More Influence

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More Influence: 21 “From the Gut” Lessons for Kingdom Leaders Brandon A. Cox Brandon Cox is a Pastor and church planter, currently planting Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas. He is also a mentor to Pastors via his role as Editor and Community Facilitator for and Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox newsletter. He’s been in pastoral leadership for fourteen years - not nearly enough to be writing a book about leadership - so we’ll just call this a collection of from-the-gut lessons for kingdom leaders learned in the trenches of ministry. Catch Brandon at, on Twitter @brandonacox, or on Facebook.

More Influence: 21 “From the Gut” Lessons for Kingdom Leaders Copyright © 2011 by Brandon A. Cox Published in 2011 by Brandon A. Cox All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Introduction I like the word “influence” as you probably do too. I want more of it. It’s why Christians are left on earth after being saved and not drafted instantly into heave – so we can influence others to follow Christ. But I see a trend within our culture of downsizing the value of influence. We now assume that if a lot of people follow you on Twitter or if you hit the limit of “friends” on Facebook, you have influence. Really? If a Hollywood celebrity has 5 million followers on a social network and sends and update that they are prepping for tonight’s show, millions of people will read that update, and then they’re going to… go on with life. Being popular isn’t bad. Some people with large followings use the power of that influence to get people to vote, to build clean water wells in third world countries, or to save another dog from being euthanized. All good causes and worthy uses of actual influence.

Within Christianity, we need to understand that our influence can matter for eternity. I can show you a picture of my day at the beach and brighten your moment. I can get you to give for clean wells and you’ll change someone’s health situation. But I can also tell you about Jesus and His willingness to forgive all of our sins on the basis of His death, burial, and resurrection, and I can change your eternity. I’m glad you want more influence. If you’re a Christian, you need to realize that you are not your own. You are bought with a price, so your influence belongs to God. Therefore the end of it is an eternal purpose. I just wonder if we realize what a gold mine influence is. I want more of it, but I want God to be the One to decide I’m ready for it. I want to prove faithful in the little things and trust God to expand my influence so that eternity is impacted and heaven is filled. You probably want more influence too… but to what end?

1. The Subtle Erosion of Our Trust Equity People tend to trust you as the come to know you. Then they tend to untrust you as you abuse their trust. This is true in marriage, in church leadership, in business, etc. The erosion of your trust equity can happen overnight, such as when the local news breaks the story of a moral failure. But more often than not, our trust equity erodes in bits and pieces as we repeat our mistakes without learning from them. The harsh truth is that without trust, we have no influence or intimacy, and once trust is lost, it may take a long time to earn it back. We walk into every new relationship with a certain amount of trust equity by default. What we do with it makes all the difference. Invest wisely!

2. Why Humility Is Vital To Great Leadership Quickly think of five common traits of high-impact leaders… good time management, assertiveness, drive, energy, charisma, etc. Humility rarely lands in the list when it comes to our modern, top-down management systems. But Jesus (the greatest leader ever) and Moses (perhaps the second) had this one thought in mind – great leaders don’t have power over people, but power under people by way of humility. Humility may be a forgotten virtue in conversations about leadership today, but I believe it’s absolutely essential to having long-term, broad-range impact. Here are some reasons why…

• Until you can be managed well, you can’t manage well, and being managed definitely requires humility.

• You’re not leading well until you put the needs of others before your own, which requires humility. • You won’t invest time into others until you realize you’re not the center of the universe. • You won’t be a learner without humility, so you’ll stagnate and die on the vine. • You can’t be a listener without humility, and when you don’t listen, you’ll miss some vitally important feedback. • Receiving and making the most of constructive criticism definitely demands humility. • Being concerned about the personal welfare of others requires humility. • You won’t improve unless you realize your need for it, which requires humility.

• You can’t be sensitive to what’s going on the behind the words of others unless you’re paying attention, which requires humility. The respect you think others have for you will merely be an illusion unless you’re humble enough to see the reality of your own weaknesses. Humility isn’t feeling bad, down, or low about yourself. Rather, humility is having a realistic picture of who you are and becoming oblivious to self. This self-oblivion characterizes the greatest leaders of all time, and if you want to rise to greatness, you need to stoop.

