Service

(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… [click to continue…]

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A Gown in the Night

by Andy Wood on November 12, 2014

in LV Stories

KemmererJCPenney

Jim was hardly the first businessman to ever try to operate by the Golden Rule.  But he was one of the few who actually put the name Golden Rule over the dry goods store he co-owned and ran in Kimmerer, Wyoming.  So I suppose when your store name means, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and when you choose to live with your wife across the street from the Golden Rule store that you run, it would probably be a good idea to practice what you preach.

Fortunately, the founders of the Golden Rule chain had found in young Jim a work ethic and care for people that would make him an excellent business partner and store manager.

Simply put, Jim was a servant leader before people ever talked of such things.

All that was put to the test one night when Jim and his wife were awakened by a loud banging at his door.  There stood a Chinese man who spoke no English, gesturing with great agitation, beckoning Jim to open his store.

What would you do?  Point to a clock and ask the man to come back when the big hand got there and the little hand got there?  Close the door and go back to bed?  Call the police? [click to continue…]

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Six Signs of a Life-Giving Leader

by Andy Wood on March 24, 2014

in Leadership, Life Currency

Firstborn

I didn’t know how to describe it at the time. I was only in the eighth grade, for crying out loud, and a “lost church member” at that.  But on that February day so long ago a new leader – a new pastor – showed up at my church.  And for the first time in my life a preacher held my attention throughout his message.

I didn’t know that the adults in the church had been argumentative and divisive.

I didn’t know that we had been through months of spiritual lethargy, coldness and conflict.

All I knew was that there was something completely different about this man, this preacher, who to this day I consider my pastor.  What I know now is that he was and is a life-giving leader.

Compare that to a Christmas card I received from a church a few years ago.  This church had also had a new leader come to town.  And the impact was just the opposite.  For months people on the staff of this megachurch had jumped ship at the first opportunity.  And those who remained were desperate to be the next.  I’ll never forget is the hollowed eyes and prisoner-of-war expressions on the faces of the staff and employees of this church – not just one or two, mind you, but the entire staff.  The message was clear:  Merry Christmas! Sweet Baby Jesus, get me outta here!

What I suspected then, and know now, was that this church was being led by a life-sucking leader.

Regardless of the venue – Church World, Business World, even Disney World – every person in a position of authority or leadership has a choice. You can be a life-giving leader or a life-sucking leader.  Life-giving leaders create energy, enthusiasm, passion, and loyalty.  They have a contagious way of infusing a sense of purpose, motivation, and confidence in those who follow them.

Life-sucking leaders?  Just the opposite. In their wake you’ll find dispirited, defeated, discouraged people, divided organizations, and a general spirit of fear or powerlessness.  What’s scary is that on the surface, many of these leaders and the organizations they front appear successful, at least for a season.

How can you tell the difference? How can you know to what degree you are a life-giving leader?  The best way I know is to turn to the ultimate life-giving leader – the Lord Jesus Himself.  Based on His impact and leadership, I have discovered twelve ways to recognize a life-giving leader when you see one.   Here are the first six. [click to continue…]

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I spend a lot of time trying to think up new things, or new ways to say the familiar things.  I’m a big believer in singing a new song to the Lord and the exquisite beauty that comes from being completely random every once in a while.

That said, our brains were build to learn by repetition, and our hearts were made to be renewed by reminders.  That’s why the Bible has four gospels, Kings and Chronicles, and the books of Deuteronomy and 1 John. All built on some form of repetition.  That’s why the early church met daily from house to house or had a regular assembly on the first day of the week.  To be reminded.  To be renewed.

I know I accidentally repeat myself plenty of times, but today I thought it may be time for a little deliberate renewal – some purpose-driven (sorry, Rick) reminders of the big stuff – a harvested collection of some of the good stuff.  Not my stuff, but those themes that keep us going and keep going themselves long after we’re gone.  So here goes… [click to continue…]

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Friday I was on my way to Virginia to make a presentation at a Servant Leadership conference.  So I guess it was safe to say I had leading-by-serving on the brain…

I walk up to the ticket counter of the Dallas-based airline that will remain nameless (though I will point out that they don’t advertise that bags fly free).

Next to me is a fellow traveler who was trying to check her two bags.  Here is the gist of the conversation… [click to continue…]

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Somewhere not far from you, in an undisclosed location (they like to keep it that way), a group of ants is planning for winter.  Methodically, laboriously, they’re hauling whatever it is that ants eat into a safe place.  Though I’m sure they’re tempted to nibble on the profits, they resist the temptation to consume today.  Instinctively they know that they must work now for the time when either they can’t work, or there won’t be resources available.

