I can’t tell you how many times my boss said this quippy phrase to me each summer between college semesters. Remodeling homes was hard work, but not as hard as missing the mark, scrapping materials, and starting over. Having someone look over my shoulder was humbling. Being called out or getting my work corrected never felt good in the moment. Yet, over time I began to appreciate my apprenticeship.
Eventually my boss grew to trust me. In time he gave me more opportunities. I’ll never forget the day he gave me the keys to the company office and van, a clipboard full of assignments and invoicing sheets, and headed out on vacation for the first time in a long while. “Dan, you’ve got this. I’ll see you in a couple weeks.” My boss believed in me. He wanted his business to succeed, so he hired people that could help that happen. His commitment to the truth kept my boss, his employees, and our work honest and full of integrity. Looking back, my boss was an “on the level” leader.
“On the Level” Leaders are Priceless
We all need “on the level” leaders in our lives – people who courageously tell it like it is, name what’s working and broken, plan wisely and thoroughly, and follow through with integrity. Beyond productive co-laborers, we also need “on the level” leaders who speak into our character, provide fresh perspective, and challenge us to grow.
More than twenty years later, I’m gratefully surprised that my boss’s phrases like “measure twice; cut once” still stick with me. This invaluable tip reminds me that what I do and how I do it matters, especially as a leader. At home, it’s saved me a lot of trips to the hardware store and stressful situations with my wife and kids. In pastoral ministry, I’ve been spared considerable heartache in the areas of strategic planning, finances, relationships, and much more.
Truth: “On the level” leadership saves you way more tomorrow than it costs today
Everyone wins when a leader humbly commits to being “on the level” – a leader that is honest and full of integrity in every area of life. This gets strengthened even more when leaders choose to be in community with other “on the level” leaders for insight, protection, wisdom, and prodding. Trust me, taking the high road is often much harder, but in the end the high road will take us where we want to go. What does this mean for our leadership? We need to be open and receptive to being challenged as leaders. This happens in two ways – through the Holy Spirit and trusted advisors that God places in our lives. Our commitment to becoming and being surrounded by “on the level” leaders will save us way more tomorrow than it costs us today.
I don’t know what personal or ministry challenges you’re facing today. Perhaps measuring twice and cutting once could ease your pain? Are you in the middle of an unforeseen situation that is rocking you to the core? Or, is it possible that God is bringing an “on the level” leader your way to build up your honesty, integrity, or accountability? If He hasn’t brought that person your way yet, maybe it’s time to ask Him to do so.
Are You Ready Grow as an “On the Level” Leader?
Here are some biblical principles, Proverbs, and questions for you to wrestle with this week. If you’re open to becoming an “on the level” leader, understand what it’s worth and why it matters to you. You, your family, your church, and the ministry you lead will be transformed for good if you choose to grow in this area.
“On the level” leaders are humble
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
How open are you to God’s wisdom and instruction? Who is someone “on the level” that He is using to speak into your leadership and how?
“On the level” leaders seek wisdom for protection
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)
How receptive are you to hearing feedback from multiple people with different perspectives? What’s at risk for yourself and the people you lead if you make decisions in isolation?
“On the level” leaders deal with self-deception
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)
When has God’s Spirit or a trusted friend served as a mirror for you as a leader? Who do you currently trust to reveal difficult truths about your character, opinions, motives, and plans as a leader?
“On the level” leaders prepare to win together
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)
What ministry goals, plans, and strategies are you focused on for the next 3-6 months? What outside input and support do you need to make sure these initiatives are solid from start to finish?
“On the level” leaders respect painful realities
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:6)
How have you failed recently as a leader and who pointed it out? What will you do to remain open to constructive truth-telling both personally and in community with other “on the level” leaders?
So, what’s an “on the level” leader really worth?
Truthfully, we can’t answer that question with 100% certainty. However, being led by leaders on the opposite end of the spectrum will cost you dearly.
“On the level” leaders are worth (and will pay) whatever price it takes to be honest and full of integrity in every area of life
It’s never too early or late to strengthen our commitment to becoming a God-honoring leader. Everyone impacted by our leadership, including us, will be so grateful we did.