3. The Costs and Benefits Of Bold Leadership To be honest, the title of this post is a misnomer in some respects. Bold leadership sometimes requires we ignore any assessment of cost versus benefit. There are just times when the cost is worth it no matter what, such as when truth or integrity is at stake. At other times, we need to ascertain the damage of a risky decision, such as when a “smart” move might hurt someone we love. These are the inner conflicts leaders face daily. Consider these questions that swim through my own head quite often:

• Should I press forward and leave some behind, or lead everyone together? • Should I make a decision without the authority when I know it’s right and can’t wait for permission?

• Should I seek advice and counsel or go with my gut? • Do I make an immediate choice, or delay for some thinking time but lose the immediate gain? • Do I delegate an important task or complete it in the confidence I’m the best person for the job? We hear pithy sayings that offer what are sometimes trite answers to these questions, and some great leaders reading this already have certain rules and boundaries in place for these and other scenarios. But let’s face it – there are times when we are backed into a corner by our situation and have to make decisions without all the answers being provided us. In fact, that’s the nature of leadership. These are some guidelines I’ve formed in my own life that help, but some of them are just that – guidelines – and have to be negotiated in the moment. Others are ironclad. The difference might be obvious…

• What is right?

• What is wise? • What is loving? • What develops someone else? • What is best for my organization? • What would Jesus do? • What would my wife say? (it comes in handy, sometimes) • What would my heroes do? • What regrets will I have? • What regrets will I avoid? • What impact will it have on people in the future, especially my kids? Here’s the point – leadership has costs and benefits and a life of leadership is a life spent weighing them out. If you’re going to navigate leadership well, you

need to have a moral compass. Mine is the beleif that God is holy and righteous, His Word is absolute truth, His Son Jesus is the ultimate leadership example, and His Holy Spirit is here to guide me. I wish it were easier, but maybe then everybody would do it, and maybe it wouldn’t be worth it in the end.

4. Don’t Be a Know-It-All Leader One of the amazing aspects of the structure of Saddleback Church is that there isn’t much of an organizational chart to speak of. Some feel frustrated about this, but the reason is that people are empowered to make decisions at the lowest possible level to avoid having to climb any ladders of authority. The culture is determined by the leadership and obviously certain parameters are set, but they’re kept reasonably minimal to free everyone up to serve with joy. This kind of loose structure often means that the leader won’t know all of the details about what’s going on. This is where a lot of churches and organizations hit a ceiling. If you can’t yield control or if you’re terrified of what will happen without your hand being in everything, you will severely limit the growth potential of the people and organizations you lead. John Maxwell agrees…

In any organization, problems should always be solved at the lowest level possible. If every problem must be shared with leaders first, then solutions take forever. Besides, the people on the front lines are usually the ones who provide the best solutions, whether it’s on the production line, the battle line, or the breadline. Taking myself out of the middle of everything lessens my personal importance to many people in my organizations, but it allows me to do that which is personally important to me. It also means that assignments are not always done “my way.” But I have discovered that most things can be accomplished effectively in many ways. Source: John Maxwell on Leadership Tony Morgan apparently agrees also… In small churches, leaders are controlled. This typically happens through the way churches are structured. Instead of giving pastors and other ministry leaders the freedom to make decisions

and make ministry happen, churches will add layers of boards and committees, rules and processes to prevent leaders from doing just about anything on their own. The smaller the church, typically, the more complex the structure. In growing churches, what I usually find is that leaders have been released to lead. Boundaries are established to create a framework for decisions and actions, but within those boundaries is the freedom for leaders to leverage their spiritual gifts. Unfortunately, many churches are willing to embrace shepherds, teachers and pastors, but they’re unwilling to embrace leaders. Source: CatalystSpace Fear always holds us back from success, especially when what we are afraid of is other people. I’m not so important that I have to be in control for success to occur‌ and neither are you.

5. People... The Tough Part Of Leadership People… they’re all around us! There are nearly seven billion of them on the planet and they’re all different. I think God purposely puts us in relationships (marriage, work, church, etc.) with people who are vastly different than we are and then chuckles as we try to get along. But get along we must – it’s part of our purpose. One of the greatest challenges of leadership is learning to be patient with people. The payoff is huge, but it’s certainly not easy.

