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RAISING UP NEW LEADERS

Watch my video presentation of these teaching notes.

Paul to Timothy, lead-pastor in the church at Ephesus, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve from among them (to be with him), whom he designated apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).

Jesus to Father, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:6-9).

Defining Leaders who Raise up Leaders

In the words of the invitation to me:  “How do we raise up leaders to their full potential, which means laying down your own ego, ambition and personal success.”  That is character leadership.

My definition: Leadership is – and is measured by – not how many people and leaders follow you, but how many leaders of character you raise up to lead with/alongside you, who go even further than you in Kingdom leadership. Good leaders develop new leaders to lead in team with them, and to send them out to exercise leadership in the authority of character integrity.

The leader who lays down her/his own ego, ambition and personal success, in selfless service of other leaders to develop them to their full potential, will raise up leaders who lay down their own ego, ambition and success. This is leading by love, in the Spirit of Jesus. To love is to see and honour people as the very image of God, freeing and coaching them to be true followers of Jesusnot of yourself, of your personality and charisma.

If you don’t lay down your ego, ambition and pursuit of success, you will raise up leaders who serve your ego, ambition, success. Those leaders, in turn, will lead by their own ego, ambition and pursuit of success – you impart who you are, not who you say you are. This is leading by lust, in the spirit of the world. To lust is to see and relate to others as objects of use (even abuse) for your purposes and ego-needs, to achieve your vision and success.  

This is the spirituality of leadership as opposed to the technology of leadership.

Spirituality of Leadership versus Technology of Leadership

The spirituality of leadership is about the formation of love. It is about the “who?” and “why?” questions. Who do we follow? Who leads us? Who forms me as a leader? The truth is: we all lead as we are led in our thinking, believing and behaving, whether we know it or not. We are all formed, for better or worse, by following someone or something. Hopefully, it is godly mentoring of character leadership in our lives. Or who/what leads/mentors you in your life? Tell me to whom or what you consistently give yourself – your attention – and I will tell you the kind of person and leader you are.

Why do we do what we do? Lead the way we lead? Why do we watch this video, read that book, learn from this “leadership expert”, that particular theology? Yes, we make those choices, no one else. Spirituality is about the reasons and motivations of the heart. Who is it all for? Me? For my ego, my success? Or for God’s glory and the genuine empowering good of others? The human heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9). We avoid doing the hard heart work of examining our mission, core values, mixed motives and unthought-through reasons for doing what we routinely do. So we default to leading by other dynamics: do what works, what is popular, copy others, cut & paste… we resort to personality, pragmatism, programs, techniques, gimmicks.  

The last sentence is the technology of leadership. It’s about the “what?” and “how to?”. What is leadership? How must I do it? Just tell me what to do and how to do it. Give me the secret: “The 5 Easy Steps to Leadership Success”, “The 4 Keys to Raise up Leaders”. It is ‘push & pull’ to achieve an outcome. Make it happen! Multiply leaders and grow the church! Get the show on the road!

Technology is ‘pragmatic technique’, the functional use of means to an end in ever more efficient ways. It is ‘outcomes-based’ production to achieve and have the ‘things’ we love: personal/church success, respect/admiration, the best ‘product’, the ‘latest thing’, the good life. We end up loving things and using people to get those things. The way of Jesus is to love people and use things. To love others as God’s image and use things God has created (including technology), to serve and empower people for their own good, for God’s purpose for them, not for our purposes.

The (post)modern mind says we can and will resolve all problems through technological innovation and progress to achieve human utopia. Beware, technology is not neutral. It forms us in its own image to the extent we do not critically engage and use it wisely in loving service of others.

Philosophy of Leadership: Raising up Leaders  

The spirituality of leadership is our character formation in Christ’s love and his Kingdom vision and values – and the leadership that flows from that. It determines not only the who and why, but also the what and how. Who do we identify as leaders and potential leaders? Why do we want to mentor them to their full potential? What do we see God doing in them? What kind and style of leadership are we coaching them into? How do we raise them up into leadership with integrity of character? How do we develop their full potential in Christ’s love and his Kingdom vision and values?

By prayerfully answering these questions before God, with the help of other senior leaders, we develop a Kingdom ‘philosophy of leadership’ to build leaders from the bottom up.    

