Out of the Drift

Perhaps you, like me remember a time at the beach on an inflatable raft where, thanks to the warmth of the sun and gentle rocking of the waves, you found yourself in a pleasant state of relaxation. Through the early years of slow but steady decline churches will drift farther from their sense of vision and purpose. It is not an intentional drift. It is much like a vacationer on an inflatable raft floating at the ocean’s beach who allows the warmth of the sun and the gentle rocking of the waves to lull him to a state somewhere between awareness and sleep. It doesn’t take long until the ocean’s current has pulled the vacationer several hundred yards from his starting point. He awakens to unfamiliar surroundings. In some cases the vacationer has been pulled out to sea without knowing and must be rescued.

In the church it is not an intentional drift, but somewhere along the way we have let the warmth of ministry and the gentle rocking of weekly gatherings with friends lull us into that state of being somewhere between spiritual awareness and sleep. For some, perhaps we have been lulled to a deep sleep.

An observation in several churches has been that in following the achievement of the initial vision or after several years of prosperous ministry in an established, a church a couple of things happen. One of the greatest detriments is the leadership not recasting the vision. Leaders should keep the vision in front of the people of their ministry or organization. Find a variety of ways to keep the vision in front of everyone who is part of the organization, including those you may not see very frequently. Not only keeping the vision in front of everyone, but keeping it fresh, finding new ways to share the vision, ways that always compel people to get out of their seats and join in the vision achievement. Keep the vision in front of the people at all times and continue to recast the vision with excitement and in ways that create excitement in the constituents of your organization (church).

Another factor is celebrating the victories. We should celebrate all the victories, large and small. Let the people know what God has accomplished through their efforts and giving. Celebrate from the pulpit and in the smallest of group settings. Celebrate through verbal communication and in print. Celebrate on your website, and through social media. Celebrate every small victory in as many venues as you can.

Don’t get drifting, lulled into a state of satisfaction and relaxation brought on by the warmth of friendships in the church and the gentle rocking of the waves of ministry. Chapter ten of Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church has been said to be one of the best pieces written on vision & the church. Why not pick up a copy and read it. See what God will do in your church or your ministry organization.

“That (pastor’s personal vision retreat) was the best thing I have done in all my years of ministry.” Don Mulkey, Pastor, Colonial Woods Baptist Church, GA

To find out more about planning and casting effective vision for your church contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Portions of this article are from Reaching the Summit:Avoiding & Reversing Decline in the Church, chapter One, Loss of Vision.

Pulling Out of Mediocrity

One idea that has been reiterated in my life is that good is the enemy of great. While I had heard this years before and understood it, it really became clear to me reading Jim Collins book, Good to Great. Good is the enemy of great. Every time we settle for being good or doing good, we eradicate the desire to strive for greatness. Good leads to mediocrity. Mediocrity is settling for good and giving up on being better. God did not create us to settle for good, but to strive for greatness. The only person we please when we settle for good is Satan, our adversary. Because he knows as long as we settle for good we will never strive for the greatness God created us for and that which He desires for each one.

I do not know of anyone who has ever set out to become mediocre and went beyond to reach success or greatness. Mediocrity sets in when life’s whirlwind of everyday pressures begin to weigh on us and we decide to take the easy route. Moving on, striving for the best, can bring unwanted stress, hardships, difficulty, and will cause us to get out of our comfort zone. This last one alone ‘our comfort zone’ is perhaps the most powerful force pulling against you and me in striving for the best – great instead of good. For some reason people today often choose to remain in the muck and mire of mediocrity rather than pull themselves out for something better.

When the question comes up, “How are you doing?” in conversations with others how often do we hear (or perhaps we say) “I’m okay.” “I’m doing good.” Or when asked how our church is doing,  the reply is, “We’re hanging in there.” “We’re doing about the same as last year – the last ten years.” These are all replies of surrender. We have surrendered to mediocrity. We are settling for good. We have abandoned our will to strive for the greatness for which we were created.