Why We Need to Be Patient

Not everybody is at the same level of maturity. Not everyone is as well-equipped to relate to people as you are, and you’re probably not as skilled as you convince yourself at times. Some may struggle from a lack of leadership maturity, others from a lack of emotional maturity. Either way, it presents challenges to working as a team.

It’s really not about you anyway. Remember that great leaders exist to develop the people around them. So that person you have a hard time with was placed in your path for a reason. We’re not so easy to get along with ourselves at times. This is a humbling thought, but we certainly aren’t perfect in our relational skills either, so it behooves us to be that much more patient with others.

How to Find That Extra Bit of Patience

It’s one thing to know I need to be more patient. It’s another to know how to practice it. Here are some thoughts… See the gifts in people. Nobody is useless. Some people render themselves virtually so by their own destructive choices and when this happens in an organization, sometimes they have to go, but by virtue of creation, nobody is useless. Everyone has something to contribute.

See yourself in people. Try to find those characteristics of developing leaders that you once saw in yourself. See the potential in people. Realize that your patience with someone today may give them a better chance at greatness, thereby extending your influence even further. Everybody has potential – some may not see it fulfilled – but everybody has it. Make it a conscious decision. Patience with people doesn’t happen on accident. It’s purposeful and intentional. You know you’re going to encounter someone a little difficult today. Determine that you’ll have a predisposition toward graciousness. Managing relationships is the tough side of leadership. Almost anybody can manage numbers and tasks. People make up every kind of institution and organization. Without people skills, we’re going nowhere, so make this your first and primary leadership discipline. Decide to be patient with people.

6. Kill the Innovation In One Sentence Ready for it? “That’s not how we do things around here.” Please don’t underestimate the power of this sentence. When you say this to a colleague, a new hire, a student or a freelancer, you’ve established a powerful norm, one that they will be hesitant to challenge. This might be exactly what you were hoping for, but if your goal is to encourage innovation, you blew it. I’ve watched “new people” come into a church, excited to get involved and lead. They bring new perspectives, fresh approaches, and sometimes a certain awkwardness as we determine how to incorporate their input into our established patterns and structures.

So our tendency is to make them read the unwritten manual, learn the unspoken rules, and figure out the culture of our church so they can adapt their new ideas to our old way of doing things. That’s when excitement is extinguished. Sadly, many church members are ultimately happy when these new, energetic people just move on to some other house of worship. Meanwhile‌ we fade slowly into irrelevance. But hey, at least we owned it all, right?

7. Cultivating a Shepherd’s Heart As a Pastor, I keep hearing this simple message… allow God to cultivate in you a shepherd’s heart. To paraphrase Paul’s thinking, “I am approved by God and entrusted with the gospel, therefore I’m accountable to remain humble, sincere, tender, and loving toward people.” Therein lies one of the ingredients of real success in ministry – cultivating a shepherd’s heart. Ministry is a privilege. I’ve been reminded of that over and again of late. My calling is a precious gift, a privilege, not a right. I am in ministry today because I’ve been approved for such – all of grace. Having been approved by God’s grace and entrusted with God’s gospel, it’s totally necessary and right that I would keep my heart for Him. A shepherd’s heart is humble before Almighty God. We realize our place and our size and are struck with a sense of utter dependence upon Him.

A shepherd’s heart is also sincere. We present the gospel with sincerity or not at all. We preach to an unbelieving world, believing that our message has divine, life-changing power. We don’t do it for money or prestige, but for Jesus’ sake. A shepherd’s heart is tender toward people. We’re willing to be a friend, a counselor, a teacher and a healer. When we lose our love for people, we’ve lost the privilege of ministry altogether. God, help me and my fellow brethren in ministry to cultivate the heart of a shepherd so that we might be approved fully and finally someday before Your throne!

