The Second C–Competency

The last post was about the topic of Community in leadership development. Leaders will not survive alone and Christian leaders will not maintain their integrity, creativity, character, and courage to fulfill their God given mission alone. Leaders, especially spiritual leaders, must seek out and remain in a community of peers for the rest of their leadership lives if they do not want to become another statistic. Now I will turn my attention towards the Competency of a leader. This is the second “C” in my paradigm of the five areas of leadership development.

Competency is defined as the quality of being adequately or well qualified physically and intellectually. Competency is about a leader’s gifts, skills and abilities. A leader’s competencies are what aid him in getting the job done. These can be natural, supernatural, and acquired traits. All three areas can be further developed with intentionality.

Every Christ-centered leader has spiritual gifts given to him by God to be stewarded towards the mission and for His glory. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 provide us with lists of those supernatural abilities that were stewarded to us at the moment of salvation. I believe that one of those gifts (see Romans 12:8) is that of leadership. Yet I don’t believe that only those with the spiritual gift of leadership should lead. While I do believe that every leader has a God given capacity for leadership that cannot be greatly expanded upon (I will save this discussion for another post), 1 Timothy 3:1 tells us “ . . . if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” If leadership is primarily defined by influence then many can aspire to lead and utilize their spiritual gifts uniquely in how they influence others. Every person also possesses certain natural abilities that will be an asset to them in leading. Some are simply better public communicators than others—or they possess greater organizational skills, etc. These too are from the hand of God but may not be categorized under the heading of spiritual gifts. And every leader through intentional effort can acquire certain skills that will help him lead more effectively—like problem solving skills, team building skills, planning skills, etc.

I will follow the advice that was passed on to me third hand from Howard Hendricks when it comes to the declaration of one’s gifts and abilities. First, gifts and abilities are more discovered than sought out or derived. There are three primary ways of discovering your gifts and abilities: gift analysis tests, what others affirm in you, and simple trial and error. I recommend taking gift inventories or ability tests—there are many good ones on the market and can be quite helpful in suggesting what may be true of you. But I would lean more on what others affirm in you and your personal experience over time. Hendricks said that it is important for every spiritual leader to try on as many things as possible in their 20’s. This is a season of life of great energy and optimism and lends itself well to broad ministry experiences. Many leaders want to specialize straight out of college. But it is better to make yourself available to do all kinds of ministry tasks to see where your gifting and passions lie—do administration, public speaking, personal counseling, evangelism, etc. Hendricks went on to say that a leader should begin to narrow down their focus during their 30’s. In other words I can do many things but these few I desire to do. By a leader’s 40’s they should begin to arrive at the point of saying “This one thing I must do!” From their 40’s through the rest of their lives will be their greatest stewardship for the cause of Christ as they are most passionately engaged in that which they are gifted for and motivated to do.

As we are discovering our spiritual gifts and natural abilities we must be intentional about developing that which God has given. Good leaders are learners. I firmly believe that one of the critical components of remaining fresh and humble as a leader over the course of life is to remain teachable. Since no human leader possesses the gift of omni competence we can still learn something about leading until God calls us home. Let me also say that personal development relies on you—not your boss or some other mentor or person you look to for direction. Each leader must take personal responsibility for their own leadership development. And while part of your development plan may include mentoring—it is your responsibility to devise and pursue a development plan. Continue to look for leadership mentors, leadership books, leadership courses,and fresh leadership experiences to bolster your leadership abilities. Never rest on your laurels. Leaders can become very stodgy when they begin to settle on their haunches of leadership learning. Be open to new paradigms, new skills, new experiences and the advice of even younger leaders. You have not cornered the market on how to lead.

