Sharpening vision, shaping values, & sharing adventures in christian leadership. Since 1991, the Arrow Leadership Program has been actively engaged in Christian leadership development; helping leaders to grow from the inside out. We have seen how strategically investing in a Christian leader, transforms that leader and their community.
Confession: I have struggled with bad posture my entire life, and I believe it is getting worse as I age. My chiropractor reminds me often that not paying attention to my posture will affect many areas of my life. It will impact my running, my sleep, my ability to breathe deeply and ultimately my overall health. The crazy thing about it all is that one’s posture can be corrected!
As we age, our posture can become an issue, and I believe the same is true for us as Christian leaders. There are three healthy postures I believe we need to have as leaders that will help us “age” and “mature” well.
Posture of Submission – Philippians 2:6 I like being right. I like being in charge. I like being the final word. I like leading because, in most circumstances, the org chart reveals that most are in submission to me. Dear leader, please be careful. Jesus reminds us that our submission must be first to God (John 8:28), but I will go a step further and say that submission to God and man is good for the soul. Find space and situations where your word is not the final one. Force yourself to listen to an outside voice or wise counsel that pushes you into areas you would not naturally go. Allow your board or supervisor to lead you even when you don’t fully agree with the decision.
Posture of Service – Philippians 2:7 As we age, it is easy to forget that our first call is to serve. Jesus, our leader, reminds us that just like him we are not called to be served but to serve. It is easy to forget this posture and to begin thinking our people, our staff or our community exist to serve us. A little secret I learned years ago was to find a practice of serving those that my job description did not require. I also learned it is good to show up within the church or organization in places that you are not required to be and just be there to serve.
Posture of Sacrifice – Philippians 2:8 A posture of service is impossible without a proper posture of sacrifice. Remember leader, we have been crucified with Christ and we no longer even live, Christ now lives in us (Gal. 2:20). A posture of sacrifice reminds us that our leadership is not about us. We gave up our salaries, our retirement, our positions and titles when we said “Yes” to following Jesus. Sacrifice means just that, letting go of what we believe is ours for the sake of others. Sacrifice can hurt, and that is OK. Don’t take the credit for something, be audaciously generous and don’t let anyone know it was you. Let go of something that you want to provide for someone in need.
These three postures are vital to leadership health. Here is the reality, you must seek to be healthy in all three; you can’t cheat! There have been seasons of my leadership where I was healthy in one area but not the others. Healthy postures do not work like that, it takes focus on each.
My Chiropractor often reminds me of the formula to healthy body posture:
Awareness – You must look in the mirror and see for yourself. You must ask others to remind you when you are out of line.
Attitude – You must want to change, or you never will. You must believe for yourself in the importance of right posture, or it won’t change.
Actions – Now that you are aware, and your attitude is ready, it is time to put into action some steps to fix the problem.
How about you? Are you aware of your leadership posture? Are you willing to ask others how are you doing in those areas? How is your attitude as you read this article; are you open to change? Are you willing to take action?
Here is one final encouragement:
Don’t get overwhelmed! Change in posture is a process that must continually be reviewed. Sometimes we may need some simple tweaks, while other times we may need a complete overhaul. You can do it! I believe you want to be a leader worth following, and you want to be like Jesus in your leadership. Here is the amazing mystery about postures, you are in control. The health of your posture is not determined by anyone else but you. You can change. You can be healthy. You don’t have to ask permission or seek board approval. Change can start right now, today, and will begin to impact your leadership, personal life and family for a lifetime!
I’m praying for you! If you want to connect more about leadership postures, about where to begin or Arrow resources, feel free to let us know. We are here to serve!
Are you searching for a new team member? Perhaps you’re looking for a new hire or key volunteer to help you move forward. Let me offer a few helpful tips.
Pray – This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’m a slow learner on this one. Too often I race ahead and search for the right person on my own. Then I resort to prayer when I get stuck. Instead, why not ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest field? Not surprisingly, when I’ve prayed sometimes the right name has come to mind, or the right person has shown up out of nowhere.
Make It Personal – Blanket announcements and advertisements can work, but a personal invitation takes things to an entirely different level. Personally asking someone to consider a role ensures awareness of the opportunity and expresses a compliment. It can also encourage someone who has already self-selected themselves out to reconsider.