This brings me back to my opening texts. First Paul’s strategic instruction to Timothy with five levels of leadership development: Paul > Timothy > other witnesses > reliable leaders > qualified to teach others. And then Jesus’ leadership process: gathering disciples, prayerfully recruiting leaders from among them to be with him, training them in the word and ways of the Father, and then deploying them in leadership and ministry.  

To conclude. In drawing all this together I make the following observations, based on 46 years of experience in full-time leadership and ministry, planting and pastoring churches.

We need an ever clearer vision of Jesus and his Kingdoman ‘updated’ correct understanding of Kingdom theology. My pursuit of the historical Jesus and his Kingdom mission makes me fall in love with him ever more deeply, fuelling my passion to follow him ever more closely. This is our “first love” as Vineyard, to which we must return (Revelation 2:4-5). Our first love is The Love that was there at first: God’s Love in Jesus, by which we live, love and lead (1 John 4:19).

We need a clear (Kingdom) philosophy of leadership and ministry. What John Wimber called a five-year plan to build from the bottom up. Few pastors (I mean that) take the time to do the heart work of defining their mission and vision, values and priorities, practices, personnel and programs – then implement and keep to it for integrity with God, themselves and the people. Most pastors, therefore, live from hand to mouth, lead from month to month, even week to week without a visionary plan. They change things as “the Lord told me” and chase after the next best thing, “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14).

The focus, and the means, of the above two points must be discipleship (apprenticeship). Our Great Co-Mission from/with the Risen King is: “go make disciples” in “all his authority” (Matthew 28:18-19). We can only make apprentices of Jesus and his Kingdom – not of ourselves and our kingdom – to the degree we ourselves are disciples who passionately pursue Christlikeness. And, therefore, we can only raise up leaders of character who reach their full potential to the degree we ourselves are leaders of character, growing into our full potential.

How do we make leaders by making disciples of Jesus? By following Jesus’ model mentioned earlier. What Wimber called the ‘Vineyard mantra’ of IRTDM (below). Leaders commonly fail to do IRTDM. It explains the lack of new leaders, the lack of the next generation of credible leaders of character, and therefore, the lack of genuine church growth.

(I have discussed at length IRTDM and how to develop a Kingdom philosophy of ministry in my book Doing Church. Though it seems widely read, it is not widely implemented. A regular mistruth I find among leaders is, “I’ve read this [or that] book”. Well, if they have, then they haven’t understood it, or they haven’t implemented it. Rather read less, slower and repeatedly, and implement more. Read fewer books by truly godly authors and do what they teach).

Identify:  Prayerfully ask Jesus, Head of the Church, to show you who – which potential (younger) leaders – he is giving you to raise up and develop. Note, they are already disciples who hang around and learn, who function and minister with you.

Recruit:  Go and meet with them individually, present the vision of Jesus to them, inviting and calling them into a relational process of formation and development.

Train:  Teach and equip them into leadership by modelling and “on the job” coaching as they practice ministry and leadership in whatever you give them to do. And also, by more formal learning/training times in course work and other programmatic ways.

Deploy:  At the appropriate time, when “reliable and qualified” (as Paul says), they can be released with the laying on of hands into whatever level of responsibility, in leading whatever ministry for which their calling and gifts are suited.

Monitor:  We watch over them, ‘checking in’ regularly to see how they are doing, to keep coaching and further develop them to their full potential. And then we get them to repeat the process with other potential leaders. So, we ‘grow’ leaders who raise up other leaders.

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SOUL CARE – Especially for Leaders

Watch my video presentation based on these notes.

“They made me keeper of the vineyards, BUT my own vineyard I have not kept…
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyard which is trying to bloom”  
(Song of Songs 1:6, 2:15)

WHAT  is “Soul Care”?

A modern term with various meanings, mainly describing personal wellbeing and spiritual formation. We define it in Hebrew ‘wholism’, not Greek ‘compartmentalism’. In the Hebrew Bible, soul (nephesh) means YOU, not only your ‘inner self’ compared to your ‘outer body’ and relationships. Nephesh and ruach (spirit) and levav (heart) can be used interchangeably, meaning both the core AND the whole of who you are. ‘Heart’ is more commonly used (and sometimes ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’) for the seat of the mind, the emotions and the will, from which we live; in other words, one’s spiritual formation (moral character) from which all of life flows (Proverbs 4:23). 

