Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things aren't always as they appear

Although we all have our spheres of influence, I'm not so sure that leadership is for everyone.

When it comes to life in the church, 1 Corinthians 12 compares the church to a body, and the ministry gifts God gives to function in the church, to body parts. When you look at those descriptions, all gifts are needed, worthy and valuable - but not all are leadership gifts. We also have the truth presented repeatedly in scripture (Luke 12:40-52, Matthew 25:13-30, 1 Timothy 3:1-12) that we are responsible for what we are given; so, when we are given more responsibility, we are judged at a higher standard, more is expected from us.

But if we are meant to be leaders, then we are meant to be great leaders. What makes a leader great doesn't change according to circumstances. Be it in the work place, family, church, wherever - the same principles of truth work in all settings.

I've long been captivated by what Jesus said makes men great; especially what was recorded in Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT):

25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 26 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I'm not sure if it was the teaching of the church that I grew up in, general Christian culture, or just my natural bent toward sin; but somehow I grew up with what I now see as "false humility". The characteristics of "false humility" are: Thinking myself to be less than everyone else, assuming that nothing I do is ever done good enough, assuming that if I'm truly humble I must always engage in those tasks that I've defined as the "lowliest" of tasks, never allowing others to do for me or compliment me in any way, basically having a worm in the dirt attitude. One of the biggest problems with "false humility" is that the focus is on myself. By contrast what I have come to see as true humility can be seen in these types of characteristics: Truth based, Christ centered, focused on how God can use me in the lives of others without concern for my position (be it at the front or the end of the line), focused on letting God show me how to develop those talents and gifts He's given me, knowledge that through Him I can do any and everything that He has set for me to accomplish.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, my "false humility" made me an ineffective leader; in my family, the workplace, and the church. I assumed that what Jesus was saying in Matthew 20:25-28 meant that I needed to act like a door mat, take most tasks upon myself (at a minimum those least desirable tasks), set out to please everyone, and never be anything but kind- which translated into non-confrontational and unclear. I was unclear because I didn't think it was "right" to tell others when they were doing something wrong, or to require specific performance of others (somehow in my messed up thinking I thought that would be the lording over people Jesus spoke about in Matthew 20:25). The results were that I didn't know how to manage my home, was frustrated in my relationships with my husband and children, failed to have my subordinates at work produce at high levels and provide high quality care, had frustrated subordinates at work (even though they may or may not have realized it, my poor leadership impacted the facility negatively), was only partially effective in ministry.

Interestingly enough, God taught me extensively about my false humility and how to lead greatly through an unsaved man who chose to mentor me in the work setting. It just went to show me that even the unsaved are blessed on this earth when they employ God's principles, and that God can use whomever He chooses to use.

To prevent myself from producing the never ending post here,I'll just share about three of the things that I learned with regard to Leadership:

* It's never about me. Once I step into the leadership position, is HAS to be about the people God's entrusted to me. Be those my children, employees, or other women and girls at church. My place is not to be focused, directly or indirectly, on getting my needs met or ego filled. How I feel, or if I find someone's personally appealing/like-able/easy to get along with, or if I'm being treated unfairly, does not matter. I am to be about praying for, and being keyed-into, those who are entrusted to me. What are their needs? What are their dreams and ambitions? What can I do to facilitate the growth of their gifts, talents, skills and abilities? How can God use me to help them produce and perform in ways they never dreamed possible? I am not able to do this if I do not make time to rest in God and take care of myself; my needs will just be too great to be able to focus on the people entrusted to me. For it to be all about those entrusted to me as a leader (read: mother, boss, women's ministry leader, youth minister, etc.), I've got to make chunks of time to be in the Word, in prayer, silent before God, to let Him meet the deepest needs of my heart. Things also work best when I get enough sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition.

* In order to lead I've got to know where we're going. I've got to look to God and let Him given me the vision and direction. Receiving on that level from God requires a time investment, and a commitment to keep seeking until I have the vision.

* God has given me certain positions, talents and gifts, and training to be utilized. I need to invest my time in those activities that perhaps only I can do. During a women's ministry leadership training recently I found it interesting that in my small group we all admitted that it was easy for us to just do the work, but that's not always where our time was meant to be spent. Often we need to step back and let others accomplish tasks with the gifts and talents they were given to do those very things, while we engage in training and building up others to lead. That was always especially difficult for me in the work place; to be candid, as an administrator it was easy to look like such a hero if I actually went and got the floor buffer and was out buffing the floors, or dealing with difficult patients, or handling the petty cash. But then what were my janitors, nurses, or office staff doing? And how did that allow me to pray about, network, and constantly be seeking new lines of revenue to sustain the enterprise so that we all could keep our jobs? Did it allow me to take time and invest in the facility's department directors and help them become more effective? Or did it just make me look like one of the bunch, and be popular? Being liked is not the goal; being obedient to God's calling and having Him produce results through me is what I want to be about.

What about you, how has God changed the way you look at leadership? What's He taught you about leadership? How has God taught you about leadership?


T said...

Great post...just what I've needed to read lately. I too want to be humble, but have often settled for false humility. Thank you...I've felt the Lord telling me there's a better way than what I've been doing, but I wasn't sure what. THANK YOU.

David said...

What about you, how has God changed the way you look at leadership?

I see leadership as a supporting role, not a supported role. It's always about service to others in the church; not who can I get to do stuff.

What's He taught you about leadership?

That it is specifically my job to train others to do what I do, and help them succeed. It is more like parenting, than being a CEO.

How has God taught you about leadership?

Error and trial - and the joy of serving others with my gifts.

Deborah Ann said...

You nailed this one, Tracy. Humility is other-centered. False humility and pride are self-centered. Funny, I've just been asking God to help me with this, and today I keep stumbling upon humility posts. Love all the dominos He's setting up!