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This week, we continue to look at this important idea of “Servant Leadership.”  I once heard this saying that has stuck with me over the years.  It goes something like this:  “To be a good leader, you have to first be a good follower.”  I remember the first time I heard that, I internally struggled with that idea.  I was young, and I thought, “I’m not meant to just follow someone, but I want to lead!”  Good thought, but the more I’ve lead, the more I’ve realized that in any and every role you lead, you will always be following someone else’s vision.

And this is the point I want to look at when it comes to servant leadership.  That in every role, you are always fitting into someone else’s “Big Picture.”  What I mean by that is, the vision you have has to fit into a larger vision.  For example, if you’re a youth pastor, your vision needs to fit into the larger vision for your church.  If you’re a Lead Pastor, your vision should fit into God’s vision for your church.  If you’re a manager at a corporation, your vision should fit into the larger vision of your company.  The moment that vision starts to contradict the larger vision, that is a sign that you might need to change surroundings, because you no longer fit into the bigger picture.  The reality is that the canvas your vision is painted upon will always fit into a bigger picture.  And along those lines, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Does the picture your leadership is painting fit into the larger picture of where you are?  If not, where does it fit?
  • How can you lead others to better fit into the larger picture?
  • How does the truth that your vision fits into a larger vision affect how you lead?

We are continuing our series on “Servant Leadership”, looking at the idea of “Doing What’s Beneath You.”  Now, this topic presents an interesting tension in leadership.  The ultimate goal of leadership is to empower others.  Leaders aren’t those that get things done, but rather those that can lead others to get things done.  As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.”  With that said, it is very easy to often take that idea to the point that there are certain things that “beneath you” as a leader.  Meaning, you have now achieved a certain status, and you no longer have to do certain things.  But this isn’t the approach of the Servant Leader.

You see, while servant leaders aren’t ‘slave leaders’ and simply running around doing what everyone else was empowered to do, that doesn’t mean they stand on a high and lofty pedestal looking down on all of their lowly hirelings.  You see, Servant Leadership isn’t about what you do, but about how you view what you do.  

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a leader that viewed you as simply the workforce to do everything they didn’t want to do.  Chances are good that you didn’t follow that person for long.  But on the flip side, hopefully you’ve had the privilege of following someone that you would go out of your way, even sacrifice your own time and energy, to do whatever that person needed.  What is the difference?  It’s all in how a leader views what they do and don’t do.

If you view certain things as “beneath” you, then those actually doing those things will naturally be “beneath” you.  And the moment those you’re leading are ‘beneath’ you, is the moment you’ve now stopped leading, and instead you are dictating.

This month I’m going through a series on Servant Leadership.  If you missed last week’s post, you can read it here.

Here are the topics we’ll be covering in the coming weeks:

  • Doing What’s Beneath You
  • The Big Picture You’re In
  • Giving Leadership Away

Today, I want to look at the idea of “Using My Gifts for the Benefit of Others.”  One of my favorite things to do as a pastor is to sit back and watch the wide variety of gifts and talents that are often used to expand the kingdom of God.  I get to see one person who loves doing administrative work in the office, and yet another that thrives at creating and designing, and still another that is so gifted with building things with their hands.  It’s amazing to see the amazing variety of abilities that have been handed out by God to his creation.

And with such variety, I sometimes wonder why I wasn’t given certain gifts/abilities?  Have you ever asked that question of God before?  Why can’t I play an instrument, or why can’t I sing like that, or why can’t I do this or do that?  It’s a pretty common question for people to ask.  And the basis for that question is usually, “Why did God make me the way he did?”  And whether your 20 years old or 90 years old, this is a question that we really should all ask ourselves at some point.  Because God has made you the way he did for a purpose…you’re not an accident, and the abilities you posses (or don’t posses) isn’t an accident either!  God has made you a certain way to succeed for a certain purpose…it’s not simply for your benefit and accomplishment, but ultimately to leave your mark on this world.  And here’s the main idea I want to share with you briefly:  God equips you with gifts that are to be given, not kept.