Thus, the Shema Israel says God is One, so we must love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; i.e. with our whole being (Mark 12:29-30). Paul teaches the same wholism – using Greek language and categories – in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: The God of Shalom (wholeness, order, harmony, abundance) sanctify you wholly, in your entire spirit, soul and body. Hence, “soul care” is biblical “self-care”, not in selfishness, in self-serving of our desires and appetites. But in prioritising our ‘shalom’ of healing and growth into wholeness, to love God and neighbour as you love yourself.

As I understand it, biblical godly self-care has three aspects/dimensions that interweave in one journey of life for the glory of God: personal healing, personal growth, spiritual formation.

Healing:  Take responsibility for your unresolved “issues”, wounds, brokenness – to work with them, get help and healing, for your own sake and all those around you.

Growth:  Take responsibility for your personal development in knowledge, in theological training, leadership equipping and life skills.

Spiritual Formation:  Take responsibility for your spirituality – your (trans)formation of moral character to become more Christlike.

The more we prioritize and take time for self-care (in the above sense), the more aware we become of what needs healing and growth and development within us… and therefore, how much we need to become more and more like Jesus. 

WHY  do self-care?

For God’s sake. For your own sake. For the sake of those around you. For the sake of your calling and ministry in God’s Kingdom, among God’s people, for God’s world. If you do well, those around you (tend to) do well. Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:15-16).

Therefore, “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life(Proverbs 4:23).Your highest priority is to guard your heart. The Hebrew “guard” has two meanings. Negatively, to keep and protect your heart (soul/spirit) from what forms you the wrong way. And positively, to cultivate and nurture it in God and his Word, which forms you the right way – in God’s character. The reason is: your “heart” is the source of your life, physically and metaphorically. We all live from our heart, whether we know it or not. We are all formed one way or another, for better or worse. That is the root character that determines and is seen in the fruit of our attitudes, words and behaviour. This is clearly Jesus’ root–fruit and heart–mouth theology that describes, and helps us to discern and identify essentially good or bad persons (Matthew 7:15-20, 12:33-37, 15:17-20).

The wind one brilliant day called to my soul,
With an odour of jasmine – 
And the wind said, in return for the odour of my jasmine
I’d like all the odour of your roses.
But I said I have no roses –
All the flowers of my garden are dead.
And then the wind said,
Well, I’ll take the withered petals
And the yellow leaves.
And the wind left.
And I wept.
And I said to myself,
“What have you done with the garden
that was entrusted to you?”

(Poem by Antonio Machado)

What have YOU done with the garden of your heart that God entrusted to you? 

Rabbis say that the Garden of Eden (‘Delight’ in Hebrew) is an outward picture of the Garden Temple of the human heart, which God gives to each person. God will hold us accountable for what we have done with it. We are responsible to cultivate God’s garden of our heart. To plant and grow… and yes, to pull up the weeds… as a sacred place of God’s delight. Where God not only meets and walks with us, but actually dwells. And takes pleasure in all its brilliant colours, evocative fragrances, rich textures and soft sounds – the beauty of who we are in his image and likeness.

HOW  do we self-care?

The most important answer I have learnt from my life experience with Jesus, in leadership and ministry, is this: Arrange your life, your months, weeks and days, to live in the unforced rhythms of grace in the easy yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30). How do you do this? 

Jesus’s easy yoke is to take on and live in his life practices. Then you learn to live in/from rest, not from urgency, demand, deadline, ambition, pressure to perform, to succeed. Live the unhurried life by arranging your life – and keep rearranging it whenever intrusions overwhelm – to live in the rhythm of regular withdrawal and engagement. This is the easy yoke of Jesus, seen in his self-care with Father. This conditions us to live in and from God’s rest (Shalom) as Jesus did. He constantly engaged with people and ministry and then withdrew, then re-engaged, and withdrew. At times he even withdrew from doing ministry and healing: “crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16). 

Consider this poem (unknown author):

If you fill your calendar with important appointments
You will have no time for God.
If you fill your spare time with essential reading
You will starve your soul.
If you fill your mind with worry about budgets and offerings
The pains in your chest and ache in your shoulders will betray you.
If you try to conform to the expectations of those around you
You will forever be their slave.
Work a modest day
Then step back and rest.
This will keep you close to God
And well in your soul.

