Leadership Principal #6 Be careful of Appeasement

February 16, 2010

  The next leadership principle I saw was in Exodus 32 was with Aaron and Moses.  Here’s the quick summary.

 Moses had just left to go up to the mountain to meet with God and left Aaron, his brother in charge of all the Israelites.  Remember Moses had taken his father in law, Jethro’s advice and put leaders under him to serve as judges for the people.   What happens next, well somewhere between the phrase “When the cats away the mice will play” and the mental reminder of what my brother and I did when my parents left us at home alone sometimes could be a good description.  The people got bored with their lives and decided to try to have a little fun, and come on, how much fun can you have in a desert anyway, apparently plenty.  The people went to Aaron and asked him to build them gods that will go before them.  Flash back to Exodus 20 when God said not to be doing this….  What happens next is perhaps even worse than what the Israelites asked.  Aaron agreed and took the lead in building an image of gold that they could worship and call their god.   (v.2) There was not even a record of Aaron trying to stop the people or remind them that what God had told them in the past or was wrong to do.  In fact he took charge and lead the way.

 This same idea is what I see a lot of young leaders, parents, or ministers falling into, the trap of appeasement.  The young leader wants so badly to have some acknowledgement of leadership or to gain a better following from the people that they will compromise their personal convictions and even Biblical principles to gain acceptance from their followers.

 When Moses came down the mountain I love the conversation that Moses has with Aaron in verses 21-25 of chapter 32.  It reminds me of those typical teen movies where the kids throw the party and mom and dad comes home early to find the party still going on in full power.  Aaron has some explaining to do.

 I know that this was a hard pill for me to swallow as a young minister.  I wanted the youth to like me so bad, I thought that agreeing with the youth on smaller issues would lead them to respect me more and follow my lead.  What it actually did was to create an inconsistent leader in myself and cause them to think they could get everything they wanted from me, which made the problem worse over time.  Over time I have learned to say “no” more and more and learned to stick with my convictions and listen to the Holy Spirit rather than the immature youth when it comes to decisions made in my youth ministry.

 There are two different ways to look at this principle of leadership.  First, if you are a minister who tends to make decisions based on the temperature of the people around you, you should consider making most of your decisions based on principles.  Those principles based on the word of God will best of course.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and talk to other leaders in your field and draw great advice from them about their past experiences and mistakes.  That is after all the entire premise of these principles that I am writing out.  There are no points lost or weak leadership detector that goes off when you ask someone else for advice.

Secondly if you are an older more mature leader be careful who you leave in charge over the group while you are away.  Know your helpers, assistants, and team members.  Help them by making decisions for them and giving them an outlined guide with expectations.  The more specific you can be the better.  Perhaps Moses should have said to Aaron before he left.  “Remember the house rules and no making idols while I’m gone.”

 I know as a parent I have to leave specific instructions for the babysitters to follow while my wife and I are out on our date.  The things that I know and expect to come natural may not be so natural for the babysitter.  After all these are my children, my most prized possession.  I want them well taken care of.

 Years ago I had gone on vacation for a week with my family and had given the responsibility of teaching the med-week lesson to a relatively new couple in the church and in youth ministry.  I had gotten to know them well and knew they were real conservative and I thought the lesson would be no problem for the husband who had served in a church before.  When I came back form vacation I felt a little bit like Moses did, no there were no golden calf’s erected in the youth room, but I did come back to 2-3  students who were literally crying and upset because they were told, and I quote “that if they watched or read any of the Harry Potter books or movies that they were not Christians and not going to Heaven.”  This was during the time when Harry Potter first came out and I didn’t realize that my 2 newest youth workers/parents had the strong opinions that they did towards Harry Potter.

 I spent a few sessions counseling the youth and showing them the scriptures in the Bible that talk about salvation and I had to meet with the adults and explain it to them as well.   I should have known them in a more personal manner before I allowed them to teach for me. The couple had let their personal convictions or dislikes for Harry Potter even take a higher place than the word of God.  This is why everything we do must be based on principles based in the word of God and not on our feelings or personal opinions.  Those have to come second.