Satisfaction in life always comes from striving for something better. Be it at home, in my personal life, in ministry, or in the business world. Life is short. Will you commit right now to no longer settle for good. Instead always, each day in every circumstance, strive for the greatness for which you were created. And help others to do the same. The rewards are out of this world.

What can you do to begin this journey?

  1. Determine that you want to commit to choosing greatness or settling for good in every aspect of life.
  2. Memorize the statement, “Good is the enemy of Great.”
  3. Repeat that statement to yourself each time you have the opportunity to make a decision. Does this decision help me to strive for the greatest outcome or am I settling for good.

These three simple steps can lead you from a life of mediocrity to a life of greatness for which you were created. They are simple, but they may not always be easy. If so you would have settled on it long ago. This is why the commitment must come first. From this day forward do not settle. Strive!

For more on this topic contact George Yates and visit soncare.net

Living Out Your Values

Do you realize that every action you take, every word you speak, and every thought you process is based on something you deeply believe? It is true. I believe you can take this even to every morsel of food you put in your mouth to eat. If you do not eat sushi, it is generally because you do not believe it is healthy for you.  You may say you do not like the taste or texture, but deep down there is an underlying belief that it cannot be healthy for you. This belief causes you to consider that you will become sick after eating sushi. Therefore, you will not afford the health risk.

Not only with food, but how and where you spend your time, what you read, watch on TV, and how you use your computer, cell phone, how you interact with friends and other people. Every act and thought you entertain from the time you awaken each morning to the time you fall asleep at night is based on one of your deeply held beliefs.

While this is true and everyone has a distinct set,  most people never take the time to sit down and attempt to discover their deepest inner beliefs, otherwise known as core values.

In a study course I penned twenty years ago I wrote of Benjamin Franklin’s self-constitution (as he called it). Franklin was under the belief that he could improve his quality of life and better fulfill his life purpose if he understood and practiced improving the virtues of his inner beliefs. He listed 12 and took them to a trusted Quaker friend. His friend reviewed the list and suggested Franklin add one more, humility. His friend was not suggesting Franklin had humility, but to achieve his goal Franklin needed to work on this virtue as well. Franklin agreed and added humility to his list.

Franklin spent the rest of life taking one of the thirteen virtues of his belief system and working on developing just one each week. Thus he was further developing each one four times a year, every year. Someone ask Franklin when he was seventy-two years of age, “Has it worked? Have you improved in these areas.” To which Franklin replied, “Yes, I have. I believe I have improved in every area – except one,” he added. Which one had Franklin not developed? Humility. You see it was never part of his inner belief system. Something in his core belief system did not recognize humility as a valued trait. Therefore, he was never able to grasp or develop it.

Do you know your core values? What are you doing to improve the virtues of your beliefs? How are you manifesting through your words and actions the beliefs you hold deeply? In The Transparent Leader, Dick Capen writes, “Living out our faith can be enriched, in my opinion, by using three principles…The principles of helping others, using our abilities, setting an example, and living our values were important parts of our diplomatic service…”

Capen’s three principles were manifested through his actions, words, and deeds. He is speaking of living out his values and his core beliefs (values) were demonstrated (manifested) through his deeds, actions, and speech. Yours are too. The question is have you taken time to examine the beliefs you are demonstrating and what is being manifested through your words and actions? Doing a little self-study like this often times reveals some insights in flawed thinking of how we actually appear to others. As a leader it is especially important to examine our core values and what is being manifested through our interaction with others.

Why not undertake a core values examination of your beliefs and perhaps an exercise like the one Ben Franklin chose. Nothing good is ever lost when you work to improve your interaction with others and strengthen your beliefs.

For more information on topic contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R..E. Ministries.

Don’t Copy Models, Capture Principles

When we hear of something that is working at another church it seems our instinct is to try to copy the model and try to bring that event to our church. The thought is that it worked for them, it will work for us as well. However, we should always consider, a copy almost never is as good as the original whether it is a photocopy of a magazine article, an art print, a clay sculpture, or any other work. The same is true with events or ministries at churches. Churches copying models is often detrimental to the health and life of a church, draining energy and resources, sending declining churches further into their downward spiral.

