Leading Unlikelies

"Jesus loves terrorists. He loves Muslims. He loves rebels, critics, Democrats, liberals, gays, socialists, Communist comrades, Republicans, sassy teenagers, Goths, pot smokers, and ex-cons. Even worse, He wants them in His church. He even wants them on the front row of your church. In John 4, Jesus reached out to a crass, sleeping-around woman, and then went with her to the village to reach her friends as well. Jesus led a lot of “unlikelies.”

Jesus’ Lot of Unlikelies: • Zacchaeus – Jesus invited Himself to the home of a treacherous 
tax collector, not worrying about public opinion. • Woman Caught in Adultery – Jesus forgave an adulteress without first insisting that she confess her sins and make things right. • Peter, James and John – Jesus hung out with rough fishermen, synagogue rejects, violent terrorists, and soldiers of the occupational forces. • Simon the Zealot – Jesus called an urban terrorist to be on His team. The Zealots were an illegal political faction, committed to the violent overthrow of the Romans.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth, a Galilean fishing village. He recruited a crew of fishermen - unlikely leaders among the young men of Galilee - as His first disciples, the future leaders of His movement. He didn’t start with graduates of the best Torah schools or followers of the most respected rabbis as His first disciples. He modeled the principle that it is better to raise up insiders than to import outsiders.

A pastor friend recently told me a story of welcoming a known prostitute to his church congregation. At a church function for young people, she stripped down to a bikini and jumped in the swimming pool with the rest of the youth swimming at the party. Watching some older parishioners in his church looking at her with wide eyes and hard stares, he decided to prevent the certain judgment they were going to visit on the woman. He took off his shoes and jumped in the pool with her...clothes and all!

There are unlikelies all around us who have dismissed the church but are fascinated with Jesus. The most secure and courageous leaders are willing to risk rejection from the religious to reach the unlikelies.

Consider your circle of relationships. Is there anyone you might have overlooked for leadership training and development? Make a list of the least-likely candidates for leadership mentoring. Ask the Lord if you have overlooked anyone on that list.

If you would like to read the other 39 Chapters in my new book 'Leading Like Jesus' please click here to find it on Amazon Kindle. Or you can order a paperback copy at YWAM Publishing here.



“Buy-in is believing in a leader. People buy into a relationship first and then the person’s vision. Through close association with Him, Jesus’ disciples bought into Jesus and then His vision. They even became willing to die for Him. Every effective leader has a core team of people who believe in him or her personally, and because they believe in their leader, they believe in the vision. We shouldn’t expect others to buy into us as leaders if we have not bought into another leader ourselves. It is our authenticity, believability and Christ-likeness that compels people to buy into our vision. Are your team members buying into you because you have bought deeply into Jesus?...”

To read more about Jesus style leadership click here to find Leading Like Jesus on Amazon Kindle

How To Get Vision For Your Life

Vision for our lives is a clear mental picture of what could be. A vision for our lives is an inspiring picture of what could happen through our service to God and to others. Vision is also an inner longing for something you have not yet experienced but believe God wants to see happen through you.

Vision is not limited to those who serve as ministers or missionaries. God has a specific vision for every person who follows Jesus.

On December 17, 1903 Orville Wright flew the first sustained airplane flight from level ground. He flew 37 meters for 12 seconds. The Wright brothers had a clear mental picture of what could be. That picture, and the inner longing to see it happen is what motivated them to dedicate their lives to ‘flight’ becoming a reality.

Every time I step onto an airplane I marvel that the Wright brothers had such an outlandish vision. I am thankful they gave their lives for the vision to become a reality because it means that I can travel the world, fulfilling my vision.

Vision without commitment is actually just fantasy. The Wright brothers had to have commitment and endurance to go with their vision. It took years of sacrifice and rejection by friends for their vision to become a reality.

Vision precedes reality. How do you picture your life in ten years? What do you picture yourself accomplishing? Take a moment to write it down - that is your vision.

Vision is powerful because it gives significance to the mundane details and the not-so-mundane difficulties of our lives.

Without a vision people languish in mediocrity and mundaneness.

