The Jeremiah Institute desires to be on the cutting edge of providing vital and timely material on leadership. This section will contain cutting edge articles, research and encouragement to keep the fires of your leadership burning brightly. Make this a regular stop of your refueling agenda.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE VISIONARIES GONE?
Thousands of years ago the wise man Solomon spoke an eternal principle: “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18). While Solomon had in mind words from God to His spokesman known as prophets, it calls our attention to the broader subject of vision for God’s work in the church. Vision among church leaders. In their book, Death of the Church, Mike Regele and Mark Schultz wrote these sobering words: “The most important problem in the church today is a fundamental lack of clear, heart-grabbing vision. The church in America has no vision. It has programs and institutions and property and ministers and politically correct hymnals, but no vision” (p. 229, Zondervan, 1995). While these authors may be painting with broad denominational brush strokes, they are touching on a point that the twenty-first century Restoration Movement cannot ignore.
Vision has become a hype word in the last twenty or so years. Corporate American has spent thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars honing out vision statements. Other institutions such as sports teams, clubs and even churches have gotten on the bandwagon. Many of these vision statements hang in prominent places to be read by employees and customers, but little or nothing is accomplished by them. They are just words; another fad sold in the marketplace of success principles.
Jesus was no doubt thinking about vision when he uttered these words about the Pharisees: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). These leaders couldn’t see the real mission of the Law; they failed to see the plight of humanity; they were blind to their own corruption; they were leading people away from God instead of to Him (cf. Matthew 23:1-12).
Webster defines vision as: “The act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be…a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation of something in the future.” There was a time when most church leaders were describes by these words. They looked out on the harvest fields of lost humanity and sent froth missionaries (John 4:34-38). They responded to the cry of the orphans and widows (James 1:27; Galatians 6:10). There was a time when leaders were serious about training leaders and teachers (Ephesians 4;11-16; 2 Timothy 2:1-3). In the last few years, however, these visionary leaders have dropped drastically in numbers. Peter may well have described them in these words: “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9).
As today’s leaders clean their spiritual lens for God’s work and launch new efforts to empower the church with a vision, they must recast it in harmony with God’s eternal vision for the church. A vision that was cast before the foundation of the world (cf. Ephesians 1:3-7). It is a vision articulated by Isaiah in these words: And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1,2).
We understand this vision was launched in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and blazed a path into all the world (Colossians 1:23), just as Jesus had commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). What did those first century visionary leaders have that leaders don’t seem to have today in the twenty-first century? It wasn’t money. We have more than they had. It wasn’t education. We have better education than they had (Acts 4:12,13). It wasn’t church buildings and programs. They had none. It wasn’t better transportation. We can circle the globe in a matter of hours. It wasn’t printed materials or media. They had none. It wasn’t approval by the government. They were persecuted for their faith. They didn’t propagate a politically correct religion. They preached there was only one way (cf. John 14:6; Acts 4:11-13).
They weren’t interested in Christianity for what they could financially get out of it; they gave up what they had to help others (cf. Acts 4:31-37). It was “more blessed to give than to receive” (cf. Acts 20:35). First century visionary leaders were sold on being bold. Note these verses in the Book of Acts: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John…that with all boldness they may speak thy word…they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:13, 29, 31). The common thread of boldness runs throughout the book of Acts and concludes with this statement about the apostle Paul: “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, not man forbidding him” (Acts 28:31). The righteous are bold as lions (cf. Proverbs 28:1). Jesus set the example of boldness (cf. John 7:26). It takes bold leaders to proclaim and support a bold vision for God’s work. The boldness of visionary leaders is driven by faith. They know that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (cf. Hebrews 11:16). Visionary leaders “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). They believe with Christ’s blessings and strength they can “do all things” (Philippians 4:13). The faith of visionary leaders is larger than the balance on their checkbooks; it is more powerful than their own feeble efforts; it trusts in God and His power regardless of circumstances (cf. Ephesians 3:20).
In a day of declining church growth, post modernism, divisions of ever shade, a loss of interest in leadership, and much more; it is time for God’s leadership team to make His vision our vision. It is time to revision what the church in the first century saw and carried out as their mission. We don’t need a “new vision”, we just need to recommit ourselves to the one prepared by God before the foundation of the world. It will be alright to add our personal dreams and ways of carrying out this vision. God expects us to use commonsense and methods in harmony with Scriptural principles. The three-fold mission of the church is to (1) edify, (2) equip, and (3) evangelize. This is the job of leadership (Ephesians 4:11-16). Therefore, since we have our vision statement and mission objectives given by God, it behooves us to be about our Father’s business. We will not have missionaries until we have visionaries.