Instead of copying models leaders should focus their attention on the principles behind the success of another ministry organization. Most often it is the discipline to stay focused on biblical principles that drives the success of any venture. A church in Hawaii whose pastor wears flip flops and floral print shirts in January may experience growth. However, for a pastor in New York city to try this in January would be closer to insanity. It is not the model but adherence to the principles that grows churches. Yet, each year many churches want to copy a model they’ve read about or heard of another church having success with.

At one church where I served on staff we implemented a ministry we called Discovery Dinner. The Discovery Dinners were designed to introduce newcomers to the church (people) and the ministry of the gospel  being carried out by the church (people). Our first Discovery Dinner had 14 unchurched guests in attendance along with about 20 church members and staff(we kept the invited number of participants small intentionally). From that one dinner our church recognized at least 28 new members. That is a phenomenal 200% response. What other evangelistic event have you seen or heard of with a 200% positive response rate?

I do not have room here to write the details of the event, There was a lot more to it than putting on a dinner and calling it a Discovery Dinner. Here is my reason for writing about the Discovery Dinner. Following about two years of successful Discovery Dinners (4 per year), I sensed it was time to shut them down, at least for a time. People, including other staff, thought I was crazy. But soon they realized the time was right.

I have served on staff at two other churches and continue to work with churches as transitional pastor and coach/consultant. While the Discovery Dinners were a very successful ministry at this one church, I never attempted to implement them in another church. I have, however, used the same principles in other ministry efforts – efforts that suited the membership of the church and the community we were reaching. Discovery Dinners were very successful at this one church because it matched the gifts and talents of the members while meeting a need in the community. The principles have continued to work in other churches using other ministry efforts.

Principles are timeless and cross over through culture, ethnic, and geographic environments. Think of gravity as a principle. No matter where you are on the earth, the principle of gravity is in force. You cannot sidestep it. Focusing on and adhering to biblical principles are the driving force behind success in the church. Focus your energy on determining the biblical principles of successful ministries. Then bring those (principles not models) into the context of your particular ministry setting.

For more information on this topic contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Treat the Cause

In conferences I sometimes share a personal story of my wife’s journey with chronic back pain. The story reveals a true miracle of God. But the reason I share it is to relate it to a fallacy in leadership in the church, businesses, and other organizations.

My wife, Pam, suffered from chronic back pain for several years. At one point it became severe and was interrupting her life, health, and well-being. For two years we drove the sixty mile round trip to see her doctor at the pain clinic. It was during this time I realized why a Health Maintenance Organization actually exists. The doctors kept telling Pam they were trying to help her manage the pain. To this she replied, “I do not want to manage the pain. I want to get rid of it.” The doctors tried different types of therapy and pain management techniques in the first few months to no avail. Afterward they began giving Pam injections of different medications.

Every four to six weeks Pam received another injection, different from the last. Epidurals, blocks, everything was a mask, not a potential healer. The injections were attempts to mask the pain, to keep Pam from feeling the pain. One danger that I feared was that Pam could easily cause more damage to her back without knowing it, from the few injections that actually did “mask” the pain.

When I asked the doctor why they were only treating the symptoms and not trying to treat the cause or correct the damage, his reply to me was, “That’s not what we do here. We help you manage the pain.” Perhaps this is why they call it health maintenance organization instead of healing or curing.

We began researching with a friend who had similar back problems ten years earlier and corrective surgery in India. He and Pam located a back surgeon who had changed his technique a few years back. He was performing the same type surgery our friend had in India. Only this doctor was less than two hours from our house.

