Arrow Course Preparation Day: Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12.1

I had a great time on the CPAS Arrow Course preparation day, and heard some great teaching from Nick Cuthbert on Hebrew 12:1-13:

It is very easy to grow weary as a human, it is a struggle, especially if you have children.  We often feel live giving up, in The Road Less Travelled, Scott Peck says: “Life is difficult”

In England we think things will work but it doesn’t work we’re sad most of the time, in Africa we think things won’t work so we’re happy when they work!

It is hard to be a Christian worker today, it is very easy to grow weary and lose heart.  You will know colleagues who didn’t finish the race, they lost heart.  The writer says I am writing so you don’t lose heart.  Paul twice in 2 Corinthians explains this.

Listen to the cheering crowd

Remember the witnesses, remember the generations who have gone through what you have gone through and worse, and if they could see you they would tell you to keep going.  If you were to go to Italy to watch the Rugby you would be cheering on the England players most of whom haven’t played.  These people have, they have felt those moments and still they say keep going.  History reminds us of men and women who get through, that’s why reading biographies is so important.

In Hebrews 11 we see people who lived life as a half-way to a miracle – but a miserable place to be, Moses standing on the red sea shore with Pharaoh behind you it’s not a good moment; the same in the River Jordan; then Jericho walking around six times blowing their trumpets; disciples trying to feed 5,000 with some fish and bread!  Many of us are at that point, we haven’t seen the breakthrough of God.  Going through the process is important, see Joseph who wouldn’t have been the man he became.  Abraham never saw the miracle, he never saw the city.

Get rid of the weights

Get rid of the stuff you don’t need.  Athletes trained with weights on their back so it was easier in the actual race, but he says many people are struggling in the race because you are carrying things you don’t need to carry.  Much is linked to relationships, hurts and pain that we carry unnecessarily.  Get rid of them and you feel the relief and can run freely.

The sin that he’s referring to here is probably unbelief, as when things are hard, we’re tempted to say where is God?

Staying in your lane

Let’s run with endurance the race set before us.  When you set out on a race you’re enthusiastic but half-way through you question what are you doing.  God has given you a particular race to run, stay in your own lane, we often try to run someone else’s race.  We try to copy what other people do.  So when God meets you on the final day it will be because you ran the race he called you to – you may become very well known or no one may know of your ministry.

You are dominated in church life of the expectations of others.  If you are wise you discover who you are, if you run the race of who you are you will run it with ease, but if you run the race how others expect you to be then it will always be difficult.

Look beyond the tape

You run for beyond the tape, you set your sight on something you are going for.  Fix your eyes on Jesus, when things are hard we become consumed with what we struggle with, but if you fix your eyes on Jesus everything will come into perspective, you see something bigger than all the struggles.  Look beyond, your ministry is not the end of this life, there is something bigger and better to live for – there is another day we’re heading towards – heaven.  Only two days are important in life – today – that we live in and that day.

Growing process

God loves you and will teach you in the hard times, we learn in the struggles.  It is in the hardship and the times we want to give up.  It is more important what he does in you not about what you do.  John 15, you are the vine, the Father is working in our lives to make us all we are.  Those who receive the reward in heaven are the overcomers, that is hard work but important.

Books I have read: Building a Strategic Church

Building a Strategic Church

David Beer was one of those church leaders you wanted to learn from, one who I had the privilege of meeting and hearing speak several times.  In Building a Strategic Church he allows us to sit in a coffee shop with him and chat about lots of different areas of church ministry.

The book covers a huge number of areas with eleven chapters, each subdivided into little sections only a few pages long:

  • Why be strategic?
  • Strong leadership
  • Team spirit
  • Relational structures
  • Application preaching
  • Training and equipping
  • Exponential thinking
  • Generous attitude
  • Involvement with the local community
  • A caring heart
  • Putting it all together

After serving as Senior Pastor at Frinton Free Church (a church with approximately 600 members) he went on to head up the Purpose Driven Church movement in Europe.  This does mean that some parts of the book come across as overly American and reliant on the acrostics and structures that come from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church.

The book left me wanting more in several areas, I would want to bounce ideas with David Beer, understanding why he does things in certain ways, and what he thinks about some of my ideas.  If you’re looking for a helpful overview to the how of church then look no further.

Servant leadership

Lead On - CPAS

I loved the article on Servant Leadership by James Lawrence in the monthly CPAS Lead On mailing:

‘The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between a leader is a servant and a debtor.’ Max De Pree

Defining reality: helping those we lead to see things as they are. Saying thank you: expressing appreciation for what people do. And in between, suggests DePree, a leader is a servant and debtor. What does this look like?

Christians follow a servant king, one who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). The defining symbol of this sort of leadership is a towel. Yet servant leadership is often misunderstood. For Christians it doesn’t mean serving people, but serving God and through our service of God serving people; a subtle, but significant difference.

Serve people and we end up becoming a doormat, dutifully doing whatever they think best. Serve God and then we become a doorway, through which we enable people to walk into the priorities of the king and the purposes of the kingdom. Servant leaders serve God first, which means there will be times when we don’t do what people ask, when we say no (see Matthew 20:20-28). Such leadership is often difficult.