Don’t Lower the Bar – Don’t give in to desperation. Keep your expectations clear and high. Lowering the bar to get a position filled usually comes back to haunt you. You get what you ask for. You may also frustrate the new person if you get them on board with one set of expectations only to switch to higher expectations. Also, when you lower the bar your ideal candidates may self-select out because the role isn’t a challenge.
Listen to Dissenting Voices – You may feel this person is an all-star but take time to listen to others, especially those with wisdom and discernment. Often time I’ve found that other people have picked up on key things that I couldn’t but needed to see. One rule of thumb for key roles is to have at least 3 people interview a candidate, engage the candidate at least 3 times and see the candidate in at least 3 different contexts.
Don’t Say Someone Else’s No for Them – Sometimes we don’t ask people because we think they’d never say yes. By presenting the opportunity and giving them a chance to pray and respond you can sometimes be wonderfully surprised.
Get Your Team Recruiting – Team members who are passionate about your mission have a vested interest in seeing the mission move forward with a healthy team. They also have more combined contacts than you do, and they have a unique perspective about the role to share with their peers. Mobilize them!
Create Shallow End Opportunities – Too often we ask people to jump into the deep end of the pool and get surprised when they say no. Instead, try creating some shallow end, low-risk opportunities they can say yes to. For example, instead of asking a potential children’s ministry volunteer to commit to a year with the grade five boy’s class, ask them to come to a 30-minute meeting about the vision of the children’s ministry or to be a helper for one Sunday. A small investment can start a process, and it helps discern compatibility.
Don’t Look for Clones – There’s already one of you so don’t focus your search on finding someone just like you. Be very open to someone who could complement and bring something extra to the team. Also, when you are replacing someone, don’t look for their clone. That person likely doesn’t exist, and God might provide a different person who brings freshness to the role.
Match Calling, Passion and Giftedness to the Role – Putting a square peg into a round hole can be done, but neither the peg nor hole will thrive long-term. Don’t overlook or shortchange someone’s calling or passion because of your own short-term need. Be sure the person’s calling, passion and giftedness match the role.
Don’t Sell Character Short – It can be intoxicating to imagine someone with great competency joining your team. Same with chemistry. If you wonderfully connect with someone, there can be an instant bond. In either case, whatever you do, don’t sell character short. The costs of addressing character shortfalls can be enormous. Be patient, discerning and prayerful in God for wisdom and seeking counsel from colleagues.
Can you fill in the blank? “I’m not ____________ enough.”
This isn’t a time-consuming or difficult question for many Christian leaders. The answers seem to flow with surprising speed and ease. There also seem to be multiple possibilities. Here are just a few examples:
I’m not old/young enough.
I’m not wise/educated enough.
I’m not experienced/skilled enough.
I’m not extroverted enough.
I’m not good/pure enough.
I’m not strong/courageous enough.
Unfortunately, this list could go on and on. The fill-in-the-blank words may be different from leader to leader, but the impact is the same. These words can easily become self-talk in our minds. With enough of this kind of self-talk, even though we can hear God’s call or see an opportunity, we feel inadequate or even disqualified. Then there can be a very real temptation to self-select out or just stay safe on the sidelines.
This was Moses’ reality. In Exodus 3 Moses has an encounter with a burning bush. Through this bush that doesn’t burn but does talk, God gets Moses’ captive attention. Through the bush, God shares that he’s heard and seen the misery of his people under the oppression of the Egyptians. He also shares that he has a plan to bring freedom and blessing to his people. At this point, everything likely sounds pretty good to Moses. Then God’s plan gets personal.
In Exodus 3:19 God says, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” When Moses hears that God wants him to lead the exodus, he doesn’t think he should or that he even could do it. He responds, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
Behind Moses’ question, you can sense him filling in the “I’m not ________ enough” blank. After all, it could be easily argued that he isn’t qualified for this important and dangerous job. Born an Israelite but raised an Egyptian, Moses doesn’t fully belong to either group. Then there’s the fact that he is a murderer being hunted by Pharaoh. Moses is actually in his own exile taking care of sheep in the middle of nowhere. With this less than stellar resume and all the negative self-talk that went with it, Moses wants to self-select out and stay safe on the sidelines.