Whatever you do, get a vision for your life!

Vision weaves four things into the fabric of our lives:

  1. Passion. Vision evokes intense emotion. There is no such thing as an emotionless vision. A clear, focused vision allows us to experience ahead of time the emotions associated with our anticipated future. Passion is more than intense desire, it is the willingness to suffer and sacrifice for our desire to be fulfilled.
  1. Motivation. Vision provides inspiration. It gives us a reason to do things, to make sacrifices, to say no to other opportunities. Vision driven people are very motivated. They WANT to get things done.
  1. Direction. Vision takes us in a particular direction. It serves as a roadmap. Vision leads us to our destiny. Vision simplifies decision-making. I love sports. I loved and played basketball. But when I got a vision for my life, I did something that shocked my friends. I gave up basketball. I quit my team in the middle of season. Something more important had taken hold of my heart. I went back to basketball later in the season, but then it was a means to a far greater end goal: my God given vision.
  1. Purpose. Vision gives you a reason to do what you do. Vision gives purpose and purpose gives us momentum to move in a direction. A vision gives you the clarity of purpose to overcome barriers and make sacrifices. Another way to say this is vision gives us a reason for what we do.

The Divine Element

God has a vision for your life. You were dreamed over by God before you were born. His part was to create us with purpose and vision, and our part is to discover it. When God speaks to us He turns possibilities in our lives into a conviction and a hope for our future.  God has a mental picture of who you can be and what can be accomplished through your life. By hearing from God we begin to believe in our vision.

Knowing your vision is from God turns a possible dream into a must-do conviction. Above all things, seek God for His vision for your life... but remember, He won't reveal it to the casual person who doesn't care enough to ask Him and to seek him diligently.

Practically speaking, how does God use the circumstances of our lives to give us vision? 

Three ways:

  1. By seeing a need and responding to the need - doing something about it
  2. Being dissatisfied with what is happening around you in life
  3. Hearing from God that He wants to use you to make a difference

How do you discover your vision?

Take some time to LOOK…

  • Look within you - what is your passion?  What has God already spoken to you about? What strong desire is growing in you? Submit it to the Lord and if it grows, accept it as a calling, a vision from God for your life. Psalm 37:4-5
  • Look behind you - how have past lessons and experiences prepared you to pursue your vision? What experiences and people has God used to speak to you and grow certain desires and convictions in you?
  • Look around you - what’s happening around you in the circumstances and relationships of your life that God has used to stir vision in you? There are people that God has placed in your life to speak vision into your life.
  • Look ahead of you - what do you want to accomplish with your life? It may be that the desires and dreams you have for you future are God's way of speaking to you, of giving you vision for your life.
  • Look above you - what part does God play in your life and dream? How has God spoken to you in the past? Write down the promises God has given you. If you don't have any, ask God for them and keep your ears alert to note them when He speaks. Read the Bible with expectancy... what would God like to speak to you from His Word?
  • Look beside you - what resources are available to you? What skills and abilities do you have that you can use to make a difference in people's lives? Use them. Offer them in service. Get involved.
  • Look alongside you - who can partner with you in this pursuit? Are you part of a community of faith? Are their great people who share your concerns and convictions? They are there for a reason.

The Vision and Calling of All Nations:

In 1993 God impressed on Sally and I this simple but huge vision: Jesus worshipped by all the nations of the earth.

So, with a few friends, we started on a journey to turn that vision into a reality. Today, All Nations works in 35 countries - and is growing. Our workers have seen tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people come to faith, discipled and gathered in communities of faith that are impacting villages, cities and nations.

Working closely with friends and co-workers in the All Nations family of churches, we defined some specific goals to turn our vision into a mission: to make disciples and train leaders to ignite church planting movements among the neglected peoples of the earth.

That is our vision... we invite you to join us to see it become a reality. But if not with us, then you live out your vision with others who share your vision. As we all live our visions for the Lord, as varied as they may be, we are in this together!

All of life is spiritual if it is lived for God! There are no secular or sacred visions. Every vision from God is sacred, is spiritual. The market place is a spiritual place to live out your vision if that is where God wants you.

