Leading in Remembrance

medium_4002722952We recently had over a 1000 photographs digitized so as to ensure their longevity. The other night we were looking at most of the images on our computer and reminiscing about the different stages we have been through as a family. It was a lot of fun to stop and take note of the growth, the changes, and the memories. In many ways it was a form of celebration.

Sometimes leaders are so focused on the future that they rarely stop and take time to look back to celebrate. Yet, followers need times like this, and so do the leaders.

In chapter four of the book of Joshua in the Bible, Joshua is commanded by God to gather twelve stones. Each stone was to represent one of the tribes of Israel. It was to stand as a memorial marking the crossing of the Jordan River by the Israelites as they entered the promised land.

And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children as their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” Joshua 4:21-24

The first point was to create a memorial for future generations of Israelites to remind them of God’s actions on their behalf in delivering them out of Egypt. The second point was to be a witness to the rest of the world about the power and might of God. Notice that the honoree was God and not Joshua. I think this was a reminder to Joshua, as well as the people, that God uses leaders to accomplish his purposes and to honor himself. This was to stand as a testament to the grace of God and his use of a leader.

As spiritual leaders we must be cognizant of the same thing. God appoints leaders to use leaders, but the glory and honor are his. It behooves us to establish God memorials too. We need clear markers and reminders, that when asked how such a great accomplishment was achieved, we can clearly point back to the grace of God and recount the story. It provides the opportunity to celebrate God’s grace and God’s goodness.

How will you lead in remembrance? There are many creative ways you can point yourself, your family, and your followers back to the grace of God in your lives. Pictures, a journal, literal stones–or even a blog–can be used as memorials of God’s grace in the life of a leader and a people. Out of our brokenness we are forgetful people. We need visual reminders of God’s greatness and our need for him.

Are you leading in remembrance? Create a memorial today.  Go and collect some “stones” and tell their story. Lead well!

(photo credit)

Courage & The Next Leader

medium_475035174I have always been fascinated by the biblical account of Israel entering the promised land under the leadership of Joshua. Joshua had made a career of being the right-hand man to Moses. But through disobedience Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land and God tapped Joshua as the successor to lead the people into this new destiny. I have blogged before about leadership succession and I used these two leaders as my context.

It is not easy to be the next leader.  

In this case Joshua is succeeding an icon in the man Moses. Yet it was Joshua’s task to take this million plus people  across the Jordan River and into Canaan. Four times in eighteen verses Joshua is exhorted to be courageous. You would need a healthy dose of courage too if you were leading over a million people into a hostile land. And remember, this large, rag tag bunch did not have the best track record for obedience. And, for added pressure,  this is your first role as commander and chief. But what stands out to me within these four exhortations to courage is not how they relate to Joshua’s weaknesses, but rather how they relate to his mission.

1. Courage For The Mission Matters.  Two of the four charges to courage are directly related to the objective.  V. 6 states, Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. The land, the promised land, is part of a covenant relationship between Yahweh and his people.  This goes all the way back to Genesis 12 and the story of Abraham. Even today there is little that is of more importance to the Jewish nation than the promised land.  Yet, the land in Joshua’s day was occupied and those occupants would have to be displaced. God promises to be with Joshua every step of the way, yet it will still take courage to fulfill God’s will.  V. 9 says, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Again, this command to courage is related to the going. It is tied to the leadership task that Joshua has been given. There will certainly be days when Joshua will be tempted to be afraid and dismayed. But God says that he can take courage for the very reason that the God of the universe goes with him. It is God’s idea and God intends to use Joshua to fulfill his plans. The missional objective is clear and God expects Joshua to step into it.

2. Courage In The Method Matters.  The other two exhortations to courage are directly related to how Joshua carries out the mission. It is not easy to stick to moral principles. It is not easy to lead consistently out of core convictions.  V. 7 states, Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.  Notice that God knows that it will take courage to accomplish God’s plans God’s way.  Yahweh does not want Joshua to depart from his teaching, recorded in the Law. Apparently it matters to God how a  task is accomplished as much as it is accomplished.  In the final verse of the passage, v. 18, we read, Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous. This a recorded response from the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh. They had decided to take up residence east of the Jordan, but promised to help their brothers in conquering all that was west of the Jordan. Notice again that their call to courage relates to how the mission is accomplished. These tribes believed that if Joshua was closely following God’s commands then no one person should disobey Joshua as God’s representative. Both the what and the how of leadership in this situation mattered.

This should inform us too when it comes to leading in God’s kingdom.

Our calling to lead should rightly include God’s leading toward a clear vision and mission.

Our calling to lead should rightly include a proper means towards that accomplishment.

What we lead people toward and how we lead them both matter.

May our courage and strength to lead well be found in the grace that is Jesus Christ.

Lead well!