8. The Marks of a Mature Leader My first week on staff at Saddleback Church was bittersweet. I found myself surrounded by a great leadership culture, but I also found myself, for the first time in fourteen years not being the key leader. Here’s a thought about what I learned... A mature leader understands how to follow leadership and responds with gracious obedience to leadership. He doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat all the time. A mature leader is willing to get the small stuff right. As Jesus would put it, he who is faithful in small things will be entrusted with greater responsibilities. A mature leader values people over position, relationships over rules, and connections over control. In other words, the mature leader is far more concerned about relationships with people than the leadership task itself.

A mature leader needs no credit. She may be wise in how she receives it, but is willing to pass the glory and credit on to another both willingly and cheerfully. A mature leader has roots, leans on experience, values input, stands on the shoulders of giants, and listens at least twice as much as he speaks. In other words, until you know how to follow, listen, and learn, you’re not ready to lead.

9. Five Ways to Encourage Another Leader Everyone needs a Paul and a Timothy (or several of each). That is, we all need to be learning from mentors and mentoring learners. There is always someone ahead of us and always someone just behind us. It is the role and responsibility of a leader to give another leader a lift. So how can we, in a practical way, give another leader a lift? 1. Call a fellow leader on the phone and mentor them without even telling them you’re doing it. Just ask them a ton of questions about how things are going in their soul, their family, and their realm of leadership. Then offer encouragement and perhaps a little bit of advice. And pray with them. 2. Connect a fellow leader into a valuable relationship. I’m forever saying, “Oh, you need to know

so-and-so.” It’s my way of putting people together when I think they need to learn from one another. How many connections is too many? I’ve been connecting with leaders and connecting leaders to other leaders for years now and my capacity to learn and be led by others has yet to fill up. 3. Send a book. A friend and mentor recently sent me a book on prayers for leaders. It’s become a great devotional resource. I passed a little book about connecting on to Bentonville, Arkansas’ Mayor, feeling it was a good fit for his business-political niche. Next to the connections we make, resources are everything, so pass them along. 4. Ask a leader for help. Asking for a favor is empowering to people. I love helping others, and so do you. So allow others the blessing of helping you from time to time. A friend called me yesterday for advice about an opportunity before him. The opportunity was out of my league, but he wanted to know what I thought. I’m not sure if my advice was worth much in the end, but it meant a lot that he would ask me.

5. Produce something for others. I get so frustrated with the number of great leaders I know whose heads are filled with wisdom but who won’t write, won’t blog, and won’t speak anywhere. It’s free, quick, and simple to start sharing your knowledgewith the world. And it’s only going to get easier. It’s a matter of being a good steward of the wisdom God has given us. Don’t become so task-oriented today that you fail to turn away from the to-do list to challenge and encourage another leader.

10. Spend Your Leadership Equity Wisely When you walk into a leadership opportunity, you go with a little bit of equity by virtue of your position and the inevitable honeymoon period during which those you lead will let you get by with just a bit more than they will a decade later, but you have to be very careful with that equity. Every decision you make, and every risk you lead your organization to take will require an investment of some of your leadership equity (the trust people place in you). Make good decisions – your equity grows. Make poor ones, you lose and it’s nearly impossible to lead when you’re bankrupt of influence. As a Pastor put it whom I was recently listening to, “Choose the right color carpet today, the congregation may let you relocate them tomorrow.” So how do you handle the equity you have?

Risk It, Don’t Horde It

Jesus told a parable about three investors, one of whom buried his lent wealth instead of risking it – he got in big trouble! The two who earned a return were entrusted with greater opportunities. You can’t walk by faith without taking risks.

Calculate, then Calculate Again

I used to apologize for making decisions slowly. I dont’ anymore because I remember my grandfather’s great carpentry wisdom, “Measure once, cut twice; measure twice, cut once.” When you think you’ve prayed it through and thought of all the possible outcomes, think it through one more time. In short: take risks, but don’t do anything dumb.

When You Decide, Decide Fully

Remember in the movies when they would ask, “which wire should I cut?” The bomb squad expert never says,

“Well, I’m kinda thinkin’ the red one, but I’m not so sure, let’s give it a shot.” If you are leading in the right direction, lead with confidence and strength, otherwise stay put, but don’t balk. There’s always a penalty for balking.

Always Be Personally Invested

Don’t ask those you lead to take risks in situations where you don’t have to do so. Put something on the line. Make it personal.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Words “I Was Wrong.”

