So close to the beginning of a new year I want to share the following key themes that are increasingly important to me. For a variety of reasons they have always deeply resonated with my life, work and ministry, perhaps more so in this season than ever before, which is why I’m taking the time to spell them out. I hope that through them you’ll be encouraged to consider not only how these might apply to your life and leadership, but also enable you to consider what it is that resonates deeply for you too.
Mission in its narrowest and broadest sense
For me, pursuing the challenge to ‘make disciples’ is two-fold and accomplished by both seeking to ‘persuade’ others to place their faith in and follow Jesus, as well as through the pursuit of human flourishing in both my immediate community as well as my wider sphere of influence.
It has been said that ‘Discipling the nations is a saturation strategy of getting the truth into the fibre of every layer of society through the lives of every believer.’ (Matthew 28:19, 20)
It strikes me that very few of the Bible characters we talk and learn about or wish to emulate, are professional religious leaders. Indeed, most exercised spiritual leadership through prayer, personal influence and modelling a godly life whilst committed to a ‘normal’ work related role in society. This means that, whereas spiritual leadership is for everyone, professional religious leadership is for a few (and interestingly, unlike our current preoccupation with elevating church leadership, it is rarely portrayed as particularly prominent in the Bible).
So in this season of your life actively affirm the sphere and/or sector you inhabit. View yourself not simply as God’s agent but also as a committed ‘Christian worker’ in your sphere of influence.
It has been said, we need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges. But diversity comes with challenges as well as blessings!
Becoming aware of the myriad ways in which we interact with diversity on a daily basis can enable us to navigate it more successfully. This is true whether our interactions are face to face, via traditional media such as radio and TV or through social media and hearsay.
Whether we engage with diversity of culture, ethnicity, religion, spirituality, ideology, philosophy, opinion, denomination, sector, department or generation, especially the multiple expressions of youth cultures, diversity is very much a fact of life. The more we recognise it, the better equipped we are to transform the potential barriers we face into boundaries we can cross.
In 1 Corinthians 9:22 Paul speaks about his desire to ‘become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some’ (TNIVUK). The Message version is even more descriptive and states between verses 19-23, ‘Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view.’
Having to ‘navigate’ different worlds is an essential skill for 21st Century leadership and it is one we must each be prepared to develop.
The root word ‘Lead’’ comes from an old English word meaning to, ‘travel together to a new place’. Someone put it beautifully, when they said: Leaders are change agents who lead others to a new and better place.
This means that anyone who has the ability to influence people and the direction of travel to a new place: geographically, organisationally, structurally, emotionally, psychologically, ideologically or spiritually, is leading, whether they or we know it or not, wrestle with it or not, or even like it or not!
You may have an official title or no formal recognition but if others are taking a transformational journey with you, you are leading!
Leadership is more like behaviour or a combination of behaviours so compelling that they produce followers. (Behaviours, of course, inevitably emerge from deeply held beliefs).
Therefore, commitment to leadership is a commitment to become change agents and ‘co-workers’ with Christ who actively take responsibility to progress God’s purposes for our families, communities, spheres and sectors, by leading others to new and better places.
So, how might the Holy Spirit be prompting you to develop as you pray for your:
- Mission, what does it look and feel like?
- Skill at turning potential barriers into boundary crossing opportunities.
- Leadership, in becoming an effective change agent who, at the very least, leads others on spiritually, emotionally and ideologically transformative journeys.