 

As a servant leader, we aren’t meant to hoard the gifts/abilities we’ve been given, but rather they are to be used to benefit others.  It can be easy to forget this, especially when we’re ambitious and trying to achieve certain goals and benchmarks (build a bigger church, move up the career ladder, etc.).  But that’s not the purpose of any gift, abilities or tool that God has placed in your proverbial toolbox.  I strongly believe that God has given you certain abilities, and then in turn placed certain people around you that need those abilities.  That’s because God equips you with gifts that are to be given, not kept.  

Have you ever wondered that maybe, just maybe, God chose to put you in a certain place on the timeline of history because he knows that he gave you the gifts and abilities to make a difference in that place?

The question then isn’t whether or not you have gifts or abilities, because we all do.  The question is: are you exercising those gifts to benefit others, or just to advance yourself?

If you don’t know how to use your gifts or where to use them, my challenge to you is to look up, look around and see the needs in your world.  This is place that your gifts will work the best…when your ability becomes the solution to someone else’s problem.

Over the next month, each Monday, I’ll posting a brief post on the topic of “Being a Servant Leader.”  In a culture where status and fame have become a priority, what a refreshing approach servant leadership is.  And not only is it refreshing, but it’s biblical.  In fact, Jesus even said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”  This is the approach that followers of Christ take in leadership roles, whether in the church or outside it.  Here are the 5 topics we’ll be looking at:

  • An Attitude of Selflessness
  • Using Your Gifts for the Benefit of Others
  • Doing What’s Beneath You
  • The Big Picture You’re In
  • Giving Leadership Away

To start off this series, we’re going to look at “An Attitude of Selflessness.”

What I’ve found is oftentimes, the younger a leader is, the harder it can be to recognize there is a world outside themselves.  This isn’t anything against young leaders, but simply that they often haven’t experienced the value of viewing the world through other’s eyes yet.  But to be a follower of Christ and a servant leader it is imperative to see the world, not through selfish eyes, but through selfless eyes.  This means learning how to identify the needs of those around you, and having a willingness to do something about it.

Now, that isn’t an excuse to run yourself ragged solving everyone else’s problems, but rather taking the approach of a servant rather than a ‘savior.’  We may not be able to change the whole world with one word or action, but we can change the world for that one volunteer, that one child, that one leader.  When we come with an attitude to serve, we are able to change the lives of those in front of us.  The collective effort of doing that very thing then becomes exponential.  Viewing the needs around us with selfless eyes allows us to come to serve rather than to be served.

And as leaders, especially in the church, we aren’t called to stand on our high, lofty pedestals, but to be approachable, caring servants.  Sounds kind of crazy doesn’t it?  Well, it is, and it was crazy even in the first century when Jesus said, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”  This is one of core components to being a servant leader.  Being a servant leaders isn’t simply about your actions, but your attitude.  If you have a sense of entitlement or an expectation that others are simply there to serve you, you’ll soon find yourself without anyone left to serve.  But those that are willing to take on the selfless attitude of a servant will always have people around them to lead and serve.

Here’s my challenge to you, rather than asking how can I get others to do this or that, start asking:

