John Wesley on Leadership

images-2John Wesley was one of ten children born to Samuel and Suzzanna Wesley in Great Britain. He is seen as the principal founder of the Methodist movement that later became the denomination we know today. He was born in 1703 and died in 1791. John studied at Oxford and became a vibrant participant of the Holy Club, which his brother Charles founded at Oxford. After a disappointing trip to Georgia, one of the original 13 colonies of America, Wesley experienced a true conversion to Christianity. This experience unleashed his ministry of evangelism which centered upon faith in Christ alone for salvation. Wesley was no stranger to controversy and persecution. Yet he always relied on a strong inner faith that was built solely upon the Scriptures as the Word of God.

Wesley was a true leader. It is estimated that Wesley preached more than 40,000 sermons and traveled over 250,000 miles on horseback to communicate his message of life change. He started numerous societies to bring stability to the faith and commissioned many preachers to carry on the work. It is believed upon his death that he left behind some 135,000 members of the Methodist movement and 541 itinerate preachers. His impact is still felt keenly today.

I have collected a number of quotes from the preaching and writing of John Wesley. Notice how many of them focus on character and the inner life of a leader. This was critical to Wesley and should be critical for us today. Read and reflect and offer your insights as to how these quotes speak to you as a leader.

Vice does not lose its character by becoming fashionable.

We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others.

God grant that I may never live to be useless!

Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry.

Even in the greatest afflictions, we ought to testify to God, that, in receiving them from his hand, we feel pleasure in the midst of the pain, from being afflicted by Him who loves us, and whom we love.

Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, not withstanding these smaller differences.

Let your words be the genuine picture of your heart.

When I was young I was sure of everything; in a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before; at present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me.

I want to know one thing, the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. Give me that book! At any price give me the Book of God!

A great resource for Wesley quotes is a book entitled Wesley Quotations by Betty Jarboe.

Falling Plates

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Today is Good Friday.

But why is it good?

It is not because you may have the day off.

It is not a right of spring.

For Christians this marks the day that Jesus went to the cross. But that sounds like an oxymoron. Why would it be good for the center piece of the Christian faith to die. Because not only was Jesus just in requiring a payment for the world’s sin, but He was also the justifier in being the sacrificial payment for the world’s sin. There is nothing in human history that compares. Easter is a reflective season for all. Below is a video that powerfully displays the meaning of Easter in creative images.

Watch.

Reflect.

Consider.

 

My Top Posts for January

UnknownHere are the five most popular posts for the first month of the year.

7 Leadership Lessons from 2012  You can tell by the title what this post is about. It was the most popular of all of my posts for this month. I hope this encourages you to take time to reflect on what you are learning in your leadership.

Delegation vs Empowerment  Month in and month out this is in the top five. If we want to raise up more leaders, this topic is essential.

Words Matter  This post was an emotional one for me. I have grown weary of Christian speakers and writers not being careful with their words. We can do better. We must do better.

5 for Leadership (1/12/13) This weekly offering has become a mainstay of my blog and a popular one. My aim is to expose you to worthy writers around the web on the topic of leadership. In this post there is something on fallen pastors, working better with Evernote, leadership over management, doing the most important things, and redefining practical.

5 for Leadership (1/19/13)  This 5 speaks to life passion, whole foods, great communication, a paradigm for leading, and challenging the very reason we lead.

Take a look for the 1st time–or look again. And offer up your thoughts.

A Leader’s Need: Ever Increasing Self Awareness

images-1To be aware of something is to show realization, perception, or knowledge. It means to be fully cognizant or conscious. Maturing leaders should be this way about themselves. If a leader is truly growing in his or her leadership, then a growing self understanding should be concomitant with their level of influence. The kind of leaders that people are drawn to are this way. Too many leaders remain blind to their own ways of leading and relating to others, which often causes toxic team environments and narcissistic leadership behavior.