There are many leadership styles in use in Christian ministry today. What kind of leadership style do you use? I have learned that leadership is not just defined by one style but requires a delicate balance.
Confidence vs. Arrogance
There is indeed a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is believing you are equipped and capable. Confident people do not necessarily have all the answers nor do they believe they are always right. They will know where to go to find the answers they do not possess and they will admit when they are wrong. Confident people are still teachable.
Arrogant people tip the scale beyond humble confidence. My personal determination of arrogance can be summed up by one simple question, “Is this person teachable?”
Indecisiveness or Dictatorship vs. Servant-Leadership
We hear a lot in the Christian community about the virtues of being a servant-leader. Indeed, Jesus did demonstrate for us how to be servants. What I have seen too many times are distortions of this concept. To miss the mark on one side means that a leader is paralyzed by indecisiveness.
What happens if someone doesn’t agree with me?
If I don’t have complete consensus can I still make a decision?
Have I taken enough time to hear all perspectives?
Questions similar to these are not bad, but they can paralyze a decision making process. Some people can worry so much about being perceived as a servant-leader that they can’t make any decisions. On the other side of the scale, being too decisive and not taking team member concerns into consideration can be viewed as being a dictator. People want to really be heard, not just listened to generally.
People don’t like to follow a dictator but they don’t like to follow someone who is consistently indecisive either. It is important to find the balance of biblical servant-leadership. That balance includes not only being a servant, but also being a good steward and being a shepherd as well, just as Jesus taught us.
Structure vs. Flexibility
Many people desire a highly structured, organized and scheduled work environment. It provides security and comfort to them. Others feel confined and restricted by structure and desire the freedom that comes with flexibility. I have found that there is a necessity for both in leadership. As leaders, we need to be structured enough to be efficient and get tasks accomplished, but we also need to be flexible enough to have time for those many things that cannot be scheduled. From someone who just wants someone to talk to for a few minutes to the full blown crisis that must be managed, interruptions to the schedule are inevitable. I have found it is always important to be comfortable with both structure and flexibility.
Action vs. Observation
Do you remember the saying, “Look before you leap”, or “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear”? These are prime examples of what I mean here. Both observation (to evaluate conditions and circumstances) and action (to carry out a task) are important. They must work hand-in-hand. One without the other is a recipe for failure.
Fire Fighting vs. Fire Prevention
So many times leaders can be consumed with the Tyranny of the Urgent. We are forced to react to circumstances in which we have the responsibility to make decisions. Emergencies arise, conditions change that force us to react quickly and decisively. I call this fire fighting. I’m not saying we don’t have to do this; we do.
I strive to reach a place where I can not only fight the fires, but conduct intentional fire prevention to keep some fires from blowing up. Can we put new policies or structures in place that will help prevent fires? Can more care and concern and leadership help?
Balance on that fine line does not come without a close personal relationship with God. He has the supernatural ability to give you balance where it would not otherwise be possible. Above all, spend time with Him. It is a good investment which bears much fruit.
(c) Rick Weston. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
I was fourteen years old and delivering newspapers around southwest England on
a push bike, I was once accidentally hit by a car. After impact, I laid screaming
on the tarmac surface of the road staring at my ankle that had been badly
broken in three places. My right foot had been forced into an unnatural right
angle beyond where it should ever go. I was in pain and in shock but mainly
healing over time and progressing to compete at a decent level, this injury was
the end of my hopes of being more than an amateur footballer. It took years to
recover from and, as others occasionally told me, I was never quite the same
years and one failed arthroscopy later, I’m now unable to play at all and have
even had to forget running completely. I have learned to live with the
limitations of the ankle and, praise God, it still allows me to walk, swim,
lift weights and ride a bike largely pain-free.
Allender’s book, Leading with A Limp, is likely to be a familiar book to
most of you reading this blog. Certainly, if you haven’t come across it yet, I
encourage you to find or buy a copy as an essential asset to your own
I first read it several years ago, it was like a liberating weight being
removed from my shoulders. I could relate strongly with the metaphor of limping
in life and in leadership as the tyranny of comparison with others ‒ as
well as my own experiences in the physical as a teenager ‒ had left me with an
unreasonable dose of self-expectation.
felt like I must achieve a certain point of “success” by a certain “stage of
life” and that, therefore, I was very late.