  • How can I better serve my team?
  • What sacrifices have I made for my team?
  • Are my priorities focused on me and what I want, or around what is best for my team?
This is the final post in a series of posts where I have been going through the three main goals of a ministry leader.  You can read the first two posts here and here.  The three items we are looking at are:
  1. Love People.
  2. Lead with Vision.
  3. Live with Excellence.
More often than not in ministry circles, the idea of ‘Living with Excellence’ is understood, but very understated.  What I mean by ‘Living with Excellence’ can be summed up in 1 Timothy 3:2-3, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach…” As leaders and especially leaders in a church, we are called to not just ‘Love People’, ‘Lead People with Vision’, but our lives should reflect the message we proclaim.  We are called to live lives of holiness, above reproach.  What that means is this:
  • There is NO QUESTION to our character.
  • Our lives become a clear reflection of Christ…this includes our words, actions and attitudes. (Phil 2)
  • We set a high standard that others we lead can see and strive to follow.  (1 Cor 11:1)
Now the problem is, this goes in complete contradiction to our human nature.  Our human nature is not to live according to standards, but according to our desires.  It’s a struggle that we all face…each of our struggles may be different, but as Christians, and especially leaders, we are called to set the pace of holiness.  To live not only godly lives, but ones that are without question.  How do we do this?  Here are a few tips:
  • Practice Accountability - the power of secret sin is in its secrecy.  We don’t need to tell everyone our struggles, but we should tell someone.  Be accountable to a mature believer that you know will ask you the tough questions.
  • Prioritize Your Time with God - our lives will be a direct reflection of the time we spend with our Savior.  The more time, the greater the reflection.  Make your time with God a priority each day.
  • Position Guardrails - Guardrails keep us from going off the cliff on the road and can do the same thing in our lives.  Position guardrails, or safety measures in your life, to protect you from making detrimental decisions or placing yourself in compromising situations.  If you had an issue with pornography, create a guardrail by not going on the internet when you are alone. As a church we have created certain guardrails.  For example, we would not allow a male volunteer to be alone with a female child or teenager.  It’s not that we don’t trust the volunteer, but we want to create a guardrail that keeps us ‘above reproach’.
So who is holding you accountable?  How is your time with God?  What guardrails do you need to put in place for your life, or marriage, or ministry?   

As a follow-up to last week’s post on the three areas we need to focus on as leaders in the church, I wanted to cover the second area.  If you missed the first one, you can read it here.  The three areas we are looking at and need to focus on are:

  1. Love People
  2. Lead with vision
  3. Live with excellence
Today, I wanted to cover the idea of “Leading with Vision”.  At Calvary, we are constantly looking to improve on what we are doing, which can lend itself to updating/improving things.  All of this can bring about change, and change brings with it the possibility for disaster.
Imagine driving to a familiar store and taking a right turn down a street that you’ve driven down hundreds of times.  However, this time everything is different.  Little did you know, the street was recently changed to a ‘One Way Street’, and now you are driving in the wrong direction.  As you come to find out, the change was made to improve traffic flow in that part of town, but it was never communicated to the public.  That would be pretty frustrating, and could have disastrous results!!  The same is true, if not more so, as we lead change in a church.  Here are a few thoughts as leaders we need to remember when leading change:
  1. Remember leadership is not about ‘doing stuff’, but about taking people on a journey.
  2. Expect people to be frustrated if you take them on a journey, but don’t tell them where you’re going.  Communication is huge!
  3. Before you share the ‘what’ you need to share the ‘why’.  The ‘why’ will make the ‘what’ more understandable.

Over the next few posts, I wanted to pass along a few items I recently shared with our staff regarding the focus of ministry leadership.  As leaders, and especially ministry leaders, there are so many expectations and responsibilities that can pull for your attention and energy.  But when you look at the core items, there are really three simple things that we need to do to be effective:

  1. Love People
  2. Lead with Vision
  3. Live with Excellence

First, I want to focus on the idea of ‘Loving People’.  There are all kinds of structures and processes we need to have in place to minister at greater capacities and with higher levels of excellence, but when you boil it down to the basics, we exist to love people.  You can have the “Greatest show on Earth” on a Sunday morning or the most thorough discipleship track in the world, but if you forget the priority of loving people, you’ve missed the mark.  In the always stressful world of ministry, our priorities can very easily be sidetracked or hijacked.  Whatever your ministry, no matter how large or how small, remember that ministry is not simply about processes or programs, it’s about people.  Care for people.  Respect people.  Love people.

Christ makes it clear in John 10 that the greatest trademark of His disciples isn’t found in their style. size or necessarily structure, but it is found in their love.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 

So how are you making it a priority to “Love People” in your ministry?  Both those you serve and those that serve with you?

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