God responds in Exodus 3:12, “I will be with you.” In other words, God is saying, “Me being with you is better than anything on your resume. In fact, me being with you is enough. I am – my character and my presence – your qualification.”
Moses isn’t buying it. He’s still desperate to find a way out. He says to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” In other words, “What’s my qualification?”
At this point, God again makes Moses’ qualifications very clear. He says to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelite’s, “I AM has sent me to you.” God wants Moses to get his eyes off of himself and his own shortcomings (real and perceived) and get his eyes onto the Caller. To do what God is asking him to do, Moses must get his eyes off himself and place his confidence in God.
So let’s go back to your fill-in-the-blank. Has God called you? If so, where are your eyes looking? If your confidence comes from looking at yourself, you are in trouble. If your lack of confidence comes from looking at yourself, you are in trouble of a different kind. Instead, there’s someone else, someone much better to look at. How might your outlook and confidence change if you look to God—his call, his character and his presence with you?
“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competency comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant…”
2 Corinthians 3:5-6
May this prayer help focus your eyes today:
Lord, forgive me for putting my eyes squarely on myself.
I cannot qualify myself before you in anything for anything.
My competency comes from you—your character, Christ’s work on the cross, the Holy Spirit’s work and gifting in me and your presence with me.
Through faith in you and by your grace, I obediently choose to look to you and to follow you.
I’d never heard of anyone praying for toilet seats before. But then, this was going to be a very different and very unforgettable night.
I was in West Palm Beach, Florida working as the follow-up coordinator for Josh McDowell’s speaking tour with The Newsboys. Night after night on this multi-city tour Josh would share the gospel message to a stadium full of young people. My job, as part of my seminary internship, was to prepare the volunteers who would connect and pray with people who wanted to learn more or make decisions to follow Christ.
When we arrived at the stadium, we asked the organizers how many tickets they had sold because knowing anticipated numbers would help us prepare accordingly. We were shocked when the the organizers shared that they hadn’t sold any tickets. They had no idea how many people – or if any people – were coming. However, they did say (with smiles) that they had been praying intensely for weeks. Their prayer was that God would fill every seat in this 5,000-plus seat stadium with young people who needed to hear the gospel.
The main organizer went on to say when they were allowed into the stadium that morning they had a team assembled who physically touched and prayed over each and every one of the 5,000-plus seats. Their prayer over each seat was that God would bring a young person who needed to hear the Gospel to fill that specific seat. Not wanting to miss any potential “seat” somewhere along the line, they also prayed for those who would sit on every single toilet seat!
We were blown away by our hosts. Their faith and intentional prayer was off the charts. But, to be honest, I wasn’t just wondering how many people were going to come. Part of me was wondering if anyone was going to come. God was getting set to teach me some lessons I’d never forget.
A few hours later the parking lot began to fill, and long lines began to form outside. The doors opened, and the stadium quickly began to come alive. Before too long every seat was filled. But there was a problem. There were hundreds of people lined up outside who couldn’t get inside. That’s when the main organizer went to the microphone. After a warm welcome, he shared that their prayer for weeks was that every seat would be filled with young people who needed to hear the gospel. Then he made a bold request. He asked every adult sitting in a seat to leave the building. This act of selflessness, he shared, would free up seats for young people waiting outside.
The adults responded and began to leave. They were quickly replaced by young people from outside, and The Newsboys concert began. After the first music set, Josh took the stage and began to share the gospel. At the end of his talk he invited anyone who wanted to follow Jesus to get up out of their seats and make their way to meet our team of volunteers for prayer and follow-up.
Hundreds and hundreds of young people got up. In fact, so many began to move from their seats that Josh asked them to stop. He wondered if they misunderstood the invitation, so he explained again. Rather than deter response, more young people rose to their feet. Our volunteer team of several hundred were so outnumbered that Josh had to intervene. As we prayed individually and in small groups with as many as we could, he guided the crowd in a group response and prayer time. The response was overwhelming.