Pam had four bulging and herniated discs in her lower back. The surgery was to be completed in two parts. Two discs would be repaired on Tuesday and the remaining two on Thursday. On Wednesday (two discs completed, two to go) for the first time in two years I saw my wife with no pain on her face. The other two discs were completed the following day. Not only was it successful, the surgery was done as outpatient surgery both days. There was no incision, only four small puncture marks. All four discs were repaired. My wife has not had one minute of pain or other back issue since the surgery in April 2006. She was cured, completely healed. How? This surgeon treated the cause, not the symptoms.

I share this story because leadership and church life often become much like the first set of Doctors treating Pam’s health issues with her back. We look for symptoms and think we can “fix” the problem by addressing the symptoms. Oftentimes, like the doctors all we are doing is hiding the pain. Our attendance is down. We realize the church is in decline. So we try the latest gimmick and a new event because we heard of another church that tried it and it worked for them. Surely this is the injection we’re looking for. Our emphasis becomes more on events and gimmicks to try and get people in the door. The fact that our attendance is dropping is a symptom. We need to be asking why our attendance is down.

The cause of my wife’s back issues was in her back. It was not in the drugs or gimmicks they were injecting. These could never bring about the cure. In our churches the cause for our issues (be it decline or something else) is likely within the church itself. We need to look for the cause. I realize this can be painful, but without addressing the cause we will never reach a cure.

The surgeon who performed Pam’s surgeries was not within the purview of our insurance, so we paid for it out of pocket. Surgeries are not cheap, but this was the best money we ever spent. In scripture we are counseled to count the cost. In the church unfortunately we sometimes count the wrong things as cost. There is no way I would have let my wife, my bride, continue to suffer simply because I did not want to spend the money. I was going to pay the cost to get to the cure. Oh, that we would be so diligent with the health of the bride of Christ.

Portions of this post are from Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church, pages 46-47.

For more on this topic contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Some Assembly Required

This weekend my wife and I spent Friday & Saturday doing something we enjoy doing together. We rode through part of Kentucky in search of bargains along Highway 127. People set up in their yards, local parking lots, fairgrounds, and anywhere there is open space to sell items to others traveling, looking for those bargains. The Highway 127 Yard Sale runs from Addison, Michigan to Gadsen, Alabama, and proclaimed to be “The World’s Longest Yard Sale.”

While you can find just about anything imaginable for sale, my wife and I do not buy anything that will sit around the house not being used. In other words we look for and purchase items we can justify that we will use. I enjoy looking at a lot of things, cast iron cookware, garden implements, tools, old signs, antique furniture, and more. But if it is not something I will use, and it is not a real bargain price, I do not buy. This weekend we did find a few good bargains. In fact we spent more than we ever have on one of these weekend saling adventures. (We’re not big spenders)

One in particular was an item I have desired to have for several years, yet would not pay the retail price. In one family’s backyard I spotted a plug aerator to pull behind a lawn mower or other small vehicle. My father-in-law has also wanted one for several years. I inquired about this one and the lady quoted me a very good price and stated they had only used it one time. Indeed it looked almost new, so I believe this to be true. However, there was something different about this one from one’s I have seen and used in the past. I counter-offered, and she countered back. I told her I would think about it.

She walked away and my wife and I looked it over and talked about it. Then it hit me. I knew why this one looked different from others I had seen and used. This one had been put together wrong. The top section of the aerator which included the trailing hitch and weight tray had been mounted upside down leaving the hitch 6-8 inches higher than normal. The downward angle needed to attach it to the mower would put the aerator at a disadvantage for accomplishing its purpose. It also meant there was no tray for weights normally used for depth of aeration. The bottom line is the aerator could not work properly because it was not properly assembled.

Sitting here this morning thinking of the situation with the aerator, my thoughts turned to the question, “How much of our lives are lived in similar fashion?” How many times do we miss complete satisfaction because we skip one step, or we do not read the directions? If we do read the directions, do we sometimes try to put the pieces of life together based on our own presumptions and past experiences? It is time to break away from those practices. God has given us the directions for life. They are found in His Holy Word. I have found that when I follow His directions as written, life is much simpler, accomplishment is much greater, and stress levels dissolve.