Reggie McNeal, in his book Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders, lays out five aspects of the discipline of self awareness:

  • Self Knowledge-knowing who you are
  • Self Mindfulness-understanding your motives for doing what you do
  • Self Vigilance-knowing what makes you tick and what ticks you off
  • Self Consciousness-knowing how you come across to others
  • Self Alertness-maintaining your emotional, physical, and spiritual condition

These categories provide a great grid for what should become an ever increasing self awareness for every leader. I will go even father. If a spiritual leader is becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) then that leader should be on a path of increasing self awareness. Jesus Christ was the most self aware person who ever lived. Our increasing understanding about who we, who we are not, and our ongoing need for the gospel propels us toward a lifetime of learning and the opportunity to finish well.

We Are All Armstrong & Te’o

images-1We long for a greater story.

I was very intrigued by our collective response last week to the stories of Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong. There has been a lot of press on both of these men and many are tired of hearing about them. Yet I think there is something in these stories for all of us. I believe that we are all created with a longing for a greater story. At our core we understand that we are living out a story. I also believe that we can comprehend the whispers of a larger story we were meant to fit into. We especially love redemptive stories, where the broken are healed and the enslaved are rescued. We all wanted Lance to come clean, to own up to his indiscretions. In some strange way we wanted Manti to have loved a real person, even in the midst of tragedy. We want these stories to be fulfilled and be fulfilling.

I can identify with Armstrong and Te’o.

We want these things because we see ourselves in them on a smaller stage. We have tried and failed and we have loved and lost. And we had to live with the consequences. And sometimes there is redemption. I will be cautious here and state that I obviously don’t know either of these men. But I do think I can identify with the apparent desires that contributed to their behavior. I believe that Te’o simply wants to be loved and accepted. He longs for unconditional love. I believe Armstrong intensely wants to succeed. He longs for significance. How can I make these claims? Because I long for the same things, and so do you. We all long for love and significance. We want to matter. We want to be unconditionally loved and accepted.

How did you respond?

That is why I was surprised by the public’s general reaction to both stories. Those who are following the Armstrong story see him largely as an egotistical liar. Those who are following the Te’o story see him as a naive, truth stretching young man. I see me. You and I may not go to the extremes that either of these celebrities went to in their quest to fulfill their longings. Our exploits are not on the same level of public display either. But I have done things to be noticed, hoping that someone would love me or count me as significant. And if you are really honest, so have you, at some point in your life.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:1-9

How will you respond?

The human condition claws and scratches for transcendence and is never content until it is achieved. And there is the problem. Our personal stories, including that of Armstrong and Te’o, are too small to achieve what we long for. Until our small stories are connected to the greater story of redemption that Christ offers we will continue to struggle, in big and small ways. But the greater story is one of grace. Grace can only be received. Grace actually recognizes our inability and offers forgiveness anyway. Grace replaces our small story of sin and struggle with the greater story of love and forgiveness. Grace is found in Jesus Christ alone because only Jesus Christ offers true redemption at the cost of his own life. His, the greatest story, gives ultimate meaning to ours. Will you connect your story to His?

 

Rich’s Ride-Hope Changes What’s Possible

images-1There are some books you pick up and you know from the cover that it will be a fun, feel good story. Then you begin to discover the back story, and you realize you are in for more than you bargained. Rich’s Ride, by Rich Dixon, is one of those books. Rich is a former math teacher who suffered a horrendous accident in 1987 that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Twelve years later he began to use a hand cycle to determine what could be. Rich’s Ride is a book about two primary things: living out God sized dreams and realizing that hope changes what’s possible. This is Rich’s second book. The first, Relentless Grace, chronicles Rich’s journey of despair, depression, and fear after his accident–and the transforming power of the grace of God. This book picks up on a dream in the making that, over time, becomes a reality. And now this dream takes transforming grace and extends it around the world.