Dr Turner’s leadership books may be purchased through the Dr. J.J. Turner Publicationslink at the top of this page.
SCENE: Let’s drop in on a typical congregational business meeting on Main Street USA:
Ralph: “Well, where are the other men? I guess we are in for another boring and none meaningful church business meeting. I always dread these meetings.”
Chuck: “Amen to that! I’d rather go to the dentist than attend one of these meetings. At least the dentist has an objective and time limit and gets with it.”
Bill: “What’s this meeting about? I hope it’s not about the same-old-stuff—the bills, giving, sound doctrine issues, and evaluating the preacher.”
Fred: “I hope this meeting is quick and to the point. I have a lot of work to do in order to prepare for work tomorrow.”
Most of us at one time or another have been in congregational, and other, business meetings that were off target, meaningless, ineffective, and boring. No doubt from time to time we contributed to these negative qualities. In a recent Inc. magazine article a survey was reported in which 47 percent said the meetings they attended were not productive (24 June 2016).
10 Attitudes Toward Business Meetings
There are all kinds of attitudes toward meetings by members of a congregation that contribute to their ineffectiveness. Here are ten:
Some act as though meetings are “commanded” in Scripture. Must have them.
Some feel they are a waste of time: never accomplish anything of value.
Some equate them with periods of fellowship and time for chit chat.
Some see them as necessary expediencies to stay abreast of what’s happening.
Some see them as “council meetings” were rules and agendas are created.
Some see them as authorized in Scriptures (cf. Acts 15); thus essential.
Some see them as periods of arguments, disagreements, and finger pointing.
Some see them as a tradition “We’ve always had business meetings.”
Some see they as an essential tool for communicating with membership.
Some aren’t sure why business meetings are conducted so frequently.
21 Signs of Ineffective Business Meetings
Business meetings are no more effective than the behavior and attitude of those who attend or don’t attend. If we are going to have business meetings we must do all we can to ensure they are conducted in the best possible way. Effectiveness doesn’t happen by chance. One way to learn and improve is to be aware of what the negatives are that contribute to an issue and then eliminate them. Here are 21 possible signs and contributors to ineffective business meetings:
There is no clear and specific agenda provided to the attendees before they attend so they will be prepared to engage in discussions and solutions, etc.
The time of the meeting is not known until a few days or weeks before it is scheduled. Attendees don’t have time to adjust their schedules.
When attendees are late for the meeting it interrupts the flow of discussion as time is spent trying to bring the late attendee up to date.
When one attendee dominates the meeting with endless talk, boasting, and non-relevant comments.
A meeting will start to denigrate or become boring when attendees continually complain over and over in meeting after meeting. Other attendees tune them out.
A meeting where numerous attendees who should be there are missing—playing hooky—will contribute to a dull, missing strength, and lack-luster meeting.
A meeting where someone is “showing off” by asking questions that don’t relate, joking, embarrassing someone, etc.
The physical is stressed far more than the spiritual. Very little time or emphasis is given to Scripture reading, discussion and application; prayers are brief and generic.
When attendees are playing with their cell phones, iPad, laptops, watches, etc. there isn’t a total group focus on the issues. This creates communication issues.
When an attendee, or several, continually interrupt the person speaking or won’t let the person finish his thought, the meeting is sidetracked.
Meetings were arguments, debates, and continual disagreements occur, usually over opinions, the effectiveness of the meeting is lost.
Meetings where no one is “in charge”—a chairperson—tend to accomplish very little as ideas, pro and cons, etc. are coming from everyone in attendance.
Meetings where the agenda, if there is one, is diverted by rambling into small talk about current events, items not relevant to the meeting’s agenda. Time is wasted and priorities are neglected or lost.
Meetings where specific solutions are not outlined with specific timelines and assigned workers, results will be minimum or not at all. Meetings need to produce plans for RESULTS.
Meetings without time restraints—starting and ending times—as well as time allotments for each agenda item will not be as effective as they should be. Time management is a must for effective meetings.
Meetings where no records are kept and the minutes from the last meeting aren’t available, contribute to a loss of continuity and effectiveness of a meeting. Time is wasted trying to remember what was said or agreed to in the last meeting.