At the end of the night I was reminded again of Romans 1:16 and not to be ashamed of the gospel because “…it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”
I also learned one more important piece to the story. Remember all the adults who left their seats to make room for young people earlier that night? When they left, most of them didn’t do what I likely would have done. I likely would have gone to a nearby coffee shop to visit with friends and kill time before driving kids home. Instead, these adults prayed. In fact, they formed a prayer ring around the outside of the stadium. Their prayers, though they couldn’t see the impact from their vantage point outside, were a key part of God’s amazing work inside.
Simply retelling this story brings me goosebumps. It’s a profound reminder about the importance and ministry of prayer. It’s an encouragement to be intentional in prayer. It’s a call to be faithful in prayer even when you can’t see God’s amazing work from your vantage point.
So, on your own or with your team, I encourage you to take some time this week to wrestle with this question: How can we raise the bar on prayer in our context?
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)
This title may sound like the start of another very well-deserved tribute to the amazing life and tremendous legacy of Billy Graham, but this article is about another spiritual giant. His name was Evon Hedley.
Evon was a contemporary and friend of Billy Graham but I don’t think his name was ever up in lights or on a marquee. That’s why his homecoming at age 102 (five days after Mr. Graham) didn’t cause an international buzz or social media sensation. Yet Evon was and is a spiritual giant.
I first met Evon in 2000 when I was a participant in the Arrow Leadership Program. Evon was an on-site mentor who became a special encourager, wise mentor and prayerful supporter in my life.
Evon’s life is an amazing story of God at work. Though there’s much that could be written, I’m going to focus just on Evon’s impact and legacy as a mentor. It’s a profound illustration of the Parable of the Sower – the seed that produces 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown.
Two years ago, I was invited to Evon’s 100th birthday. He was having several celebrations, but this party was for just his mentees. Over his years, Evon intentionally invested his life walking alongside over 100 others through mentoring. The list included pastors, musicians, marketplace leaders, doctors, lawyers, bankers and others scattered across North America and beyond. As I listened to the tributes from several dozens of these mentees along with their spouses and children, I was moved to learn that at least two mentees named their children after Evon.
From his early days, Evon had a heart for intentionally and prayerfully coming alongside younger leaders. One of these leaders has a very special connection to the ministry of Arrow Leadership. Many years ago, Evon was sharing the vision to reach youth for Christ in Chatham, Ontario and challenged a tall, young man in the group to lead the charge. That young man, only 14 at the time, was Leighton Ford.
As Dr. Leighton Ford writes, “[Evon] stayed close to me, guided me, encouraged me, sometimes scolded me a bit, sent traveling speakers our way, and included me in leadership gatherings.” You likely know that Leighton Ford married Billy Graham’s sister and went on to serve globally as an evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Leighton then launched the Arrow Leadership Program in 1991 to focus on developing Christian leaders who are led more by Jesus, lead more like Jesus and lead more to Jesus.
With Evon’s early mentoring of Leighton Ford and then the launch of the Arrow Leadership Program, you can catch a small glimpse of just one wave of the ripple effect of Evon’s life. As Evon invested in Leighton Ford’s life, Leighton invested in many others — including Dr. Carson Pue who would go on to be Arrow’s President. Carson in turn invested in many more leaders, including me. For the last fourteen years I have had the privilege of walking alongside leaders who are in turn investing in many others. This generational mentoring trail leads back to one faithful mentor—Evon.
To share one personal story, a couple of years ago I was feeling overwhelmed and I needed some perspective. So, I called Evon. I asked him if he remembered the pressures and challenges he faced in his forties. To my surprise and despite his very good memory, Evon said that he didn’t really remember those times. His answer gave me very needed fresh perspective that it’s quite possible that what seems overwhelming today won’t really matter or even be remembered when I’m in my nineties.
I followed up with this question, “Evon can you think of what you would do differently in your forties?” His answer was instant, “I’d love people more.”
One of the repeated themes from the mentees at Evon’s 100th birthday was his steadfast love, faithful prayers and relentless encouragement. Virtually every time I finished talking with Evon I heard these words, “Steve, I love you. I’m proud of you and I’m praying for you every day.” Those words are precious gifts that I believe every leader and Christ-follower needs to regularly hear.
Can you think of an Evon in your life? If so, I encourage you to send them a note or make a call to thank and bless them for their impact on your life. If they have already left this world, then contact their spouse or family and thank them.
