Leadership Weekly

What's Love Got to Do with It?

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing. — 1 Corinthians 13:2-3

Influential individuals often demonstrate a care and compassion for the people they are around. This love propels them to make a difference. Without love nothing else matters. The famous love essay, written by the influential apostle Paul, reminds us of the need for love.

Love keeps the flame of influence burning brightly. Teilhard de Chardin said it this way: "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire."

What is love challenging you to do in your life, at your church, in your community? What sacrifices are you willing to make to see God's dream for you become reality?

A college professor had his sociology class go into the Baltimore slums to get case histories of 200 young boys. They were asked to write an evaluation of each boy's future. In every case the students wrote, "He hasn't got a chance." Twenty-five years later another sociology professor came across the earlier study. He had his students follow up on the project to see what had happened to those boys. With the exception of 20 boys who had moved away or died, the students learned that 176 of the remaining 180 had achieved more than ordinary success as lawyers, doctors, and businessmen.

The professor was astounded and decided to pursue the matter further. Fortunately, all the men were in the area, and he was able to ask each one, "How do you account for your success?" In each case the reply came with feeling, "There was a teacher."

The teacher was still alive, so he sought her out and asked the old but still alert lady what magic formula she had used to pull these boys out of the slums into successful achievement.

The teacher's eyes sparkled and her lips broke into a gentle smile. "It's really very simple," she said. "I loved those boys." (Eric Butterworth, "Love: The One Creative Force," Chicken Soup for the Soul)

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The Purposeful Life

Pilate said, "So you are a king?" — John 18:37-38

Jesus responded, "You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true."

"What is truth?" Pilate asked.

It's an age-old quest. The search for the meaning of life has always dogged mankind. Why am I here? What am I striving for? How do I make my mark in life, and what does it matter if I do or not? Finding no answers to these questions, many become defeatists; some become suicidal, while still others become tyrants.

During Pilate's interrogation of Jesus, Jesus volunteered that his purpose was to testify to the truth. Looking at Jesus with both pity and contempt, Pilate must have wondered what Jesus meant. A prisoner, beaten within an inch of his life, betrayed by his friend, deserted by his followers, and about to be hung on a tree until dead; what "truth" could Jesus possibly testify to that would hold any meaning for Pilate? Having been a witness to the heartless cruelty of man toward man, Pilate looked at Truth Incarnate and asked, "What is truth?"

The true condition of Pilate's heart was revealed when he turned to the screaming mob and, in an act of appeasement, sentenced Jesus to death. The words Jesus spoke on the cross while he was dying testified to the truth of his unparalleled love for man. Jesus' death testified to the tragic truth of man's rejection of God. Ultimately, Jesus' resurrection testified to his victory over sin and the glorious truth of God's passion for the redemption of man.

Jesus knew his purpose in life and fulfilled it with resolve. His victory over sin and death gives us the opportunity to live a purposeful life today. As Jesus testified to the truth of God and man, so we are called to testify to Jesus. Every day our lives can and do give evidence to the power of his loving sacrifice. Since we are liberated in Jesus, we can live in freedom toward others, unrestrained and generous in our compassion and fervent in our witness to our Savior. Our lives can be lived with purpose, determination, and joy in the knowledge that we are freed from the consequences of sin and the finality of death.

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The Power of Partnership

Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. — Philippians 1:4-5

Partnership is the ability to accomplish more together than apart. It recognizes that a team is stronger than a lone individual. A group committed to each other will help the struggling and the fallen.

Mother Teresa said, "You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together, we can do great things." An anonymous author wrote, "It is better to have one person working with you, than three working for you." Andrew Carnegie confessed, "I owe whatever success I have attained, by and large, to my ability to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am." John Wooden, perhaps the greatest basketball coach of all time, reminded his team, "The man who puts the ball through the hoop has ten hands."

Call it whatever you want--teamwork, association, synergy--partnership is the remarkable ability of two or more people working together to accomplish more than what each could do alone.

This truth is a fit reminder to God's people that when we are working together in harmony, the talents and gifts of the body minimize the weaknesses and shortcomings of the body, thereby making a stronger unit. Just as a baseball team needs nine players on the field or the game is forfeited, the local church needs everyone participating, or the strength of the body is weakened and the advancement of the gospel is threatened. If you took away one musician from an orchestra, the symphony would be incomplete. So, too, if one member of the family of God is missing, the church is incomplete.

We need each other. You need someone, and someone needs you.

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The Force of Faith

It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches. — Matthew 13:32

There is strength in smallness. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. A small rudder steers a large boat. One idea can spur an individual to change the world. And faith, regardless of its size, can change a desperate crisis into a hope-filled event.

Jesus' parable about a mustard seed is a parable about smallness effecting greatness. The mustard seed was known for its smallness. In fact, the term was proverbial for smallness. The mustard plant was an herb. There was a particular variety of mustard plant in Palestine in Jesus' day that grew rapidly from a minute seed into a bush and then into a tree. Mustard seeds were so small, the naked eye could barely see them. Yet the result was a strong-branched growth in which birds could not only perch but also build nests.

How often have you said when you felt like giving up, "I wish I had more faith?" Or, how do you respond when you are going through a difficult situation and someone says, "You need more faith?"

According to this parable, more faith is not needed. The issue is not the size of your faith but the object of your faith. Faith needs to be directed toward God. Even the smallest amount of faith can lead you to a strong finish.

