Don't Do Miracles By Yourself

“Notice that Jesus did not do the miracle of feeding the five thousand directly Himself, but by working through His disciples. He performed the miracle, but involved others in its completion. Even though their faith was low, He still used the disciples. He trusted them to play an important role in spite of their unbelief.Jesus gave the disciples the bread. They distributed it to the people and later gathered the leftovers. Surely Jesus could have performed this miracle easily, and more dramatically, without their help. But instead, He deliberately involved the disciples in a learning experience. As they participated, their eyes were opened to see the miracle taking place.

There are some key leadership lessons at work in this story: • Leaders are more effective when they involve others. • Disciples don’t need to be mature to be involved. • Self-discovery is more powerful than teaching discovery. • Disciples learn more by doing than by watching. • There are different learning styles for different people.

Jesus didn’t just want to perform a miracle; He wanted to train His followers to believe. He was developing men of faith, not running a feeding program. He wanted His leaders to have compassion fueled by faith, so He engaged them by having them participate in the miracle. He could have done it faster by Himself. He could have done it more efficiently by Himself. But He chose to trust an important responsibility to His men. Those who are prone to perfection find it very difficult to operate by this principle. These are the people who often say, “It’s easier just to do it myself.”

If you have a very strong predilection for neatness and excellence, allowing others to be involved who don’t share your standards will be a severe test for you. The goal of good leadership is not always getting people to do things the “right” way, but instead, training them through the process. Here is a challenge for those with high standards: there are times you may have to sacrifice getting things done your way in order to encourage more people to be involved.

Jesus didn’t preach a message of “excellence,” but He did speak often about the need for more workers. Multiplication of workers for the harvest is not incompatible with high standards. But leaders create cultures, and a culture of control for the sake of excellence can be a huge hindrance to mobilizing workers for the harvest. Control can be an underlying issue if a leader is reluctant to involve others in important tasks. If you are a prisoner of your personality, you will insist on doing things your way, no matter how it affects others. Take time to do some honest assessment. Ask yourself and others who work with you: • Am I a controlling leader? • Am I proficient at involving others? • Do I get great satisfaction from seeing others learn by doing?"

To read the other 39 chapters of my new book 'Leading Like Jesus' get it from Amazon Kindle here. Or order a paperback copy from YWAM Publishing here.

Imperative People

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"Another way to describe the religious leaders of Jesus’ day would be “imperative.” Imperative people must be in control. The Pharisees who confronted the lame man who Jesus healed on the Sabbath are a prime example. Imperative people:

  • Are uncomfortable with people whose ideas are different from their own
  • Have an inborn craving for control
  • Are driven by duty
  • Hate to admit they are wrong
  • Get irritated when people make “mistakes”
  • Do important jobs themselves because someone else might not do them right
  • Create dependency on themselves
  • Act superior but feel inferior

The Jewish leaders who opposed the paralytic that Jesus healed were concerned with only two things: conformity and control. It didn’t matter to them that a lame man was healed. Their petty concern was that he was carrying his bed on the Sabbath.

It’s as if they were saying, “Shame on you, healed man. Wait until tomorrow to be excited. Don’t carry your bed now that you can walk...just lay there and be calm!”

Obviously, these imperative people were not focused on the right thing. They were more concerned with their petty religious traditions than the joy of a man whose lame legs were made whole. 
They followed the “letter of the law,” but disregarded the Spirit of Truth. They read God’s Word but had no understanding of its true meaning. The Scriptures were a pretext for them to control and manipulate others.

One of the greatest challenges you will face as a leader is imperative people who don’t want to yield their supremacy over a church, school, classroom, or work department. Imperative people feel strongly obligated to direct the behavior of other people - beyond their mandate. They have an inner need to command, to exhort, or direct the lives of others. Imperative people are a bane to leaders who want to get things done for God.

When Jesus healed the lame man, He modeled acting according to the motive behind all biblical truth - God’s love for us. 
The Pharisees, and many Evangelical Christians still today, fall 
into the trap of trying to follow the letter of truth; they try to obey the Bible without fathoming the love of the One who gave us the Bible. Perhaps worse yet, they issue judgment when others do not act in accordance with their personal interpretation of biblical truths.

