A few weekends ago, I found myself in a roomful of rock stars. Not the glam and spotlight kind; the missionary kind. An unassuming little living room in Berlin hosted a band of freedom fighters, rescuers and truth proclaimers as we linked arms for the hearts of Europe.
Each of us was asked to speak to the group … and that was a little bit intimidating. What do you share with a group of missionary-ministry leaders? The only thing that kept coming to mind was the topic of leadership, which made me smack my forehead considering my audience. But, I was just crazy enough to go with it. As I began to share my notes with these fiery leaders, I felt a flame kindling inside me about this subject. Every person on the planet is a leader in some form — even if it is simply leading your own life — and there are things we should all evaluate as we make leadership decisions.
What is influencing my leadership style? What is influencing my decisions? Our thoughts, beliefs and actions come from a supply of something … and it is very important to know what source we are tapped into.
Although there could be an endless number of sources, I want to focus on three main categories: Fear, Flesh and Faith.
Fear is a liar. Yet, many of us make decision after decision based on our fears. Should I take this new job? No, because I have never done anything like that before. Should I accept this invitation? No, because they might not really want me there. Should I risk sharing what is in my heart with the person I love? No, because it is easier to be silent than to be rejected.
Then further as a leader: Should I take my team in this new direction? I don’t know, it seems risky and uncertain. Should I address the conflict in my group? Maybe not, because they might not like me anymore if I correct them. Should we join forces with our neighboring team for a big project? I think it might be great, but I really don’t want anyone to associate us with failure if it doesn’t work out right.
We all get suckered by the Fear of Man: considering the opinion of others to be of more value than God’s opinion, or aiming for approval from people, which only results in our missing the target God put in front of us. And what about the Fear of Rejection? That’s a biggie. And Fear of Failure? I wrestle with this one all the time. I’m sure you could add to this list.
Fear is a punisher. A slave-driver. An oppressor. It is a terrible motivator! Fear makes you look inward — at your lack, your shortcomings, your wounds. It convinces you to stop focusing on the Father’s face and to focus on yourself instead.
Tell Fear to take a hike! A leader motivated by fear cannot see clearly to lead his people anywhere. Don’t be fooled anymore.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” — 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
What does leading “from the flesh” look like? It looks like someone who relies solely on his past experiences and natural abilities to decide how to do things. Basing your current decisions on your past experiences is too limited a view. Positive or negative, good or bad, your past experiences are not the best barometer of what is coming. When you are constantly looking behind you, it is too easy to fall into the trap of “the good old days” or the “we’ll never do that again” mentality.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” — Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
Likewise, trusting solely in your own natural abilities is a trap. Your personality, knowledge, charisma, diplomacy, strategic thinking or what-have-you can never produce lasting results on its own. If you are leading people as a Christian leader, your natural abilities must be wired into the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish lasting, spiritual results.
While experience and natural abilities are necessary to lead people well, they are merely buckets waiting to be filled.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJV)
“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” — Romans 8:6 (NKJV)
Faith is more concerned with its object than with itself. Faith causes you to lift your head and look up at your Father. Faith gives you confidence in what you can’t see but “know that you know.” Faith causes you to rise to the occasion and walk on water. Faith causes you to let go of everything, but God and helps you realize you never really had control anyway. Faith gives you vision and strategy for where you’re going. Faith motivates!
In 2 Corinthians 5:7, we read, “For we walk by faith and not by sight” (NKJV). The New International Version translates it, “For we live by faith.” And I think for our purposes here, we could also insert the word “lead.” We lead by faith. Any leadership we offer that is not founded in activated, now-faith is just hay and stubble that will eventually burn up (1 Corinthians 3:11-13). But leading by faith, forging ahead by faith, taking your people through the battle using the shield of faith — those are the things that will last.
Jesus was the ultimate example of a leader. He motivated His followers with a brazen love. He served them, called greatness out of them and launched them into a life of purpose. He demonstrated Kingdom stuff, apprenticed His disciples in that Kingdom stuff, and then released them to go out and do even bigger Kingdom stuff on their own. If we want to be good leaders, then we will learn how to be “launchers” — propelling people into purpose, destiny and greatness.
Are you leading from fear? From your flesh? Or from faith? It’s never too late to switch sources!