God isn’t looking for a perfect heart to make willing, but a willing heart to make perfect!
Over the years,
I have come to realize that this isn’t true and that I am primarily called to
be faithful not successful. Indeed, that God isn’t looking for a perfect heart
to make willing but a willing heart to make perfect!
This sanctification takes a lifetime and is a
uniquely and purely personal process. It’s very different for each of us.
lot of us carry unhealthy burdens of self-expectation like this and, despite
believing that we’re loved just as we are, often feel like we need to do
more and do better. Arguably, this is especially true for men who
are called to protect and provide for their wives and families. Am I doing okay?
Am I up to it? Can I really do this? Am I doing them proud?
know these nagging thoughts only too well.
as a potent antidote for these lies, there is a peculiar aspect of Christian
leadership (in the home and at work) that is uniquely different from all other
forms of leadership on the planet. This is perhaps most poignantly seen in the
life of John the Baptist.
Trust to Increasingly Decrease
would have been considered a complete failure by earthly standards: in public
ministry for less than a year and, once a prophetic war-horse of sign and
wonder, in the end languishing in prison with barely a whimper, decapitated at
the whim of a spoiled child.
John’s apparent lack of leadership longevity ‒ his sudden prominence and rapid
decline ‒ wasn’t a lateness or even mainly a limp. It was his finest hour (John 3:29-30).
Limping and timely “success”
for John the Baptist looked like decreasing and diminishing while other
religious, empire-building Pharisees only wanted to increase and rise to public
is a major difference that I believe separates healthy and unhealthy forms of
leadership: possessing a God-given security and inner-trust in the One who
sees all and knows all.
striving for some kind of magazine perfection of human “success”; not unable to
admit to weaknesses, foibles and even addictions, but rather able to
increasingly trust the personal all-sufficiency and preeminence of Jesus in all
of our strengths and weaknesses, triumphs and what may seem to be regrettable lateness.
the other words of Jesus Christ to Paul, that My grace is sufficient for you
(2 Cor. 12:9).
Does This Really Look Like?
for me, this has looked like a rather mega paradigm shift from a focus on
myself (all those unreasonable self-expectations I mentioned) and increasingly
onto the kingdom of heaven and the Coming King.
graduating from University in 2002 with a good degree and a whole heap of good
prospects, and having the immense blessing of open doors into the UK’s NHS (National
Health Service) shortly after that into what could have easily been a “job for
life,” I was made redundant in 2011.
wasn’t at all worried about it at the time and had no doubt that God was
calling all the shots. But what has ensued since then has been an unprecedented
and colossal struggle within my vocational life. For various reasons ‒
including temporary contracts and woefully poor, untenable “Christian
employment,” I haven’t known a settled period of work again in approaching seven
years. This is staggering to me and ‒ on my worst days ‒ a nagging mental
nemesis that always wants to confront my peace.
even in recent months, I have come to understand a different “God way” of
looking at this chronic struggle: God absolutely knows about every single
detail of my life and it’s not up to me to prove that; it’s up to me to rest in
that, come rain or shine.
Matthew 6:25, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do
not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what
you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
I’m continuing to learn that leading healthily with my various limps, with the
naggings of apparent lateness and failures, means increasingly growing in
child-like faith on the One who considers life more important than
Whatever your struggle today, keep in mind ‒ as I am ‒
that Jesus simply never has unreasonable expectations of you. The pains of the
accidents of life ‒ and resultant limping ‒ are not at all at odds with God’s
good and sovereign purposes for your life.
In a time of so much uncertainty, it’s comforting to know there are some rock-solid, absolutely guaranteed methods to destroy the culture of whatever it is you’re leading.
Here they are. Try them out!
Be so busy with your great vision and your amazing ministry work for God that you have no time for God Himself. You’re changing the world, right? That’s a lot of work. You simply don’t have time to waste.
This is first in our list for a good reason; it’s amazing how well it works!
