The Leadership Factory

There’s this show on TV called “Shark Tank.” The premise is that entrepreneurs pitch their small business to savvy investors with the hopes that they will help take their business to the next level. Often, these people are producing their products in their kitchen or their garages. They come with their meager beginnings and hope to leave with a prosperous future. Often, these business owners desire to move their production from their homes to a factory. The demand has increased and so it is time to increase their productivity.

Once they land the deal, it’s go time. Many of these products get a huge spike in interest from the show, causing the business owners to scramble to meet the new demands. Production is outsourced, new employees are hired, and growth ultimately happens. Well, that’s the goal. The fact is, some businesses are more successful than others. Some flourish beyond expectations and others don’t do much at all.

In the Bible, there’s a story of a priest who flourished beyond the others.

1 Chronicles 24:4 A larger number of leaders were found among Eleazar’s descendants than among Ithamar’s, and they were divided accordingly: sixteen heads of families from Eleazar’s descendants and eight heads of families from Ithamar’s descendants. 

Eleazar’s family was a leadership factory! There were twice as many leaders found from his descendants than Ithamar’s descendants. We don’t know why this was or how he did it, we simply know that his family was full of leaders. Were they just inherently great leaders or was it more than that? I’d like to believe it was more that that; because leaders are developed. Leaders are trained, equipped, challenged. Leaders are given opportunity to lead and to learn.

Often, we just stand by and hope some great leaders show up to help us do the work. We pray that God would send us people that can lead alongside us. But the truth is, leaders don’t just appear; leaders are made. If we want leaders, we must train leaders. If we want a legacy of leaders, we must become a leadership factory. Be intentional with your children. Be intentional with your grandchildren. Look for potential leaders around you and begin to invest in them. 

Eleazar was a leadership factory. You can be, too.

I heard it through the grapevine

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.

On October 30, 1968 Marvin-Gaye-I-Heard-It-Through-The-Grapevine-Single-Cover-1968Marvin Gaye released his hit single “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”  The tune was catchy and even covered by the California Raisins (yes that was a thing).  It’s a song about a rumor he has heard. The rumor? That his love has left him for someone else.

Don’t you know that I heard it through the grapevine
Not much longer would you be mine
Oh I heard it through the grapevine
Oh I’m just about to lose my mine – Honey, honey yeah

Now poor Marvin was heartbroken. His love was gone and he didn’t even hear it from her! I don’t know if the rumor turned out to be true; the song doesn’t say. It’s mostly just about the rumor.

The message of the song was clear – rumors stink! Yes they do. Paul wrote to Timothy that he ought to be careful about rumors. Because the truth is, people in leadership will get talked about. They will get accused of things. It seems that when people hear bad things about people in charge, they jump on the bandwagon before any truth is discovered. For some reason, people like to see leaders fall.  

As Christians, we aren’t to be boarding the rumor train. Instead, we need to be seekers of the truth. That’s why Paul said not to start accusing leaders unless there are some witnesses. He wanted to avoid this “your word against mine” mess that ruins people. So the next time we start pointing fingers at people, we ought to step back and wait for truth. And in the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to pray for them. Because if they have truly done some things that will lead to their fall, they are going to need the same grace of God that covers all of our failures. 

How to mess up being a pastor

1 Peter 5:1-4  1 Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 

Nothing fries my pancakes more than hearing people talk about how they have been hurt by the church.  It isn’t them saying it that makes me crazy, it’s the fact that they have been hurt.  And when people say they have been hurt by the church, most often that means they have been hurt by the pastor or elders.  I know one thing to be true: I have never met a pastor or church leader who has said, “I love hurting people. My goal is to cause God’s people pain so they will leave the church.”   Yet people get hurt.  People lose their trust in the church.

So how does it happen?  That’s a question with a million answers which I cannot fully answer in a blog post.  Hurt happens and it’s not always the leader’s fault.  However, there is a level of ownership that church leaders must have when it comes to the tending of hearts.  They must cultivate a culture of openness and trust.  They must put relationships and love above being right.  Essentially, they must take a good hard look at 1 Peter 5.  Let’s look at these instructions.

