Today I am addressing the leadership of a youth group called Arena.  Last night I addressed all the Arena youth and I think it went well.  The title of my message was "Pay Attention" and my text was Acts 23:11-22.  This is the story of how Paul's young nephew saved his uncle by overhearing about a plot to kill Paul.  The nephew then came and told Paul, who in turn sent the young man to the commander.  The commander then assembled a protective force and ushered Paul to a safe place.

I pointed out three things about what this young man did:

1.  He told someone what he heard.  Often young people don't know the value of what they know and hear.  That is why they must learn to share it with others.

2.  He followed someone's instructions of how to act on what he heard.  Paul sent his nephew to the commander because the young man didn't know what the next step was.  Young people need to share what they hear not because what they are hearing isn't correct, but because they often lack the experience to know what to do.

3.  He had faith in what he heard.  The young man had faith in Paul, the commander and the word or message he was carrying.  The commander saved the day, to his credit, by taking orders from a young man who had neither his experience or authority.  But the real hero of the story is the nephew who changed the course of history because he did something with what he was hearing.

I told the Arena youth that they are hearing things, things about their purpose and the direction that they and others need to take.  I urged them to take what they are hearing and sensing seriously.  Furthermore, I encouraged them to follow the three steps that Paul's nephew took in order to see what they are hearing come to pass. 

Can you use this same advice at this point in your life?  Do you know a young person who could be encouraged by this message?  If the answer is yes in either case, I suggest that you act and do something to apply these truths today. 

Plant People

Yesterday I got another email from a person in my past.  No, they weren't confronting me with some past sin or failure.  They were thanking me for the role that I played in their life that encouraged them.  I haven't seen this woman in years, and haven't worked with her since 1989, but she became the fourth person in the past 10 days to write me "out of the blue."  Some who wrote I haven't even seen for 25 years.

I've been thinking about these emails and remembered an old Chinese proverb that states:

If your vision is for a year, plant wheat.

If your vision is for ten years, plant trees.

If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.

Part of my concern for the Church today is that I don't see a lot of leadership development taking place.  Leaders may or may not provide opportunities for people to be developed through programs within the church.  They may oro may not encourage people to develop themselves, but for the most part, the Church is lacking in leaders who duplicate themselves.  Why is this?

Here are some reasons I can think of:

1.  It's often not part of the leader's job description, therefore he (or she) doesn't invest time doing it;

2.  Leaders are too busy doing other things;

3.  Leaders don't want to develop other leaders who could become "competition";

4.  Leaders see the job as someone else's responsibility -- a seminary, other churches, colleges, business, John Maxwell, leadership conferences;

5.  Leaders don't know how to develop other leaders because no one developed them;

6.  A faulty understanding of Ephesians 4:12 where leaders are told that their job is to "prepare God's people for works of service";

7.  We think in terms of 5 or 10 years, thus we plant wheat and trees instead of people.  We build buildings and develop programs and do almost anything else except develop people.

Moses developed Joshua, Barnabas developed Saul, and Paul developed Timothy.  Who are you developing?  Into whom are you investing time and effort to develop as a future leader? 

Write me to list any other reasons you can think of as to why we aren't developing more leaders today.  Feel free to tell me what you're doing to develop "plant people" as well.  If you have nothing to write, then write someone to thank them for their investment in your life and then get busy finding someone into whose life you can do the same.

The Trip Home

Kathryn and I just returned home from Columbus, Ohio, a three-hour drive.  What a beautiful day for a drive.  The spring trees and bushes were in full bloom, the sun was out and the fields were green with new grass.  We had a great time together, and I enjoyed my time at the conference where I taught and counseled many concerning their personal PurposeQuest.

When we got home, our May issue of Charisma magazine was in our mailbox.  In that issue, they published my article entitled, Sinners in the Hands of An Angry Leader.  It should be available soon in part on the Charisma website, although it isn't there as I write.  In that article, I make the point that the hallmark of authoritarian leaders is anger, and I use many biblical examples to back this up.  If you would like to read my original article that is on my website, you can go there or just download it below.