 To give you a more recent example, after coming to Westside Baptist over 5 years from now I was blessed to have a pastor who was very good at leadership development.  Over the course of the first few years he soon discovered one of my weaknesses in the area on finances.  I have always been weak in that area and have struggled with budgets.  The pastor began to help me in this area by giving me 2 things; accountability and specific guidelines to work with in youth ministry.  At first I didn’t like the idea having to spend more time on the things I hated and was not good at, but over time I learned though the questions asked and by following the guidelines he set for me to be a better steward of my budget and to give it the time needed to answer the details of the “small things.”  I still have a lot to work on and will always, but I am so thankful that he gave me those guidelines and held me accountable to himself.


Who do I File a Complaint With?

February 1, 2010

One of the great blessings you can receive from being a leader is to have a great group of followers.  It’s always encouraging to have people who are under your leadership that will support you in your endeavors and not question your actions and motives.  It helps build unity and can have a synergistic effect on the group, or body of Christ.  Just like becoming a great leader takes time, so does become a great follower.  And then again some people just never get it for what ever the reason.  Realizing that it takes time to develop will hopefully give you a little more patience and understanding in your area of leadership.

BUT, what do you do when you have those in the group that want to complain about something?  The complaint may be against you or something else that you have no control over, but as the leader you are the one that they will come to complain to, aren’t you the lucky one. 

When you move on in life you will always find complainers in everything you do.  The Israelites first complained to Moses saying we should have never left Egypt, at least we had food in the pot there.  (Ex 16:2-3)  They had taken a step of faith to follow Moses into the dessert and again just like the grumbling at the Red Sea, they began to grumble and complain at the first sign of trouble of no food.  Verse 2 says that the entire community was a part of the grumbling.  This just goes to show you that the Israelites must have been Baptist, you can’t mess with a Baptist’s food without expecting repercussions.  In reality it shows you that complaining can get to everyone and it can spread pretty easily.  In church and ministry situations you can find complaints coming from the most unlikely sources as well as the expected ones.   I imagine that the complaints started in one area or two of the entire camp and quickly worked their way around to the entire camp.  Times haven’t changed much and I know still that people like to talk.

Again, Moses wasted no time dealing with the complaints but immediately went to the Lord, he knew that God was the only source for his answers.  I remember as a young minister that I think I had to rely on God in a great deal of areas because there was a lot of new territory I was crossing into, granted I made my share of mistakes and still do, but as leaders earn more experience I think there is a tendency to rely more on yourself than on God as you did perhaps before.  We must always remember to rely on God for everything, big and small.

God responded to their need by giving them the quail in the evening and the Manna (heavenly bread) in the morning.  He gave them specific instructions on what to do to collect it and how much to collect each day. (Exodus 16:4-5, 14-19)   There is another lesson here that you can also pull from and remind people that God is a God of details and we need to be a people of details, obedience is important to God to the very smallest detail.  When you give instructions to those that are following you, they will not always be followed just like you asked them to be. (Exodus 16:20)  No matter how clear you make the instructions.  There will always be those who think they know of a better plan or way than what you have laid out before the people, while this may or may not be true, they still need to follow the lead of God’s chosen person unless it involves something unbiblical or unethical.  That’s why God put them in the place of leadership.

Also remember that people are slow learners sometimes, we may see the same pattern repeated over and over until the learning curve is met.  If you want Biblical proof, just look at the next chapter, Exodus 17, After the people complained about having no food, they then complained about not having any water to drink and began grumbling again, so soon after the Lord took care of their need with food.  (See Exodus 17:3)  So just keep that in mind that there will always be those who will grumble and who will complain and even those who will not follow the instructions given and cause trouble for themselves and others around them.


Who Me Lord?

January 24, 2010

The next aspect of the story of Moses that I see in the area of leadership is on the leader himself.  With some people who hear the call into leadership can be a very intimidating situation.  Not every one of course, but the humble and least likely of people can often feel inadequate when answering to the call to ministry or to complete a task that God has for them to do.

