Leaders Are Delegators

White Board

As we bring our “Live From Love” series to a close, we’re spending two weeks focusing on the life of the Old Testament King Josiah, the only man in the Scriptures described as loving “the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might.“(2 Kings 23:25)  This past Sunday we talked about how our love for God leads to a life of ongoing repentance.  In doing that, we skipped over some leadership development gold in 2 Kings 22:3-7 that I want to pick up on today.  You’ll see it pretty easily as you read the text:

In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the Lord, saying, “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money that has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people.  And let it be given into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord, and let them give it to the workmen who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house (that is, to the carpenters, and to the builders, and to the masons), and let them use it for buying timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”

Josiah is a master delegator.  He empowers a team to do what he could never do on his own.  He’s able to inspire a group of people to work together to accomplish a goal, which is foundational to effective leadership.  Perhaps this kind of delegation is expected when renovating a temple – no one can do that on their own!  But the reality is that we need to practice this kind of delegation frequently in our lives as leaders.  Think of all the things we do every week as a church: lead 10 different community groups, load in and load out production equipment, lead worship, preach a sermon, disciple kids, serve our community, administer an organization, reach college students in DC, etc, etc, etc…  I don’t think there’s one of us that really think we can do any one of those tasks on our own.  But all too often we find ourselves trying to do what we know is impossible – take on a massive project without anyone else’s help.  

If that’s you, then take a few minutes to consider the model Josiah gives us for effective delegation.  His delegation is anchored in four key principles:

Clear Vision

Josiah doesn’t leave it up to his team to decide what they’re going to accomplish.  He fills the vision vacuum – they’re going to repair the temple.  And He’s not just envisioning a minor facelift.  They’re going to have to buy timber and quarried stone to get this done.  He’s speaking into the aim and the scope of the project.  That’s what good leaders do.  Some leaders are so afraid of being called a micro-manager that they abdicate this part of the process.  That’s not leadership.  It’s the exact opposite.  It’s abdicating leadership to someone else who will fill the vision vacuum you’re perpetuating.

Adequate Resources

Some leaders thing it’s enough to walk into a meeting, drop a little vision bomb and then check out completely.  Not so fast there, little leader!  Maybe you and your team have worked together for so long that they can take your vision and run with it.  But you always need to stay engaged around the fundamental question of whether or not the team has the resources they need to execute the vision.  Josiah deploys money, senior aids and resources to the project.  He gives the team what they need to get the job done!  That seems so simple when we read it in the abstract but I can’t tell you how many times I see leaders set their people up for failure by casting some glorious vision that the team has no chance of achieving because they lack the resources (money, time, people, skills, training or tools) they need to get it done.  That’s not leadership.  That’s just frustrating people.

Freedom To Execute

As much as Josiah leans into the vision and resource conversation, he leans out of the strategy and tactics conversation.  He realizes that the carpenters, builders and masons know a heck of a lot more about renovating a temple than he does.  So, he does one of the hardest things for a leader to do.  He shuts his mouth and lets others take it from there.  He lets his team do the job he’s called them to do and he gets out of their way.  If you violate this principle, this is when people will call you a micro-manager.  To put it even more bluntly, this is when you prove that you aren’t really a leader.  You’re more of a taskmaster with a lot of assistants.  Trust me, you don’t want to go down that road.  You can’t possibly be an expert on every area of a project.  So, if you insist on calling all the shots, you’re insisting on an inferior result.

Trust

In a leadership move that must have driven his accounting department crazy, Josiah tells the workers not to worry about saving their receipts.  He trusts them to buy the right materials, in the right quantity to get the job done.  He trusts they aren’t going to take some home for their back patio.  He trusts that they aren’t going to be lining Uncle Al’s pockets with some kickbacks.  He gives them cash and tells them to get it done.

Granted, most of us aren’t going to go that far (and good stewardship requires some financial integrity) but don’t miss out on the significance of what Josiah is doing.  He’s looking for concrete ways to tell his guys that he trusts them.  Most leaders pay lip service to the idea of trusting their people.  Josiah knew he needed to find specific ways to communicate that trust.  In his case, that meant no receipts.  In ours it might mean allowing people to make decisions, be flexible in their work schedules, feel valued even when they make a mistake or not have us hovering over their shoulders every minute of the day.

Josiah shows us what it looks like for a leader to lean in at the right time and lean out at the right time.  He does it all to bring about a goal far beyond what he could do on his own.  That’s God’s call for all of us who are leaders.  Let’s follow Josiah’s example and be real delegators.

One on One with Jack

IMG_2734When Laura and I first became parents, it was a tag team sport.  And most days it felt like we needed two of us to keep up with Jack.  Then Aidan showed up and we were evenly matched – kind of a man to man defense situation.  In a few short weeks, the game is going to change again and we’re going to be forced into a zone defense where we’re outnumbered.

All of that is fairly predictable.  What I didn’t expect is how powerful one on one parenting moments would be in the life of our kids and how early we would need to start.  By three and a half, Jack has come to love what we call “guy time.”  The only one who loves it more is me (and possibly Laura when it means she gets a good nap!).

