Am I proactive or reactive? What do I value most? What are my core principles? Who am I? Do my daily tasks reflect the answers to these questions?
To walk by faith and not by sight requires that we walk reflecting who we claim to be. Walking by sight means we fill our days responding to what we see. Our calendars get filled up with tasks that come in reaction to whatever is happening around us.
In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, author Steven Covey says that all the events and tasks of our days can be placed in one of four quadrants.
1) Urgent and Important
2) Urgent and Unimportant
3) Not Urgent but Important
4) Not Urgent and Not Important
Leadership requires discipline to make sure that the urgent not crowd out the important.
I see the challenges of leadership, recognize the demands and then am baffled how the President of the United States can take a bike ride when I barely have time to use the bathroom.
When we live in the urgent quadrants we do not lead, we respond. Our stress level increases and our bloood pressure spikes. The things we claim to be important (prayer, family time, rest, time with friends) get pushed aside until they too cannot be ignored anymore and become urgent.
For example, we all know that exercise is important but it’s not really urgent. It doesn’t ring like a phone and it can easily be pushed back until later. We push it back time after time until it finally becomes urgent and important when our weight increases, our blood pressure goes up and we find ourselves in emergency rooms.
We also see it with the dad who continually pushes family to the back burner while he climbs the corporate ladder or works to build the biggest church. Family time is not urgent and vacations can be postponed to later when things are less busy. Things become urgent when his wife leaves him and his kids are angry.
We can have character. We can be men and women of integrity and we can truly desire to be in vibrant relationship with God but leadership requires that we do what others are unable or unwilling to do. Leadership requires taking action to stay true to what we claim to value most.
I remember sitting in my senior pastor’s office as a young man and telling him I would need to leave the church picnic early to attend my son’s soccer game. He told me that would be unacceptable and that he would need to discuss it with the deacons. Acting on what I valued most, I agreed that a meeting with deacons would be fine with me and that I was more than willing to find a new position if need be. He was more concerned with my being there to run the sack race than he was that I follow through on my commitment to my family.
I remember another occassion when I was asked to speak at a Christian summer camp. Unfortunately it coincided with my daughter’s fifth birthday. I explained that my wife and I had a commitment to be there for every birthday. I offered a compromise of bringing my family with me but the director simply told me that would not work and said, “She’ll have other birthdays!”
I was blessed to hear Andy Stanley address a group of 3000 youth ministers a few years back. I remember his counsel to us to “cheat the church.” He spoke about how impossible it would is for us to meet every demand in our churches and that we would have to decide who to “cheat.” His counsel was solid. He told us not to cheat our relationship with the Lord, not to cheat our health and times of rest and not to cheat our marriages and families. The only thing left to cheat, he told us, was the church with its unending demands and programs. He shared staggering ministry statistics with us – broken ministry marriages, hurting ministry families, pastors with addictions and lives out of balance.
Walk by faith and not by sight. I claim to have faith in Christ and I encourage my congregation to spend time with him. I encourage families to build time together. I tell people they can find peace and rest in Christ. Yet, when I live in the urgent and walk by sight, I am far from the person I am encouraging them to become.
Leaders without character play a game with the clock ticking. It is only a matter of time before the buzzer sounds and the game ends as people discover that the well-oiled organization had no foundation. The leader without character leaves his team in shambles.
The leader with character builds other leaders with a win in mind. (“7 Practices of Effective Ministry” by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner and Lane Jones) The Great Commission leader sees his target and then makes moves to hit that target. He understands the commandment to ove one another and sees it in light of the Great Commission as an incarnational ministry. Joiner points out that the leader sees things in terms of steps and not programs and requires that we always evaluate if we are taking steps that are moving us toward the target.
One of the most difficult tasks of the leader is to recognize that he is “a light” but “not that Light.” (Chris Hill, 2005 Youth Specialties Conference) While people may want to treat him as the Light (Jesus), he must recognize that he is only a light pointing toward THE Light. He cannot accept the mantel of “The Light” and must deflect efforts to put him in that role. He must invite others to join him as equally important lights in a team approach like the one presented by Wayne Cordeiro in “Doing Church as a Team.”
There are so many great ideas, great programs, wonderful bands and opportunities that come our way. The people in our churches present numerous ideas as “something our church should do” and we hear “something you should do, Pastor.” We want to please, we want to serve and we want to grow our churches. But each time we say yes and take on new responsibilities we stretch the band more and more thin.
Leadership evaluates. Leadership plans. Leadership asks, “Does this move us toward our goal?” Leadership mines other leaders and shares responsibility handing off responsibilty. Leadership is proactive.
Character defines the purpose of leadership. Leadership without character is bankrupt. Leaders must have character. It is a prerequisite for solid leadership.