Don't be intimidated or think of yourself as less than "full time" for God if you serve Him in the market place. That is GOD'S vision for you! 

Whatever vision God has given you, wherever He has placed you to follow that vision, if it is from God, it is worth giving your life for! Go for it!


The Fruit of Your Labors Will Follow You - Part Two

At a very young age, seeking to recruit a friend to join him in China, Robert Morrison wrote these words, “I wish I could persuade you to accompany me. Take into account the 350 million souls in China who have not the means of knowing Jesus Christ as Savior…”

The year was 1806. At this time, except for the purpose of trade, foreigners were forbidden entrance into China. Every foreigner, on landing, was strictly interrogated as to what his business might be. If he did not have a reasonable answer to give, he was sent back on the next sailing vessel. Morrison was aware of the dangers but was still willing to go in faith, believing Jesus would open a door for him to stay in China.

Reading about the life of Robert Morrison, I am reminded of the fierce focus of Paul the apostle:

“I consider my life worth nothing to me...if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given to me” (Acts 20:24)

At about the same time these words were spoken to the Ephesian elders, Paul also wrote to his young disciple Timothy and said,

“...the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (II Timothy 4:6-8).

Paul lived with the expectation that there was a reward awaiting him. He pictured Jesus awarding him on “that day.” It was the vision of Jesus in the future that kept him going in the present. It was the pure picture of pleasing Jesus that ensured the fruit of his labors would follow him.

I too, look forward to that day, don’t you? Can you picture it in your minds eye?

Take a moment and imagine it... you are kneeling before Jesus. As you are bowed in worship, He gently reaches out to you, puts His hand under your chin and lifts your gaze to look into His eyes, He astonishes you by placing a crown on your head. It is the reward given to the faithful who have stayed focused on Jesus.

In response, you take off the crown Jesus gave you and cast it at His feet, acknowledging that your greatest reward is the reward He receives from those who are gathered to worship Him. It is the fruit of your labors on earth that will follow you into heaven.

It is this vision of the future that sustains us in the present.

Why Some Leaders Fail to Get Things Done

When leaders fail to get the ‘main thing’ done it is because of one simple, fatal shortcoming: failure to perform. It is not a lack of vision, or shortage of brainpower. It is the inability to act decisively when decisive action is called for. When asked why Microsoft rose to the top amongst so many competing computer companies, some of which had better products, Bill Gates said: “Immediate and massive action.”

It’s as simple as that: not getting things done, being indecisive… not delivering on the goods. Failure as a leader is never final, and sometimes it can be influenced by flawed strategy, refusal to confront reality in their area of responsibility, etc. etc. but the greatest cause of leadership failure is failure to execute the ‘main thing’. Good leaders learn to focus on one thing… the main thing.

In a local church or missional community the same principle applies. Churches that stagnate do so because of a lack of passionate, focused vision from their senior leader. This ‘vision void’… not focusing on the main thing, results in a lack of motivation in people to ‘make it happen’.

Why do Leaders Fail to Get Things Done?

Why do leaders fail to execute? There are many obvious reasons, including personality, gift-mix and experience. But there seems to be a pattern in recent firings in the business community that shed light on why leaders fail to perform. Church leaders would do well to learn from their secular counterparts.

Failure to put the right people in the right jobs. Leaders who don’t deal with people-problems quickly allow those few subordinates with sustained poor performance to deeply harm their endeavor. Most leaders usually know when there is a problem; their inner voice tells them to act, but they suppress it.

This tendency in some leaders to suppress their inner voice can be due to a lack of emotional strength. Emotional strength to seek information and input from multiple sources, to deal with conflict, to resist denial and take the necessary steps to deal with the problem in time.

Leaders lacking in emotional strength often justify their failure to deal with problem people by making excuses…

“He has to succeed.” Such a leader may be the victim of mental or emotional seduction. Convinced that his ‘hand picked’ subordinate will succeed regardless. If the protégé fails, and this leader cannot bring himself to face the failure, he is in big trouble.