Demand so much ministry production from your team and co-workers that they have no time for God.
This second method follows naturally from number one; it’s compelling in its simplicity!
Focus everyone’s attention on the rules, systems and policies.
Don’t allow them to focus on the real needs of the people they serve. If you do that, you’re sunk. Remember, people are made for the organization – not the other way around!
Be sure to continually point out the flaws of whomever it is that has the joy of being your leader. Don’t only focus on the major things; you’ll be amazed at the power of criticizing very small things. In fact, the smaller the better.
Refreshingly easy to do well, this method works perfectly in any culture or context. Don’t limit it to your ministry work; try it at home! Try it with your spouse, with your children or parents, with your friends, anyone and everyone. Point out anything. Everything. Repeatedly. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily and deeply it changes the lives of everyone around you.
On the subject of pointing out people’s flaws, diligently remember to also do it behind their backs to others. It’s a “one-two punch” that’s hard to beat!
Be the expert on every subject, whether or not you actually know anything about it. You’re the leader – that means you always know everything, right?
Closely related to number six is the principle of never showing any weakness or lack. That would only emphasize your need for others’ help which is hardly appropriate for a leader!
Moreover, accepting anyone’s help or even input would model interdependence. This is to be avoided by a leader at all costs. God has called you to be an eagle, soaring far above the rabble of the crowd below!
Rely more on positive human examples than on those namby-pamby people who apparently enjoy suffering.
Tell stories about successful sports heroes, celebrities, and wealthy business-world icons, whether they know God or not. Keep everyone’s attention on success and winning. That “cross” stuff is for losers!
You don’t want your culture to be one of hardship and pain; who would want to follow that? Keep things positive and always, always demonstrate in your words and actions the importance of winning.
Don’t give power away; only give responsibilities (without power) away. Keep the power centralized in yourself. You’re the leader – remember that! And leadership, if it’s about anything, is about power.
In any case, giving power away only shows you trust others. They’re supposed to trust you, not the other way around. Be strong!
Please read number one again. Yep. Seriously. If there’s only one method from this great list that you remember and act on, let it be this one. It will work! And, here’s the really cool part: all the others will flow naturally from it. You won’t even need to remember to do them! This is the power of, as they say, keeping first things first.
That’s it. Again, these methods are guaranteed to work for you just as they have worked for the multitudes who traveled this path before you. I’ve even tried a few of them myself and I can personally recommend them as quite robust and consistently effective!
Perhaps you also have already tried out a few? Don’t settle for merely a couple; try them all out. Go for the highest! Don’t just be a leader – be a great leader!
The music plays
softly in the background. Emotions are stirring within the hearts of the crowd.
Reverberating through the seats, a thunderous summoning for the people to rise
to their feet. A tearful plea. An appeal for the listening multitude to accept
Jesus, “Come. Walk down the aisle for personal salvation!”
The great crusades
of the 19th and 20th centuries had success in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Especially regarding the Great Awakenings. However, concerning discipleship and
the ecclesiastical community ‒ not, so much.
Nearly two hundred
years removed from the remarkable orations of George Whitefield and John
Wesley. One hundred years since the preaching of D. L. Moody, or even just a
decade of the marvelous Billy Graham crusades ‒ we still hear it ‒ you need a
only observations. Sometimes we can learn from them and sometimes, not.
Observation does not
necessitate a cause ‒ as many factors may contribute ‒ especially regarding the
Western church decline.
However, I perceive
‒ by research and observation ‒ that some of the Western church’s dilemma
resides in “personal” salvation. There is a growing divide between church
importance and Millennials, and it’s not getting any better.
Only two in 10
Millennials (ages 30 and under) believe that church is important.  While we could
equate spiritualism, intellectualism, humanism, evolutionary science, and other
factors into the equation ‒ 59 percent of millennials who grew up in the
church, no longer attend. Why don’t we be honest ‒ the problem is
within the church, not within culture.
