Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Continuing on the discussion of leadership principles from the book of Nehemiah, I would like to briefly comment on two simple principles that can be easily overlooked.

1. A leader boldly and unapologetically proclaims truth (Nehemiah 5.9)

In Nehemiah 5.9, Nehemiah calls out his followers who are choosing to live in a manner that is against God’s standards.  In verse 6 we find that Nehemiah is “very angry”.  He calls out his followers and does not care who hears.  He recognized that the need for true proclamation was far greater than the need to feel good.  Sin can not be overlooked with believers to keep peace.  God’s standards must always override the standard of sinful men.

In verse 7 we are told that Nehemiah contended with the nobles and rulers.  Regardless of how influential people are a leader must do the right thing.  In the New Testament, we find John the Baptist getting imprisoned and ultimately beheaded due to a proclamation of truth.  At times truth is not accepted or appreciated by man but it is always expected by God.  When the world around us to chooses to cheapen the standard of God’s Word, that is when true men and women of faith show their true colors.  In Daniel 1.7 we find a statement that says, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…”  True the statement was talking about food but ultimately it was talking about a lifestyle of a godly man.  Truth is not something that happens by accident.  At the end of the day, all I have is my integrity.  My responsibility  is to make sure that my integrity remains in tact even if it means that my social status must be sacrificed.  After all, what is more important to me….Man’s perception…or…God’s expectations???

2.  A leader does not require from followers that which they will not do (5.16)

This is a principle that no leader should have to be reminded of but it is one that must be stated and stated often.  In Nehemiah 5.16 Nehemiah says, “I also applied myself to the work on this wall.”  The word applied can also be interpreted as held fast.  Nehemiah did not just ask his followers to work but dedicated himself to the same work.  In other words, he did not tell them what to do, he showed them what to do.

What is the lesson for leaders here?  If you aren’t willing to model it, don’t talk about it!  Jesus did not just tell people to love the poor and meet their needs but he loved the poor and met their needs.  In John 21 Jesus tells Peter to “Feed My sheep.”  He did not offer a whole lot of explanation to the how.  Why?  Because He had modeled to Peter for three years what feeding His sheep looked like.  Why can a man like the apostle Paul say things like “Follow my example” (Phil. 3.17; 1 Cor. 11.1)?  Was it arrogance?  No he understood how a good leader operates.  Paul told them what to do but as a Christ follower he showed the believers in his life how to live.

If the people that you lead never did what you said but always did what you do, what would your church look like?

Edicts are great but examples are greater…

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I will be covering two principles from Nehemiah today.  They are found in the third and fourth chapters.

Chapter 3 – A leader is concerned about the home front.  

In chapter three we find the walls being rebuilt.  Yet, Nehemiah did not go outside the city to hire workers to rebuild the walls.  Instead he instructed his people to work on their own parts of the walls.  They were to walk out of their front doors and go to the walls closest to them and get to work.  Work on the homefront!  Don’t worry about what needs to occur outside the city, work on what matters now.  Until the wall and gates were fixed, the Israelites were easy targets to all their enemies.

Chapter 4 – A leader is always prepared. (vs. 18)

With the threat of outside forces breathing down the neck of the Jewish workers a plan was needed to be put into to place.  Nehemiah’s workers were facing the possibility of an attack.  An attack that was meant to halt all progress on their disheveled city.  Instead of giving up and feeling sorry for himself Nehemiah did the job that God had tasked him to do and developed a plan for dealing with the possible attack.  He armed his workers.  In verse 18 we find that the workers are wearing swords and verse 13 we find people standing guard who are heavily armed.  You see a good leader is prepared for attacks.  He has a plan to deal with the enemy before he ever gets there.  For those who are not prepared, an enemy can wreak havoc.  Yet for those who resist, an enemy will often flee.

Are you concerned about the homefront?  You should be if you are not.  In fact in in 1 Timothy 3 one of the qualifications for a Pastor is that they manage their household well.  It then asks the rhetorical question “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God.”

Are you prepared to fight for what is right?  Nehemiah’s people were.  You and your people should be as well.  Fleeing is not an option when the battle in on your home turf.  Resistance is the necessary course of action.   In James 4.7 we are told of the twofold process of dealing with an attack from the enemy.  1.  Submit to God. 2. Resist the Devil and then he will flee from you.  However, step one is submission not resistance.  To overcome the enemy we must first allow ourselves to be overcome by God.