Before I close on this post I must shout out a warning when it comes to leadership competency. That is because our greatest assets can become our greatest downfall. What I have seen in myself and in the lives of other spiritual leaders is that when fear enters the equation our greatest temptation is to lead only out of our competencies. And if you are not tempted to be afraid in your leading then you are either leading nothing of significance or you are blind to the realities around you. Fear always barks at leaders—fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of succeeding, fear of the opposition. And while logic might tell you that in the face of fear our greatest temptation will be to quit—I have found that instead most leaders re-double their efforts based solely on their competencies and try to work their way out of whatever fear they possess. The problem is that our competencies are nothing apart from the empowering presence of Christ. They become tools of manipulation and selfish power under the guise of fear. And over time everyone knows it but the leader. Re-read Romans 5:1-5. But this time look at it through the lens of leadership fear and see how it forms you. Leading from fear can only lead to competency based leadership which will lead to pride—and pride is always a leader’s downfall.

So learn and develop your leadership competencies—be determined to be a good steward of all that God has given you. But remain teachable and full of faith as you stand in the grace of the gospel. It is only through Christ that you will lead well and point others rightly to Him.

The First C–Community

For some time I have been thinking about a paradigm for leadership development. I have not been satisfied with what I have seen in recent leadership literature. Again, this paradigm is not for how to lead–more on that later. But this paradigm is for the purpose of developing leaders.

So far I have thought through five aspects that all begin with the letter “C.” Here are the five–I will take one at a time over the next several days and add some of my insights: Community, Capacity, Character, Competency, and Christ-centered.

Community. This word can be defined in several ways. But what we usually mean as Christians is something closer to the Biblical definition of “fellowship.” The Greek word is koinonia–which literally means participation with, sharing in. It is more intimate and involved than simple proximity or common interests. It is knowing and being known. This type of community is critical in the life of a leader.

There is a natural tendency to greater levels of leadership–that is greater and greater isolation. As a leader rises in titles and responsibilities there are naturally fewer people who are willing to confront the leader and the leader has a shrinking number of peers. Yet isolation is killing spiritual leaders every day. We see the results in the media regularly. A leader becomes isolated physically and emotionally–and before long they fall prey to immorality, financial misdeeds, or some other character deforming deed. And they are soon disqualified from the ministry.

The higher a leader rises the more they must be intentional about maintaining authentic community. But how? 1. The leader must see and understand the Biblical value of being in community. 2. The leader will have to take the initiative to seek out a peer community. 3. The leader must be willing to live in authenticity–realizing that their strength is not in appearances but in a grace and truth community that points them to Christ. 4. The leader must seek the sponsorship of a supportive following that will allow them the time to pursue community. Too many times it is the congregation or those that report to the leader who do not allow the leader the freedom to be in community–they expect perfection and 24 hour, on demand work days.

There are two settings I know where leadership community is being promoted and exhibited. One is my former pastor in Austin, Texas–Rob Harrell. Several years ago Rob joined a group of other pastors in Austin who meet regularly to share their burdens, to pray for one another, and enjoy community. There are now over 60 pastors in Austin who meet in small groups to do the same. David English is another friend of mine who spends his full time promoting spiritual health in men through covenant teams of peers. David teaches on this through observed principles that all men pass through as they go through life. He arranges regular retreat settings where these covenant groups can meet and enjoy prolonged time to enjoy authentic community. All of this to the end that men–and leaders–finish well.

Community in the life of a leader is an absolute must–but not easy. It has to be pursued doggedly for a lifetime.

More on Presence and Proclamation

I have spent more time thinking about the need for both presence and proclamation. I also happen to be studying 1 John for my devotional time. 1 John 1:1-4 stood out to me as a great biblical picture of both presence and proclamation. Read below.

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us– 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John is saying something significant about Jesus Christ. First, he is combating heresy that had crept into the believing community–the heresy was that Jesus was never truly a man. John counters with his real life experience of Jesus. John even goes overboard on describing his personal experience of Jesus. But second, John wants to make sure that his readers understand that this Jesus “was made manifest.” In other words this eternal God took on a real presence–a human presence. Notice too that what John experienced–that which was made manifest–had to be proclaimed. There were two reasons for this proclamation–that these people might have fellowship with John and his companions–and that they might have real fellowship with the living God–Father and Son. And this proclamation brings John’s band great joy.

