Leadership Identity (Romans 12)

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I was reading Romans 12 this morning and the way the translation said it got me thinking. I’m not competent in Greek to be able to work out if this is a great translation, so this isn’t a lesson just a rabbit-trail!

I really liked  v8 where it said:

if you are in a position of leadership, lead with diligence and zeal 

So often I connect leadership with identity. This is partly from the way I hear people talk about it, in books or at conferences: “you are a leader” – but also because I think I take a lot of pride in it. This verse reminded me that it is good to have a separation between the two and recognise that leadership is a gift and a position!

In 1 Cor 13 it talks about how the gift of prophecy and tongues will cease. I reckon that its the same with leadership and when we get to heaven it will cease! (at least in the human sense of it – obviously God will still lead!) Why will we need leaders when we’ll be in direct relationship with God?

Therefore if we, or I, build my identity on ‘being a leader’, then when I get to heaven what will I be then? Or what about in this life, if I become incapacitated to lead, or I’m in a job like I was at in Sainsbury’s where I’m not “leading” anyone. (I know we all have influence and can “lead upwards” – but you know what I mean) This is why I want to move from saying “I/You are a leader” (however true it might be) to “I/You are in a position of leadership”. This will not only keep me humble – reminding me that it is a gift – but also help me relate more healthily to those in authority.

I want my identity to clearly rest in what Jesus has done for me, rather than my work or position. I’m sure people are called leaders in the Bible and there is a link between leadership and identity, and I do care about that. I know it seems like a silly personal/semantic issue, but I think it will make a big practical difference in my perspective.

I am a child of God, dearly loved by Him. Chosen, Forgiven, Loved and an instrument for His glory (Eph 1) And my confidence rests in Him. It happens that he has put me in a position of (obvious) leadership in this season of my life, but this is not because I myself am superior but because His grace is great, and therefore I will lead “with diligence and zeal”!


One more comment, it’s because this is a gift and because of His goodness to me that I can truly work with diligence and zeal. If I believe it is within my own power to lead, I will lead with human-diligence and human-zeal. But if I recognise it as a gift then I will understand my utter-dependence for Spirit-empowered-diligence and zeal!

 

What next (2): Character & Competence

c11ecb608f9aa2a7b5833bc5e8cae51dLast week I met with my Pastor, most always a great challenge and encouragement!

After bringing up my concerns for what I’m doing next year, and not really having much confidence on any pathway in particular. He asked me what my “long term plans” were. Whilst this may seem pretentious, its the sort of questions I really really like being asked. It focuses me back to my life vision and purpose. I shared about my hope to become a church leader eventually.

This led to him talking about character and competence. Stuff which I really needed to hear and was so good to be reminded of. Competence is skills, experience, ability and knowledge. If I go down the FFM route with the Navigators and/or a Masters in Theology, I will definitely grow in Competence, but to ask will I also grow in Character? (Maybe…maybe not?) Whereas if I get a regular job, working the 9-5 or longer hours and feel the pressure most others feel of not working in a “Christian” workplace and all the tensions which come with that. The focus will probably not be on Competence in Church leadership but Character formation.

I hope this makes sense and isn’t too “Christian-book-leadership-jargon”…

Anyway, this hasn’t put me off the FFM/Master’s route, but has raised a very crucial question: Where do I most need to grow in order to become a Church Leader? Character or Competence? And which option of what I choose to do next will help me in this area the most? I totally trust God’s sovereignty to bring me to this point either way, but in being a wise steward I take the responsibility, of choosing wisely in this next big decision, seriously.

I once heard someone explain the three important elements of vocation probably either 3dm, Gordon T. Smith or a vicar I used to meet with frequently.

Calling – What God’s asking of you, Character – issues of the heart, integrity, the  manifest fruit of the Spirit etc, Competence – skills and abilities etc.

As someone who has spent a lot of time reading into Christian leadership and theology and had a lot of experience in leading from an early age (Really would like to do a boasting-foolish post…pride settle- more reason to grow in Character!) I feel competent. (Tension being that it is God alone who makes me competent!) I also feel very sure in God’s calling, through word of knowledge which were spoken over me frequently growing up, my natural and spiritual gifting (again overlook the jargon) and personal conviction. However I’m not sure on Character, when have I been tested in my character? More thinking needed! 

