Leading Me
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Leading Me

Eight Practices for a Christian Leader's Most Important Assignment

Steve A Brown, Marina H Hofman-Willard, Marina H Hofman-Willard

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eBook - ePub

Leading Me

Eight Practices for a Christian Leader's Most Important Assignment

Steve A Brown, Marina H Hofman-Willard, Marina H Hofman-Willard

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About This Book

You are your most important and most difficult leadership assignment.

Leading Me will help you get traction on living a Christ-centered, holistic, sustainable and fruitful life of impact. Grounded in biblical truth, utilizing the latest research and drawing on the proven process of the Arrow Leadership Program, Leading Me provides practical next steps for your most important leadership assignment...you.

"Imagine a treasure box for leaders with everything you could possibly need in it …"

From the foreword by Mark Buchanan, author of Your Church is Too Safe

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Chapter 1—The Starting Place
King David’s resume was pretty impressive. A gifted musician and poet. A bold and courageous warrior. A skilled strategist. A called, chosen and anointed leader. A man after God’s own heart. The list could go on and get much longer.
In this midst of these qualities, skills and gifts, David faced many significant leadership challenges. For starters, there already was a king. Not only was there a king, but Saul was an insecure and unstable king who regularly flew into blind and violent rages against David. He also had David hunted through the wilderness like wild game.
Another leadership challenge was David’s team. In the early days, this motley crew must have been quite a handful. In 1 Samuel 22:2, they are described: “all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.” Not exactly the textbook DNA of a high performance team. In later days, David’s military commander, Joab, went rogue and murdered Saul’s military commander after he had brokered a peace deal with David. And it’s painfully clear that David’s own son Absalom rebelled, led a coup and publicly disgraced his father.
Added to these challenges was external opposition. Whether it was facing down a giant, overcoming powerful enemies, or dealing with the taunts of hecklers, David regularly navigated situations of great pressure and difficulty that would stretch virtually any leader to the limits.
Despite this list of significant leadership challenges, I believe David had a much greater and much more personal leadership challenge. At the core of all of these challenges is David’s personal leadership. If David hadn’t partnered with God in leading himself well, the negative impact to himself, his team and his cause would have been much greater.
David’s biggest leadership assignment and leadership challenge was himself. When David had opportunity to kill Saul, he could have done so to the applause of his team. Instead, David found self-control to hold back as well as courage to rebuke his team. In the loneliness of the caves and life on the run, it would have been understandable if he had been overcome by despair. Instead, he persevered in trusting and worshipping God.
When Ziklag was destroyed by fire and the wives and children of David as well as of his men were taken captive, David could have been consumed by his own raw emotions or by the threats of his followers. Instead, he sought out and listened to God for his next steps. When confronted by Nathan, David’s pride and sense of self-protection could have rejected the rebuke and led to even greater consequences. Instead, he responded with humility, brokenness and repentance.
David’s personal leadership in partnership with God made the difference in each of these situations. But we also know that David had a major lapse in his personal leadership. When other kings were setting off for war, David didn’t join his men. We can speculate on the reason for David’s choice to stay home, but we know that lust and a sense of entitlement took over when he gazed down on a bathing Bathsheba. David’s lapse in personal leadership spiraled into more sin, with deceit and ultimately murder. This failure wasn’t about David’s giftedness, calling or competency as a first-chair leader. This failure was about David’s personal leadership.
The consequences were enormous. It offended God and weighed David down with guilt. The ripple effect left both Uriah and the son of David and Bathsheba dead. It put a dark asterisk beside David’s record as a leader. It contributed to calamity within his family, exile from his position and public humiliation as a leader.
David’s story is a powerful reminder that how you lead yourself is critical. It’s also a clear reminder that personal leadership isn’t easy. It’s our toughest leadership assignment. It’s difficult for a number of reasons. The first is our likeness to sheep. God’s people are often labeled as sheep in Scripture. As a shepherd David knew about sheep. He knew that sheep are far from the smartest creatures. They have a pack mentality, and they are creatures of habit who follow the same trail and routine with no desire for change. Left to their own devices, sheep would consume all the food in a pasture and then starve within sight of another pasture. They are easily frightened. They are fairly helpless and can’t even right themselves if they fall over.
Despite all our education and advances over time, we are a lot like sheep. We often struggle to make wise choices, we are easily consumed by fear, we get stuck in ruts and routines that are unhealthy, and we have difficulty seeing beyond our immediate circumstances. Just like sheep need a shepherd, our desperate need is for the shepherd of Psalm 23. The shepherd who serves, leads, guides, restores, provides, protects and blesses.
A second reason why we are our toughest leadership assignment is the battle within. The apostle Paul was an unparalleled pioneer and bold missionary leader who saw God bring great growth through his service. In the process Paul faced extreme opposition and overwhelming obstacles as a leader. But Paul’s greatest leadership challenge wasn’t his team, who had nearly all deserted him by the end of his life. Paul’s greatest leadership challenge was himself. In Romans 7:21–24 he writes,
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
Can you relate to Paul’s struggle? I sure can. I can relate to a war in my mind and feeling like a prisoner to the law of sin at work within. I’ve felt stuck and have struggled to overcome personal battles. I’ve been puzzled, trying to figure out how I can routinely lead others with a reasonable level of skill and solve fairly complex organizational problems, yet I can’t seem to break free from or solve personal issues. Paul goes on in Romans 8 to share God’s solution to his and our problem, but the battle and challenge within is clear.
Added to this war within is another battle. A battled waged externally. As Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This verse and Paul’s direction to “Therefore put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13) is a reminder that leading ourselves well isn’t hard simply because of the battle within but also because we are targets of a battle from the outside.
Thankfully, we don’t need to face these battles on our own. For Christ-followers and Christian leaders, personal leadership is a partnership. It’s a partnership that involves God—the Good Shepherd—the individual and the community. Each has a key, unique and indispensable role. In this chapter, we will look at God’s role and our role in this special partnership. We will look at the role of community later on in chapter 5, “Keeping Connected.”