John links presence and proclamation. The very real life experience of Jesus results in a very joyful proclamation of Him. The result is sharing–participation–for that is the real meaning of “fellowship.” When one responds to this proclamation they get the great privilege of participating in Christ–and in the body life of other believers. That brings us back to presence. It seems in the Scriptures that there is no presence without proclamation and there is no proclamation without presence. They simply go hand in hand.

Presence and Proclamation

My family and I recently made a trip to Cinque Terra. As the name describes this is a cluster of five lands–five small villages along the western Italian coast. A seven mile hiking trail connects these five villages in a very picturesque journey. We spent four days exploring, eating, resting, shopping, and hiking. The rugged coastline is one of the prettiest I have ever seen–it is well worth the time if you ever get the opportunity to come to Italy.

On one particular day as I was off doing a little exploring on my own–something stood out to me. In every one of the five villages there is at least one–if not two or three–Catholic churhes. Usually they hold some of the most prominent locations in each setting–often at the very center of the town. Now these towns are small–I can’t imagine that any one of them has more than a few hundred full time residents–yet there is at least one church for each community.

This thought occurred–if fulfilling the Great Commission in Italy were only about “presence”–then the Catholic church has done the job. All over this country you would be hard pressed to find a city, town, or village without a church building at the center of town architecture. Sometimes even today the debate goes on that really all we need to do is be present in the lives of unbelievers to draw them to Christ. Or some would say that this is the primary thing we must do–we must stop being only attractional in our strategies–and we must be more missional by being very present in the places where unbelievers live, work and play. I was forced to go back and re-read some of the passages in Scripture that we look to in describing this missional mandate. And sure enough–it is hard to escape the need for presence. “Going” implies location. “All the world” implies location. But there is one other critical element that one cannot escape either–proclamation. Throughout the New Testament the gospel is something to not only be lived out and demonstrated–but something to be communicated–proclaimed.

I visited some of these churches while touring–it is rare to find more than a dozen people at mass. Certainly the Catholic church has made many efforts to be present in the lives of people everywhere. But presence is not all that is required. There must be a faithful proclaiming of the simple and pure gospel message of Jesus Christ to accompany any presence. While I would completely agree that attractional ministry will not take us where we want to go–neither will simple presence among the lost. There must be both presence and proclamation.

The Rome Marathon & Leadership

Last month I ran the Rome Marathon (that is me on the far left). It was my 9th marathon and around mile 20 I always think it will be my last–but probably not. It was a lot of fun as I got to run with four of he people I work with here in Italy. The course is beautiful as you might imagine–the organizers make sure that you run by most of the great historical sites. As you may be able to tell from the picture the race begins and ends at the Coliseum. That alone is pretty fun stuff. It was warmer than I preferred for that type of race–I am not a very good “warm day runner.” But I also have to admit that I was not as well prepared as I should have been. I think with all that has been involved in making our move to Italy and leading our team–the training will power was a little low. I finished at 3:50. Still not bad for a 50 year old dude.

I enjoy running marathons–or maybe I should say I enjoy finishing–I always learn a lot from the preparation and from the race itself. As I have mentioned on previous posts I see a lot of parallels between long distance running and the Christian life–and leadership.