Meetings were those in attendance should present written documents of results, questions, and proposal don’t occur as a practice, ineffectiveness will result.
Meetings where some of the attendees are “silent observers”, never giving comments or jumping into a discussion, reduces the effectiveness of the meeting. Maximum effectiveness occurs if every attendee participates.
Meetings that are called on the spur of the moment—emergency style—where someone who never attends meetings or participates in any way in congregational activities, presents a problem, challenge, or accusation that requires an immediate response will never be as effective as a well-planned and scheduled meeting. Yes, “life and death” issues are exceptions.
Those in attendance don’t take notes of what is presented, especially the important points; handouts aren’t provided by presenters. Won’t remember much later.
Biblically speaking, meetings that don’t have as their number one priority the “glorifying of God” (Ephesians 3:21); the second priority, “seeking the kingdom first” (Matthew 6:33), and the third priority, pursuing the three-fold mission of the church: (1) evangelism, (2) edification, and (3) equipping, will never be totally effective, biblically speaking.
There are other contributors to ineffective congregational business meetings, these 21 are some of the major ones. List three additional things that may contribute to the ineffectiveness of a business meeting?
As noted in the previous 21 observations about contributors to ineffective business meetings, it should be obvious that successful meetings depend on the preparation and participation of each person in attendance. A congregational business meeting is not a theater production where some act and others observe. It is a gathering of servants where all participate.
Here are some suggestions for preparing to attend and participate in a congregational business meeting:
Study carefully the 21 observations we have noted related to contributors to ineffective meetings. Prayerfully eliminate any that may relate to your participation in a meeting.
Study carefully the agendas, you have received, that will be followed during future meetings. Write down your observations and questions, and share them at the appropriate time during the meeting.
Do any research you think may be relevant to the upcoming meeting.
Search the Scriptures for relevant Bible points on the agenda subject.
Pray specifically about the upcoming meeting (1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 1:1-5). 6. Set as one of your goals the attending of the meeting with “the attitude of Christ” (Philippines 2:4-9).
Vow to yourself to be a positive contributor and not a negative inhibitor.
List three (3) additional ways you can prepare to participate in congregational business meetings:
Meetings that are well planned, organized, and efficiently executed are effective tools for a local congregation to pursue the mission given by God. This means leaders must wake up to the value and importance of effective meetings.
How do you intentionally plan to be a more effective attendee to congregational business meetings? ____________________________________
I am sure you have noticed it! In today’s rapid changing world there is an authentic leadership crisis, as well as a leadership crisis in the church. It is on a scale never experienced before. Back in 2007, Lee Iacocca titled his best selling book with a question: Where Have All The Leaders Gone? Six years later (2013) the question becomes even more relevant. Where have all the church leaders gone? Where will be find authentic leaders?
The leadership crisis has created the “warm body” approach to selecting and appointing leaders. “We must be flexible” is the new theme for selecting leaders; sadly, even in some congregations. The results of the “just anybody can lead” approach is creating holes in the old ship of Zion as she tries to maneuver through the rough waters of a lost world. The crew is jumping from the battle ship to the cruise, leadership is jumping too.
Names of once thriving local congregations are being added to the list of the twenty-four churches we read about in the New Testament that no longer exist. If those first century churches which were established by the Apostles and leaders they trained ceased to exist, how do we think we can survive locally without authentic biblical leadership? We cannot! Jesus could have made the selection of leaders easier than He did. He could have selected men for His leadership team, gave them a pep talk, conducted a short course in leadership fundamentals, prepared them a manual with rules and guidelines, and sent them on their way; hoping they would succeed with their assignments. But He didn’t.
Jesus knew that spiritual servant leaders, which is what God wants, aren’t selected via the “warm body” or “who will volunteer” approach. The Master hand picked twelve men, men who from all outward appearance, didn’t possess leadership potential to become part of a world changing movement. They would be more of a hindrance than an asset, if viewed from the world’s standard. Jesus trained His leadership team for approximately three years; then the Holy Spirit came and continued their training.
What do I mean by AUTHENTIC?
The word AUTHENTIC is defined by the dictionary as: 1. Not false or copied, genuine and original, as opposed to something that is a fake or reproduction 2. Trustworthy, shown to be true and trustworthy 3. Legally valid because of necessary procedures that have been followed correctly. It is easy to see that church leadership must have certain characteristics before it qualifies as authentic biblical leadership. A reading of Matthew 23 will remind us of how the Pharisees failed to qualify as authentic biblical leaders. Jesus called them blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:12, 13).