Moses was no different, the very first thing he did was question God on why God wanted to use him. (Exodus 3)  No doubt, he was thinking about his past and what had transpired with him and the Egyptian he killed.  We can’t let the past hold us hostage into moving forward into where God calls us to go.  Here are a few scriptures, speaking about our past.

  • Isaiah 43:19 – See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
  • Philippians 3:13 – Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,

 

Anyone who recognizes the call by God into an endeavor must always remember one thing; If God called you to a task, a position, or place He will make sure you have what it takes to finish what He desires for you to do, even though you may doubt.  God knows what He is doing.

In Exodus chapter 4 it points out several excuses that Moses tried to offer up to God when God kept insisting on His plan. Moses first excuse was “What if they won’t listen to me?”  God took care of his excuse by giving him miracles to do with his staff, his hand, and some water.   God always provides you with the tools you need to be successful for him.  Today’s tools maybe books, programs, or other ministries to share and pull from.

The second excuse was that was not a good speaker and was “I am slow of speech and tongue.”   God gentle reminded Moses, “Who made your mouth?”  We may look at our set of skills and say to God “I can’t teach like that or I can’t work with children like etc….”  God would say to all of us, I don’t care what you can and can’t do like everyone else, I just want you to do what I ask you to do in your own way and with what I gave you in the way of your gifts, talents, and abilities. 

The last excuses Moses gave God was just a simple I quit.  “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”  Moses just couldn’t think of any other good excuses other than he didn’t want to do it.  This was probably the worse thing to say.  The scripture says that God’s anger burned against Moses when he said that.  Telling God “No” is dangerous ground.  If you think about it, when you tell God “no” in a way you are saying “I know better than you God.”  God also had Aaron, Moses’ brother, to come and help speak for him also.  Thank goodness for other godly people around us that will help us when we need it.

I can remember the times when I first got started in ministry and I felt so unprepared and inadequate to do the task God had called me to in youth ministry.  God surrounded me with people who I could talk with and get advice, get encouragement from, and yes, even get a little correction from.  The next time God calls you to a particular ministry position, place, or plan be take confidence in the fact that it is God calling you and not anyone else.  Take captive those thoughts that come from the devil and try to convince you that you are not good enough, smart enough, old enough, too old, or any other thought that he may try to use on you.


So You Think You Know Them?

January 24, 2010

Reading through the book of Exodus now.  It is a really interesting book and the stories about Moses can teach you a lot about leadership if you are looking for them as you read.  I figured I would post some thoughts as I read through the book.

The very first thing I noted from the story of Moses in Exodus was that Moses was not the most likely leader that humans would have chosen.  This is often the case with many people in the Bible stories.  There are a good variety of people in the Bible young, old, rich, poor, and etc, but for the most part I see where God used the average, ordinary person to carry out what he desired.  Below is just a list of a few people who come to mind in particular order.

  • The disciples (love acts 4:13 to describe them)
  • Esther
  • Moses (more on him in just a minute)
  • David (A Sheppard )
  • Nehemiah
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

So what about Moses, well, he did grow up in the palace of the king of Egypt, but remember after he grew up he committed murder.  He saw the Egyptian mistreating his own people and he killed him.  He got scared for his life and ran off to the dessert where he could live in peace.  Until God showed up and messed up his plan.  God told him that he was going to be the one to lead the Hebrews back to the land he promised Abraham.  Moses was a murderer and God still used him.  It’s funny how so many times we write people off when we think they are not any good to society any more.  That’s just it, we are not good to the world, but to God we are always useful.  I know in the past I have often looked at certain youth and perhaps thought that God would not use them because of what I see on the outside or because I see the unfinished project.  I have learned over the last 13 years in ministry not to do that, because God can  surprise you with some awesome things.  So the next time you think you know who will make the next preacher, missionary, or Sunday school teacher you better be careful and just let God take care of that.  After all, it is God that calls people into ministry and not the local pastor or youth pastor.  It’s just our job to train and guide them along the way.