 

The second chapter of Nehemiah shows a man of action presenting, pursuing and communicating a plan.  Nehemiah meets his task head on in a manner in which all of us who lead can learn from.  He does not shy away from opportunity but rather manufactures opportunity to do the work of the Lord.  The following are some lessons on leadership that we find in the second chapter of the book of Nehemiah.

1. A leader uses all available resources he has to benefit those that he leads. (1.11; 2.1)

In the end of chapter one we find a statement that says, “I was the cupbearer to the king.”  Nehemiah utilizes this opportunity to leverage his mission.  Yet, he does not do this without putting his own neck first on the line.  In fact in requesting that King Artexerxes grant him the opportunity to return to Jerusalem and commence in rebuilding the city he potentially faced the kings wrath.  You see Nehemiah knew the practices of Kings to put to death those who offer unwanted input to the king (Esther 3.11).  Yet, this did not matter to Nehemiah.  He was the cupbearer to the king.  He had opportunity to present his case because he was the cupbearer and did just that.  He recognized that he was a steward not just of his possessions but also was a steward of his position and opportunity.

2. A Leader Goes Into A Volatile Situation With A Plan Already In Place (vs. 2-10)

Nehemiah did not just show up to the King and act boldly.  He knew exactly what he wanted.  He did not pause to think of what to do next once he realized he had the ear of the king.  He knew what must be done.  The fact that stress was high and the stakes were also high did not limit Nehemiah’s effectiveness.  He presented the king with a plan.  A plan for a trip and a plan for rebuilding.  Without a plan that was presented unapologetically it is quite possible God would have used another man to rebuild Jerusalem.  Nehemiah did not shy from a man that could have ended his life.  Rather he presented a plan boldly that he believed to be God’s plan.  Doing nothing is not an option for a true leader.  Situations like the one Nehemiah found himself in are what sets apart true leaders from the wanna-be leaders.

3. A True Leader Sees What The Issues Are Firsthand.  If The Issues Are Important Enough To Fix, They Are Important Enough To Inspect! (vs. 11-16)

Once Nehemiah finally arrived in Jerusalem, he did not sit and become overwhelmed with the severity of the situation.  Rather he snuck out of his shelter one evening and personally examined the city.  He wanted to see the devastation firsthand.  He did not want to merely listen to the reports of others.  A true leader will not demand an issue gets fixed until he first examines the issue.  If is important enough to fix, then it is important enough to inspect.  If a leader is not willing to get dirty and do some legwork to benefit those he serves, then he is not in it for service.  He is in it for recognition.  A leader that is not willing to fulfill the obligations that his position demands should not be a leader.

While chapter 2 has several other leadership principles, I wish to leave you only with the three I mentioned.  I also wish to ask do you view yourself as a steward of all you have and are?  If so, can this be seen by your actions?  Do you have a plan of action?  Are you proactive or merely reactive?  Finally, are you willing to see the issues firsthand?  Will you get your hands dirty to examine a need rather than mandating that others do it?  We must not tell people how to operate, we must show them.

In Nehemiah 1 we find Nehemiah ask a question of some fellow Jews.  He wants to know how his people are doing that are back in Jerusalem.  The answer he receives greatly distresses him.  He is told that they are in distress and reproach and that the walls of the city are broken down and the gates have been burned.  In other words, his people are exposed.  Exposed to the elements.  Exposed to enemies.  Exposed to wild animals.  They are both hopeless and helpless.  This drives Nehemiah to respond in three ways that all leaders need to embrace if they are going to lead well.

1. A leader has genuine concern for the people he or she leads. (vs. 2)

The first thing Jeremiah did when he saw his fellow Jews was inquire to the wellness of their people.  He did not throw a party and make small talk.  He got to root of the issue.  Why?  Because he cared!  Too many leaders are more concerned about themselves.  Failure to show concern for the people God has called you to lead is a good indicator you are not being the leader that God has called you to be.