God’s Role

God has the central role in transforming and leading you.
It starts with God’s investment. God has more invested in us than we can imagine. Scripture says that we were part of his plan before creation (Ephesians 1:4). Psalm 139 reminds us that God was intimately involved in our creation. Verse 13 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
But God continues to be intimately involved in our lives beyond our creation. Psalm 139 also tells us that God knows “when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down…Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely” (Psalm 139:2–4). David continues and writes, “Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7) and concludes that wherever he goes, God is there.
God’s initiative is also plainly evident throughout Scripture. God not only initiated through creation, but he continued to initiate through his plan of redemption. John 3:16–17 is the best known summary of God’s initiative: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” His love led to his initiative.
Through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God’s work has accomplished what we could not and cannot. The first chapter of Ephesians provides a great list of what God has already done for Christ-followers. He has blessed us in the heavenly realms; in love he predestined us for adoption, redeemed us, forgave us, lavished us with the riches of his grace, made known to us the mystery of his will, included us in Christ, and marked us with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. All this is God’s initiative, work and accomplishment.
At this point, we can conclude that God is for us. As Paul argues in Romans 8:31–32, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” God is on our side. His desire is for our good, and he is still actively engaged in that goal. The grace given through salvation is immediately met by grace for sanctification. We know that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
God’s grace, his provision and his sanctifying work through the ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit seeks to transform us “into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As God seeks to form Christ in us (Galatians 4:19), we see more and more of his life expressed through us. The products of God’s transforming work include the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) as well as spiritual intimacy, godly character, vibrant relationships and contribution through service.
As Cloud and Townsend write in How People Grow, “To grow, we need things that we do not have and cannot provide, and we need to have a source of those things who looks favorably upon us and who does things for us for our own good.”1 God is that source, and he is at work for our own good. While individuals and community do have a key role to play, Cloud and Townsend note that “We do not grow because of ‘will power’ or ‘self-effort’ but because of God’s provision. God offers the help we need (that’s grace) and then we have to respond to that provision.”2

Our Role

While God initiates and provides the core ingredients for change, you and I can’t be passive. We are called to take responsibility to join in partnership with what God is doing and desiring to do in our lives. In God In My Everything, Ken Shigematsu helps to describe and differentiate between God’s role and our role. Ken writes,
The growth of our spiritual lives is primarily God’s work. On our own, we can no more produce the fruit of Christ’s character in our lives than we can squeeze pebbles into diamonds (John 15:5). Yet despite our foibles and failures, God calls us to play a role in our transformation. He invites us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” precisely because “it is God who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13–14). Grace, as Dallas Willard observes, is not opposed to effort but to earning. We cannot earn our life with God—it’s a gift. But we are to “make every effort to add to [our] faith goodness...knowledge…and love (2 Peter 15–7).”3
Our contribution to this partnership is highlighted in 1 Timothy 4:7, where Paul admonishes Timothy to “train yourself to be godly.” Paul isn’t calling for the fruitless exercise of personal willpower. Paul also isn’t advocating a solo effort apart from community. He’s calling for Timothy to take personal responsibility for his development and to engage in an intentional systematic approach empowered by God’s grace and with the support of community.
Every Christ-follower and Christian leader needs to take responsibility to partner with God in his or her growth, development and transformation. Taking this role se...

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