The truth is ‒ the
Western church is horrible at reproducible disciple-making (less than 20
percent of Christians partake in discipleship ). Why are
believers horrible at following the one chief command given (Matthew 28:19–20)? I believe there is
a correlation between “personal” salvation and the collective imperative of the
Failure to be
Almost 90 percent of
individuals who claim to have faith in Christ do not attend church.  There is an
overwhelming majority that believe they can “love Jesus” but not love the
church. Unfortunately, this is an erroneous human construct. The
Church is the body of Christ ‒ you can’t hate the church and love
Jesus declared the
“gates of hell” ineffective against His church, not the individual
believer (Matthew 16:18). Our
faulty understanding of the word church has
much to do with our dilemma. Without diving into a Greek ocean of vernacular ‒ the
term church is defined as “gathered,
called out ones.”
There can be no
disconnect between salvation and service ‒ at least according to the apostle
Paul. In Ephesians 2:8–10,
Paul distinctly declares salvation as a work of God, by faith, because of being
created for good works. Paul’s epistle professes an overall appeal for the
unity and praxis of the church.
I believe a major
factor in the growing divide between church relevance and faith is caused by
some of the teachings of a “me” centered gospel. Let’s face it, if God solely
focused on personal salvation, He’d “rapture” people at conversion. Albeit,
believers represent the incarnate body of Christ on earth ‒ a collective,
living and breathing, relevant body.
generation is larger than the Boomer generation ‒ can we say, “Houston, we have
a problem” ‒ an astronomical problem!
Barna states, “Millennials who are opting out of
church cite three factors with equal weight in their decision: 35
percent cite the church’s irrelevance, hypocrisy, and the moral failures
of its leaders as reasons to check out of church altogether. In addition, two
out of 10 unchurched Millennials say they feel God is missing in church.” 
Moral Failures of Leaders
God is Missing
I would agree that
the church does not maintain a healthy balance between charismania and
academia. But after all, the church is a gathering of sinful people cleansed by
Christ, but not perfected ‒ we know we have our faults and dysfunctions.
Regardless, to close
the door of the divide, the church must relate the importance of salvation for
the collective community ‒ the power of God on display ‒ through prayer,
proclamation, and practice.
frankly, I’m as guilty of this one as anyone. I think most of us are prone to
making this mistake. In any realm of leadership.
Here is one of the worst mistakes pastors make in leadership:Allowing a few negative
voices to overwhelm us.
you been guilty of that mistake?
careful. There is a biblical principle here.
“Do you not know that a little
leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)
we place our focus on a few negatives, it injures everyone.
We cater to them.
We try to appease them.
We worry about them.
We neglect the greater good.
in the end, here’s the strange part I’ve seen:
usually find out nothing we could have done would have made them happy anyway.
people are often negative for reasons other than something you did
as a leader.
are hurting. Of course, we need to love them, pray for them and help them as we
when we let their negativity control us, in the process, everyone loses.
bottom line is this mistake drains your energy and valuable resources as a
leader and keeps you from investing fully in people who believe in the vision,
support leadership and are ready to help you build a great church.
counterproductive. At best.
be honest with yourself.
your leadership of the church being dominated by a few negative voices?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to negative voices. We grow this way. I have
written before that I even listen to anonymous voices. I’ve written about the Right
Ways and the Wrong Ways to respond to criticism. I’m not
afraid of criticism. I just believe we have to be careful to filter
them in a healthy way.
example, when you deal with critical people, ask yourself:
Are these people generally positive,
supportive people ‒ or are they negative, divisive people?
Is what they are saying helpful? If you took
their suggestion, would it improve the overall vision of the church?
Do they represent a larger audience or are
they lone voices? You need to know if the criticism is representative or
personal. The fact is some people will never be on board with the direction of
the church and you can’t do anything about that. Sometimes they represent a
answers to those types of questions should change the weight of their
negativity you own and the attention you give to their complaints. And,
frankly, the amount of time you spend appeasing those complainers.
I know if you’ve been yielding to the few negative voices this post might sting
the other hand, if you’re one of the negative voices ‒ the kind who is wasting
everyone’s time ‒ well, you don’t like me much right now. I just called you
out. Sorry about that.
the goal of this blog is to help us lead better, and I know from
experience, when I give too much authority and attention to negativity I am not
leading at my best.