2. A leader is emotionally invested in his followers.  It is not just a job, his heart is attached. (vs.4)

The response that Nehemiah had after he asked about his brothers in Jerusalem was one of a broken heart.  We are told that he sat down, mourned and wept for days.  Historically sitting is a posture of mourning.  In Job 1 and 2 we find Job mourning.  Each time he mourned he first sat down.  In Daniel 10 we find Danial mourning for 21 days.  What was he doing?  He was sitting.  In Psalm 137 we find a statement “we sat down and wept.”

Nehemiah allowed his heart to break for his people.  It killed him that his people were in pain.  Their pain was his pain.  A true leader is never doing just a job.  His heart is attached and intimately wound in and through not just his organization but through the lives of the people he serves with.  A leader who lacks love for his people will also lack effectiveness.  This is why we find Christ in the New Testament weeping over Jerusalem.  This is why we find so many statements about Jesus that say, when He saw them, He felt compassion.  It is easier for people to move for a leader who first allows his heart to be moved for them.

3. A leader recognizes the power of prayer, their own weakness and the greatness of God. (vs. 4-11)

The third thing we find out about Nehemiah and great leaders in general is that they yield themselves to a higher power.  Nehemiah knew a broken heart, a spirit of mourning and pain would not change the reality of a bad situation.  At that moment he did the only thing he could.  In his place of pain he cried out to the God of the universe.  He worshiped Him, he confessed to Him and implored God to intervene.  He looked for divine intervention!  A leader that does not pray is not a leader.  I know this is a bold statement but one cannot lead for God if he is not communicating with God.   A leader who fails to pray will sooner or later blur the lines between bringing God glory and serving to receive the glory himself.  After all, how can a man lead people to a God he himself is not communicating with?

As a leader….are you concerned about the people you lead???   ….are you emotionally invested in your followers???   ….are you regularly submitting yourself to the God you are called to serve???

The book of Nehemiah is a book that is jam packed with principles that spiritual leaders need to embrace.  In fact, out of the dozens of leadership books on my bookshelf, none measure up to this 13 chapter gem that is found in the Old Testament.

You see Nehemiah was not a theory or a manual that included “Top 10 Leadership Tips To Take Your Organization To The Next Level.”  He was man.  A man with a heart and a man with a mission.

My goal is to share with you 13 posts (14 if you include this one) on the book of Nehemiah.  There will be one for each of the chapters of Nehemiah.  I will be writing them from the leadership perspective but understand it is not limited to those who are in a position of leadership.  Biblical principles are for all to enjoy and benefit from.

One final thought before I throw this out in cyber world.  I will merely be referencing the book of Nehemiah.  For you fully receive the challenge and blessing that God desires for your life, you need to read the book of Nehemiah.  God’s Word is much more important than Jon Goodwin’s words so please do not read what I say and leave it at that.  Do some fact checking with your Bible!

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday.  My family and I worshipped at the church that my wife grew up in and that we shared our wedding vows in.  We enjoyed a beautiful Palm Sunday service along with a rather convicting message.

I did what I normally do during a service.  I took meticulous notes of the message and kept an extra piece of paper handy for notes that had nothing to do with the sermon.  I am constantly scribbling thoughts to myself regarding the passage of Scripture that I hear read and preached about on any given Sunday.  Sometimes these random thoughts spring into full fledged ideas that will be birthed into a sermon or a lesson for a later date.

In order to properly convey the thought process I headed down, during the message, and that I am headed down now I must first lay down the context of the Scripture that Pastor White read prior to his sermon.   The Scripture read was Luke 19.28-47.  It is often referred to as the triumphal entry.  Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  Palm branches are laid down and praises are sung.  He is at an all time high in His popularity.  The people love Him and they praise Him.  This is followed by Jesus crying over the city and dialoguing with the Pharisees.  The chapter ends with Jesus (once again) driving the money changers and profiteers out of the temple courtyard.

Typically the message one will hear in regards to this chapter has to do with worshipping Jesus.  Yet Pastor White instead preached on verse 45 and 46 and talked about the need for purity both in the temple of Jerusalem but in the purity of the Holy Spirit’s temple.

My brain traveled down another path.  It travelled down the path of leadership.  I am nearly always reading a book on leadership; I am currently pursuing a graduate degree in leadership, and quite often write articles about leadership for my own personal development. 