They’re tough to say, but sometimes we have to back up and ask forgiveness. Never proceed with a terrible decision if it becomes evident you should have led otherwise. Instead, use the recovery as a time to demonstrate strength the best you can. Respect people who trust you. It takes a lot for people to trust you, so treat their trust like precious porcelain. It’s part of being a good shepherd.

11. Please Don’t Excuse Yourself My father-in-law has often said that “an excuse is just a lie stuffed in the skin of a reason.” That’s a good definition. I have a tendency to make excuses sometimes, and I’m guessing you struggle with it sometimes yourself. For those in leadership, we tend to be especially good at making excuses for why we can’t go to the next level, take the next step, or seize the next opportunity. I don’t have enough money or resources. I’ll take a lot of criticism. I’m not sure if everyone would agree with me. I may not have what it takes. Excuses abound. Here’s the secret I need to share with you rather quickly… STOP IT! Stop making excuses.

Excuses are rather deceptive. They deceive the people around us into thinking we aren’t capable, and we even deceive ourselves with our excuses. That is, we actually believe them when they tumble off of our lips. Here are a few simple questions for getting real… What in the world am I supposed to be doing? Am I doing it? If not, is there an excuse I’m using? It’s a simple self-evaluation. Are you stuffing a lie into the skin of a reason and offering it up as the imaginary roadblock between you and success?

12. How to Be a Compelling Leader Gandhi led millions via his wisdom and hunger strikes. Hitler led a young generation of mass murderers. Billy Graham has led millions to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The list goes on. What do leaders of high influence have in common? The compel people to follow. In some cases, such as evil dictators, they coerce them, but for leaders of genuine impact, being compelling is part of the package. So what are the characteristics that make a leader compelling? It’s a mixed bag, and every leader is a little different, but here are five common traits that we can certainly work on, and please do add your own in the comments‌


Leaders see a clear path through the confusion and provide wise answers for others. Wise leaders aren’t

always the loudest in the room, but when they speak their words cause silence.


Obviously, not all leaders are people of integrity, but great leaders believe what they believe with conviction. In other words, they are compelled to lead by their own beliefs to the point of martyrdom at times, so others tend to take notice.


Passion is a raw emotion that bubbles out of our convictions. People of great influence light up when they speak of their great cause, and that passion is evident to others.

Common Sense

Some of the world’s great geniuses never led a group of people to do anything because of an inability to think like the average follower, but compelling leaders think well.


Faith is an action word. It’s more than belief, it’s the confidence to take a leap. Compelling leaders set the example by being the first to take a risk.

13. Don’t Become a Statistic Has the thought ever occurred to you that you could be that story? Your name could appear in that news story of a shepherd who has strayed into an affair, embezzlement, or just leaving in a state of burnout. If you don’t believe me, first heed this Scripture: If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. ~1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT And if that’s not enough (and of course it should be), then heed these statistics about Pastors: 25% have been forced out of or fired from their ministry. 90% feel inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.

80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively. 45% say they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence. 40% have serious conflict with a church member at least once per month. 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend. 66% and their families feel pressure to model the ideal family to their congregations and communities. 20% admit to having an affair while in the ministry. 37% admit that Internet pornography is a current struggle.

72% stated they only studied the Bible when preparing a sermon. 26% stated they felt they were adequately fed spiritually. 14% of pastors spend an hour or less in personal devotions each week. 77% said they felt that did not have a good marriage. Source: Acts 29 Network: Why Every Leader Needs a Shepherd Are these statistics shocking? Sadly, not as much as they used to be because we’re all too familiar with them already. But they are definitely sobering. How can you avoid being a statistic?

• Stay close to Jesus in prayer. • Stay deep in the Word daily.

• Stay close to your spouse, the other half of your flesh. • Reach out to and connect with other Pastors. • Love the people you serve. • Forgive the people who hurt you. • If you’re in deep, get help. • Flee temptation. That means RUN! • Be accountable. • Hang with family, often. • Did I mention prayer and the Word? Hang in there!