If you haven’t tried it lately or if reading this you realize you have drifted away from God’s instruction for life, why not give it a try today. There is no hardship or trial you will ever face on earth that God does not speak to in His Word, The Holy Bible. If you are wanting a fresh start or in need of encouragement and care, why not give God and His word a try. There may be some assembly required, but the stress levels will shrink and the satisfaction levels will increase with positive results.

And, yes, I did make the purchase and will be making the assembly adjustments this week. My Father-in Law will be happy too.

Humility in Leadership

The finest and best are reserved for a king. When another head of state visits Washington D.C. a bullet proof presidential limousine is sent to deliver him or her to the White House. Not only one, normally an entourage of people and a small caravan of black vehicles are sent to meet and deliver the dignitary. Hundreds of people vie for a spot along the “parade” route in which the cavalcade will pass eager to catch a glimpse. Media photographers and other members of the press contend for a high-quality location in hopes of capturing that solitary Pulitzer Prize photograph or story.

In the Roman Empire of 2000 years ago the scene was similar. The entry of a king into a city was met with great fanfare. A king always entered with a large entourage and normally came bearing gifts to those who turned out to meet him. People would line the streets outside the city as well as inside. If not in a chariot, the king rode into town on a steed or majestic stallion. A mount like this signified power and great strength. This is how great warriors, liberating kings, rode into town and the people of the city would meet this liberating emperor with praise and adulation.

If the people of Jerusalem were expecting a liberating savior, this is the scene they expected to be played out. However, Jesus had something unusual in mind. He sent two of his disciples into town to borrow a donkey’s colt to ride into town. A donkey would be considered the antithesis of a mighty steed. A donkey was considered a lowly slave-like animal, good only for pack animals, carrying belongings and heavy loads, hence the name “beast of burden”. Donkeys were not considered good work animals and not even used in the farmers fields. Yet, this is the mount of choice for Jesus for what is described as his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Jesus could have chosen any mount He desired for this entry (He normally walked). He knew the people would be there waiting to welcome Him. Just as God had arranged for this donkey colt to be available, could He have made a great steed available for His Son, Jesus Christ?  Why the colt of a donkey for this memorable entry into Jerusalem?

Jesus entire ministry was characterized not only with acts and teachings of servitude and submission, but also with a strong emphasis on servant leadership through self-denial, always being others minded. I use the term others minded to suggest that Jesus always put other people’s needs in front of His own.

Humility comes with an appeal. For someone of importance to enter a town or city on a horse was a representation of power and strength. To ride in on a donkey was to say, “I come in peace.” Jesus’ entrance this day was an appeal for peace. Make no mistake about it Jesus rode in as a king. Not as a king claiming his kingship of the throne; Jesus’ appeal or claim was for the kingship of the heart.

Some of the managers, leaders, and pastors I admire most are those who taught me through their meekness, modesty, and unassuming nature, – their humbleness. Humility is sometimes misunderstood as weakness. Humility is not weakness but meekness.

One night I watched a pastor being publicly criticized and condemned, verbally attacked, in front of his church by two members of his church. All because they did not like the direction he was leading the church. Some of the things these two persons said you would not expect a non-believer to say in church much less a Christian. It hurt me deeply because I knew this pastor did not deserve this abuse. Yet, he had asked me not to respond, and to remain silent. They had come this particular evening in hopes of making their claims and having the church vote the pastor out. After each person spoke and verbally abused him this man of God, politely and calmly thanked them for sharing. He did not attempt to defend his leadership. He humbly stood in front of his congregation and took every verbal blow that was cast at him that evening. I learned a great deal about humility that evening and during my time with this pastor as he led through humility. In humility he led that church (minus these two men) into greater spiritual growth.

Humility sometimes draws extremely hot fire from the adversary. But in the end humility for Christ’s sake will always win out. We are assured this in Revelation and through the life of Jesus. Jesus’ humility took Him to the cross for you. What will you humbly do in leadership for Him?