This year, I tried something a little different for my mental preparation in running the race. I read an article that suggested you break up the 26 mile race into three segments of 10: 10 miles, 10 miles, and a 10K. The article also suggested that you take a different mental approach to each segment. So was is mine: for the first 10 miles my central thought was “Enjoy!” Good night I am running in Rome Italy–what’s not to enjoy? So I took in the sights, I chatted with other runners, I took little thought of my actual pace and time. For the second 10 miles my central thought was “Concentrate!” The time is over for chit chatting and a sight seeing race. It is time to consider how your legs are doing, your breathing, your pace, your hydration and nutrition. It is time to focus more keenly on where you are and what it will take to finish well. During the last 10 kilometers my central thought was “Bear Down!” This is the last 6 miles of the race (6.2 to be exact–and let me tell you the last .2 matters!). Your body hurts, you are becoming mentally fatigued, you are longing for the next water station–and hoping there might be a banana or orange slice to boost your energy. The race is nearing the end and you are dead serious about making it to the end–but there is a slight reservation about that reality. Somewhere in this last “10” there is always the proverbial wall. Runners know that somewhere along the way they will “hit the wall.” I have always said that for me the wall feels like I have been shopping all day at the mall–and more than anything I just want to sit down–anywhere. That is how I feel in the race too. Can I just please sit down–just take a load off for maybe an hour or two. Getting past the wall is all mental attitude–its about denying your inner cravings and focusing on the finish line. For me it always involves some prayer too.

Leadership has some similar rhythms. The early years of your leadership life could be labeled “Enjoy!” It is a season for trying things, enjoying the learning, venturing out in faith–not worrying too much about failure. It is an energetic time in life–the adrenaline is flowing–you don’t mind over commitment. It’s time to enjoy the leadership scenery–get to know people–not concentrate so much on pace and the end. But the second phase of “Concentrate” probably kicks in around 35-40 years of age. You know more who you are as a leader–you also realize that over commitment wont always take you where you want to go. You begin to see that leading is ultimatly more about who you are than what you can do or accomplish. People follow character. It is a season to take stock–because you can begin to see the end. The final phase of “Bearing Down” is probably about your leadership life at 50 and beyond. Now it becomes critical that you finish well–you may be feeling the pain of past choices–especially during the “Enjoy” phase. This may be the season you “hit the wall”–wondering what your life has been about and how you can make a maximum contribution as you press toward the finish line. It is a lot about mental attitude–but there is another more critical component. That is Christ and the grace of the gospel. I am already seeing that all of my leadership experiences will not compensate for character gaps–I desperately need Jesus Christ. And the same grace that rescued me as a teenager is the same grace I need now to finish well.

At the end of the marathon all those who finish receive a finisher’s medal–but in the leadership race for the cause of Christ our hope for reward should be those words of Paul near the end of his life–he longed to hear Christ say to him, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Leaders Ask the Right Questions

Leaders must be question askers. And they must ask the right questions. Some leaders love to hear themselves talk–and they believe that they always have the right answers. But as one friend of mine often says–“a good leader knows what he doesn’t know.” Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, says that flat world leaders have two common traits–they are passionate and they are curious.

These questions must revolve around two critical aspects of leadership in any endeavor–Where are we going? What will it take to get there? Both questions are future oriented. If a leader gets too bogged down in the here and now–one of two things will happen: the competition or the mission will pass him by–or the screeching wheels of the disaffected will consume his or her total time.

Where are we going? This question is always about “where is north?” It is keeping the big picture in mind–the destination clearly in focus. What will it take to get there? This question is about resources–people, tools, funds. Do I have the right people involved? Do the people I am leading have all that they need to fulfill what I have asked them to do? Do we have adequate funding? Do those that are following me understand their contribution and how it fits in to the mission? Do they have hope?

Asking the right questions is more important than having the right answers–because by the time you have the right answers your reality has changed.

Insecure Leaders

Wow–it has been too long since I have made a post. I am so sorry for any of you that have been logging on to see if there was anything new. My family and I have moved to Florence, Italy and life has been a little crazy. Here is a picture of the family in Italy just to prove we are actually here and alive.

Now on to today’s leadership post. Not too long after our arrival in Italy I had the occasion to sit in a meeting with one our ministry’s best leaders–he leads our efforts in one of the hardest parts of the world and it is a security conscious location for us–so I wont divulge his name or location. But I greatly admire him and what God has accomplished through him.