14. Become a Thought Leader In Two Steps Every industry has them, and whether you like the term thought leader or not, they hold a wealth of power within culture and technology. Thought leaders possess a keen sense of creativity and vision. They’re always a step ahead. We envy thought leaders, but the reality is that anyone can become one in two essential but very simple steps…

1. Think

It’s amazing to me how little of this we do for ourselves. We’re often content to allow others to do the thinking and creating while we sit and passively consume and pass along the ideas of others. Being a thought leader requires thinking intentionally about the way things are and seeing the way things

could be instead, even if the change is minute. It also requires the ability to get a little abstract and even eccentric. Thought leaders are capable of understanding the story of culture and making judgments about the future based on its flow. Thinking is a discipline. Sometimes it requires a wealth of informational input, but our consumption must also be balanced with enough silence and solitude to give a certain concreteness to our thoughts. Don’t just consume‌ think.

2. Lead

Profound, eh? Thinking is great, but it’s only step one. Acting on an idea and executing it are essential to the whole process of driving the culture and atmosphere around us. History probably knows its fair share of potential inventions and innovations that never came into being because of the reluctance of great thinkers. Leading is risky. It means stepping out in front and challenging the status quo. Leading requires us to raise

our voice and hope that someone listens and embraces our message. Thought leaders are not only deep thinkers but effective communicators, connectors, and motivators.

3. Rinse and Repeat

I can’t fail to mention that the repetition of these two steps make all the difference between those who rise to the top over time and those who fade into the background. Thought leaders know when to move on to whatever is next. Well‌ there are only two steps. Get started!

15. The Power of Flexibility Last year we bought a Nintento Wii and then later, a Wii Fit thingie designed to utterly humiliate me! It sighs when I step on the scale, mocks me for not showing up in xx# of days, and loves to point out how many Yoga moves I can’t do because… I’m inflexible! But in leadership, I’m quite the opposite. I love and respond to flexibility. What I mean by that is, I love the freedom of trying things and failing, and knowing that failure is ultimately okay. I remember Rick Warren once saying that for everything Saddleback Church had succeeded in doing, there were twenty experiments at which they had failed. For me, and for others like me, inflexibility is rather difficult. So when people around me huff, puff, and moan every time something doesn’t go right, I feel stifled.

I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak I became as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Paul, I think, was rather flexible when it came to acclimating to His surrounding culture. For the gospel’s sake, and for the success of your organization…

• Be flexible. Get comfortable with failure and learn how to squeeze them for what they’re worth. • Encourage flexibility in others. • Create an atmosphere of flexibility with people whom you lead. If necessary, buy a Wii. It does a body good.

16. You Can Lead By Fear Or You Can Lead By Love I’ve seen decisions made out of fear…

• Don’t let anybody spend money without the approval of _____. • Don’t let anybody start a ministry without the permission of _____. • Don’t let anybody use the _____ because they might not take care of it. We lead by fear when we make decisions designed to protect ourselves, our turf, or the status quo. We don’t want to upset anyone. We don’t want to lose the perceived “control” we think we have. Or we don’t want anyone else getting the glory. Unfortunately, we don’t see fear-based leading for what it is. Instead, we see ourselves as protectors of a

cause. If I let them give the kids candy, they’ll put fingerprints on the walls… and doesn’t God despise messy walls? I’ve also seen decisions made out of love. I watched Terri and a few other ladies start a food pantry that cost money, took time, and brought people on our campus that were sometimes tough to know how to help, but it was started out of love, and God blessed it. I’ve watched Joni challenge people to give away shoes even though it was a lot of work on a Saturday, and even though some people took advantage of our generosity, because she loved people. I’ve watched Angie put her body through all kinds of difficulties to bring Sam into the world, in spite of the cost, in spite of all the doctor visits, because she loves the kids God had in mind for us. When we lead out of love, we forget about ourselves, our turf, and our glory, and we start thinking in terms of:

• How can I help _____ grow spiritually?

• How can I help _____ escape a destructive lifestyle? • How can we see more people come to Jesus in spite of the cost, the mess, and the work? You can lead out of fear, or you can lead out of love. I hope we’ll choose love.