But now it's late, and my wife has gone off to get some Chinese food for dinner.  The next few days will be busy as we prepare to head to Florida and New Jersey next week.  Then I am off to Africa on May 1, to return to the States on June 27.

Download sinners_in_the_hands.doc

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Still A Drucker-ite

Nothing's changed since yesterday when I wrote you - I am still a devotee of Peter Drucker and his management and leadership writings.  Yesterday I passed along a quote from The Daily Drucker:  366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done.  Today I have another entry to pass along, this time from April 8:

All the effective leaders I have encountered--both those I worked with and those I merely watched--knew four simple things:  a leader is someone who has followers; popularity is not leadership, results are; leaders are highly visitble, they set examples; leadership is not rank, privilege, titles or money, it is responsibility.

When I was in my final high school years, our excellent history teacher--himself a badly wounded war veteran--told each of us to pick several of a whole spate of history books on World War I and write a major essay on our selections.  When we then discussed these essays in class, one of my fellow students said, "Every one of these books says that the Great War was a war of total military incompetence.  Why was it?"  Our teacher did not hesitate a second but shot right back, "Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed way behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying."  Effective leaders delegate, but they do not delegate the one thing that will set the standards.  They do it.

I've known some generals who stayed way behind the lines, have you?  I watched them and learned how not to lead.  If I ever got to lead, I promised myself, I would be with the people while I led the people.  How about you?  What kind of a leader are you?  What kind do you want to be?  I hope you will take these Drucker words to heart and apply them in such a way as to be a more effective leader today than you were yesterday.

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What Made Paul Different?

In my last Monday Memo, I wrote about Paul and asked the question, "Why was Paul such a different leader than his contemporaries?"  Of course the answer is "Jesus."  But then that leads to another question of why the other leaders who also had "Jesus" didn't lead like Paul did.

I am still studying the question, but I have come to the conclusion that the answers are found in Paul's letter to the Philippian church, especially in chapter two.  There Paul described Jesus' leadership style and went on to give examples of this same style in the lives of three men--Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Paul himself.

It seems that each one of these leader, starting with Jesus, emptied himself.  How did they do this?  First of all, we read about Jesus: 

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8).

Then Paul gave his three examples of this principle of becoming nothing.

1.  Paul: "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you" (2:17).

2.  Timothy: "But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel" (2:22).

3.  Epaphroditus"Because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me" (2:30).

Jesus died on the cross, Paul was poured out, Timothy served and Epaphroditus risked his life.  So now I am asking one more question:  What proof is there in my own life of this principle of emptying myself as a leader following Jesus?  What would Paul write about me if he knew me and my leadership work?  If you wish, you can take it one step further and ask what would be said about you.

Theologians have debated for centuries what it means that Jesus "emptied himself" and "become nothing."  I don't have centuries to debate this and I don't think God wants me to debate this principle, He wants me to apply this principle.  I invite you to join with me as together we seek to be the leaders that God wants us to be -- leaders that mirror the leadership style of Jesus Himself.

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Only One

Paul made a stunning declaration in his letter to the Philippians:  "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon. . . I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 2:19-20 emphasis added).

What is so remarkable about that statement?  Consider all the men with whom Paul was associated--Luke, Barnabas, Silas, Titus and others.  Yet he said Timothy was the only one who was able to put self interest aside to embrace the interest of others. 

So if Paul only saw or had one Timothy, how many will you and I ever hope to work with?  Years ago, however, I concluded that this really wasn't the right question or issue.  The issue was whether I could become someone like Timothy in the lives of others. 

When I first set a goal to be a Timothy, it was a selfish wish.  I wanted to be connected to a "somebody" like Paul who could promote me and make me important through his importance.  Today I want to be a Timothy that is able to put my own interests aside in service to others.  If I was going to do this, I further realized that I would have to die to my own interests.  They could not exist side-by-side with the interests of others whom I was serving. 