Here is the thought that hit me.  It is nothing new.  In fact it can be found in almost all literature that deals with the how to’s of effective leadership.  It was this: maximize your influence.  Jesus had the perfect opportunity here to build an even larger following.  The masses were praising Him.  They were proclaiming His greatness to all who would hear.  He held in His hand the perfect opportunity to build a positive view of Himself that could radically influence all who were in the city of Jerusalem at that time. 

In a corporate setting a strategic meeting would have been called.  Perhaps something like this would have been asked.  Now that we have effectively gained a large group of constituents how are we going continue to (1) keep their faithfulness to Jesus and at the same time continue to (2) increase our sphere of influence?  These are two reasonable questions that should be asked by non-profit and for profit organizations alike.  Simply put, all organizations want to keep what they have and at the same time expand their boundaries.  In and of itself, there are is nothing wrong with that concept.  Yet this is not the methodology that Jesus followed.

 Several years ago Bill Hybels wrote a little book entitled “When Leadership and Discipleship Collide”.  This is a prime example of what one of these collisions look like.  There will come a time for all who are in leadership when they must make the hard choice.  I can guarantee that there will come a day when all who lead will be asked in some form the following question: What is more important, purity or popularity?

At the height of His popularity Jesus chose to rebuke sin rather than embrace praise.  He stormed into the temple and drove people out like cattle.  Scripture does not say that Jesus acted calmly and submitted a request.  He did not hold a meeting with His advisors about what to do.  In fact the Greek word used here means that He literally expelled them from the temple court.  It is same word used in Acts 13.50 when Paul and Barnabas were kicked out the city of Antioch by an irate mob. 

Jesus sends a profound message to all who are in leadership in the end of Luke 19.  Purity should always take precedence to popularity and praise!  If sin is in the camp, Jesus is not happy! 

I would like to end with simple thought that we all need hear on a regular basis.  Pursue truth: not pats on the back!

I just pounded this out while sitting at my desk following some time of personal contemplation.  Nothing here is overly earth shattering but I thought I would share it nonetheless.   

Leadership is not the outcome of a title.  Just because I have the title pastor does not make me a leader.  My title only means that people trust me enough to follow me is I should choose to lead.  Yet the title and position in and of itself does not equate leadership.

If I were to define what it means to be a leader and was told only to use one word, I would use the word influence.  Far too many “leaders” wish to demonstrate they are leaders by telling you that they are leaders.  Reality is, if you have to tell me you are a leader, you probably aren’t.  If you were showing me that you are a leader by how you lived your life in the first place, then you would not have to tell me. 

Many people who hold a leadership position believe they must be followed because of their title.  I firmly disagree.  There are many leaders that I will never follow.  There are men and woman that I would never allow to influence my life as a leader.  Yet, I would respect their title and position. 

The question I pose of myself on a regular basis is how am I influencing others?  Can they see things in my life that are worth replicating in theirs?  I am not saying that I want a bunch of miniature Jon Goodwins running around.  What I am saying is that I regularly ask myself if I just have a title or if I am living my title out.  I don’t want people to say, “oh he’s a pastor” just as a reference to my job.  I want them to realize it encompasses my entire life and the title defines who I am and not just what I do.  A true leader embodies their title.  Do you? 

A great example of a man who embodied his title is the apostle Paul.  He writes to the church or Corinth in the 1 Corinthians 4.16 “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”  He basically repeats himself again in 1 Corinthians 11.1 where he says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”  Then in the book of Philippians he writes, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Phil. 3.17). 

Now Paul might be seen by some as an arrogant man.  But a careful study of his life will show that he was man worth following.  He was a man worth following not because he held the title: apostle.  He was man worth following because his life was in alignment with his title.  The man owned his mission and therefore earned the right of leading his followers and telling them to follow his example. 

While you I may never tell people to follow our examples, it is implied because we choose to be leaders.  Because it is implied we must therefore strive for excellence in all that we do.  Failing to lead is no longer an option because it affects more than just you and me.  It affects all who look to us as leaders.

So as I write this, I would urge myself and whoever else might be reading this to own our title.  Whether is being a mom, dad, pastor, town board member, school teacher, business owner or captain of a sports team own it and live it.  Provide an example that is worth following.  Remember it is not your title that makes you great, rather is what you choose to do with it.