17. The Problem With Talent and Charisma Talent and charisma aren’t bad. They’re good. They’re gifts. In the Bible, Joseph and Daniel are two striking examples of both attributes and how God uses them to put us in places of expanding influence. The problem, however, with both talent and charisma is that they expand our influence whether our character is ready for it or not. Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those who hear you. ~ 1 Timothy 4:16 NLT Joseph and Daniel were prepared, even through adversity, for the platforms to which God led them. Other leaders have not been so well-prepared. Last night I learned of the moral failure of another brother in ministry. I immediately felt feelings of anger.

A range of thoughts go through my mind when I hear such stories…

• This didn’t have to happen! What a waste! • Those poor, innocent and unknowing spouses! • The children caught in the crossfire! • The church now dealing with the aftermath of a scandal! • The reproach upon the kingdom! • The ammunition we give to the naysayers! At the end of the day, such stories should drive us to our knees in both repentance and in prayer for protection and purity. Satan is on the prowl and wants to devour everyone he possibly can, especially those who have talent, charisma, and the influence they purchase.

The problem with talent and charisma isn’t that they are negative attributes. It’s that they can create a stage presence for which we aren’t ready spiritually. They fall short without character and integrity. So if you’re talented… if you’re charismatic… if your audience is growing, heed this: You need more! You need deep roots in the form of a solid and growing relationship with God, a sincere humility, transparent accountability, safeguards to protect you and your loved ones, and a determination to be a person of integrity. The word integrity comes from the same root as the mathematical term integer, which is a whole number, not a fraction. In other words, integrity means being one, undivided individual. Integrity excludes doubleliving. The problem with talent and charisma is that they fool us into thinking we’re important and invincible. So make sure you have the character to withstand the pressure that talent and charisma bring.

18. Seven Promises To Make and Keep To Every Volunteer We pastors often struggle to ask people to give their time and talent to Jesus. Perhaps we’ve been rejected before and don’t like to hear someone say “no.” Perhaps we don’t like volunteering ourselves and we transfer our own rebellious attitudes to others. Or perhaps we know, when we make “the big ask,” that we’re going to exhaust another servant. If the latter is true, we need to change our volunteer culture. Creating an environment in which people will gladly and readily give their time and talent to the kingdom involves making the right promises, and of course even more important,keeping our promises. If you come from a denominational tradition similar to mine, you’ve experienced the church-by-committee syndrome where we somehow wind up with more committees than the church has members, yet they’re all full because every member serves on multiple

committees. Baptists have found a good way around the issue of finding volunteers. We nominate people during public meetings when they will either be too embarrassed to say “no” or not present at all, in which case they’re helplessly drafted into a role for which God never gifted them. Thankfully, we’re learning and the culture of volunteerism is improving in many churches. If we’re going to keep improving that culture, we need to set the tone and decide what our volunteers will definitely be able to count on. For example…

Your Time Will Mean Something

If you volunteer here, your time will be invested, not wasted. At the end of the day, you’ll know you met a significant need and that if it weren’t for your sacrifice, that need would have gone unmet. We won’t tie you up recording minutes for a pointless meeting. Instead, we’ll actually have you serving someone.

Your Family Will Come First

We won’t have you at the church more nights of the week than you’re at home, and your spouse won’t think you’ve left them for the church. This is especially needful in the case of a volunteer with a spouse who isn’t a believer. Having volunteers with strong families is better for the church’s growth than having volunteers whose homes are stressed because of us.

You’ll Be Free to Lead

You will be able to make decisions. We’re here to help guide you in the right direction, but you won’t have to complete any forms in triplicate and have the entire church body vote to buy a chalkboard for your classroom. And, you’ll be free to lead people around you, always mentoring the next generation of volunteers.

You’ll Be Encouraged to Rest

If you need a break, we won’t treat you as though you’ve gone AWOL. We’ll understand that everyone

needs rest to be effective long term. We will ask you to serve for a set length of time and then offer you a chance to take a break.

We’ll Help You Serve According to Your Shape

God has granted all of us spiritual gifts, a heart, abilities, passions, and experiences, and we’re here to help you discover your shape and find the best spot in the kingdom to serve. We’ll even let you move around and try different things until you find the spot for which God has uniquely equipped you.