 

 

How Can You Know You Are Making the Right Decision as a Leader?

How can you know you are making the right decision as a leader?

Every organization and every leader faces difficult decisions. How can you know you are making the right decision? Is it the right decision for everyone involved, even if it may cost someone his job and a family’s main source of income? Certainly there are many factors which come into play with each and every situation. Are there any hard and fast rules, any guidelines to assist an organization or individual in making these difficult decisions.

I cannot say yes to the hard and fast rules, but I certainly suggest there are guidelines for this purpose. Whether it is a decision in the personal life of a single adult, a family decision, or any size organization there are three questions I recommend that can help you make any decision regardless of the seeming difficulty. Let’s look at them with two scenarios in mind. (Church leaders be certain to read to the end)

Scenario A: Due to a prolonged downturn in the economy and lack of funding a customer service organization’s leaders decide they should downsize their number of employees.

Scenario B: A 23 year old single college graduate has decided she wants a more reliable car. She has found one she likes and will need to finance it to purchase the car. The finance plan could stretch her budget to its limit.

1. What is the very best that can happen to our organization (family, personal life) if we make this decision?

Scenario A: Our finances will stabilize. We will show a larger profit and continue business as usual, preferably with growth.

Scenario B: The young lady will have a reliable, nice looking car to sport around in and worry-free from maintenance and breakdowns.

2. What is the absolute worst that can happen if we follow through with this decision?

Scenario A: Customer service will plummet. We could lose a portion of our customer base. Income will not match the needed budget throwing the organization into a grasping for survival mode or even bankruptcy. Also, the families affected will lose income, insurance, and other benefits. Some could lose their houses and other necessities.

Scenario B: The young lady could lose the car by accident, theft, or from loss of income. Especially if it is the latter (loss of income) not only could she lose the car and her income, but her credit could be damaged as well.

3. Can we live and continue to operate with the answer to question number two?

Scenario A: Further loss of income and smaller number of customer service representatives will certainly bring damage to the organization and lead to its demise.

Scenario B: You decide.

While we always want to look at life with rose colored glasses and see the absolute best in all situations, if we will pause long enough to ask and sincerely answer these three questions, we can make better, more informed decisions.

I used the illustrations above to demonstrate these questions work in differing areas of life. Think of them through the eyes of the church or your particular organization. Certainly we can see the church of North America today in Scenario A above. We realize the loss of income from a few years ago and dwindling attendance and we create excuses and pass the blame to outside sources (the economy). Are our decisions based on one sided thoughts, attempting to draw a biblical correlation? Nehemiah wept, prayed, and fasted. Afterwards he took time to gain an objective perspective from every angle, first from the inside out, then from the outside in.  (Nehemiah  chapters 1&2)

We can also see the church in Scenario B. We want the next shiny, new idea that we heard someone else talking about. But have we counted the cost for our particular ministry?

Learn to use these three questions in making decisions in your life and your ministry. Seek God’s guidance and He will lead you to making the ultimate “best” decisions.

For more information on this topic contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries on the web. You can also find more on this subject in Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church.

Leadership that Blesses God

Last week I was fortunate to attend and speak at a large gathering of church leaders at a statewide convention in California. During the first evening’s service we heard a devotional message from Pastor D.A. Manuel. In this blog post I would like to share the points of his message with a few of my thoughts on each. Pastor Manuel’s message was based on the scripture passage found in Ephesians 4:11-13.