I’ll be honest – we don’t have earth shattering conversations.  It’s not like we’re reading great books and debating the finer points of theology.  We’re not analyzing the hidden idolatry of our souls.  Most of the time we aren’t even talking – we’re just hanging out, doing something and having fun.  But every once in a while, he’ll turn the corner and talk for a few minutes about something that’s on his mind – preschool in the fall, church or wanting a snack.

But those times let him know that he matters in the chaos of a growing family.  They remind him that his little voice matters.  And they keep him rooted in the truth that his Dad loves him a whole lot.

For us, “guy time” doesn’t have to be some amazing experience or big moment.  Just getting time alone is enough.  So, if God has blessed you with multiple kids, be intentional in creating alone time with each of them.  They’ll become some of your favorite parenting moments.

Loving Gunston = Serving Gunston

School SuppliesThese next two weekends are absolutely massive for us as a church.  Ever since it became clear that the Lord was leading us to gather weekly at Gunston Middle School, we’ve talked about what a strategic opportunity this is for us as a church to love and serve our community.  We’ve dreamed about having an undeniably positive impact on the school. We’re cast the vision of being the group the school calls when they have a need.

And now we get to make good on all of that.  Gunston has approached us with two very specific requests:

  1.  An urgent need to get some painting done before the start of the school year.  If you’re free between 9.30 – 11.30 tomorrow morning (Saturday, August 20th), please come to Gunston to help us paint.  You can sign up at rcc.church/gunston.
  2. A large need for back to school backpacks and supplies.  We will be collecting the following this Sunday and next:
    • backpacks
    • glue sticks
    • binders
    • #2 pencils
    • colored pencils
    • 3×5 index cards
    • 5 subject notebooks
    • 3 subject notebooks

Here’s why this matters so much: we are ambassadors for Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20)  The way we handle these requests is going to communicate volumes to Gunston not just about Restoration City but also about Jesus.  We represent Him!  So, this isn’t a game of “let’s exceed their expectations so they’ll be really nice to us.”  This is a question of “let’s show the immeasurable power and generosity of Jesus.”  That’s what we want.  We don’t want Gunston to think that Jesus over promises and under delivers.

So, on behalf of Jesus, let’s knock the ball out of the park the next few days!  I’m praying we not only meet the full need at Gunston but exceed it in every way possible.  That would just make sense if we’re ambassadors for the God who is able to do “exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.”(Eph. 3:20).

Please join me in showing our love for Gunston through how we serve Gunston.

In the Hands of Majesty

psalm8.jpgWhen I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:3-4

Certain passages of Scripture come alive in certain places or with certain views in mind.  It’s hard to get the majesty of Psalm 8 into our souls if we’re reading the Scriptures in a study carrel in the basement of a college library.  And it’s impossible if we’ve never been floored by the grandeur of nature.

Our planet is designed to provoke wonder and awe in our souls.  The simply beauty of a sunrise, the mesmerizing effect of gentle waves, the soaring heights of mountain ranges and the beauty of a cloudless starry night in the country.  It’s designed to shout a message – be amazed!  And then be dazzled that all of it is the work of God’s fingers – He didn’t even break a sweat in putting all of this together.  He’s just that big.  Really, unthinkably big.  We can’t get our minds around the vastness of the universe yet alone the One who created it.

All of which makes me feel unimaginably small and fragile in the world.  So often I think the world revolves around me when in reality, I’m a minute part of what’s playing out in the world around me.  My life is small, delicate and so finite.

But so significant.

Because God is mindful of us.  Because God cares about us.

The One who carved the canyons cares that you’re tired.  The One who forged rivers knows that you’re scared and longs to breathe courage into your soul.  The Alpha and Omega knows about your haunting fear of being alone and promises that He’ll always be there for you.

Don’t be afraid of feeling small and overwhelmed.  Those are the places where we are most likely to meet the One who is massive and all powerful.  He comes not to mock our pain but to heal our wounds.  He comes not to gloat but to love.  He comes not to condemn but to free.

God knows.  God cares.

That’s more than enough grace to make it through today.

Thirsting Souls

stillnessAs a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

(Psalm 42:1-2)

It’s not hard to recognize the thirst of our souls.  It shows up in our longing to love and be loved.  It shows up in a nagging discontent that reminds us that we were made for more.  It shows up in a desire to live free of the sin that robs our joy.  When we wonder if we even matter, that’s thirst.  When we wonder if it’s all worth it, that’s thirst.  So much of the story of our lives can be told through the thirst of our souls.

It’s not wrong to thirst.  It is, in fact, inevitable.  But we get ourselves in trouble when we try to satisfy legitimate thirsts in damaging ways.  It’s not wrong to feel lonely but wasting two hours on Facebook isn’t going to satisfy the thirst for relationships.  It’s not wrong to be discouraged but there’s no happy hour long enough to address the root causes.  It’s not wrong to ache for meaning but it’s crazy to think a nicer apartment is going to satisfy our souls.

God built thirst into our souls so we would seek Him.  He did it so we would never forget we were made to live in relationship with Him.  He did it so we couldn’t get very far without missing the One who made us.