Thank You God for putting people in my life who can challenge me and ask me difficult questions speaking openly and honestly about concerns they have for me. I ask that I would be humble to receive what You are saying to me through them, and also faithful in responding to You. Keep me teachable and relying on You. Amen.

(The picture is relevant because of the “comptence” you’d need in music in order to be able to play the piece of music. Haha, creativity is something I’m working on!)

 

 

Clay Jar – evolution

Forgive my self-reassuring, public thinking-out-loud, post. All part of the evolution of the blog.

When I started blogging, I was really cautious of becoming a pontificating blog where I just shared my opinions or lessons I’m learning. Although I knew that would definitely be a big part of the content. I also wanted to share stories from my life and things going on. I wanted to talk about work, and study, things I’m learning and things I’ve been up to. My hope is that so far, I’ve had a combination. But as I scroll through my previous posts it seems most of them are lesson orientated.

I don’t have a big issue with this, it’s how my mind works and it keeps me thinking and reflecting about what I’m learning. But I’m aware of the tagline/scripture I’ve put alongside this blog: “power made perfect in weakness“. If all I post is my strength “what I’m learning, ideas, concepts, life lessons etc”, it can be easier to use these as things which hide my weakness.

Whereas as I try to post more personal things about life, I reckon I open myself to seeing God work more powerfully through these posts.

I guess I’ve been thinking along these lines for a while, but on Sunday as I met with my brother as part of Mother’s day. Blogs were brought up. Apparently he blogs, and he found out that I do too. As I tried to describe my blog to him, I realised he’d probably be uninterested in it given his stance on God. How much better though if my blog was a place where people of any belief could see a guy working his life out and the difference a relationship with Jesus made in that!b6a68ba4f7a32d7cf433d5e532332c1aI know there is a balance here, and that its not bad to only talk about concepts, ideas, ‘lessons’ etc. But as for me, I think a transition needs to happen for the clay jar to reveal its cracks and in turn the treasure inside! Hope this all makes sense, if not don’t worry.

So I’ll continue posting, and trying to be more vulnerable and personal.


I guess if we’re looking for an application, and I don’t seem to be able to go without it: what difference might this to make with our approach to discipleship. What if our one-on-ones went deeper than Bible studies and teaching each other and added to the mix “life-on-life” as well.

 

What’s next?

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I don’t know what I’m doing next year! This is something which is increasingly becoming important. I have a few obvious options but even these are incomplete.

The first is to start a three year training program with the Navigators, this is called FFM (Foundations for Ministry). There will be similar studies, but with more depth, like what I’m doing now. And training away days. With this option I will probably continue my work with the student ministry at UoB. If I pursue this option I’ll be aiming to do it part time, with the other “part” of my working time, in a local business. To help support us financially, I will also be able to lean on financial gifts and support from doners – this will help with the “away days” I’ll have to do with FFM (I’ll be able to take the leave as unpaid holiday without it affecting our budget or limiting the holidays my wife and I can take together!).

The picture is incomplete with this option, since I have no idea which local business I’ll be able to join with. And it is hard, because it will be no good  applying for these jobs until a couple or (3 max) months beforehand. As a someone with a strong J preference on the MBTI, this is highly frustrating! The option is open for me to return to Sainsbury’s in Longbridge, however I’d much prefer to be part of a smaller firm, which is more local (So my time isn’t spent travelling all over Birmingham!). My pride also itches to work somewhere where I can dress smartly!

The other options involve leaving the Navigators, these are less thought through.

