Friday, April 10, 2015

The Requirements for Longevity in Leadership

Since the day that James and John asked Jesus to sit at His right hand (Mark 10:37) (the premier place of authority under Christ in what they assumed would be an earthly, physical kingdom replacing the Roman Empire) there have been those within the church that have jockeyed  for power, control, and recognition. Their blatantly political maneuvers, associations, and alliances betray their humble facade. Pride, the last and most entrenched bastion of carnality, causes otherwise good men to act in self serving and injurious ways. Because this type of pride is not limited to the clergy (or for that matter to the church realm) we must look at some safeguards and put them into place.

In Deuteronomy chapter seventeen God gives some instructions for the children of Israel as they move into the promised land. Of interest to us in this article are the instructions God gave to them for their king to follow.

God said:

  • That God would choose who got to be "in charge" a.k.a. "king" 

God did not intend for king's to appoint themselves through clever self promotion and political positioning.

  • That the "king" or in our case "leader" would come from among "thy brethren"

An individual that comes from within a group to prominence in that group is much more likely to be rooted in the same soil as and compassionate toward those who were once his peers. With this perspective toward them, he will be less likely to use them as tinder to be burnt in fueling his pride and ambition.

  • That multiplication of anything that brings one into slavery or directs the leader's heart away from God is prohibited

Often in ministry as well as business, the accumulation of programs, facilities, and staff can lead to financial slavery or alternatively, can direct our hearts away from God and toward pride in that which we accomplish and accumulate. This is the path back to Egypt.

  • That reading out of (and working out of) the same playbook as those you are leading is essential
The Bible, of course, is the playbook of the Christian and is of "no private interpretation". The leader who has his own "spin" on everything very soon will find himself "spinning" all alone.  
  • That possession of, studious study of, and adherence to the Bible teaches the king/leader to "fear God"

Understanding and walking in the truth that we are under the authority of an Almighty God keeps our methods and motives in focus.

  • That obedience to what is written in Scripture (not what we read into Scripture or take out of context to apply to our situation) will keep us "grounded" and not proudly perched above others as the "arbiter of truth"
In the end, God told Israel that if their king followed these instructions he would "prolong his days in his kingdom" and that there would be a place for his children to follow him in leadership positions. Too many leaders inside and outside of the church have shortened their tenure in their position through pride. They and their children then are forced to deal with the consequences. May we follow these simple guidelines and put to death each day our own carnal pride. Only then will we reach our full potential as leaders in the will of God.


Deuteronomy 17:14-20 When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Need to Be Heard

We all want to matter. We all want to our words to make a difference to someone. Whether it is the parent trying to get through to a stubborn child or an adult trying to have their ideas taken seriously in the workplace. We all want to be heard.

Some would look upon this as pride. And while they are lifting up their voices to decry the "pride" of others they themselves want to be (and expect to be) heard. You see, being heard is more than just the idea of others paying attention to our ideas. It is others paying attention to us as individuals. We live in a very lonely society. Even with your hundreds of "friends" and connections on social media the number of people that would take an hour out of their day and listen to your story are pretty few. That does not mean that you are not well liked or even loved. What it does mean is that all of humanity is self involved -- selfish. Because of this self involvement listening to others must be a trait that is cultivated. Because we know that others, like ourselves, are selfish and not likely to listen we value it greatly when we are truly heard by someone. It often doesn't matter who, just someone who will listen to us (not necessarily even our words) with their soul.

But today we aren't talking about the skill of listening. What we want to consider is why we as individuals have this need to be heard. I believe there are several reasons:

1. We were made in the image of God. God is a communicator. Therefore, we made in His image are made to be communicators. The quietest and shyest of us all communicates all day long. If that individual does not communicate by means of verbal speech they communicate by means of presence, attitude, expression, and body language. You don't have to talk to communicate, and everyone communicates. Simply put. We all need to be heard because we were created to be communicators.

2. We want to be understood. So much of what we do and say regarding other people is based purely upon assumption and conjecture. We think we know others. We all have said stuff before like, "I know his/her type." Based on very little, we have made certain assumptions about that individual. And we know that if we act and speak solely on assumptions regarding others that they do the same to us. This is why we all have a drive to be heard. We want to be understood. We cannot stand the idea that people are making snap judgments about us without our input. That does not mean that we need or even want the approval of others, but we certainly don't want others to make the wrong assumptions about us. We want to be understood and we want to be in control of the message by which others understand us.

3. We want to matter. We alluded to this in our opening statements on this topic. Everyone wants to feel like they matter to at least a few people. We like to think that if we die someone is going to miss not only our physical presence but our communication. If those few people give up on listening to us then our little world begins to come apart. The belief that your life, ideas, and love are valuable to others is validated in your mind by the fact that they listen. We want to matter. The way we know we matter is that there are a few people who not only hear what we say, but also actually listen to the expression of who we are conveyed in the language of our communication - whatever form that communication may take.

4. We want to know that we exist. The old question is, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it really make a sound?" Of course we know that it does, but humans are much more complicated than a tree. We are self aware. We know that the very fact that someone has heard us means that at the very least we exist, and maybe, just maybe, we are not alone. It is the difference between mentally knowing that people live in Kalamazoo, and actually talking to someone that is living there on the telephone or via teleconference. No, our existence does not hang on the precarious thread of being heard, but rather it is our perception of our own existence. Being heard makes us feel connected to life and thus, makes us feel like we are alive ourselves.

5. We want a legacy. No, that is certainly not in our minds when we speak, but it is a motivating factor. Every parent wants their children to listen so that they will obey and in turn become good people. Therefore, it stands to reason that when the words of the parent are truly heard (which includes obedience) they produce a legacy that will live beyond that parent. The legacy of a good citizen. The politician or preacher desires to be heard to push a policy or engage people in a teaching that will become embedded in society or individual's lives and will outlive that politician or preacher as a legacy. Everyone, from the mother, to the teacher, to the businessman in his high rise corner office wants their communication to become a part of the hearer. In this we find our legacy. It is one thing to leave an inheritance to others, it is another to leave a legacy of idea, philosophy, and teaching. Even if at the time we are not specifically attempting to graft a certain idea, philosophy, or teaching into the lives of our hearers.

6. We want validation. We want to know that the thoughts,ideas, plans, goals, and ambitions that we express by means of our communication with others are not without merit. We want someone to say, "That's a good idea." That assurance cements in our mind that we are not out on a limb all by ourselves. "Alone" has to be one of the scariest words in the English language. The validation by peers, superiors, and those that we see as subordinates all adds to a "confidence bank" somewhere deep inside of us. We say to ourselves. "They thought I was right. I am safe in my course of action." or "They thought my joke was funny. I must be likeable."

So, I set down this afternoon saying to myself, "I want to write something, but I don't know what. I want to say something to others. But why?" This is why. We have a need to communicate, and a part of that - a big part -  is the embedded need to be heard.