The daily planner reveals volumes about the leader’s character formation, about your spiritual condition, values, priorities, fears, ambitions. It tells you who your bosses are, who your lover is, and how much value and care you place on your soul. Take a long prayerful look at your (daily) calendar. Who are you trying to impress? God? The church? Other leaders? Yourself? As C.S. Lewis observed, if you are overly busy, you are actually lazy! Because you allow others to determine and demand your time, rather than doing your own planned appointments as per your values and priorities. 

Plan and take time for God and yourself, for family and friends, for rest and meditation, for walks to enjoy God’s creation. Then you will be more sensitive to God’s presence and ways, and you will be healthy in your soul. There is much to say about the “how to” of good self-care, but let me simply highlight these five, as part of the unforced rhythms of grace:

Daily devotions:  a planned intentional daily time to be alone with God, in prayer and scripture mediation, listening to God in the silence of your heart (Matthew 6:6, Psalm 1:2-3).

Making margins in your day:  plan gaps between appointments to check where you are at, to refocus on God, to pace yourself… to be present to each moment as a sacrament of grace.

Keeping Sabbath rest:  not in the legalistic Orthodox Jewish way, but taking a day off for yourself and God, for family and friends, for rest and recreation.

Periodic retreats:  planning a whole morning, or a day, once a month, to be out in nature or at a Retreat Centre, alone in solitude with God. And plan to go on a led retreat for a weekend or longer, once or twice a year. Formal led retreats are truly enriching.

Spiritual companionship and guidance:  I recommend two kinds of regular meetings, at least once a month, for accountability and healthy self-care. First, a spiritual companion for mutual disclosure, care and prayer. Second, an older spiritual guide/director, one who is wise in the ways of God and the human soul, for discernment and guidance in your self-care.

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Call of Pastoral Vocation & Spiritual Leadership

Today (1 April 2016) I was supposed to be in Cape Town addressing the Vineyard pastors and leaders of the Western Cape, South Africa. I injured my back on Wednesday and had to cancel my trip. But I had written my teaching earlier in the week, so I thought I should upload and share it. For all who read this, especially pastors and spiritual leaders, what do you think of the following?

What is the essential call (vocation) and work (leadership) of the local church pastor?

It’s a vast subject, but scripture teaches that pastoral leadership is a life-calling and gift-ministry from the Ascended Christ (Eph 4:7-11, the ‘pastoring-teacher’). In the OT the king and leaders were (supposed to be) the servant of YHWH as the shepherd of Israel. Jesus fulfilled that calling as The Good Shepherd of God’s flock, YHWH’s Suffering Servant. This Chief Shepherd and Ultimate Servant is the model to be emulated by his ‘under shepherd-servants’. He’s also the means, by his Spirit, by which we fulfil this vocation to which we are called – continuing HIS vocation by HIS Spirit. And yes, this means suffering and rejection… true pastors enter into and exercise the love of God in Christ, by the Spirit, suffering people’s sin and brokenness. There is nothing like pastoral leadership to bring out one’s insecurities, our deepest unresolved ‘stuff’! So, to be a pastor, a spiritual leader, is not something you do, it’s who you are and are becoming. It’s not a role or job per se, it’s a way of life – Jesus’ way!

The nature of this “perplexing profession” (Eugene Peterson) has been analysed and explained in various ways.[1] Over the years, through theology (study) and praxis (my personal experience), I have come to my own summary of the pastoral vocation: The sevenfold nature or key responsibilities of pastor-leaders. I assume the definition of pastor as the leader of a faith community, whether it’s 15 people in a house church, or a congregation of 80, or of a large church with multiple staff, where the team of pastors each specialise in one or more of the responsibilities below. However, the lead-pastor in whatever size church is overall responsible to see that these seven key roles are faithfully fulfilled. There is a progressive order – they build on each other. And like any good preacher, I’ve used alliteration hoping it might just stick in our brains!