Leadership that blesses God is…

  1. Leadership that is a gift from God. It is a gift of grace. When we find ourselves in a place of leadership, it is because of the grace of God that we are there. There are many others who could fill that void, yet God chose you or me. God given and blessed leadership will manifest itself in our words and actions towards those in our charge, our subordinates, and those who come across our path on a regular and on a one time basis. Where God has blessed you with a position of leadership (be it home, work, ministry, civic organization) always consider it a gift of grace and treat others likewise, with the same grace.
  2. Leadership that has a guiding purpose.  The very term leadership or to lead infers the idea of guiding or bringing others along. True leadership, successful leadership will always have a clear purpose as its driving force. With Christian, Godly leadership that purpose will always deal with the improvement or betterment of people, the people who report to you, the people you are charged to lead, and others whom your leadership will affect.
  3. Leadership that inspires growth. There is but one ultimate reason for Christian, Godly leadership; to build up and mature others into Christlikeness. We are blessed with leadership opportunities not for position or to “Lord it over” others, but to guide them into growing, healthy disciples of Christ. Whether it be in the church, workplace, or the home God’s gracious gift of leadership is to assist others, guiding them into successful men and women of God.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (HCSB)
11  And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12  for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,
13  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, ⌊growing⌋ into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

Realize today that every area of your life where you are privileged to lead is a gift from God. Spend time alone with God discerning your purpose in leadership. Is it in line with God’s desired purpose? How are you leading others inspiring them in growth in various areas of their lives?

For more on this topic contact George Yates or visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Four Ways Leaders Practice Faith Building

Heeding Jethro’s counsel, Moses began enlisting and building spiritual leaders. Jesus’ spent a little more than three years building the faith of those He would leave to accomplish His Father’s work. Throughout scripture we read of spiritual leaders building the faith of others and encouraging them to become strong leaders. The primary task of all spiritual leaders is to lead others in faith building. Those people God has put in your charge, your circle of influence, you are to lead these in building their faith.

The Apostle Paul is one great example of this. Anyone who has been in church any length of time knows of Paul’s relationship with the younger Timothy – his encouraging Timothy in developing his leadership abilities and strengthening his faith. Not only Timothy, each one of the letters of Paul included in the Holy Bible demonstrate Paul’s work, even from prison, in building up the faith of others. Dr. Luke’s account of Paul’s life in the book of Acts records the same enthusiasm of the Apostle.

What can we learn from the life of Paul and other spiritual leaders in the Bible? Actually there is much to learn. Here is but a few thoughts.

Demonstrate faith and faith buildingGod places people around us who will encourage and influence us. He also places around us people who we will influence and encourage. The question is how are you influencing those God has placed around you? God’s desire is for each spiritual leader to work, building the faith of others. The only way we can do this is to be people of faith. You cannot lead from a position you know nothing about. The apostle was certainly a living example of true, unbridled faith.

Teach the principles of faith – Each of Paul’s letters in scripture have a teaching component. Each letter was different and specific to its intended audience. Yet each letter speaks into my life and yours today, nearly 2,000 years later. In Ephesians chapter 4 he writes of this very topic: “…for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” How is your life a walking, equipping, faith building experience for others?

To be a leader is to be a learner – To be a leader is to be a learner. To be a learner is to be a reader. Certainly we can learn by other methods besides reading. However, reading is a great gift we have, and in our information, technologically driven age today we have almost unlimited opportunities to be leading readers. Reading for knowledge and wisdom improves the thought processes of our mind and increases our decision making skills. The Apostle Paul was certainly a reader. Even in prison in an age when owning books to read was not common, he wrote to Timothy and told him to come quickly and bring my books…(2 Timothy 4:13)

Utilize every opportunity – in life there are times of joy, and sorrow, success, and failure, trials and victories. Every situation offers an opportunity to build faith – our own faith and the faith of others. Too often we do not recognize these opportunities because we are not looking for them. Even in times of hardship and when others disappoint or even walk away from us, there is a faith building opportunity. The Apostle Paul early in his ministry rebuked and refused to have anything to do with a young John Mark who deserted him. Yet later in life he wrote to Timothy saying “Bring John Mark with you. For he is good for me…” (2 Timothy 4:11) Remember, God places people around you for specific reasons. Do not let a setback or disappointment from someone keep you from missing God’s plan for you to build that person’s faith.

There is truly much we can learn from the leaders God chose to use and recorded in scripture. Read more about them in God’s Holy Word and practice daily the leadership skills and abilities God reveals to you!

For more on this topic contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.