During a Q&A time I asked what he thought was one of the greatest risks posed to spiritual leaders in this day and time. Now that we are suffering once again through the trials of another U.S. leader and his sin–it is even more timely.

His answer was immediate–“Insecure leaders.” He paused and then offered more insight. He described the insecure leader as a “grab and hold” leader. This is the kind of spiritual leader who cannot give away power–they must hold onto it for themselves. If they are not in control of most situations and details they are fearful of the results and the reflection it will cast upon them. This response immediately rang true to me–I have been around these kind of people–so have you. You don’t feel empowered, you don’t feel ultimately trusted, you cannot flourish in this kind of environment, you will eventually give up and either slide into the background or move on to a different environment where you feel believed in, developed, and empowered. But I also had to be honest and admit that at times I have been that kind of leader. Whether it was a grab for credit or a fear of losing control–I have been a “grab and hold” leader.

I don’t know what kind of leader Ted Haggard was–he obviously was successful on many levels. But I have seen in my own life and in the lives of other “grab and hold” leaders that not only do they not empower people–they are usually not very open to the accountability of others and are not very authentic.

Insecurity can have many root causes–but it would seem that at the heart of all of this is some misgiving about the grace of the gospel for the leader’s life and for the follower’s life. It is not living as a loved person. It is still believing that God’s favor must be earned–and that our leadership is too critical to the mission.

God help us not to be insecure–grab and hold–leaders.

Partnering Well

I am often asked about how campus ministries can partner with other ministries for the sake of greater effectiveness. This is a key leadership question. How does one effectively partner in a way that it does not take away from an organization’s calling and actually maximizes the mission of both groups individually and the kingdom in general?

As I have considered this I have come up with three levels of partnering that I think are a valid way to view how one would interact with any organization that is worth partnership possibilities.

This is the most basic level and should have the broadest application. This is the level where we recognize the legitimacy of a ministry organization and can rightly bless them with our words and actions–even though we might not agree with every doctrinal position or ministry practice. It means that we speak well of them, recommend them to those who might best fit within their ministry context, and pray for them and their ministry success. Personally, I have experienced this with some of the charismatic ministries I have encountered. While I might not agree with a particular ministry right down the line–I saw where their overall commitment was the same as mine–to love Christ and to make Him known. We agreed on the major doctrines of the faith even as disagreed on the minor ones. Therefore I could “bless” them.

This level encompasses a deeper level of partnering. It includes the sharing and pooling of resources for a particular ministry effort or strategy. Usually this is only for a season or a particular event. But by sharing and pooling resources a larger impact is possible than if each organization worked alone. The purpose is not to lose either organization’s true identity–but to simply cooperate for a greater good in the short run. This might occur many times over the life of a ministry in a given location. There were many expressions of this in my ministry years at OU–where we would cooperate with the BSU or the Navigators–for an evangelistic event or a concert of prayer–and there was a mutual benefit and a greater result than if we had not cooperated in that way.

This is the ongoing sharing and pooling of resources for a sustained synergistic effort and result. This is the recognition of what each organization brings to the table and the realization that they could be better together than apart. I am seeing this now with Campus Crusade in England–where Crusade is training staff from other ministries in evangelism because of our strength in that area. It is an ongoing, long term commitment. The end result is that there are even more trained laborers on the campus who are equipped and confident in communicating their faith. Sometimes this might even result in a new organization that is mutually better than before. This is the highest level of partnership and must be entered into carefully and prayerfully. There should be mutually agreed upon values and goals–and again, the true sharing of resources for the kingdom’s sake.

I am convinced that most organizations can partner better and more broadly than is currently apparent. Leaders must lead the way with a spirit of generosity and boldness for a greater good.

Morning Needs

I just returned from a week in Copper Mountain, Colorado where I engaged in Campus Crusade’s STINT briefing. This was a group of nearly 400 recent college graduates gathered for some training and perspective as they head out for a year of mission to all parts of the world. I was privileged to be both a participant and presenter while there–and to spend time with eight others who will be a part of team Florence as we engage in campus ministry in Italy next month. I will share more from that time later in the next few days–but today, as I recover and gain my bearings, I thought I would share another prayer from The Valley of Vision. The title is “Morning Needs” and seemed an appropriate daily prayer for leaders.