Could you be an Evon? You don’t need to be famous to used by God to make a tremendous impact. You just need to be faithful, available and intentional in walking alongside others.
Imagine if all of us followed Evon’s example and intentionally walked alongside others for God’s purposes and glory? Like Evon’s, the ripple effect would be far more than we can ever imagine!
Too often these kinds of words describe the head and heart space of Christian leaders.
After all, this type of head and heart space easily breeds in hectic ministry and work environments. When there are non-stop competing demands, constant and chaotic changes, and complex decisions to navigate, it follows that leaders find themselves scattered, unfocused and eventually worn down.
Thankfully, Jesus points us to a different way.
In Mark 1:21-34 Jesus had had an incredible day. He started by teaching in the synagogue, then visited a friends’ mother-in-law (and healed her) and then, in the evening, the whole town gathered at his door with all the sick and demon-possessed. Many with various diseases were healed and many demons were driven out.
Quite a day! Invigorating, unforgettably intense and likely spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausting.
The next morning, when everyone woke up, they began to look for Jesus. After the miraculous night before, they likely longed to see Jesus do even more. But Simon and his companions couldn’t find Jesus. He was gone!
As Mark writes in 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.” Jesus had chosen to pull away. He likely needed space to catch his breath, to give thanks, to enjoy intimacy with Father and Spirit, to process what had happened, to guard his heart from the expectations and praise of others and to listen closely for whatever God was calling him to next.
When Simon found Jesus he didn’t find a frazzled, frenetic, frayed or fatigued Jesus lost in a mental fog. Instead, he found Jesus with great clarity, surprising focus and deep confidence. Jesus replied in Mark 1:38, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” For Jesus, his next steps were clear and he was ready to lean into his calling — even though this direction may have surprised or even disappointed others.
Pulling away for prayer and perspective wasn’t a one-time event for Jesus. It was a regular rhythm. And it’s a rhythm that can radically and positively change your head and heart space (and mine).
This rhythm and practice of pulling away can take various forms. I’m a runner and pulling away can mean a run that quiets and clears my head. It can be 3-5 minutes of silence as you start your day. It can be part of the blessing from an intentional Sabbath day. I try to step out of our office every afternoon and take 15 minutes to walk around the block. You could pause at lunch to read Scripture. Sometimes I go to a coffee shop. I try to book a half or full day regularly at a local retreat center. These kinds of simple but intentional steps can help radically change your head and heart space.
To help leaders in this important area, we have recently launched a new resource called a Leadership Tune-up. It’s designed to help busy leaders step back, find fresh perspective and experience renewed clarity, focus and confidence. It includes an online assessment, followed by a 90-minute one-to-one personalized coaching session with me. You can learn more here: www.arrowleadership.org/tuneup
Our world and your organization desperately needs leaders with clarity, focus and confidence. When was the last time you pulled away? What could this look like for you?
Integrate is about cultivating more Jesus-centered leaders. Covering three themes, each including an 8-minute video and guided conversation, this resource provides an engaging platform for leadership teams, boards, small groups, Bible studies and peer mentoring groups to have transformational discussions around the Leader of leaders – Jesus.
Included in your purchase: 4 video downloads, PDF resource guide and PowerPoint presentation
A new year is a great chance for a fresh start. It’s an opportunity to try new things and set new rhythms. The little ideas that follow won’t be found on a list of “Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions” but they are simple, practical and could pay big dividends in the year ahead:
1) Walking Meetings
Walking together can increase openness, add more energy and return you to the office feeling fresher with a few calories burned. (Disclaimer: For those of you in northern climates, this idea will sound more appealing in spring).
What’s on your reading list for 2018? Did any books over 100 years old make your list? Anything over 500 years? It’s easy to be consumed by the latest bestsellers and miss the amazing treasure chest of deep enduring wisdom written over the course of history. Add some old books to your reading list for 2018.
3) Pray for Your People
Start a simple daily rhythm of prayer by creating a one-page monthly calendar chart (five columns for the weekdays and four rows for each week in a month). On each weekday list the names of 2-4 direct reports, mentees, peers, co-workers, etc. Then use the chart to focus your prayers day-by-day. Your faithfulness over time will add up!