Servant leadership requires that we pursue the same end that Timothy seemed to attain:  serving the highest priority needs of others.  May God grant you (and me) the ability to die to our interests so that we may have a genuine interest in the needs of others.

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Who Gets The Credit?

I am listening to a tape series and all the speakers are talking about purpose.  On the one tape, the introduction to the speaker caught my attention.  The intro stated that the church and ministry had been founded "by the ministry gift of" and then the announcer mentioned the man's name.  I thought that was interesting, but all too typical of church life and the perspective of most church leaders.

That church believes that it was founded on the gift of one man.  Does that mean that his gift was more important than the music leader's or the administrator' gift?  Someone might answer, "Well, if the founding pastor's gift was removed, then there would be no church."  That may be true, but doesn't it still require more than one gift to build a church?  And can anyone say with certainty that any other gift is replaceable or expendable, but the head man's gift isn't? 

If we are looking for an irreplaceable gift, isn't it really of the gift that Jesus gave to start the church?  Most would respond, "That's a given.  We don't have to say that."  Why not?  I listened to that introduction and Jesus wasn't mentioned but the founding man was.  Is it really so much of a given that it doesn't need to be said that Jesus is the head of that church (and every church for that matter)?

In Paul's letter to the Philippians, he mentioned Jesus' name 10 times in the first 18 verses.  Paul certainly didn't take it for granted that Jesus was the head of the Church.  He took great pains to direct all that he was writing and the attention of the reader to Jesus.

Warren Bennis, a non-Christian leadership author from the University of Southern California, wrote a book entitled, Co-Leaders:  The Power of Great Partnerships.  In it, he identified and described the strategic number two person behind great and famous leaders.  His point was that any successful enterprise is never the result of only one person.  Rather it has taken and still requires many people and their "gifts" to make anything function and grow.  That is a lesson that the Church needs to keep in mind.  And if there is any one person whose gift is indispensable, it is the gift of Jesus. 

A Purposeful Servant

I write about servant leadership because when you know your purpose, often you become a leader.  I don't always understand how or why, but I guess since you know where you're going, others want to follow.  Robert Greenleaf, father of the servant-leader message, once wrote:

The servant-leader is servant first.  It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.  Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.  The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant--first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test [of servant leadership] is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will he or she benefit, or, at least, will he or she not be further deprived?

I have tried to use Greenleaf's words and concepts to evaluate my own leadership style.  Many times I have been found lacking as a servant but I am committed to learn and grow in my capacity as a servant leader.

Jesus was a servant and His service was the basis for His leadership.  Jesus was also a man of purpose.  By His own words, He came "to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10).  Being a servant with purpose, people followed Him and still do.  You may already know what your purpose is, but now may I ask: are you ready to serve?  Finding your purpose is one thing; learning to serve is something completely different. 

Service to others is what keeps a person of purpose humble and relevant.  It keeps you grounded in reality, the reality of where people live and what their real needs are.  While purpose focuses on self, service focuses on others.  A servant leader has a healthy balance of self-interest and selflessness.  Recently someone asked me if our purpose is always focused on others and I had to pause before I answered.  But then I responded, "Yes!"  If we were born to draw, build, sing or teach, we often do it for other people.  We get something from fulfilling our purpose, but we receive because we are giving.

Serving someone is an art, but only if you turn your back on your needs and serve the needs of others.  Jesus said that no man will serve two masters; that is true where service is concerned.  You can't do things for others the way you want them done; you must perform according to their needs and wishes.

If you are a person of purpose, are you a purpose servant?  Do others receive the best of your purpose efforts?  Why not make an effort to be a better servant this year?  You may want to obtain Greenleaf's book and study some of the servant-leader principles.  Think of what the world would be like if people of purpose made service their priority.  Think of what your world would be like if you were a better servant.  Make service your aim this year and make your purpose all that it is supposed to be as you meet the needs of others.