1. Be a shepherd. Protect the sheep.

2. Don’t pastor out of obligation.  Lead with the conviction that you are called.

3. Don’t do it for the money.  Ya, that’s why people go into the ministry, right?  Not at all.  But  there are those who are pastors simply because it’s a job.  Now I know that many people have jobs simply to earn an income.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.  But Peter makes it known that “pastor” is not one of those jobs.  Don’t do it for the money.

4. Don’t be power hungry, arrogant, and demanding.  God has not called you so you can order people around.  He has called you so that you can serve and be an example.

So here’s how to mess up being a pastor:  Elevate the protection of your image above the hearts of the people you lead.  Show up to work, resent the people, and get frustrated that they won’t follow you.  Collect your paycheck and tell all your friends you are frustrated that your church doesn’t give more money so you can have a raise.  Demand submission and ostracize anyone who won’t do what you say.  Expect respect because after all, you are the pastor.

As out-in-left-field the previous paragraph may seem, there are leaders in God’s kingdom doing these things. And it’s not so much that these things are happening blatantly; they happen in the heart.  When we let the enemy creep in on our ground, he tries to distort our calling and poison our hearts.  So we must check out hearts and lead as good shepherds.  We must set our sights on walking out our calling to please the Chief Shepherd.

Enough of the  Christian casualties; enough friendly fire!  For friendly fire isn’t all that friendly – people die.  God’s church was called to bring life, not be a house where people get shot at and leave wounded.  We have the opportunity to heal those wounds and restore the broken.  Lead as a servant, have confident humility, and walk out your calling with conviction.  Those are the kind of shepherds God is looking for and that is the kind of shepherd I strive to be.

The benchmark

2 Kings 16:2  Ahaz was 20 years old when he became king and reigned 16 years in Jerusalem. He did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God like his ancestor David

This book of stories in the book of 2 Kings could be summed up using this illustration:  God would be holding a flower and as He picks off each petal, He would be saying, “he loves me, he loves me not.”  Because that is what seems to be happening in the this book.  A king rises up and follows the Lord and then the next one doesn’t follow Him at all.  It’s like these guys never established their thrones to the point in which they would have a legacy.  They were fickle and every generation decided to go his own way.

There was a benchmark, however.  His name was David.  I noticed this morning, that throughout this book, the kings were measured against David.  They weren’t measured in regards to their leadership or the size of their kingdom.  They weren’t measured based on the number of wars they one or the number of children they had.  They were measured against his zeal for the Lord.  It was always about whether they did what was right in the sight of the Lord as David did.  Some of them even came close, but never hit the mark that he set.

I’ll bet that David didn’t know he would be the benchmark.  He wasn’t all that concerned with winning a trophy from God.  He just served him with his life, and his life did the talking.  For years to come, his pursuit of the Lord was the standard.  It’s amazing, really, to think about setting that standard for others to follow you.  And I wonder if I am doing the same.  I wonder if generations to come after me will look at my life and define it by how I followed the Lord.  Yes, I want to be a benchmark.  Not because I want fame or honor or even recognition.  I just want to follow the Lord with my whole heart and my whole life to a degree that others will take notice.  I want to give them something to strive for.  And like David, I want to be set apart for His plans, His purposes, and His glory.


Good advice, bad advice

1 Kings 12:6-7  Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon when he was alive, asking, “How do you advise me to respond to these people? ” They replied, “Today if you will be a servant to these people and serve them, and if you respond to them by speaking kind words to them, they will be your servants forever.” 

King Rehoboam had a choice.  You see his father became a heavy in the latter days of his life.  So the people came to the new king and asked him to let up a bit.  They asked him to be nice to them and treat them well.  So like a good king, he asked his advisors what he should do.  Verse 7 is the response of the elders.  They said he should serve the people.  But that didn’t sound too exciting to the king, so he asked his buddies for some advice.