“He’s my guy!” This is a problem of blind loyalty. Maybe they have worked together for a long time or there is a deep bond of relationship. In this case, a subordinate who is failing to grow, or lacking the skills necessary to get the job done, will continue on without consequence as his leader, ‘blinded’ by loyalty, fails to act.

“I can coach him.” If the subordinate is not a quick learner, then the organization or ministry will downgrade to the skill and management level of the person in charge.

“The people like him – he must be okay.” Some subordinates forge links with others so as to build a power base for their continued service. Others build connections with the board, or donors. However, poor performance is poor performance, and no matter how nice or well liked, if this person is not removed, they will hinder the organizations ability to fulfill its mission.

“There is a lot of transition going on, and many people have left already, people won’t like it if he leaves.” If the subordinate is failing, delaying taking action just makes the problem worse. Transition is probably the best time to make changes. Rather get it done while things are up in the air, instead of waiting for things to settle only to disrupt them again.

“He’s in the job, and I will take the devil I know over the devil I don’t know.” Such a leader may be insecure over his ability to hire the right person, especially if it is someone from outside the organization. There may be a fear that the new person will not fit into the culture and values of the group.

A leader does not need to be ruthless to get things done. Successful leaders have an inner value that drives them: ‘people first…strategy second’. This points to the need for a leader to make sure they have top caliber, committed, hard working people on their team, who will follow their example to focus on the ‘main thing’

The excuses of those leaders who fail to execute are often unconscious but in actuality they are mechanisms for conflict avoidance, and they prolong the inevitable.

Below are some significant hindrances to getting things done:

  1. Commitment to a favorite organizational model.
  2. Consensus decision-making.
  3. Losing sight of the main thing and making the process the end goal.
  4. Cliques.
  5. Changing vision often, the “flavor of the month” version of leadership.
  6. Failure to do whatever has to be done to achieve results. Failed leaders ask, “Why can’t people do it themselves?” or “Why can’t people solve problems without my help?”
  7. Denial. Leaders who fail to execute avoid facing the realities of their situation. They quickly end up becoming prisoners of one or two friends, listening to the ‘Pollyanna’ reports they love to hear. Some just can’t take responsibility for failure, so they blame others or circumstances for lack of results. They may have gotten used to winning for so long, all the way back to high school sports or college politics, that they can’t face the reality that they have to change things immediately if they are to be successful. Typically, they can’t believe that when something is going wrong, it is their fault.

The best thing that could happen to some of these leaders is a good, straight talk. But who is going to do them such a favor? Subordinates tend to keep their senior leader happy by feeding their ego. These leaders need to be taken to the woodshed. Deep down, they may even want it, but they are afraid to reveal their deep insecurities. Some of these poor leaders sit in a cocoon of isolation at the pinnacle of their career. They can’t see the seeds of destruction slowly growing under the surface.

Danger: there is a fine line between denial and optimism. A senior leader has the twin responsibility of being a cheerleader and the one to call the hard shots. A great leader acknowledges the negatives while providing hope and confidence. Warren Buffet warns, “The senior leader who misleads others in public eventually misleads himself in private.” It is called deception. Leaders who can’t face reality, don’t want to.

Deniers tend to be inveterate optimists, seduced by past glory and living in the hope of future success.

Leaders who fail to perform are typically the kind of people who serve on too many boards, attend too many meetings, travel too much, and have too many irons in the fire. They see themselves as ambassadors for their movement. They are dabblers, unfocused. Whatever the cause, indecisiveness takes over, and they fail to lead effectively.

Effective leaders use decision-making processes to drive results, not delay them. They start by focusing on initiatives that are clear, specific and few, and they don’t launch a new one until those in process are embedded in the DNA.

Effective Leaders are implementers through a process that seems simple, even obvious, but has profound effects. They note at the end of meetings who is to do what, by when. This type of leader goes over action steps with everyone before the meeting closes, and they probably send each one a reminder afterward.

It is fascinating to watch what happens when a leader who executes well brings these habits into a company where they didn’t exist before. The whole tone changes. People prepare for meetings differently. They interact differently. They stay focused. Commitments are highly valued. Great leaders hold people accountable, always.

