an ominous opponent? Well, Gideon put trumpets & clay pots in the hands of his soldiers. In one hand they held a clay pot with a torch inside it. In the other hand they held a trumpet. They surrounded the enemy camp. Then each man, blew his trumpet & screamed, "A sword for the Lord & for Gideon." Don't miss this: in one hand they held a trumpet & in the other a pot. Where was their sword? Where was their weapon?

This is a powerful lesson in the necessity for fearlessness, focus, & faith. Most people were eliminated from the mission because of their fear. Another group was disqualified because they lacked focus. They were too worried about their own thirst to remember that they were on the edge of a battle. The final 300 proved their worth by demonstrating their faith. They walked into an impossible fight without a sword in their hands. Their faith was in their God to win the battle for them. God uses the fearlessly focused faithful few to accomplish the mission.