Listen: The most important skill you can develop is the ability to listen.
Bonhoeffer says in his book on Christian Community called “Life Together”
So often Christians, especially preachers, think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Life Together
Learn to listen: One of the most difficult lesson to learn as a young leader is knowing when to speak and when to be quite. Listening is a skill that must be learned if you are to be effective as a leader and if you are to reflect the heart of God. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of giving people answers to their problems or what we perceive their problems to be. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to say that you are sorry and that you will pray for them or to say that you don’t have the answer but you know someone who does. Pat answers can produce a shallow simple faith that when tested will always bend and will often break.
One of the reasons I started blogging years ago was to try to be to someone else what I wish someone was to me. There are so many things that I had to learn the hard way. When I started leading in kidmin there weren’t blogs, twitter, or even that many conferences. I learned many things the hard way but not everything because I was fortunate to be hired by one of the best leaders I know. He doesn’t have a blog but he has a legacy that is far-reaching I have learned much from his leadership. I also have also been blessed to work alongside some of the best leaders I have ever met. I love the team I am a part of and much of what I know and who I am is because of their voices and their influence on me.
That being said I want to start a series of posts that address some of the things that apply to all leaders but especially young leaders. The rise of the internet and social media has been an amazing thing but it has its downside as well. I want to do a few posts where I break down some of the traps that young leaders fall into that derail them from being what God wants for them to be and from doing what He wants them to do.
Before I dive into these topics I would like to offer this disclaimer. I am not perfect and have MUCH to learn as a leader. I do however feel that if I can help others avoid the mistakes I and others have made it’s worth my time because it builds the kingdom. So for the next few days, I want to cover the following topics.
1. Listen: The most important skill you can develop is the ability to listen.
2. Experience: Lack of experience is actually a good thing.
3. Ego: The Church does not need brilliant personalities
4. Influence: The worst thing that could happen to you is gaining a platform
5. Gospel: What you believe about Jesus and His Church will decide who you become
We live in a culture that no longer sees its sinfulness but is saturated by relativism and tolerance. It wasn’t that long ago that you would attend a sporting event, and someone had a John 3:16 sign they would hold up for the camera. It wasn’t long ago that nearly every child in America knew one verse by heart, John 3:16. Matthew 7:1 has replaced John 3:16 in our nation’s life and practice, particularly in personal and social media conversations. Judgment is out tolerance and love are in.
If “Judge not lest ye be judged” was an issue in the 20th century than it has become a monster in the 21st century.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains “there are many who say that ‘judge not’ must be taken simply and literally as it is, and as meaning that the truly Christian man should never express an opinion about others. They must do no judging whatsoever, that we must be easy, indulgent and tolerant, and allow almost anything for peace and quiet and especially unity …they say, what is needed today is unity and fellowship.”
What Christ is proclaiming in his sermon is not the absence of conviction for the sake of unity.
Teaching kids to say they are sorry is important but it’s only a start. When kids are small they should learn to say sorry. As kids get older we must teach our kids that sorry is good when it leads to repentance. We live in a world that only knows how to say sorry but doesn’t even attempt to turn from the actions that created the need for the apology in the first place. We address the feelings of others “I’m sorry if I made you feel…” we most often fail to mention the very real gap our actions created. The problem with saying sorry is sorry can be used to gloss over sin. Repentance digs deeper to the root of sin.
I know of a very well-known minister who heads a denomination of churches who many years ago wronged another denomination in a very significant way. The breach came through core beliefs of the church. The well know minister recently said he was sorry to the other denomination without address the gap they had created and still perpetuates through false beliefs that are core to the church. He said sorry when he should have repented.
I don’t want my kids to be sorry saying appeasers, I want them to repent and ask for forgiveness for the gaps they create. Saying sorry is for the other person, to help them feel better, repentance is different it does a work in you. This is how I teach my kids to apologize I tell them to say “Mr./Mrs. ________ I am sorry for ___________ (specifically name what you did) I was wrong. Please forgive me. I won’t do it again. Apologizing in this way addresses what how you affected the other person asks them to forgive you as you were in the wrong and invites God into the process because what you mean by I won’t do it again is by grace and with his help, I won’t do it again.
For the Fourth of July, I thought it fitting to revisit the final words of the greatest leader our Republic has ever seen. In the current political climate, we find ourselves in his words are particularly instructive. Here are a few things I found from George Washington’s farewell speech that if we apply we will be better citizens our great union.
1. George Washington was a man of great humility and honor.
In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it…..
2. Washington saw that public union was far more important that party affiliation. We must be more concerned with not alienating any portion of our society. It’s ok to dislike Trump or Clinton but when you think of the other as your enemy our nation is weakened.