(photo credit)

Leadership Transition-A Leader’s Parting Words

small__4976497160I have watched several leadership transitions and been part of a few in my life. No matter how great the leaders are or how smoothly the transition is handled it is always a season of change. And change creates discontinuity, which can lead to anxiety, doubt and fear. The manner in which the current leader passes the baton can certainly help make the difference. I am reminded of Joshua 24 where we find the last words of Joshua as he passes the torch of leadership. In these verses Joshua clearly does three things in communicating with the people of God. There are principles here for any departing leader.

Remind them of God’s faithfulness through history

 In verses 1-13 Joshua reminds the Israelites of God’s faithful leading down every path. He begins with the choosing of Abraham, through their redemption out of slavery to Egypt, and closes this section with a reminder about their entrance and settlement of the promised land. What is critical to note is how Joshua points the people solely to God, not himself as God’s chosen leader. It’s easy as the departing leader to recount your own accomplishments, but doesn’t that just emphasize what people are losing? Leaders change but God remains. Even though God uniquely uses us as His agents of change let’s be careful to point followers to the real source of growth and change. Helping followers see the faithfulness of God through history can be a great source of comfort and hope in times of change.

Remind them to follow God and not person

In verses 14-18 Joshua strongly charges the people to covenant commitment to Yahweh. He marks this charge with his own renewed commitment and he calls on them for a personal response. Joshua realizes that there is still much to be accomplished and that any hint of idolatry will destroy the work and the benefits up to this point. What will carry these people through is not another really good human leader, but resolute commitment and surrender to the God of the universe who has brought them thus far. As leaders we must not do less. Part of our final words must be a clear charge to continue to follow hard after Christ, not the next human leader.

Remind them of the consequences of following anything or anyone other than God

In verses 19-28 Joshua sounds a clear warning to the people about the consequences of covenant disobedience. He reminds them of their weakness as a people and establishes a symbolic witness as to their stated commitment to remain faithful. Sometimes we shy away as leaders from saying difficult words. But there is an appropriateness to a final warning, even as one leaves, lest any follower follows the next leader more than God Himself. We also must call people to true faith in Christ for the future, lest they rely on something or someone else.

What thoughts would you offer?

(photo credit)

Moses to Joshua: Passing the Baton of Leadership


Gary Paulson on Flickr

Moses is considered one of he greatest leaders in the Old Testament. God used Moses to free the people of Israel from the chains of Egypt. It was Moses who led them through the wilderness and toward the promised land of Canaan. But ultimately Moses was not going to be the one to lead the people of God into the promised land. In Deuteronomy 3:28 God instructs Moses to “. . . charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.”

At the end of Deuteronomy 3, Moses makes one last plea to God to allow him to pass over the Jordan into the promised land. But God, in no uncertain terms, says absolutely not. This stems back to an incident in Numbers 20 where Moses strikes the rock when he was suppose to speak to the rock–to draw out water for the Israelites. Numbers 20:12 reads, “And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe in me,to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.'” That last statement by God is a whole other lesson. But because of that incident Moses was denied access to the land that was a part of God’s covenant with Abraham, passed down to Isaac and Jacob, a land for the people of God. But there was one last task for Moses to do. He was to prepare Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the promised land. What we must take note of are the three descriptive words used to instruct Moses toward that preparation: charge, encourage, and strengthen. I believe that this provides us as 21st-century leaders with some tangible insights about how to prepare those who will and should succeed us.

To “charge” in the Hebrew language means to appoint, ordain or give charge.

The idea is to assign one to a clear role, task or function. In other words, the next leader needs to clearly know what is in front of him or her, what you are asking them to do. Many times it appears to me that “next leaders” are left with little clear direction or clear responsibility. New leaders need to know what and who they are to lead.

To “encourage” (ESV translation) in the Hebrew means more literally to be hard, or harsh.

The connotation can include the idea of having the ability to accomplish what is intended, also implying the element of resolve. A new leader needs new leader skills. There is a sense of competency that is required. There is also a sense of determination that must be added. New leaders must have certain specific abilities. But all abilities can be enhanced and improved. And any leader who secedes another will need resolve to follow God and cut their own path. The old leader “encourages” the new leader through improving the new leader’s abilities and infusing a sense of resolve.

To “strengthen” means to marshal force or to be courageous.

If “encouraging” was primarily about improving abilities then “strengthening” is primarily about attitude. It carries the idea of focus. No leader is worth his or her salt without focus. As I have said before, the key to complexity is not simplicity but focus. Old leaders need to help new leaders focus, to marshal all that God has given them for a God given task. Succeeding leaders can easily become distracted. The outgoing leader must help the new leader rightly focus on the task ahead.

Here is a summary of how Moses was to aid Joshua in taking over as leader of the people of Israel: make the task as clear as possible, help him improve his God given abilities with a sense of resolve, and help him step out in courageous faith with an unwavering focus.

Deuteronomy 34:9 says, “And Joshua the son of Nun was full ofthe spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

As the new leader Joshua led the people of Israel into the land that God had promised so many years ago. And Moses helped to prepare him for this glorious task. How are you preparing the leaders around you? Who are you raising up to take your place? Will they be ready?