We Will Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Heaven throws a party when someone gets saved, so we will join that party and recognize every contribution you make to expanding heaven’s population. That doesn’t mean we’ll hand out buttons and pins. It just means that we will always acknowledge and appreciate your time, realizing how valuable it is.

We Will Always See You As the Hero

There is no such thing as someone being “just a volunteer.” Instead, volunteers are the heroes. We who are on staff are on staff because of our passion for ministry, but we’re also compensated for the time we spend leading. What we really celebrate the most is the contribution of someone who expects no compensation (here on earth anyway). Can you make these promises to volunteers within your church? Or are there structural changes you need to make in order to value volunteers appropriately? And the more important question is, can you keep these promises?

19. Laying the Groundwork For the Next Generation Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. ~ Moses, speaking in Deuteronomy 1:38 Before the beloved leader Moses passed off the scene, he made sure that he did one thing well. He prepared the soil of the people’s hearts for a coming transition in leadership. Moses knew well that “everything rises and falls on leadership” and so for Israel to thrive in the future, they would need to respond well to God’s chosen man. Moses did three very important things for Joshua’s development here.

• He personally encouraged him and approved of him.

• He magnified his reputation in the eyes of the people who would be following him. • He recruited personal encouragers for Joshua in the future. Perhaps you are the leader, perhaps you are the led. Either way, there are some lessons to learn from Moses’ encouragement of Joshua. Is there a leader you need to encourage today? Perhaps it’s your Sunday School teacher, your spouse, your boss, or someone else. Also, is there someone you need to lay the groundwork for? We are responsible for leaving our world to the next generation. Are we preparing them for leadership? Ask the Lord to help you today to be an encourager to His leaders in your life. You may have a long distance call to make today to let one of your heroes know how much they mean to you.

20. Lead Well Today And Lead Well for Life Most people are familiar with some of the great Bible heroes like King David, Noah, and Gideon the Judge. But often people don’t realize what all three of these leaders have in common: none finished as well as they could have. David committed adultery and murder, Noah got drunk and embarrassed himself, and Gideon led people to commit idolatry. Here’s the lesson, albeit a negative one – don’t do something stupid at the end of your time in leadership! Finish well. Finish strong. Finish with your integrity in tact. Here are a few random thoughts about this…

The End Will Be Fresh In the Memory of Others

People will remember all of our great deeds… someday. But in the immediate aftermath of our lives, people are going to remember how we left things.

You Need the Support of Others to Finish Well

Realize that finishing well means standing on some strong shoulders along the way. When we isolate, we disintegrate.

Leadership is a Lifetime Pursuit

If you’re not dead yet, you’re still being shaped for something yet to come. Every moment is preparation for the next and now is preparation for later.

21. Fifteen Random And Inspiring Thoughts for Leaders I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership this evening, and what a privilege influence is. Rather than carefully craft a lengthy article about a single topic, I thought I’d spill out everything I’ve been pondering and let you sort it out. Here are some random leadership thoughts to get your inner leader’s juices flowing…

• Everybody leads somebody whether they intend to or not. Somebody’s always watching you. • Leadership isn’t about being great, but building great people. • You have to lead yourself (discipline) before leading others (discipleship). • Failure isn’t final unless it kills you – learn from it and be better.

• It’s always better to find ten people and equip them for a work than to do the work of ten people. • Every leader will answer to God for the responsibility and stewardship of his or her influence. • You can’t lead from the rear. • People don’t respect what you don’t inspect – check in on those whom you are leading. • Inactive leadership gets you nowhere. Reactive leadership gets you in trouble. Overactive leadership gets you lost. But proactive leadership puts you out in front every time! • Integrity and character always matter more than skill, talent, and genius. • Decision-managing is just as important as decision-making. What you do after the choice

has been made is just as important as the choice you’ve made. • A leader must be a reader, a learner, and a listener. • At some point, research, prayer, and consultation must give way to forward-leaning, risk-taking action! • Leading people without loving people is sheer tyranny. • Leading is more than reading lists – get out there and lead! I’d say these might become a book someday, but they would merely be a rehashing of all the reading I’ve been doing for ten years. I’d rather just get busy leading.

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