When more weight is given to literal interpretation of the words written to convey biblical truth than the intent of the One who gave us that truth, it ends up being more man-centered than God-centered. Obeying the letter of the law is a matter of physical action, but obeying the Spirit of Truth requires more than just outward action - it involves a loving attitude of the heart and mind.

To refrain from adultery is obedience to the letter of the law, but to exercise restraint in one’s thought life is obedience to the Spirit of Truth (e.g., not lusting in one’s heart for another man’s wife, or any woman or man for that matter).

Great leaders don’t try to monitor or control the behavior of their followers according to the letter of the law. Instead, they seek to motivate obedience from the heart by equipping people to act as independent adults, not dependent children. Healthy, independent adults can think for themselves; children need their parents to think for them.

The teachings of Jesus are revolutionary because He taught obedience to the Spirit of Truth. He didn’t annul the Ten Commandments, He expanded them, revealing their spiritual intent. He didn’t annul the law against murder, but taught us not to hate or judge others from the heart.

In the same Spirit as Jesus, mature spiritual leaders empower their people to look at problems from a biblical perspective, then spiritually discern the intended application of biblical truth for those specific circumstances. The best teacher in town is not a human being, but the Holy Spirit. As leaders, our followers have the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within them, the Spirit of Truth, to teach and guide them as they apply biblical truths to their lives.

My father used to say to me, “Son, if you are going to get on your knees to pray through your conviction about something, stay there long enough to get that conviction for yourself and not everyone else!”

Though I grew up surrounded by imperative people in our conservative Evangelical church, I am so thankful my dad was mature enough to see through the superficial religious veneer of many of his peers.

Dad fought his way through the rubbish of imperative religion to find a deeply felt, but lovingly held, set of convictions. He was beloved as a pastor because he was not judgmental when parishioners came to him about an alcohol problem or confessed that their daughter was on drugs. Dad was deeply compassionate when a single mother was overwhelmed and depressed by the burdens of caring for two or three children alone. Dad had convictions, deeply held biblical convictions, but he held them with love. He gave others space to come to their own beliefs.

To apply these truths to my own life, I had to learn the difference between following the letter of the law versus the Spirit of Truth. It means being flexible rather than rigid; being a person of conviction, but not imposing your convictions on others. It means giving others freedom to apply biblical truth for themselves - with loving accountability.

Most of us have some imperative characteristics. It becomes a weakness when we allow them to disrupt our relationships with family, business associates, and friends. When that happens, we need to back off and learn how to keep a potential strength - leading with conviction - from becoming a damaging weakness.

To live in freedom, imperative people must yield to these truths:

  • God is absolute, we are not. Give others space to come to their own convictions.
  • We are not responsible for people, God is. Trust the Holy Spirit to correct, convict, and guide others.
  • Cultivating relationships is more important than being right. Live from the inside out, not the outside in (i.e., from the heart, not the head).

Freedom is the key word here. Imperative people have to learn to allow others to be themselves, and - this is sometimes even more difficult - to allow themselves to relax and simply be themselves. 
Freedom from being an imperative leader means influencing others without controlling them. There is a time and place to clarify expectations and commitments, but there is a line between doing that and becoming the religious police. It means cultivating contentment in your heart about your convictions and allowing others the same freedom.

If you recognize imperative tendencies in yourself, here are some steps you can take toward freedom:

  • Identify any controlling or judgmental inclinations you might harbor and humbly acknowledge them to others.
  • Understand how the drive to control others has worked in your life to the detriment of others.
  • Yield to God’s change in your life through repentance, confession, and forgiveness.

If you would like to read the other 39 Chapters of my new book, Leading Like Jesus, you can find it on Amazon here.  Or you can buy a paperback copy form YWAM Publishing here.

You can lead people if you don't "need" people

John 2:23-25, "During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn't entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn't need any help in seeing right through them."

Jesus had no need of people therefore he could lead people. Needy leaders are grasping leaders. If we trust God to bring us the people we need, people will sense our security, that we won't "claim them" as own own, and be more likely to follow us.

A visiting friend commented, after visiting me when I was a young leader, "You see people for how they can meet your needs and help you fulfill your vision... God wants to change that. God wants you to see people for how you can help them fulfill their vision, not yours. If you will hold people with a relaxed grasp, with your hands open, God will fill your hands with more leaders than you know what to do with. But if you hold onto them tightly, then your hands will be full and God cannot give you more people, especially the right people."