  1. Prayer: To be a person of The Presence, bringing God’s presence to people and bringing them into God’s presence. If you are first a full-on follower (disciple… a disciplined learner) of Jesus for yourself, then those around you will naturally be led and pastored into following Jesus. Prayer is your primary spiritual formation, the fuel that fires – and keeps fanning into flame – your passion and love for God and his people. On a recent visit to Mexico Pope Francis said to the bishops and priests, “Pastors are not God’s employees to dispense and administrate the Divine. Our identity is prayer: we work with God – pray living and live praying.” It’s what Jesus said, in effect, regarding his life principle: “Though I am the Son of God I do nothing on my own initiative; I only do what I see the Father doing, I only speak what I hear the Father saying” (John 5:17-21). Prayer is co-working with God in what he’s doing, leading his people in true worship and community, ministry and mission. This is (your) spiritual formation. It is the foundational cornerstone of the vocation of the pastor and leader, on which all that follows is built.
  2. Purity: To grow in purity before God. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matt 5:8). The heart is the essence – the core and the whole – of who we are, out of which all of life flows (Prov 4:23). Danish theologian-philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” Our divided and disparate, fragmented and over-stimulated focus on many demands, is the impurity of idolatry. David prayed, “give me an undivided heart to fear your name” (Ps 86:11). Life, leadership and ministry, depends on our cultivation of integrity of being, purity of heart, integration of focus – the simplicity of the unhurried life doing the “one thing (that) is needed” (Luke 10:42). The one thing is moral character, formed by gazing on God’s beauty (Ps 27:4) in the face of Jesus Christ, as Mary did. Then we see God ever more clearly each day, in all things, in every person, circumstance, happening – learning to work with him in the sacrament of the present moment. This is what makes us pastors and leaders. We require this purity of heart because God entrusts us with HIS Word, Purposes, People, and World. Whether we know it or not, we all live, lead and pastor, in real terms from “the weight of glory” (C.S. Lewis) on/in us, or lack thereof. To the degree we lack in Christ’s glory – his pure character – we depend on other idolatrous dynamics and resources to live, lead and pastor.
  3. Preaching: To proclaim God’s Word to his people and world is a most awesome privilege and responsibility.[2] We are called to faithfully study, teach and proclaim the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) without fear or favour, forming God’s people “under the authority of The Word” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer), teaching them how “to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20; Wimber’s “the meat is in the street”). The Apostles stated their priorities: “We will give ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). Don’t ever underestimate the privilege, priority and power of preaching God’s Word as a pastor and leader.
  4. Purpose: To lead God’s people into their inheritance: God’s Kingdom purposes. I.e. to give a clear vision of the Kingdom, keeping it before the people, with the spiritual direction needed to achieve it. We are called to lead by example, by vision and proclamation, by discipling and implementation. Pastors must lead the church into God’s purposes – break new ground – or it will meander in maintenance mode.
  5. Pastoring: To care for God’s We are called to love, to be tender, merciful, compassionate, as Jesus was. Prayer & purity will keep us from burnout, from becoming cynical with people and their pain. Pastors gather, heal and grow God’s people to wholeness, by patient and persistent love in the discipline and governance of the Lord. Shepherds naturally smell of sheep, they get involved in people’s pain.
  6. Personnel: To train God’s people in their callings and gifts. Proclaiming God’s purpose gathers people to be cared for, AND to be equipped to do ministry and mission (Eph 4:12). Pastors grow and equip people, forming teams and leaders, by the Vineyard mantra: “IRTDM” – identify, recruit, train, deploy, and monitor.
  7. Program: To organise God’s people into a cohesive community of worship and witness, creating programs and structures of ministry (in the church) and mission (in the broader community, and to the nations). Minimal organising and administrating ability is required for a pastor-leader to be effective – it’s a discipline of character! 

We lead by being led – in these seven dimensions – by the Spirit, in the sacrament of the present moment. So, be teachable, accountable, honest, humble, hungry for God…

[1] The classic by Seward Hiltner, Preface to Pastoral Theology (Abingdon, 1958). Also Henri Nouwen, Creative Ministry (1978) and The Living Reminder (1982). See Eugene Peterson’s four books on pastoral ministry, all by Eerdmans, Working the Angles (1987), Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work (1992), Under the Unpredictable Plant (1992), and The Contemplative Pastor (1993).  

[2] See the chapter, “Pastors as Teachers of the Nations”, in Dallas Willard’s Knowing Christ Today.