Now there are two big takeaways here in this story.  The first is that we ought to be mindful of who are asking advice from.  Rehoboam decided to take the advice of his buddies over the advice of the elders.  Because of it, he lost the throne.  It was bad advice: they told him to be more mean!  Sometimes we start asking around for advice until we find someone who agrees with us.  Just because our buddies agree with us, doesn’t make them right.  So if you are going to ask for advice from someone, make sure it is someone who has a clue.  Make sure it is someone with wisdom who is willing to give you the truth regardless of your opinions and feelings.

Secondly, there’s this whole issue around servant leadership.  The wise ones told the king that the best leader is one who sees his position of authority as a means to serve others.  I happen to completely agree with those elders.  He should have listened!  Our greatest opportunity as a leader is to enable others to reach their full potential.  If we can do that, everyone will succeed.  A leader has to see beyond what he wants out of his people.  He needs to serve his people and help them be their best.  He needs to win their hearts if he is going to win their allegiance.  And that happens when a leader is willing to be a servant.

Gauging leadership effectiveness

2 Samuel 8:15David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people.

I must say that I am greatly challenged and perplexed by this verse today.  As a leader, David did what was just and right for all his people.  How can this be?  How is it possible that he led ALL the people well?  There must be a secret to his success; because there is no way that you are going to be able to make everyone you lead happy with your leadership.  There is no way to always communicate your heart correctly.  You will be misunderstood and will certainly make mistakes.  But David… he led his people well.  They always got what they needed from him.  Or did they?

This is the part of Bible reading called “pondering.”  So give me a minute while I do so…

Okay, I’m back.  I’ve come to this conclusion.  David wasn’t a people pleaser and he wasn’t a perfect leader.  He probably offended some people.  So when he says that he did what was just and right, it is speaking to his standing before God.  You see, David strived to be right before God. He strived to be a leader who walked out his calling in response to the Lord.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t make mistakes.  It means that all that he did for his people was just and right in God’s eyes.

Now I guarantee you that some people didn’t agree that everything he did was right and just.  If there would have been a complaint box for the king, it may have been full.  But his greatest concern was that his decisions were right to God, not the people.  As leaders we must operate on the same conviction.  God’s view of our leadership MUST be our primary concern.  We can get focused on making people happy – it’s the same thing we do with our kids.  However, we should be doing what makes God happy.  This isn’t to be used as an excuse however.  You can’t say: “people think I’m a jerk but that’s their problem.  I’m just doing what God told me to.”  If you really had God’s heart, you wouldn’t be a jerk. My whole point is this: If we do what is just and right in His eyes, I believe our leadership will be lasting and effective.

I’ll fight with my dentures

1 Samuel 31:4-6 4 Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.” But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5 When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. 6 So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.

We all have the opportunity to leave a legacy.  It is comprised of the values we esteem, the impression we leave on others, and the choices we make.  It is defined by the way we lead and the way we serve.  And it is wrapped up by the way we finish.  While we all have our bumps along the road of life, the finish line is what really matters most.  A strong finish can make you forget all the mistakes in between.  But what happens when you fail to end well?  How would it feel to know you have failed at leaving a worthwhile legacy to those behind you?

Such is the case with Saul.  He started off so well.  He was the first king that Israel ever had.  Sure he made mistakes along the way, but he had the opportunity to finish out his reign and his life with dignity and pass something onto those behind him.  Instead, he spent his latter years consumed with trying to hunt down David and kill him.  He visited a medium to call up the spirit of Samuel because he couldn’t get God to answer him.  Just really bad choices, people!

What sticks out to me the most, however, is his miserable finish.  He doesn’t go down fighting valiantly defending the honor of the Lord.  No, he fell on his sword and killed himself.  Lame.  And that was it, the end of the first king of Israel.  All that I can remember about his reign was the fact that he was a miserable failure who died a cowardly death.  Legacy FAIL.

There is no way I am going to follow in Saul’s footsteps.  I am going to finish well.  Even if I have no sword and I have to fight the enemy with my dentures – so be it!  I will be marked as a man of God, full of courage.  And I am going to think about the legacy I am leaving too.  Because we leave one whether we try to or not.  Some people might leave a legacy of alcoholism, abuse, violence, or anger.  They don’t mean to, but they do.  So I am going to think about what I am passing on.  I am going to work at it.  I am going to consciously leave a legacy every day of my life.