Characteristics of Authentic Biblical Leaders
Jesus affirmed that a valid litmus test for determining genuiness is “fruit bearing”: By their fruit you shall know them. Since leadership functions through influence, this means that a leader’s authenticity is confirmed by what he SAYS and what HE does; with what he DOES being the most powerful part of his influence As a church leader, leading by the book, he seeks to inspire, equip, and mobilize God’s people to fulfill the mission given by Christ (cf. Mark 16:15, 16). He is an out front dreamer with God’s marching orders burning in his heart (Jeremiah 20:8,9). In support of his leadership position by the Book, the church leader will also exemplify the following characteristics (fruits) that confirm that he is an authentic biblical leader:
1. The Bible will be his first and foremost guide in determining his leadership principles and practices (cf. 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). 2. The authentic biblical leader will develop and practice a biblical thinking agenda (Philippians 4:6-9; Jeremiah 6:19; Mark 7:21-25). 3. An authentic biblical leader will have the attitude and disposition of Christ (Philippians 2:4- 9). 4. The authentic biblical leader will be a servant of others (John 13:1-12). 5. The authentic biblical leader will always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). 6. An authentic biblical leader will pursue the work of equipping the church for ministry (Ephesians 4;11-16). 7. An authentic biblical leader will be well trained, and a trainer of others (2 Timothy 2:1-3). 8. An authentic biblical leader will meet the qualifications prescribed in the Bible for his place in leadership (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Acts 6:1-9). 9. An authentic biblical leader walks by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 4:7). 10. An authentic biblical leader has as his primary mission in leadership the glorifying of God (Ephesians 3:21). 11. The authentic biblical leader is committed to the eternal and global vision God has for the church (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Matthew 28:18-20). 12. The authentic biblical leader is courageous and fearless (Acts 4:11-13; 2 Timothy 1:7). 13. The authentic biblical leader is a lover and doer of the truth (Proverbs 23:23; John 8:32; Matthew 4:1-4). 14. The authentic biblical leader is not reluctant to change (e.g. The Apostles changed from Law to grace, etc.). 15. The authentic biblical leader is sold-out to Christ and carrying a cross (Matthew 16:24). 16. The authentic biblical leader believes in the power of the Gospel to save lost mankind, as well as to keep the Christian saved (Romans 1;14-16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6). 17. The authentic biblical leader is prepared to defend the truth (1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3). 18. The authentic biblical leader works to maintain unity in the church (Ephesians 4:1-7; Psalm 133). 19. An authentic biblical leader seeks to do good unto all men (Galatians 6:10; James 1:27). 20. An authentic biblical leader is an imitator of God (Ephesians 5:1). 21. An authentic biblical leader is a teacher of others (Hebrews 5:12; James 3:1-3).
There are additional characteristics of an authentic biblical leader. These 21 should serve as door openers to dig deeper into the subject. While it is true that there are no perfect leaders, it is also true that we must not settle for mediocrity or “warm body” leadership in the church. We must accept the challenge, and to accept the US Army’s slogan to be all that we can be. We must intentionally strive to be the authentic biblical leader God desires.
A positive leadership awareness practice would be to go back over these 21 characteristics and rate yourself. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being not at all and 5 being excellent. Authentic biblical leaders aren’t afraid to honestly rate themselves. How about you?
You can read more about this subject in my book Imitating My Father’s Leadership, by going to the Amazon.com icon on my website.
Most of us, at one time or another, have heard this statement: “If you want to be successful just find someone who is successful and do what he or she does”. How true would you say this statement is? Several years ago (2001) Jim Collins wrote a runaway bestseller: Good To Great. It has sold millions of copies. In the book he showcased companies that share certain traits that took them from “good-to-great.” The book was the results of 5 years of researching 28 companies. The result was a set of key determinants that, if applied, could help other companies move from good-to-great. Just imitate? Well guess what?
Years later some of these “perfect” good-to-great companies have turned out not to be so great. This is a reminder that leaders must be careful relative to who and what they choose to imitate. Jesus put it in these words: Let them alone. They are blind leaders. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14). The only consistency in leadership is CHANGE. Therefore, if we are prone to imitating certain leaders and their programs, we must be very careful. Church leaders are not exempt from seeking out leaders and programs they deem successful, or someone else affirmed the success, and trying to imitate them. I am not saying this is wrong, only that it has some built in challenges and potential problems.