Keeping track of critical assignments, following up, evaluating performance – isn’t that kind of, well, boring? It may well be. It’s a grind. At least, plenty of intelligent, never-the-less failed, leaders say so. And in a way you can’t blame them. It is hard work to lead well. It takes discipline, faithfulness, and follow through.

The problem with leaders who fail to execute is not a lack of brains or ability nor a lack of clear goals or strategy. It is the failure to make things happen. The problem with these leaders is drive. They find no reward in getting the job done, or finishing well. They find no incentive in continually improving how things are done. Failed Leaders ask, “Why don’t people follow through on things I ask them?” They’re afraid of appearing too controlling, of “micro-managing.”

Great leaders succeed because they have a desire to compete - all the time. They have a willingness to confront. They get a charge out of pushing a thing to completion, of improving and then improving some more. They love to set up systems and get the right people to run them. That is why they are so hungry for information, for reports from the battlefield. Effective leaders have a strong external focus and get stimulated by details of what’s happening in their area of responsibility. The details others find boring. They are haunted by the very real possibility that the boss is the last to know. To prevent this from happening, they ask hard questions. They pull in loads of data.

Great leaders know that having the right strategy is important, but it is only half the battle. Someone has to make it happen, and stick with it to improve it and make it work, day-in and day-out. That responsibility cannot be delegated to a second in command or an executive pastor or CEO.

Profile of a Leader Who Gets Things Done

  • Decisiveness: the senior leader faces conflict, pressure, internal dissent and fear of rejection with equanimity. They do what has to be done to get the job done and get it done right. They know the main thing and will not be deterred from seeing it accomplished.
  • Character: integrity, maturity, and spiritual energy. Self-confidence is essential.
  • People skills: judging, building teams, growing and coaching people, firing where necessary.
  • Business acumen: instinctive feel for how a company makes money, and a corresponding understanding of how to make that happen.
  • Organizational ability: engender trust, share information, listen expertly, diagnose problems and know how to bring about full potential; they deliver on commitments, are decisive, attract good staff and set up effective systems.
  • Insatiable curiosity: intellectual capacity, global mindset, externally oriented, adept at connecting developments and spotting patterns. They read and ask questions, lots of them.
  • Superior judgment: good observation skills, discerning, listening, good counselors, they have a foundation of moral principles and convictions to build on.
  • Hungry for growth and accomplishment: result oriented, focused, faithful, follow through, willing to say no. They are ambitious in the best meaning of the word.
  • Learners: motivated to improve, to learn from mistakes, gatherers of information, inspired to know and convert what they learn into practice.
  • Vision: they see the outcome and work toward it with tremendous focus and energy. Outcome oriented.
  • Knowing the main thing. Leaders have one primary responsibility, and that is to see to it that the main thing is always the main thing. They know that in the end, winning popularity contests won’t produce results. So they get the job done.

In the Christian arena, these leaders usually don’t have a great number of 'hang-out' friends, but they respect people and treat them well. They are focused, they live with a driving ambition to fulfill their calling. They want to finish the race and win the prize.











