Four Reasons You May Need to Rethink Your Leadership

by Andy Wood on January 28, 2015

in Five LV Laws, Hoarders, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Principle of Eternity, Protecting Your Investment, Turning Points

(Or Ministry…  Or Job…  Or Spiritual Gifts…  Or Life Mission… Or…)

Servant Leader

Years ago I had the privilege of visiting South Korea and preaching in two different evangelistic crusades.  One day our hosts took us to a beautiful national park – a very busy place, with lots of booths, a walkway up a small mountain, and a Buddhist temple.

As we were walking down the mountain and enjoying the beautiful scenery along the wide walkway, a young Korean woman approached me and asked if I was from America.

“Could I talk to you as we walk?” she asked.  “I’m learning to speak English and it helps to practice with someone who speaks it.”

She spoke English pretty well, albeit with a beautiful Asian accent.

“What do you do for a living?” she asked.

If you travel overseas or have any experience speaking to an ESL (English as a second language), it’s pretty common to try to simplify your vocabulary in order to be understood.  I was a pastor at the time, and was pretty sure she wouldn’t know what a pastor was. So I chose a different word…

“I am a minister,” I said.

Her whole countenance changed.  Suddenly she was in the presence of someone important!

“Oh!  You are a government official?”

Yes, I know I shouldn’t have… but I literally laughed out loud.  Then I tried to explain to her that in the U.S. we use the English word “minister” in a different way.

I think she was disappointed.  Anyway…

A Collision of Terms

It’s very common to merge terms for service and leadership in to one place.  That’s why European leaders are often referred to as minsters, or servants. “Prime Minister” literally means “first servant.” It’s why in some churches the board is called “deacons” – another word meaning servant.  It’s also why in the U.S. we often refer to our elected officials as “public servants.”  Merging the two ideas – servanthood and leadership – have given us an impressive field of study called, you guessed it, Servant Leadership.

Now as long as a servant keeps thinking like a servant when they’re in places of leadership, good things usually happen.  But often with positions of leadership comes great power or authority.  And power can be very intoxicating, no matter who you work for (or think you work for).  That’s why it’s helpful to have some reality checks along the way, and I just found one.

A Verse for Special People

Writing from a Roman prison, the Apostle Paul mentioned his own convergence of servanthood and leadership:

Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God (Colossians 1:25).

Let’s be clear.  Paul was most definitely saying, “I am special.”

So are you.

Not special in the silly, vain attempt that we teach children to pretend to be important.  But special in the sense that he (and you) have a unique set of gifts, skills, life purpose, and yes… calling.

I should pause here and explain, in case you aren’t a Christian preacher, that Christian preachers have a fond bond with the notion of “calling.”  And while it is definitely a calling, as in “we are called by God to a place of service and leadership,” we sometimes trip into the error that nobody but us is called.  That simply isn’t true.

So even if you don’t consider yourself to be a leader or an authority, this reality check can also apply to you.  You have a unique set of gifts, personality, abilities, personality and life experiences that are as much a gift and calling from God as any authority figure.

So here’s the reality check.  In this verse Paul describes his ministry as a stewardship – a trust of something that didn’t belong to him but that God entrusted him to manage.

Assuming you are a follower of Christ, you have a stewardship – a trust – as well.  You have a calling or ministry that defines your course of service and accountability to God for faithfully executing it.

Seeing it that way, there are four reasons you may need to rethink your leadership, service, calling, purpose, or whatever other term you want to use.  I’ll use the word “ministry” because that’s the word Paul used, but please feel free to insert your own label.

1.  Your ministry belongs to God.

It was, is, and always will be His.  He defines it.  He orders it.  He owns it.  No believer ever has the right to claim “my ministry” as “mine.”  Ever.  And as belonging to God, it’s His to do with what He wishes, and to use you wherever He wishes.  It is also his to take away from you and give to another, to reframe in your own life, or to redefine for someone else’s benefit.

It doesn’t bother me when somebody refers to “my calling” or “my ministry” any more than a renter refers to “my house.”  But when you start treating your work, calling, ministry or leadership as a thing or possession that you can cling to, then you’ve crossed a line from manager to owner.  And I should warn you from painful experience, the Lord can be pretty jealous of what is His.

2.  Your ministry is for someone else’s benefit.

I love this.  Paul recognized his calling as being for the benefit of others.  And that’s also true in yours.  As long as others are benefiting, your ministry has value. As long as the focus remains on others’ benefit, the ministry has purpose.  But when that mental or emotional shift takes place and the ministry becomes something focused primarily on benefiting you, you have lost your way and are abusing your stewardship.

That’s why it is vital to learn how to keep score in gauging the effectiveness of your service.  Too often we want to evaluate our work based on how much outward success inflates our egos or makes us feel noticed by others.  Careful… benefit to others doesn’t always lead to bragging rights.

3.  As a stewardship from God, you are accountable to God for what you do with it.

As in the parable of the talents, you will present back to the Lord the results of His investments in you and your work for Him.  As in 1 Corinthians 3, you will be judged on how you built on His foundation.  But accountability doesn’t start when you die.  It starts when you receive the ministry. To be faithful, we must serve and manage our ministries as those who will one day give an account for them.

So what are you doing with your gifts when you feel discouraged?  What are you doing with your abilities when others don’t appreciate them?  What do you do with your influence or authority when somebody extends their trust, service, or partnership to you?

4.  Outward circumstances don’t change the stewardship – just the packaging.

Did I mention that Paul was in prison? And that he had actually never met the Colossian Christians?  Yet he was still fulfilling his stewardship.  He turned to writing to continue to carry out his calling to preach the riches of Christ.  He didn’t assume that because he was out of commission his stewardship was on the shelf.  He learned to glorify God and serve Him in different ways.  So can you and I, and so we must.

One of the mistakes many of us make is that we confuse our calling with the packaging.  We assume that there is only one package possible in order to fulfill our sense of stewardship.  That simply isn’t true, and one of the tests of your leadership and stewardship is this: Will you continue to pursue the purpose and ministry you have been given, even when the outward circumstances seem to have taken them away?

 

So if you think your ministry belongs to you, wise up.  If you think your leadership is for your benefit, grow up.  If you think you’re not answerable to anybody, face up.  And if you think you’re the self on the shelf because your job or circumstances have changed, cheer up.  God has other ideas. What are you doing – today – with the trust He has given you?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dee January 28, 2015 at 4:35 pm

I enjoyed this, it was the ‘nudge’ I needed. As always, thanks for your post.

All the best,
Dee

Martha Orlando January 28, 2015 at 5:27 pm

What am I doing with my calling today? Continuing to write blogs/novels for His glory. Though the world has yet to catch fire with love and enthusiasm for my books (I’m not the best marketer, but will work on that), I know I’m doing what God requires of me. He has plans I cannot yet see, but I’m trusting he will make all things known, for His sake and in His time.
All I have to do is be His good and faithful servant.
Blessings, Andy!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Mika January 30, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Great four points on ministry. For me the last point was important right now: we confuse our calling so often with the packaging. Blessings!
Mika´s last blog post ..Suuri näky saa aikaan ihmeitä

Jeffery Anselmi January 31, 2015 at 11:09 am

Great thoughts.

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