4) Get Thankful
Developing a habit of gratitude changes your outlook and helps defeat feelings of entitlement. It’s also biblical! Take five minutes daily to identify three things for which you can be thankful. Replay the day and pay attention to small and big blessings. Write them down. Thank God. Review your growing list regularly.
5) Book Your Vacation Now
The research is clear and overwhelming on the multiple positive benefits of taking annual vacations. Too many people don’t take vacations or leave planning to the last minute. Get your vacation dates set and approved six months or more in advance. Vacations don’t need to be luxurious, but they do need to be taken.
6) Recruit a Prayer Team
Is anyone regularly and intentionally praying for you? Start small and ask two or three people to pray for you weekly. Then take 10 minutes to craft a brief e-update on the 10th of each month (the rhythm of 10 minutes on the 10th will help you remember to do it). Include three things:
What’s new/how you are doing;
Praise for what God has done; &
Two to five prayer requests.
Send special e-updates when urgent needs arise and be sure to actively express your appreciation every quarter to your prayer team!
7) Learn Something New
Invest an hour a week learning something new. New learning will refresh you, get your mind working in different ways, connect you to new people and help you more fully engage your everyday responsibilities.
8) Be 10% More Friendly
Arrow Leadership Program trainer Dr. Dave Overholt encourages leaders to be 10% more friendly with the people you meet in everyday interactions. Being 10% more friendly means taking an extra moment with the store clerk, cab driver, or fellow traveler. It means being present to them as Jesus would. It starts with paying attention, asking a question and listening. This simple practice can open up opportunities to naturally encourage, pray and have deeper faith conversations.
9) Get To The Doctor
Christian leaders are often so focused helping others that they neglect self-care. When was the last time you had a check-up for your body, eyes or teeth? Booking an appointment this year is good stewardship and could help avert future problems.
10) Book A Leadership Tune-Up
If you owned a Ferrari, it wouldn’t make any sense to drive it with worn spark plugs. For peak performance you would keep the engine tuned. Leaders need tune-ups too. That’s why we have launched a essay in spanish resource to help Christian leaders to stay sharp, fresh and focused. It’s a 90-minute one-to-one coaching experience that results in a growth plan to guide your development over the next year. You can don t call me ishmael essay
May one of these little ideas pay big dividends for you in 2018!
Have you ever had trouble getting a song out of your head?
It can easily happen after you’ve heard a few notes from your kids’ favorite Disney movie soundtrack. The same goes for the commercial with the catchy jingle or that overplayed song on the radio. Before you know it, you are humming along and then you can’t seem to stop what becomes an endless loop! You can drive yourself crazy!
If you can relate, then you probably understand what it feels like to get a particular thought stuck in your head. For Christian leaders, these thoughts are usually negative, take on a life of their own and most definitely hold leaders back.
I recently asked a group of ministry leaders to list the internal self-talk thoughts and mindsets that can hold leaders back. Here’s just a sampling:
You’re in way over your head.
You’re going to fail.
You’re not as gifted as __________________.
How do I keep ________________ happy?
What will people think?
It all depends on me.
I’m afraid of ______________________.
You’re alone in this, nobody cares and nobody can help.
If only we had _______________ then we’d see God move and experience growth.
Do any of these “songs” or similar ones ever play in your head? If they do and you don’t quickly shut them down, then you and your leadership will pay a hefty price.
Your mind and what you think about matters. Actually, that’s a big understatement! Let me try again: Your mind really really really matters. A key action of the Greatest Commandment is to love God with all your mind (Mark 12:30). You are also called to not be “…conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Here are two key steps to taking charge of the “songs” in your head and living out God’s desire for your mind:
1) Fix Your Eyes on God
When your thoughts dwell on yourself, others or your circumstances, you can quickly get into trouble. Instead, you and I need to “…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
In fixing our eyes on Jesus, we are taking our mind off ourselves, others and our circumstances, and training our mind to focus on God. As Thomas Watson beautifully wrote long ago, “The first fruit of love is the musing of the mind upon God. He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object…By this we may test our love to God. What are our thoughts most upon? Can we say we are ravished with delight when we think on God? Oh, how far are they from being lovers of God, who scarcely ever think of God!”