Rich’s Ride is the narration of a literal 1500 mile journey down the path of the Mississippi River from the headwaters in Minnesota to New Orleans on a hand cycle. Rich is joined, and amply aided, by Becky, his wife, and Monte, Rich’s service dog. All three play necessary, life changing roles in this eight week journey of faith and hope. There are three sections to Rich’s book. Section One-Origins of a Dream take us back to the very first day Rich tries to use a hand cycle and the pain and frustration of failure. But it is the beginning of a God sized dream stirring within him that slowly begins to germinate and leads to an eventful day for a man, a wife, and a service dog that will have profound implications. Section Two-The Journey Begins provides us with the eight week, 1500 mile journey. This is not so much a journal rendering of the trip as it is lessons learned. Rich gives us poignant Instagram photos of delight, challenges, encounters, scenery, soulful introspection–and lessons–life lessons–for all of us. Section Three-Aftermath provides a challenging take on success, and challenges each of us about being sensitive and searching toward our God sized dream. Together, the three sections tell of a couple and a cast of committed friends that come together to sponsor a dream and a ride that will benefit Convoy of Hope, a charity that seeks to meet the hunger needs of children in the U.S. and around the world.

Rich does an amazing job of capturing you with the clarity and color of the journey. He then does something sneaky and continuously salts you with theological truth and biblical wisdom. I found myself pausing over and over again, having to reflect and consider the biblical principle that just sideswiped me. Here’s an appetizer:

Dreams invite us to pursue a bigger purpose that we can imagine on our own. Following a dream means leaning on God for what seems impossible. You follow a dream with hope that allows you to believe despite the evidence, and then watch the evidence change.

I found my faith being fed by digesting this book. In my book, Rich Dixon is an amazing man. But don’t tell him that. My hunch is he will simply point to a simple, humble obedience to a God-sized dream and offer you hope. In a day when it is easy to find Christian books that tell you what you want to hear, Rich’s Ride will draw you in and give you what you need to hear. This is a great book for personal reflection and challenge and it is a great book to give away.

Rich’s Ride is more than a book. The dream has continued with a ride that benefitted the International Justice Mission and a new ride begins in Florida on January 28th to once again benefit Convoy of Hope.

You can learn more about Rich, Becky, and Monte (the ever loving service dog) by going to the Rich’s Ride web site. You can also pick up both of Rich’s books there and get the details of their impending ride in Florida. You can also follow Rich and Becky on Twitter and on Facebook.

Go to the Rich’s Ride web site to grab several copies or go to Amazon for a Kindle version. You will not be disappointed. As a matter of fact, you might discover the birth of a God sized dream.

Words Matter

images-1The currency of leadership is communication. Therefore, words have impact and words matter.

For some time now I have been bothered by the current state of communication among spiritual leaders. But I would actually expand that concern to the leadership climate in general-because every leader is responsible for what he or she says.

In particular, I am concerned with the use of vulgarities and profanities in Christian communication. On a daily basis I can find blog posts that throw obscene language around like its no big deal. I regularly hear Christian speakers use off color language to spice up their messages. I am even surprised by the careless words used in casual conversation. Often I hear the refrain that this is for the sake of relevancy. I hear its generational and I shouldn’t let it bother me. Or I hear its cultural and these words just don’t carry the same sense of offense they once did–it’s natural to communicate this way.

I’m not buying any of it.

It has nothing to do with being relevant, nor generational, nor cultural. My sense is that it has everything to do with the communicator and their perceived need to provoke, appear hip, or demonstrate power and authority over someone. I have never encountered someone inside the faith or outside the faith who could not endure my lack of foul language. Ever.

Words reflect the heart. A biblical understanding of heart goes beyond emotions. Our heart is our governing center. It is that part of us that chooses every day. It is core to who we are and how we relate to the world. It is the seat of worship. That which we worship shall be revealed by what readily flows from our lips.

The writer of Proverbs extolls virtue by personifying God’s wisdom.  In chapter 4:20-24, the writer highlights the value we are to place on words.

My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ears to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.

Paul, in the epistle to the Ephesians, amplifies how a true Christ follower is to live. When it comes to our speech he is clear.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Eph. 4:29)

Paul also warns us against false speech, angry words, and slander. They are damaging inside the body and outside the body. They have no place within the Christian context. I think some of our language issues arise from a low view of the Word of God. When THE WORD no longer matters or stands over us, then our puny words become trite, tawdry, and offensive. The written and spoken word should be carefully considered and weighed. We must remain attractively different from culture. We will gain our hearing through our compassion, which needs no help from profanity or vulgarity.