Jesus Was a Servant Leader

GreenleafpowerEight years ago, I read Robert Greenleaf’s seminal book, The Power of Servant Leadership. When I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Quite frankly, that book took my breath away (and still does). I have tried to read everything and anything on servant leadership since that time, and all of it has served to sharpen my leadership focus and teaching. I was surprised to find that most of the books on servant leadership were not written by church leaders, but rather business leaders. This surprised me, since I knew that Jesus initiated the servant leadership message. Yet somehow the servant leadership message had escaped or circumvented the church. I determined at that point to introduce or reintroduce the message wherever and whenever possible.

To do this, I’ve reflected on what the Bible and Jesus had to say about servant leadership. More importantly, I studied what Jesus did as a servant leader. Here are some of my findings:

1. Jesus had no official title or position. He was called rabbi, which means teacher, yet he had no synagogue that he used as a base. He was an itinerate teacher in His three years of ministry work.

2. Jesus built no organization. Jesus had followers, but He never tried to formalize His network. He was content to teach, travel, heal and train leaders.

3. Jesus did not recruit followers to a paid position. Instead, Jesus recruited people to fulfill their purpose. He never promised a salary or benefits, yet He never apologized to anyone for calling them to do what they were created to do. Jesus never recruited anyone through guilt or manipulation, but through love.

4. Jesus was content to teach and model. Jesus influenced people by what He taught and how He lived. He did everything He could to deflect attention from Himself to God the Father. Jesus never put pressure on anyone to follow Him. In fact, He discouraged some who wanted to do so. He sent them home to live their lives and share their testimony of He had helped them.

5. Jesus never clarified who He was. When people asked Jesus who He was, He asked them, “Who do you think I am?” He never took time to defend Himself from false accusations, but stayed focused on His purpose.

I determined after reading Greenleaf's book and studying Jesus' life that I wanted to be a servant leader. And that has led me to evaluate my life and make changes that would allow me to do so. But I saw that God began to prepare me for servant-leadership a long time ago. I’ve never had a high position in any organization. When I was a pastor, I was happiest traveling and teaching. I now have an organization that allows me to teach through my books, personal appearances and website, but there are no employees. The purpose message has influenced many and I believe that the best is yet to come. But I have done all this without a title or formal team and I believe I was able to do it all because of my decision to become a servant-leader like (but certainly not equal to) my Lord and Master.

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Can Leaders Be Servants?

In Luke 22, I find a fascinating teaching concerning servant-leadership. Jesus was gathered in the upper room with His disciples for what is now known as the Last Supper. The story reads:

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? It is not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:24-27).

This wasn’t the first time Jesus had this discussion about service with His followers. But even then, as He prepared for His death, He found it necessary to go over it one more time because they were arguing over who had the most significant ministry. He then went on to practice what He preached by giving His life for those same followers.

Service isn’t easy, but it’s what leaders must do if their leadership is to be complete. It requires humility and a firm grasp on purpose and values. Leaders who serve followers have found the way to prevent power from corrupting their leadership. They’ve also found a way to keep from manipulating and controlling followers. It’s through the simple practice and mentality of service.

The major objection to leaders being servants is generally rooted in something that sounds like this: “I’m not working for people; they are working for me. I won’t and can’t have employees or volunteers telling me (leadership) what to do.” This reveals a faulty understanding of servant-leadership and a bit of insecurity as well.

When I traveled with the Integrity Music worship team years ago, I had numerous opportunities to put this into practice. I determined where we would go, picked the team members, worked out the budget, and made sure all the details were covered (I did this with the help and input of a lot of people). When we got to the concert site, I put on my servant’s hat.

I made airport runs, picked up the bottled water and air cargo, and did whatever needed to be done to make sure the event was a success. On Saturday night, I personally handed out the paychecks (I always had them ready beforehand) and said thanks for a job well done. I then took everybody back to the airport to catch a plane home. I still try to take the same role in whatever project I find myself leading.

Do you consider yourself a strong leader? If so, can you also learn to be a strong servant? No matter how many role models you've had, Jesus is still the best examply to follow. And Luke 22:24-27 is Jesus' description of a servant-leader. I urge you to follow in Jesus' footsteps by serving those around you while leading them into the purpose of God for your company, church or ministry.

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