In the Middle East there dwells a little furry critter – something like a cross between a chipmunk and a badger.  (In other words, he sings like an angel, but he’s in a really bad mood!)  Seriously, this little mammal is something like a Rocky Mountain version of a prairie dog.  He has no natural defenses, yet easily protects himself from predators.  His secret?  He makes his home in the little crags between the rocks.  There he remains safe while his enemies get a sore nose.

[click to continue…]

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If your paychecks came from Ford Motor Company in the 1970s, you lived in an ugly time.  Morale was low.  Sales were taking a beating.  Quality was “job none.”  And the company operated from an entrenched system of rules and regulations.  Into that demoralized environment, Donald Peterson became Ford’s CEO in 1980.

Peterson showed up tossing words around like “teamwork” and “upward communication.”  But words mean nothing to entrenched bureaucracies.  So Peterson tried something radical – he left his office.  He would walk into the offices of designers and ask simple questions like:

  • Do you like these cars?
  • Do you feel proud of them?
  • Would you park one in your driveway?

I think you can guess the answer he received.

Your job, Peterson said, is to come up with the cars you think will sell – cars you can be proud of.  The results were stunning and quick, by auto industry standards.  The first significant product was the 1983 Thunderbird, followed quickly by the wildly successful Taurus, which became the best-selling midsized car in America.

That was just for starters.  During the 1980s, Ford reversed its dismal previous performance to record then-record-breaking profits.  Peterson was chosen by his fellow CEOs as the nation’s most effective leader, surpassing even Lee Iacocca.

What made the difference?  Donald Peterson was a Side-by-Side Leader.   In the words of Robert Richardson and Katherine Thayer, “Peterson didn’t accomplish all this by sitting behind a desk and telling people what he wanted done.  He rolled up his shirt sleeves and jumped in.  He provided a direction and goal and then participated in making them reality.”

Your Worst Skydiving Fear

Imagine you are an inexperienced skydiver.  You’ve been on a few jumps, but still think of yourself as a rookie.  It’s a beautiful day for flying and jumping out of airplanes, so up you go.  You reach the point where it’s time to pull the ripcord, and it malfunctions.  To your horror, so does the backup chute.

Suddenly it’s not such a good day for jumping out of airplanes. [click to continue…]

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Dateline Barcelona, 1992.  The Summer Olympics are hosting the first-ever competition of the truly-best in their respective nations, as professionals and amateurs are all invited to the party.  The United States has assembled a collection of NBA-plus-one stars that may be the best roster to ever take a tip-off.  And their nickname:  “The Dream Team.” 

This isn’t about basketball.  It’s about teams, and how you need a “dream team” of your own.  Not the kind the wins medals, but the kind that empowers lives.  While our culture idolizes the individual, the truth is, you were designed by creation and redesigned by gifts and talents to need the contributions of others in order to maximize your potential.  I’d like to show you how to go about doing it. [click to continue…]

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The Royal Priests of Balkum

by Andy Wood on October 20, 2010

in Uncategorized

On a county road in rural Alabama, in the heart of peanut country a long time ago, a unique, once-in-a-lifetime gathering of people took place.  It was about this time of year.  And I happened to be there.

It was a meeting of the Royal Priests of Balkum.  And I had been asked to address them.

Let me hasten to say that there wasn’t much about those in attendance that day that looked particularly royal.  Priestly either, for that matter.  There were some farmers, a few teachers, lots of retirees, some pastors, some homemakers, a missionary or two.

The program actually said “Henry County Baptist Association.”  The sign outside said, “Balkum Baptist Church.”  And I had been asked to speak on an assigned subject:  the priesthood of the believer.

They didn’t hear me groan.  But groan I did.  The “doctrinal sermon” they called it.  And this year’s doctrinal theme had become a denominational hot potato.

But duty called, and the Baptists of Henry County awaited.

And so did the Lord.

He was waiting on me to learn a priceless lesson. [click to continue…]

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Ask most any Christ follower who or what the ultimate model for leadership is, and they’ll point you to Jesus Christ. 

Ask that same Christ follower what the ultimate standard for leadership is, and they’ll probably land on servanthood.  “Jesus was a servant leader,” they will opine, “and He called His followers to lead by serving.”

Okay, so far, so good. One more question.

Ask that same believer to name somebody from among the most successful ministries or institutions who actually practices servant leadership across the board…

…and watch their pupils widen.  The headlights just caught the deer.

In spite of all our claims to servant leadership, the honest truth is that leadership on a grand scale means knowing what to do with opportunity, influence, power, and public image.  Can a leader have all of that and remain a servant?

Yes. 

But will he?

Camels and the eye of the needle come to mind. [click to continue…]

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