You Pick: Intimidation or Inspiration

If you want to know what a leader is made of, watch how he or she responds under pressure.  If you want to know what you’re made of, run the same test on yourself.  Pressure reveals whether we lead through intimidation or inspiration.  Fear is the currency of intimidation whereas inspiration trades in grace.

We see the choice between intimidation and inspiration play out in the life of a young Old Testament King named Rehoboam.  Rehoboam’s dad was a guy named Solomon who was a political rock star in Israel.  Solomon ushered in an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity all the while establishing a reputation for wisdom that earned him a huge personal fortune and international acclaim.  But Solomon had a little problem with women that led him down a path to the place where Scripture records, “Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully.” (1Kings 11:6)  As a result of Solomon’s unfaithfulness, God raised up military and political adversaries to oppose his rule.

With all of that going on, Solomon died and his son Rehoboam ascended to a now weakened throne.  To make matters worse, the people of Israel, led by one of Rehoboam’s rivals, come and ask him to “lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke.” (1 Kings 12:4)  They want him to ease up a bit and in return, they promise to follow him.  The elders of Israel tell Solomon to take the deal.  But rather than listen to them, he follows the advice of his boyhood friends who tell him to crack down.  His response is stunning, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins!  (Yes, that means what you think it does!) Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.“(1 Kings 12:10(b)-11)

Rehoboam goes all in on intimidation – do what I say or face my wrath!  Rehoboam is under pressure, he doesn’t want to show weakness in front of his rivals and he’s afraid.  So he lashes out in pretty spectacular fashion.  I bet you know leaders who make the same mistake today just in subtler forms: an angry rebuke, cold disapproval, a nasty email, publicly embarrassing employees, firing rivals or belittling someone’s ideas.

If that’s your leadership style, head the warning of Rehoboam.  Intimidation always implodes!  The people rebel against Rehoboam and Israel splits into two divided kingdoms.  True, You might not start a civil war but your employees will leave, your teams will lack volunteers and people won’t go the extra mile for you.

Imagine how much better things would have gone if Rehoboam had gone with inspiration.  He might well have exceeded the greatness of his father.  He certainly would have been more in line with the heart of God.

Think about Jesus’ leadership.  He consistently leads with inspiration.  He calls people to live for a greater mission. (Luke 5:10)  He patiently teaches His frequently clueless followers. (Mt. 13:36)  He restores those who betray Him. (John 21:19).  He didn’t see it as a sign of weakness to offer rest to weary souls. (Mt. 11:28)  He deals in grace.  And His followers changed the world.  They were willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives, to advance His kingdom.  Inspiration works!

Don’t fall for the trap of intimidation.  It’s just self-destruction in disguise.

If you chose the path of inspiration and grace, you’re demonstrating the beauty of God and His gospel to the world.  Don’t lead with inspiration simply because it works.  Do it as a reflection of how God has dealt with you.  He meets our rebellion with grace.  He calms our fears with mercy.  He empowers us to do what we could never imagine.

Our job as leaders is to treat our people the way God has treated us.

The Not Ready To Lead Club

Most Christians wait way too long before stepping up to lead in the church.  There are all kinds of reasons for this: over committed schedules, church cultures that stifle lay leadership and lack of opportunity are all too common.  But one I hear pretty regularly is, “I’m just not ready.”

To which I say, “Join the club!”

No, I don’t always feel ready to lead a church.  But I’m not even close to being the founding member of the not ready to lead club.  We have a long and distinguished history.  Consider a few of our better known members:

King Saul: “Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired further of the Lord, ‘Has the man come here yet?’ So the Lord said, ‘Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.’”(1 Samuel 10:21-22)  Samuel was ready to anoint Saul King and Saul is hiding in the baggage cart.

Moses: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?'”(Exodus 3:11)  God calls Moses to free Israel from slavery and Moses spends two chapters trying to talk God out of it(Exodus 3&4).

Gideon:  “He said to Him, ‘O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.’” (Judges 6:15).  Gideon is busy explaining his lack of qualification to the angel of the Lord.

If you want to go New Testament on this one, just pick a disciple.  That whole crew was pretty inept!

Where are you offering God excuses when He’s asking for obedience?

My point isn’t that training, preparation and equipping don’t matter.  They do.  But if you’re waiting to lead until you feel ready, you’ll never get in the game.  God isn’t looking for people who are sure of their ability.  He’s looking for people who are utterly convinced of His.

If God is calling you to lead, trust He knows what He’s doing.

I’m praying for a wave of new Community Group Leaders at Restoration City Church.  We’ll train you and we’ll provide weekly Community Group discussion guides.  We’re not going to toss you into the deep end to drown.  But we need you to jump into the pool with us!

It’s time for some of us to get out from behind the baggage and get into the game.

Time For A Diet

Last weekend, I realized I need a diet.

Although I’m sure my typical menu could use a tune up as well, that’s not the kind of diet I’m thinking about today.  I’m thinking about a mental diet.  I realize I’ve been ingesting way too much mental junk food and need to switch to a more beneficial mental intake.

The deceptive part about all the mental junk I’ve been taking in is that none of it is overtly sinful.  I’m not looking at anything online I shouldn’t be or reading total trash.  But I’ve been watching a lot of meaningless tv.  I’ve been killing more time on the internet.  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have seen a lot more of me.

And I’ve been neglecting these things called books.  Bottom line:  I need to read more.  More things that stir my affection for Christ.  More things that grow me as a leader and pastor.  More things that inform my thinking about the church and ministry.  Biographies.  Good novels.  Basically, things that make me a better and more interesting person.

So, this summer I’m cutting out the mental junk and am reading more.  I’m trying to walk in the wisdom of what the Apostle Paul shares in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Maybe you’ll join me in a little mental diet over the summer.