THE LEADERSHIP JOURNEY –
Part 2 Finishing Well
In recent months there have been a series of shock announcements in the Christian press – many of which have become news items in the secular press – about Christian leaders who have fallen. High profile, with years of faithful, anointed service, and yet ending in disappointment, damaging themselves and the Body of Christ in the process.
Why is it that so many pastors and leaders have not managed to practice what they have preached?
What do we need to build into our lives to ensure that we finish well? Most of us start off with great intentions, but remember,
“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.”
In the October edition of Leadership News, we looked at the ‘shadow side’ of leadership and how we can slip into flirting with sin, without realising how easy it is for sin to suck us in.
In that edition, we looked at the three most prevalent aspects of the ‘shadow life’. In this edition we shall look at three positive safety measures all leaders need to have in place to ensure that we reach the end of the race well.
“ No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.”
‘There’s a crisis of accountability in organizations today, a crisis of epidemic proportions,’
(Roger Connors, cofounder and former CEO of Partners In Leadership).
And yet, many people misunderstand accountability. They see it as gathering people around them who will see things their way and support and affirm them when the going gets tough.
What is accountability? It is a check and balance system to protect us from harm from ourselves and others. We do this by being open to what we are thinking and doing so we can receive encouragement and reproof, when needed. Leaders that fall have generally stepped away from genuine accountability and are operating in an environment where no one is able to hold them to account. We need to encourage a system of people who have earned the right through track record and maturity in the faith to ask the challenging and difficult questions of leaders.
Are you clear to whom you are
accountable? Are you accountable to more than
one person and if so, how is the overall
accountability spread? Are you clear what the
boundaries and expectation are regarding that
In November’s edition of Leadership News, we looked at the Leadership Journey -the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what if?’. Most leaders who fail do so because they do not manage this journey well. Two of the biggest traps along the journey are: being seduced by praise and being derailed by criticism. Neither are permanent and neither are a reliable guide as to how you are doing as a leader. Don’t be seduced by praise and don’t be derailed by criticism.
Moses, for example led the people through the Red Sea, at which point there was great celebration and wholehearted praise. Three days later, with water running low, they arrived at Mara expecting to find water, but they found it was too bitter to drink. Exodus 15:24 records that “Then the people complained and turned against Moses.” It took just three days for praise to turn to criticism – for us in our ministry, it can take a matter of minutes.
Leader – stay realistic. Moses remained the same person despite the pendulum swing from praise to criticism. God is God and you are not!
How much are your leadership
decisions affected by and shaped by the
mood of the people that you are leading?
Do you tend to put off making tough
leadership decisions because you fear that
people will be upset, be angry, speak
negatively about you?
How much of a reality is the following
statement from St Paul in your life?
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by
any human court; indeed, I do not even
judge myself. My conscience is clear, but
that does not make me innocent. It is the
Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Over the years, leaders experience positive times and even spectacular times, but they also encounter setbacks, disappointments and are regularly wounded. This can easily cause the early positive attitude of the leader to be replaced with caution, cynicism and weariness. For a leader to finish well, they have to come to recognise the signs of their heart becoming jaded and their optimism becoming swamped by a rising tide of cynicism and pessimism.
As with all journeys, there needs to be ‘comfort breaks’ along the way – not opportunities to visit the ‘shadow side’ of secret sin, but opportunities to refresh the soul. Here is one example of the need for this: The former televangelist, Jim Bakker, in his autobiography ‘I Was Wrong’, tells the story of his descent into ignominy, impoverishment and imprisonment. He lost his freedom, his sanity, his dignity, his confidence in his faith, and eventually even his wife. Inmate 07407-058, one-time confidant to presidents, had hit rock bottom.
At his very lowest point, a prison official came to him and said, ‘Billy Graham is here to see you!’ He thought, ‘Billy Graham has come here … to this place … to see me.’ When he walked into the room Billy Graham turned towards him and opened his arms wide. He said at that moment he felt total acceptance and love. ‘I will never forget that the man who had just been voted one of the most influential men in the world and who has ministered to millions of people took time out of his busy schedule to come minister to one prisoner.’ He describes how in the midst of his depression, flu, filth and hopelessness, Billy Graham’s visit refreshed his heart and boosted his spirit. ‘I felt as though Jesus Himself had come to visit me.’ (Jim Bakker, I Was Wrong, (Thomas Nelson, 2010) pp.282–284.)
God sometimes refreshes us by engineering encouraging meetings like this. He also provides encouragement in His Word:
“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times …
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word”
He also invites us to spend times of refreshing in His presence:
“Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord”
All these are ways of staying optimistic in ministry that a leader absolutely needs to embrace.
God’s people, God’s Word, God’s presence
– which of these has God used in the past
to restore optimism to your soul? Perhaps it
is all three, and perhaps there are other
Godly means, but the wise leader is able to
recognise how it is that “He restores my
soul” (Psalm 23:3). How does He restore
your soul? Do you prioritise that
Latest Leadership resource
The Exodus – the epic 40-year journey that took the Hebrews from being slaves in Egypt to entry into their own land as free people with a glorious future awaiting them.
The Exodus – more than just a journey, this was a transformational experience that would forever define the identity of that nation. Why did it take then 40 long years and what were the lessons they learned along the way? This was the journey that not only took the people out of slavery, but more importantly, took slavery out of the people. What are the lessons they learned along the way and how does God take us on a similar journey today, as He transforms us from being slaves to sin, to being ready to enter the ‘Promised Land’ of Heaven?
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