Jesus liked A.P.E.s

Recently I noticed first hand a leadership reality which Alan Hirsch, an Australian Missiologist, teaches. “At the beginning of a religious organizations life the Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists are large and in charge and by the time the organization matures and plateaus the Pastors and Teachers have taken over the management positions. The ‘APE’s’ have either moved on or have been ostracized.”

I had the privilege of meeting with the National Executive of a 15 year old Christian non-denominational organization in Burma two weeks ago. It was a room full of passionate, fervent, God fearing, fearless, tireless, and generous to a fault men and women. The majority were self-proclaimed Evangelists with a couple of Pastors thrown in for some balance.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this room of large yet healthy egos would not be tolerated in the North American church circles where I typically move as a leader. At best these Evangelists would be gently ignored and at worst be treated with disdain and derision.

They taught me a valuable lesson. If I as a leader want to see new things begin or old ways truly renewed then I have to be able to identify the “APE’s” in the crowd, disciple them and then let them loose on the world.

This is what Jesus managed to do. Peter, ‘the Rock’; James and John, ‘Sons of Thunder’; Judas; were not gentle shrinking violets. I realize anew that Jesus chose leaders with large personalities who after three years of being discipled were going to be instrumental in starting a new thing; a large sustainable, life giving God thing.

It is an example worth following today. – BB

I Don’t Want To

My boss said, “Yes, I think you should go to preach in Burma.” Sounds cool, right? There’s just one little hitch. I don’t really want to go and I don’t have to go.  

I’m not much of a globe trotter, never have been. Even as a young adult when given the opportunity to head across international borders in the development work of the church the farthest I chose to go was the east coast of my home land, St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. My brothers went to Brazil and France.

Leaders get to do things that they don’t always want to do. Yes we’re aware of those things in our work that aren’t any fun to do but there are also times when we don’t want to do what others see as the fun stuff. We have our reasons and people around us may not understand, “You’d rather officiate at a funeral than a wedding? Really?” “Seriously, you aren’t looking forward to seeing a fascinating part of God’s creation?” Yes, seriously. 

I’m going to a strange exotic land not because I want to or have to go but because I need to go. One of my disciples needs me to be in his homeland. It is what he needs from me so that his credibility and ministry can grow. It is for this relationship that I’ll sit on a plane for 15 hours straight, eat questionable ‘delicacies’, suffer jet lag for too many days and dance with Montezuma’s revenge. Leaders know when they need to say “Yes” to an invitation to lead even when they don’t want to. – BB

Leaders Define Reality

“…although you intended me harm, God intended it for good, so as to bring about the present result…”

~ Genesis 50.20

Leadership does not always have a happy ending.  Sometimes, the price of leadership is that our brothers leave us for dead or sell us out, just as Joseph’s brothers did.  No matter how hard we try to make sense of it, the stink of betrayal hovers around our soul, and sticks around for a long time.  Simply put, there are times and occasions when being a leader will result in taking a hit.  Our instinct is hold back in those moments – to soften the blows and do whatever is expedient to lessen the impact of our leadership.  In those moments, self-doubt can reign and our leadership wavers.

Joseph’s story has often been read to us as the story of an arrogant young man who got his come-uppance, then when he hit bottom learned to “turn it over to God” and receive his just rewards.  However, maybe another way to read the story is of a young leader who told the truth and let that truth take him on a journey.  Not always an easy journey and certainly not a pain-free journey, but Joseph’s life is testimony to a leader who tells the truth. 

Max Dupree once defined leadership as “the ability to define reality”.  Defining reality is telling the truth.  It isn’t easy, nor is it for the faint of heart.  At some point in your life and ministry, defining reality will cost you – guaranteed.  Nevertheless, it is in defining reality, in telling the truth, that God does good and ushers in a new result.  Don’t hold back.  Go ahead and define reality.  Tell the truth.  God will do good. – JW

Burning to Call Out Leaders

“God loves you…and Jeff has a wonderful plan for your life!”   

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that leaders must assist others into leadership roles and into God’s missional purpose.  Of course, the struggle is in trying to make sure that the invitation I’m extending to others is just that – an invitation, not an expectation. 

This is not an exact science.  There have been plenty of “oops!” moments over the years.  As I’ve invited others to lead I’ve been burned on occasion and I’ve accidently burned others. We all know being burned is painful. Nevertheless, I won’t quit. I can’t stop seeing the possibilities that emerge when someone yields their leadership potential to the transforming power of God.

I’m reminded of Moses, once a powerful member of Pharaoh’s household, now reduced to tending sheep for his father-in-law.  Moses is getting on in years and while he has married well and raised a family, his dreams have been unfulfilled.  Then, out of nowhere, God in the burning bush asks Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It is the act of letting go of those last vestiges of Moses’ self identity which allows Moses to become what God called him to be; a leader in Israel’s redemption.

God still has a mission – the redemption of everyone and everything.  God is still calling people to lead the effort for the redemption of everyone and everything.  Perhaps the voice doesn’t come from the burning bush but the voice is still very much there. Or maybe God needs us to be the burning bush calling a modern day Moses to lead. – Jeff