For example, most of us would rather avoid difficult conversations – the PCC member who is ‘bullying’ others into agreeing with what he wants. Perhaps he has been doing it for years, and no one has challenged his behaviour. The servant-leader plucks up courage, even when they would rather avoid the conversation, and does what is required.

So the critical question for servant leaders is ‘what is required of me in my leadership role today that will further the purposes of the kingdom and bless others?’

Let’s pick up our towels this month, and serve.

Books I have read: Leading on Empty

Leading on Empty

This week I’ve been reading Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro.  I was recommended this book by one of my previous colleagues who had been really encouraged by Cordeiro’s honesty and attitude.  The book starts by reflecting on his experience of burnout and how he realised that his life was not sustainable and needed to change.

For me the most helpful aspect of the book was his honesty both as he reflected with what he needed to change – that it ran deep within himself; and the depth at which Cordeiro explained practically how he managed this – especially with the Personal Retreat Days – something I will certainly be taking on board as we move into 2014.

The concept of a dashboard which helps to measure vital systems essential for health and success was interesting, he used: Faith life; marriage life; family life; office life; computer life; ministry life; financial life; social life; attitudinal life; author’s life; speaker’s life and physical life.  I found Cordeiro’s thoughts on the different questions we ask ourselves in our 20s, our 30s, our 40s, our 50s, our 60s and our 70s helpful to realise that after ten years in ministry who I am, and the questions I ask of myself have changed during this period.

With recommendations such as “This is a must-read for all leaders” by Bill Hybels it certainly isn’t one to ignore, and whilst there is nothing that you probably haven’t heard before, it will certainly encourage you and challenge you to make your life more sustainable instead of constantly leading on empty.

The Challenges of Leadership in the Charity Sector

Charles

I loved the email article, The Challenges of Leadership in the Charity Sector by Charles McLachlan in this week’s Cinnamon Network mailing:

As my career developed in commercial organisations, I believed I also had something to offer charities – the Third Sector. It seemed easy to get invited to join trustees, act as a treasurer or get more involved in operational activity. Here was a place that I felt I could contribute, if only they would adopt some of the commercial disciplines of project management, financial control and clear lines of authority that I knew so well, then we could really make a difference together!

My early attempts at introducing some of these commercial disciplines were welcomed in principle however, but resisted in practice. As my mentor used to say, “Charles, just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do” and even more confusingly, “Charles, just because it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean it is not the right thing to do”.  I felt I must be missing part of the picture.

Then it clicked. I had hardly imagined the challenge charity leaders face when:

  • 90% of your customers don’t pay you for your services;
  • 90% of your staff hours are provide by individuals who cannot be motivated by pay or financial reward;
  • your investors often have stronger opinions about how you do things and what you do than the actual outcomes delivered;
  • available resources may be allocated in response to perceptions (internal or external) rather than a business case;
  • too often, absolute cost trumps value for money in spending decisions;
  • individuals with power may have no responsibility, and those with responsibility have little power.

As I began to fully understand this, I developed a new respect for leaders of charities. I also realised how much of what those leaders achieve could be applied with enormous power into commercial organisations.

The Third sector is often incredibly entrepreneurial. With almost no resources, a community action group can initiate the transformation of an entire neighbourhood, for example. The Jubilee Debt Campaign released billions of dollars of Third World debt to education and health care.

Does the commercial sector have nothing to offer the Third sector? No, I still believe that many of the disciplines of the commercial sector are required. But it is easy to squeeze out the power of the relationships that are the Social Capital underpinning the Third sector if you just turn the organisation into a more efficient financial machine. And for all of us, where financial resources are increasingly constrained, we should look to Social Capital as the entrepreneurial resource for leaders who want to re-invigorate Britain in the 21st century.

 

My struggle – leaders fail

Fail

One of my biggest lessons in leadership is that leaders fail, and that it is necessary and good to fail.

The more I read of leaders the more I realise that those we often hold up as fantastic leaders in their own fields struggled time and time again with failure.  Their success is built upon a foundation of failures from which they learn and grow.

As Thomas Edison said:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

The other thing I’ve learnt is that just because you fail doesn’t mean you should drop that dream or goal – it may just need more practice or not be the right time for it to work.  Just check out this infographic:

Failure

The Best Leaders Are Both Tough and Nice

Great little article over at Harvard Business Review on how the best leaders are both tough and nice:

Leaders often ask themselves whether it’s best to be tough or nice. If you’re tough — a “driver” — you can push people to go beyond the limits of their abilities. If you’re nice — an “enhancer” — you can better understand the needs, problems, and concerns of your charges. It’s a hard choice. So which style results in the more highly-engaged employees? According study of 160,576 employees under the command 30,661 bosses, the tough-versus-nice battle is tight. Eight percent of tough-led employees are highly engaged. Nice? Six percent. So tough-minded leaders are the winner, right? Not so fast. The most effective leaders, it turns out, use both styles, and 68% percent — that’s right, 68% — of their employees are highly engaged. That’s impressive.