All of this is so simple.  Satisfy the thirst of our souls with God, not substitutes.  Don’t feed our souls garbage when they long for divinity.  The hard part is remembering it in the moment.  So, at some point today, you’re going to feel thirsty – run to God, not a substitute.  It’s that simple.  But it’ll be the difference between having your thirst satisfied and having your thirst intensified.

Intentional In The Ordinary

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We all want to live an extraordinary life.  I know I do and I know there is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, I’m certain that longing deep inside each of our souls is part of God’s fingerprints on our lives.  He’s the One who put that yearning deep inside each one of us – to make life count, to do significant things, to rise above pointless mediocrity.

But a lot of times we go about it all wrong.  We dream about the heroic moments.  The major decision.  The captivating sermon.  The bold new initiative.  The defining conversation.  While there’s nothing wrong with those things and I do believe we’ll each face a few of those moments in our lives, it’s the wrong focus.

Most of our lives are very ordinary.  Get up, spend time with God, workout, go to work, come home, put the kids to bed, pass out in exhaustion.  And repeat the next day.  Meetings, travel, commutes, groceries, phone calls, emails, trips to the dentist, and reports.  It all stacks up and it all feels so dull.  So boring.  So ordinary.

But I’m convinced that the secret to an extraordinary life is being intentional in the ordinary.  It’s the decision not to coast through Tuesday.  It’s the decision to be fully present, to work as unto the Lord, to love with our whole heart and to give it all we’ve got.  No one’s going to ask you to make the heroic decision if you duck the ordinary ones.  You’ll never be asked to lead until you figure out how to follow.  Nobody’s ever said, “Hey, that guy never takes on any added responsibility, let’s put him in charge of the new initiative.”  Extraordinary moments seem to find those who are intentional in the ordinary.

Be bold.  Be courageous.  Be intentional.  Not tomorrow.  But today.  In the sea of meetings, tasks and texts.  Be intentional.  Move the ball forward.  Do your best.  Lean into the power God offers.

Don’t stop reaching but do stop neglecting what’s right in front of you.

2016 Elections: Hope or Despair?

Sunlight Through Trees

On Monday, The New York Times released a brilliant piece showing that only 9% of Americans voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in this year’s primaries.  No wonder the other 91% of us are a little upset.  Although, I do have to say that if you didn’t even bother to vote, Mark Zuckerberg should find a way to prevent you from posting about politics on Facebook until the election is over!  Nonetheless, voter apathy isn’t really my point for today.  Except that it kind of is because I want to write about despair.

It’s not hard to come by in this election.  Bad candidates.  Bad coverage.  Bad policies. Bad voters. Bad, bad, bad…  It’s left many of us wondering if there’s any hope to be found.  I know because I’ve been there.  I’ve been dismayed by how things are going in our country and in this election.  I’ve feared for the world my kids will inherit.  I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in futility.  Cynicism is so convenient at times like this.

But I’ve gotten to the point where I really do believe there is hope in the mess.  Light is breaking through.  But we’ll never see it until we’re able to correctly diagnose the problem and the solution.

The Problem

Let’s get one thing clear.  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not the problem.  They are a symptom of America’s problem.  We need to stop being surprised that a country with a weak moral compass has nominated two leaders with seemingly weak moral compasses.  When we look in the national mirror, we see Hillary and Donald.  Being appalled at them is useless.  Dealing honestly with the fact that they reflect our broader culture will actually get us somewhere.  It’s a hard pill to swallow.  It’s far easier to mock, grumble and whine.

The Solution

If I’m right, the solution isn’t getting better candidates – there were plenty of other qualified men and women who ran this year and plenty of qualified men and women who made the decision not to run.  The solution is a cultural resurgence in America – the restoration of a shared morality, a shared civility and commitment to the common good.

This is where we need to have a hard conversation as the church.  In recent decades, Christians have looked for the government to do what God looks for the church to do.  This is why so many followers of Jesus are feeling so much despair in this election – it’s the despair that comes when an idol is exposed in our heart.  And for far too long, far too many evangelical leaders have turned right wing politics into a functional idol as if the well being of the church rests on the Supreme Court or the hope of the world is in the halls of Congress.  Don’t get me wrong, government is a good and noble calling.  We need more Christ honoring, gospel shaped public servants.  But we also need to repent of our political idolatry. 

There is hope in our country.  It’s the same hope that’s been transforming lives for thousands of years.  It’s the hope that echoes from an empty tomb outside of Jerusalem.  It’s the hope that reverberates in every church that loves Jesus and preaches His gospel.  It’s the hope that changes us at the heart level.  It’s a hope unhindered by laws, politicians or even persecution.  It’s a hope so real and so eternal that can hold it back.

So, I’m tired of grumbling that the government isn’t doing a better job with what the church should have been doing all along.  We’re the ones called to shine light in dark places.  We’re the ones who offer hope to refugees, immigrants, the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the lonely.  You want to do something truly worthwhile with your life?  Devote yourself to knowing Jesus and making Him known.  Find a local church that loves its city and then roll up your sleeves and get involved.  Don’t settle for the life of an armchair political pundit – make your life count.  Do it for the glory of Christ and the good of our country.