  • Work for a year in a local business full time and apply for either
    • A master’s in theology for the following year (Summer, 2018), either at a Bible College or at the UoB. With this option, I’ll probably continue at the local business during my Master’s classes. And I may stay linked to Navs unofficially as an associate (which is a low-commitment role).
    • A PGCE (teacher training) for the following year (Summer, 2018). This sets the pace for me for the next 5-6 years as I’ll go into teaching. And put aside thoughts of full-time Church work on hold.
  • Focus on applying for graduate jobs, with a much higher salary. This will mean we’ll be able to afford nice things and be able to go on holiday’s abroad. These are things which we both feel we have had to sacrifice this year, (even if this sounds selfish), my wife loves to travel and since being married has been limited to do that. With the extra money we’ll also be able to use to support other Christian’s in ministry, there is a couple who currently serve in Egypt who have played a massive role in mentoring us into marriage!
  • Apply directly for a salaried church position. Despite feeling too young, to do this and academically (on paper) very under-qualified (God calls and qualifies). This is my favorite option! But there are a lot of problems with it: again the options to do this are limited and vacancies don’t seem to open until a few months before. I also understand that there is a lot of value, in having had “real-world” experience before doing this. As it will help me relate to people better. Furthermore it complicates our relationship to our current church. How healthy/harmful would it be to leave our current church, whose Pastor I have really connected with this year, in order to serve another Church?

These 4 options feel like the avenues open to us. As for my wife, she is planning to do another year as an EAL Coach before she applies for Schools Direct Salaried (another teacher training route).

In all of this I know that God is sovereign and sees beginning from the end. So I ask for His wisdom and guidance. I also ask that He would protect my relationship to our current Church and Navigators so that whether we leave them or stay we will be on good terms. At the end of the day I’m 22 years old and it seems I have a lot of life ahead of me, but in a very real way I’m going to need work next year. So God come and lead me.

The Naked Leader

When I moved from Portsmouth to Birmingham in 2007 after my first year of secondary school. I decided that I wanted to make some significant changes to my personality and the way I acted. Growing up in Portsmouth, I was very quiet. I got bullied a lot, and had only a couple of friends. I didn’t carry myself with much confidence, except within my friendship group.

When I moved to Birmingham at the age of 13-14, I decided I wanted to adopt a more extroverted side. (Although I didn’t  call it that at the time). I forced myself into a state of confidence in classes like drama and music, whereas before I didn’t. It was a fresh start, and no one knew pre-07-Paul. So I took advantage of that clean-slate, to build a “popular” personality.

During my years at University, God managed to break this down. But lately in my role I have begun to face some difficult questions. Well, they seemed difficult to a 22-year old. If I make a more effective leader, and demonstrate a better example as an extrovert, should I continue to don the mask? Or should I trust that God can use a quiet and reserved personality to lead? Does God want me to step out of my comfort zone, or remain true to myself? Do I need to be more confident in leading the Bible study, or should I adopt a posture of humility (Not that they’re mutually exclusive)? Is my quietness just a manifestation of pride or insecurity? ETC…

I brought it all to God the other day as I wrestled with myself.

He showed me Psalm 71.

Sometimes as Christian leaders we (I) can get so bogged down by which method is more effective. Which strategy works best. Which persona should I lead with. When we forget, our ministry is not about people seeing more of us. But more of Him. Psalm 71, says some amazing things into this situation.

Regardless of whether people think I am an “amazing example” (Ps 71), I will “Praise the Lord”. I will worship, enjoy, love Him. This is my leadership. As I worship Him and as I love Him, as I enjoy Him, people will see the One whom I am pointing to and follow. 

If you think you don’t have the skills, personality, looks, clean record, experience (or whatever else) that you think you need to lead others…Look no further than God. Concentrate your efforts to following Him, unreservedly, wholeheartedly and He will do the rest.

Also, sometimes we have to give up the things which encourage us to lean on our own logic, reason, cleverness, reputation etc. For example, if you rely on the books you read to give you the confidence that you are knowledgeable to be a good leader. Then surrender this for a season. If you feel like you need to be dressed in the most attractive outfit, and have your hair just right, to draw people to your God. Then maybe practice wearing the jeans that don’t suit you, or the t-shirt that you hate wearing. If it’s your reputation, maybe it’s a matter of doing the job that everyone looks down on, or hanging out with the outcast that people will disapprove of you doing – but you know Jesus would.  This may be the most important step to become the great leader God has called you to be.

Consider Jesus, who did not consider equality with God something to the-humiliation-of-the-cross-on-sandstone-800x600be grasped. But made Himself nothing, humbling Himself. He is our example of the True Naked Leader.