O God, the author of all good,

I come to thee for the grace another day will require for its duties and events.
I step out into a wicked world, I carry about with me an evil heart,
I know that without thee I can do nothing,
that everything with which I shall be concerned, however harmless in itself,
may prove an occasion of sin or folly,
unless I am kept by thy power.

Hold me up and I shall be safe.

Preserve my understanding from subtilty of error,
my affections from love of idols,
my character from stain of vice,
my profession from every form of evil.

May I engage in nothing in which I cannot implore thy blessing,
and in which I cannot invite thy inspection.

Prosper me in all lawful undertakings,
or prepare me for disappointments;
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with food convenient for me,
lest I be full and deny thee and say, Who is the Lord?
or be poor, and steal, and take thy name in vain.

May every creature be made good to me by prayer and thy will;
Teach me how to use the world, and not abuse it, to improve my talents, to redeem my time,
to walk in wisdom toward those without, and in kindness to those within,
to do good to all men, and especially to my fellow Christians.

And to thee be the glory.

A Leader’s Prayer-Psalm 131


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Psalm 131 in the Bible is for leaders. It was written by a leader, King David. It was penned from a leader’s perspective. It is a Psalm, a prayer, that every spiritual leader must heed. It is that important.

Many do not read the Psalms as they were intended. We try and read Hebrew poetry like one of Paul’s letters. It can’t be done, at least not in a meaningful way. Poetry is meant to affect your soul. It is meant to move you, to draw out your emotions towards Yahweh. There is meter, rhythm and rhyme. Of course, some of it is lost in translation. But most of it remains fully in tact. And it is God’s inspired and infallible word, so it can still have the desired result in our lives.

Leaders can spend most of their days in an emotionless world of strategic plans, HR decisions, or cost-benefit analysis. Even spiritual leaders can get caught in a very man-centered approach to giving oversight and direction. We need to pray back the Psalms to God and allow the emotions He gave us to wash over us, so that we feel as leaders and not just think like one.

Psalm 131 is a very brief Psalm, yet it is packed with wisdom and perspective.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.

This is a psalm of ascent, meaning it was one that was prayed, quoted, or sung on the way to the temple on a holy day. But notice the language and the emotions of this psalm. David declares that his heart is not lifted up. This is King David, the most revered king in Israel’s history. He had great power and authority. He had every reason to be proud. But his own status and accomplishments were not his focus. Notice that his only audience in this Psalm is the Lord. Any other would draw his focus to himself.

He proclaims “my eyes are not raised too high.” David recognizes where his help comes from, even as a leader. The greatest stumbling block for any leader is self-competent pride. Most leaders, especially when they have tasted a measure of success, quickly lift up their hearts and raise their eyes, not unto God, but unto themselves.

David goes on to say that he does not occupy himself with things too great or too marvelous. Instead, he states that he is like a weaned child–that his soul is like a weaned child. A weaned child is one who has learned to draw nourishment other than through suckling. A weaned child is a content child, one who is quieted and calm. A weaned child is one who has moved past infancy into the role of a toddler, and who is content to simply be with his mother, not always demanding of her the next meal. David ends the psalm with the exhortation for all of Israel to “hope in the Lord.” This is a humble prayer, a humble declaration to fully trust in Yahweh. This is from a king, a great king! This is a song of great humility. And humility is a necessity for great leadership.

How many leaders do you know that live like this?

How are you doing?

Do you live a leadership life that is occupied with what God has given you to do?

Do you lead more from self-competency or godly character?

Do you live and lead as a calm quieted soul, or as a hurried, preoccupied driven person?

The issue is one of humility, hope, and trust.

Will you lean into Him for life and leadership?