Leadership is influence. The currency of leadership is our communication. Therefore, words have impact and words matter. Let us escape our idolatry and bring grace to all who will listen.

What are your thoughts?

The 10 Most Popular Posts of 2012

images-1Here are the most popular posts from this blog over the past year.

Delegation vs Empowerment  Month in and month out this post has had staying power. This topic is an important one.

4 Priorities of a Spiritual Leader  These thoughts shared by a friend of mine are foundational to leading spiritually.

My Golden Retriever and the Nature of Loss  This post was written early in 2012 and reflects on life in a broken world.

Self Evaluation in Leadership  This post provides you with seven questions to evaluate your daily leadership. As we begin a new year, this could be a helpful starting place.

Experiential Leadership Development  Here are four aspects to experiential leadership development that I observed recently and I think are worth considering for any developmental effort.

How Not to Lead-Five Principles for Failure  The title gives you the substance. This can be a back door to leadership excellence.

Leading Young  Here are five principles on how to lead the younger generation, towards their development and your effectiveness.

Leading The Difficult  There are always difficult people to lead in any organization. Here are four principles to consider in leading them effectively.

The Posture of a Spiritual Leader  Here are three principles from John 8 that are critical to how we think about our spiritual leadership.

Young Leaders-Be Easy To Lead  This post is from the other vantage point of Leading Young. This is addressed to the leaders within the Millennial generation.

There are the ten most popular posts for 2012. Thanks for reading my blog and interacting over the various topics. I trust 2013 will bring new thinking and fresh learning for all of us.

The Gift of Christmas

images-1A significant aspect of Christmas is the giving and receiving of gifts. But what is the nature of a gift or the nature of giving? In it’s purest form it is the provision of something to someone else without merit or any expectation of return. When done properly, there is joy in both the giving and receiving of gifts. The value of a gift can be found in both the worth of the object being given and in the worth of the recipient. When we value someone, we long to give something precious.

Christmas, at it’s core, is about the birth of Jesus Christ. As Matthew records the event, there is a unique visit by some magi or wise men from the east. They have followed a star to determine the location and identity of the Christ child. Matthew 11:2 says, “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Notice three aspects to the actions of these magi: they saw, they worshipped, and they offered. These wise men had traveled far in anticipation of seeing this star appointed child. There was expectation of seeing the King of the Jews. We don’t specifically know the nationality of these men, but they were probably not Jews. Yet, they wanted to honor this foreign child king. Upon finally seeing the child, two other responsive actions took over. They prostrated themselves in worship before the child king and they offered gifts, precious gifts fit for a king. The recipient was seen by them as worthy. We know this because the gifts were worthy.

The particular word used here for “gifts” is one that is almost always used in the Bible for something being given to deity, to God. These were holy offerings, not just for a king, but for THE King. There has always been speculation about the specific nature of these ancient gifts. Some believe that they are symbolic: the gold, a precious metal, representing the kinship of Jesus; frankincense, a perfume or incense, representing the priestly role of Jesus; and myrrh, foreshadowing the death of Jesus through an embalming oil. Others have stated that all three are simply valuable gifts that were a common feature of the ancient near east as tribute for a king. But it is the nature of the word “gift” that tells us that there was more in mind than just simple tribute. There are different kinds of gifts and different motives for giving. The wise men knew what they were doing and salvation history provides us with the record. We must take careful note of this historical act of giving.

There is a right order to this act of giving. First we see, then we worship, and finally we offer.

First, we must see Jesus in his creative, redemptive power. We gain sight from creation all around us. We gain insight from the Scriptures. We better see and understand the incarnation when we engage the body of Christ that is his Church. When we truly see Jesus for who he is, the God of the universe, Savior, we rightly worship. That is all a created being can do before his Creator. We are so in awe that we must praise. We must bow. We must honor the King. Once we find our hearts rightly prostrate before the King, our only natural inclination is to give. There is no thought of taking in that moment. There is no notion of demanding or wondering what the benefit will be to me. There is only the gift, the offering of something precious to the King. There is nothing more precious than our lives, to Him or to us. So we offer Him that. We voluntarily offer Him ourselves as a proper response to seeing and worshipping.