Ten Keys for Casting a Compelling Vision


  1. Make sure it is clear in your own mind.    What is the vision that burns in your heart in 25 words or less. If you need hundreds of words to summarize it, it's not compelling.
  2. What did God say?    Share the story of your spiritual journey and the amazing “co-incidences” that convince you that the vision is from God, how it gripped your heart, that it's something you are willing to give your life to.
  3. Share it with change agents first.    Win key decision makers over, before you go public. Follow the appropriate process and protocol to have the vision approved. Meet with them one-on-one and inspire them with the vision that grips your heart.
  4. Paint a compelling picture.    Stir the hearts and minds of people to mobilize them to work together to bring about the vision. Vision precedes reality. Visionaries stir people to action by creating a picture in their minds of what can happen. Share the opportunities more than the needs. Build with inspiration, not shame or guilt. Inspire people with what will happen when the vision is accomplished. If you want to build a ship, describe the ocean you will sail on more than the wood you will build with!
  5. Share your vision consistently.    Changing from one vision to another creates confusion and lack of credibility where trust is quickly lost. Stick to your vision and share it everywhere and with everyone!
  6. Proclaim the vision as widely as possible.    The vision should be given visibility. Cast it from the platform, in newsletters, via video, on audio tape. Use slogans, banners and brochures. Drive it home to your staff, board, friends, family, leaders, and supporters.
  7. Share your vision over and over again.    Sharing vision takes time, effort and sacrifice. It requires planning and effort, with continuity and repetition. It must gain trust through consistency and perseverance. It must be perceived as more than a pipe dream. It takes ruthless determination, unswerving dedication, relentless tenacity, and honest evaluation. Repeat the vision every time you meet. Never presume that people remember why they are working so hard and meeting so much.
  8. Connect from the heart.    Share from your heart what motivates you. Be personal. Let people know how you feel about the vision, and their part in it. Find out what motivates them, and what they dream about. Find out what makes them tick, their concerns, their fears. Express your need for them – and tell them why.
  9. Tell your vision passionately.    If you are not excited and committed, will others be? Share the stories of how people are buying in to the vision and how they are making it happen in their lives. Story, story, story!
  10. Build a team that owns the vision.    Share ownership with others. Speak of “our” vision and what “we” are doing. Delegate important responsibilities to key people, but make sure they understand the values the vision is built on. Ask their input, listen to their criticism, start where they are, evaluate frequently and go together toward the goal. Have ideals but avoid idealism. Start where people are at. Encourage their hearts and listen to them in order to work a 'fit' that gives them a share in what is being built.






Vision From God and Finishing Well

-Paul- His vision helped him overcome his past. He was responsible for people's deaths and persecution. Phil. 3: it Freed him from guilt and shame. He pressed into the vision the Lord gave him. You can't change your past, but you can pursue your vision. Principle: keep your eyes on the vision. - Joseph - His vision allowed him to endure and overcome adversity. He exp 20 yrs of adversity. God uses the events of today to prepare us for tomorrow. We interpret events through our eyes according to what we see right now and we like it or not...

- Abraham - His vision allowed him to overcome comfort and material blessing. He was a prosperous man. Gen 13. He left his source of prosperity to to follow your dream. His vision inspired faith to leave his place that provided security and comfort.

- Esther - Her vision allowed her to overcome fear. She was in Iran, a Jewess, and her vision allowed her to overcome fear and rescue her people, at risk of her life. Esther 4:16. Women are leaders used by God.

- Gideon - His vision helped him overcome his insecurity. People was hiding. The angel said to him, "...mighty warrior..." Gideon says you got the wrong Gideon! My family is the least in the nation, and I'm the least in the family.

- Joshua - His vision allowed him to overcome his own insecurities and unbelief...self-doubt. And the hindrances and unbelief of others. He had to wait 40 years to see his vision to come to pass. For 40 years he was surrounded by death - he had to wait for people to die off first! Think of AIDs in Africa. He was probably happy when they were gone! He held onto to the promise and he inherited the promise. When joshua acted he didn't ask for the people's opinions, he had seen that for 40 years.

- Moses - His vision helped him overcome failure. He killed an Egyptian. He had to flee for 40 years. The problem he saw was accurate, but his response was wrong. Not 40 years at the spa! Living with guilt and failure for 40 years. When god spoke he was riddled with shame. I can't speak. Don't let past failures keep you from future successes.

- David - His vision helped him overcome lack of formal training. He had not formal training, he's a shepherd boy. He's not a trained warrior. He had a vision, a cause from God. See 1 Samuel 17. The soldiers saw Goliath as a threat to them, but David saw him as a threat to God's purposes. He was trained by fighting a bear and a lion. Goliath was 9 feet tall, his armor weighted 125 pounds. David saw Goliath and started running toward Goliath! He had no training - he had a vision from God.

- New Testament church - Their vision gave them courage to overcome the old ways, to step out in something new, to break out of established patterns of doing "church", to enter the new covenant.