Following Leaders In The Bible
I am quick to affirm that the Bible is the perfect leadership manual. It contains teaching and examples of leadership; both good and some bad. Truth is truth regardless of the source or application. I am a proponent of studying and learning from Bible leaders. God has left us a record of them for a reason. They were written for our learning (cf. Romans 15:4). Yet, we realize that none of those leaders were perfect. Let’s take a moment and have a roll call of some of the leaders we read about in the Bible. Keep in mind that leadership is influence on others to reach a predetermined objective. This occurs in two basic ways; by what you SAY and what you DO. With what you DO being the more powerful of the two.
As the name of each leader is called take a moment and write down a trait he has that you would like to have or imitate. Would it be his: (1) Character? (2) Attitude? (3) Faith? (4) Behavior? (5) Sin? (6) Skills? (7) Obedience? (8) Courage? (9) Actions as a leader? (10) Truthfulness? (11) Integrity? (12) Vision? (13) None? Then write down a weakness, if there was one, in the leader that you seek to avoid:
ADAM: NOAH: ABRAHAM: JOSEPH: JOSHUA: SAUL: DAVID: SOLOMON: SAMSON: ELIJAH: AHAB: JEREMIAH: NEHEMIAH: JOHN THE BAPTIST JUDAS: PETER: PAUL: DEMAS:
Our list could go on and on but these names are sufficient to get our minds on the subject of traits in leaders. Which of the above leaders is your favorite and why? Let’s turn our attention to the Perfect Leader—our heavenly Father.
The Perfect Leader
I find it interesting, since writing Imitating My Father’s Leadership, how many men have said that they had never thought of God in the terms of leadership. I’ll admit that for years I failed to do so too. Then one day it hit me: God was, and is, the perfect leader! Therefore, since He is our heavenly Father, as we imitated our earthly fathers, we should seek to imitate Him. There are numerous passages in the New Testament that command us to imitate God. The basic word translated imitate from the Greek is memetes and means: “Follow, follower, to follow.” Here are some verses where we are admonished or commanded to imitate (follow) God and the apostle Paul:
• Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. Walk in love…(Ephesians 5:1,2).
• Therefore I urge you to imitate me (1 Corinthians 4:16).
• Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
• And you became followers (imitators, jjt) of us and of the Lord … (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
• For you brethren, became imitators of the churches of God … ( 1 Thessalonians 2:14).
• Brethren, join in following (imitating, jjt) my example, and note those who so walk, as you have them as a pattern (Philippians 3:17).
• [T]hat you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12).
• And who is he who will harm you if you become followers (imitators, jjt) of what is good? (1 Peter 3:13).
For illustration purposes let’s look at one of God’s major, if not the major, leadership traits—LOVE—and analysis how we can imitate it (or if we are imitating it). And we have known and believed the love God has for us. GOD IS LOVE, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16; cf. John 3:16).
Let’s go to Paul’s great treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13 and see if God practices each one; not only practices but practices them perfectly. Since God is love, I will substitute His name for love in 1 Corinthians 13 (from the CEV):
… God is kind … God is patient … God is never jealous … God is never boastful … God is never proud … God is not rude … God isn’t selfish … God is not quick tempered … God doesn’t keep a record of wrongs … God rejoices in the truth … God never rejoices in evil … God is always supportive … God is always loyal … God is hopeful … God is trusting … God never fails
Now go back beside each trait of God (love) and write a brief statement about how it relates to leadership.
Are you ready to become a serious imitator of God’s leadership? What intentional things will you do to become a closer imitator of God?
My book Imitating My Father’s Leadershipcan be ordered from the Amazon tab on this site.
I’m a leader in God’s army Walking in the King’s way I’m a leader in God’s army Armed for the fight today. I’m a leader in God’s army Following God’s battle plan I’m marching forward by faith The victory is in my hands. I’m a leader in God’s army I didn’t volunteer to play We’re in an eternal struggle I have taken my stand today. I’m a leader in God’s army And will be ‘til I die I’ll fight the fight of faith ‘Til I’m safe in my home on high. I’m a leader in God’s army So come and follow me At the end of the battle “The best is yet to be.”
DEDICATED to the boys in the Future Leaders Training Camp, 2010 McDonough church of Christ & World Bible Institute 400 Lake Dow Road, McDonough, GA 30252