After the Apostle Paul has carefully delineated all of the benefits of salvation in Romans 1-11, he gets to chapter 12 and we read this, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Paul saw, he worshipped, and he gave. He exhorts us to do the same. Even the giving of ourselves becomes a part of our worship.

We can try and offer God many gifts this Christmas–to appease, to pander. But the gift He longs for is the gift of ourselves, wholly surrendered before a holy God–from truly seeing and rightly worshipping. Will you give Him that gift this year? Will I?

Merry Christmas!

Be Careful With Whom You Take Counsel

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There is great wisdom in getting counsel from others. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” As leaders, we should never become so enamored with our thought processes that we don’t regularly seek the counsel of others. The problems can lie in why we seek counsel and who we seek counsel from.

Three Possible Reasons Why We Seek Counsel

1. To validate our own desires. It is easy to surround yourself with “yes” people. Many want to be close to the leader and will tell him or her whatever they want to hear. Leaders can place these types of people in key positions so that they never hear a contrarian point of view. But that is not the nature of true counsel. That is simply wanting to have your own thoughts and desires be cheered and celebrated. It becomes narcissistic and dangerous.

2. To substantiate ourselves in the eyes of others. Comparison in leadership is a killer disease. We often want to look better and appear more successful than the next guy. Therefore, we may be tempted to get input from others simply to build our emotional resume. If we can get people to sing our praises under the guise of getting counsel, then we look promising. We can also look like we are consensus building leaders and yet have no intention of taking anyone’s advice. It is image building, but it is not the true nature of seeking out good counsel.

3. To rightfully seek wisdom in decisions. This is really the only valid reasoning for seeking out good counsel. None of us as leaders possesses what we need to lead well. We are limited, dare I would even say broken people as leaders. We need others around us to help us think and execute well. To get to the right result from approaching counsel for the right reason, we need to be humble as leaders and we must seek out the right counselors.

Three Possible People We Can Seek Counsel From

1. “Yes” People. I have already mentioned this type of counselor. Some leaders seek them out. But even if you are not looking for a “yes” person, you may get one. How do you spot a “yes” person? Usually they are counselors who don’t ask tough questions. They are content with the answers you provide. You will notice over time that they never disagree with you. You are always right. Be suspicious of such ongoing feedback. They can be insecure people who are afraid of displeasing you, and therefore will tell you what you want to hear. Avoid them.

2. “No” People. Obviously, this is the opposite type of counselor. They never tell you what you want to hear. They always can find fault with your thinking and direction. They often possess a critical spirit that is directed at you and the organization. You get the sense that they regularly feel that things would be better if they were in charge. It will be difficult to get the honest counsel you need from “no” people. Avoid them too.

3. Honest People That Care About You. You need counselors who know you and your leadership style. They know your strengths and weaknesses. They know enough of your leadership history to have seen you succeed and fail. And they will shoot you straight when it comes to answering your critical questions. They have nothing personally at stake. They are able to question assumptions and help you think in alternative ways. They are honest. Seek them.

All of this was stirred up in me yesterday when I read about King Ahaziah in 2 Chronicles 22. Ahaziah was the youngest son of King Jehoram and took the throne upon the death of his father–and reigned for only one year. Verse 3 says that Ahaziah “also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab.” This is a reference to one of the most evil kings of Israel. Ahab led the people in blatant and treacherous idolatry. Why did Ahaziah go down this path? Why  did he choose a historical mentor that was so notorious. Verse 3 also provides the reasoning, “for his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly.”

Ahaziah was most likely a young king. He was in need of counsel. He sought out his mother’s counsel and it failed him. There is a lesson in this footnote. Sometimes even family members can be poor counselors. We must first seek the Lord’s counsel, and then the trusted counsel of those who know us well and will speak with honesty.

Psalm 16:7 I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Psalm 33:11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.