All of us need a bigger, clearer and fuller picture of the truth and magnitude of who God is. A central way to develop this picture is to cultivate relationship with God through Scripture. I’ve found each of these three ingredients critical:
A clear plan for engaging God’s Word;
A set aside place; and
A pre-scheduled time to be in God’s Word each day.
2) Shut Down Unhealthy Soundtracks
You and I have both the choice and ability to shut down unhealthy soundtracks. As Dallas Willard writes in Renovation of the Heart, “The ultimate freedom we have as human beings is the power to select what we will allow our minds to dwell upon.”
This means that when an unhealthy soundtrack starts playing in your head, you need to shut it down. This is living out Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Taking thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ can start by prayerfully (and even verbally) rejecting the unhealthy or sinful thoughts. Call them what they are. Then change the mental channel by fixing your eyes on God and declaring specific truth. Seek to shut down the soundtrack as soon as possible. The longer you let the unhealthy soundtrack play, the harder it is to shut down.
Some closing reflection questions:
What internal self-talk, thoughts and mindsets hold you back?
How can you fix your focus more firmly on God?
What soundtrack do you need to shut down?
Cheering you on,
PS. Do you need a tune-up in your leadership? If you long to sharpen your focus and go to the next level, Arrow’s new Leadership Tune-Up can help. This 90-minute one-to-one skype coaching session with a seasoned Arrow coach will provide you with a customized plan of action and practical tools to guide your growth in 2018. Learn more at: best holiday essay
When I’m asked to recommend resources on developing others, my first response often surprises people. My go-to book has been around a long time! It’s the Bible’s 1 Thessalonians. Written by the Apostle Paul around AD 52, this short letter powerfully illustrates Paul’s heart and practice in developing people. It’s simple, practical and profound.
Here are six keys from 1 Thessalonians that will guide, challenge and encourage you in developing others:
Key #1 – Love People
Paul loved these people. He cared for them. He shared the gospel with them. He shared his life with them. As Paul writes, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (2:7-8).
It might seem pretty basic, but sometimes we can miss this one. It’s fairly easy to get so focused on the mission or so task driven that we neglect to deeply love the people God has put right in front of us. Are you expressing love like a mother’s care and significant time with those you are developing?
Key #2 – Pray Regularly
Paul prayed for those he was developing. He recognized that real deep change is grounded in God’s work and fostered by intense prayer. Paul’s clearest words on prayer are, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers” (1:2). Notice the words “always,” “all of you” and “continually.”
Sometimes we can be so focused on working through a program or moving the plan forward that we neglect to pray for the people around us. Do the words “always” or “all” or “continually” reflect the intensity of your prayers for those you are developing?
Key #3 – Be An Example
Paul challenged the people he was developing to follow his example. He knew that people would evaluate his words by his actions. He also knew that more is often caught than taught. Recognizing that his own life example had a profound impact, Paul writes, “You are witnesses and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed” (2:10).
This is a tough one! What are others picking up through our example? Does your life and actions stir others to growth? Is there anything about your example that you don’t want others to catch?
Key #4 – Provide Perspective
Perspective is a key ingredient to growth. Without perspective we can become trapped in the past, discouraged by the present and overwhelmed by the future. In 2:4-10 Paul addressed the past, present and future for the Thessalonians by reminding them of God’s character, God’s work and God’s promises.
A good developer helps others see God in the midst of their circumstances and challenges. Where, or better yet to whom, do you point people in need of perspective?
Key #5 – Encourage Lavishly
Paul knew that encouragement is a key ingredient for growth. Almost everyone is working from an encouragement deficit. That’s why Paul encouraged lavishly. He writes, “For you know how we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (2:11-12).
It’s easy to overestimate how much encouragement we are actually expressing and to also underestimate the amount of encouragement people actually need. Do those you are developing see you as one of their greatest earthly encouragers?
These first five practices provide the foundation for number six…
Key #6 – Teacher
Building on a foundation of love, prayer, example, perspective and encouragement, the rest of Paul’s letter is filled with teaching on practical issues and answering specific questions in the hearts and minds of the Thessalonians. Are you teaching from this kind of foundation?
As you look back over this list, you will notice that you don’t need a Ph.D. to do these things! The encouraging news is that developing others doesn’t need to be complicated. It does, however, need to be intentional.
Which one of these six keys should you more intentionally focus on today?