In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. The satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter and complete a life span of three years. Remarkably, by 1997, twenty-five years after its launch and more than six billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 was still beaming back radio signals to scientists on Earth from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light.

The seed of faith planted within us is like that tiny 8-watt transmitter. We can keep going and going and going. God has implanted with us all the faith we need. As long as we keep our heart focused on him, God can work.

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We Are in This Together

But now I said to them, "You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!" — Nehemiah 2:17

Did you notice the words we and us in this verse? In order to motivate the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah had to identify with their problem, their need, and their future. It was no longer their problem. Now Nehemiah saw the broken wall as our problem. Imagine the kind of response Nehemiah would have received if he had said, "You folks have gotten yourselves into a bad mess. You know what you need to do? You need to rebuild that wall. If you need me, I'll be in my office. After all, I wasn't part of the problem. You people will have to get it on and do the work. Let me know how it turns out."

Identifying with the problem encourages motivation.

When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of Chrysler at the height of the auto giant's problems in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Although he persuaded Congress to guarantee the company loans, he was still deeply distrusted by Chrysler's union members. He knew that he had to find a way to persuade these workers that he had Chrysler's best interests at heart.

Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives. He announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. The gambit worked. By sacrificing his own salary, Iacocca proved that he placed the welfare of the company over personal gain.

He identified with the workers. He was saying, "We are in this together. And, together we can make it through." He knew that people will accept a lot of pain when everybody is going through the trial together. If the followers know that the leader's in with them, together they can move a mountain or, in Nehemiah's case, build a wall.

In what ways can you identify with the people you lead? How can you say to them, "We are in this together?"

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People Do Things for Their Reasons, Not Yours

But now I said to them, "You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!" — Nehemiah 2:17

Gordon Bethune took over Continental Airlines as CEO when it was in a free fall in 1994. The airline had one of the worst on-time records in the business. Customer service almost didn't exist. Planes were dirty. Workers lost luggage.

The first problem Bethune tackled was the on-time record. He pledged non-manager workers $65 bonuses every month the airline's on-time rate put it in the top five nationwide. Baggage handlers, gate and reservation clerks, flight attendants, and secretaries were all part of the pool.

He arrived at the $65 by determining what it cost the company each month to run flights late. At $5 million per month, Bethune was willing to give half of that back to the employees ($65 times 40,000 employees) if they turned their on-time record around. He announced the program in January 1995. In February of 1999, 80% of Continental's flights landed on time.

By providing a financial windfall to the employees, all of a sudden, planes were clean. Motivation was up. So were profits. People were doing things for their reasons.

During Nehemiah's time, the city walls encircling Jerusalem, God's holy city, lay in ruins. It was a disgrace. A city's walls were for protection. Without the stone barricade and nothing to stop their enemies, the inhabitants were defenseless and vulnerable to attack.

People are experts in cost-benefit analysis. Everybody asks, "What's in it for me?" Constructed walls around Jerusalem would benefit the residents of the city. Nehemiah knew this and acted on it. He led the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, not for his sake (he lived a thousand miles away) but for their sake. And, it wasn't an extra $65 a month in their paycheck; it was for the protection of their very lives and their families.

One can poke, prod, and push people, and they don't move. But give them a good reason--one of their reasons--a way in which they will benefit, and they will follow where you lead.

People do things for their reasons, not your reasons. Their reasons.

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Is Your Life Balanced?

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. — Luke 2:52

A balanced life is characterized by order, peace, and wholeness. The various parts of life are as they should be and where they should be. Each part of the balanced life gets the right amount of time and effort at the right time. It's not giving each part of life the same amount of time that makes life balanced; it's giving each part the necessary allotment of time.

The life of Jesus is an excellent model concerning balance. Throughout his life, Jesus was under constant pressure. Friend and enemy alike pursued him. Yet, when examining his life as recorded in Scripture, one sees that he never hurried, that he never had to play catch up, and that he was never taken by surprise. He managed time well, bringing it under control, because he knew the importance of balance. Jesus' life was well rounded. He grew intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Does your life reflect a balance? Do you make time for intellectual growth? If you are too busy to read a book or engage in study that stimulates the mind, you are too busy. Do you make time for physical health? Many people burn out because of improper personal maintenance. Don't be another fatality on the emotional highway. Take care of your physical self. Do you make time for your relationship with God? Do you feel too busy for prayer, Bible study, meditation, or devotions? Psalms 46:10 can be translated, "Take time and know that I am God." A popular hymn gives this advice: "Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord . . . Take time to be holy, the world rushes on," but do we do it? Do you make time for primary relationships? Is adequate time provided for your spouse, family, and friends?

Only you can answer those questions honestly. And, only you can take the necessary steps to bring order, harmony, and balance back in your life. Start today.

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How's Your Vision?

When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful. — Proverbs 29:18

Robert Fritz wrote, "It is not what a vision is; it's what a vision does." What does a vision do? Vision is the ability to see. Helen Keller was asked, "Is there anything worse than being blind?" "Yes," she replied, "having eyesight but no vision!"

Leaders imagine a preferred future. Vision is the stuff of the future. Vision is the vivid image of the compelling future God wants to create through you. Leaders can stand up and say this is where we are going.

Mike Vance tells of being at Walt Disney World soon after its completion when someone said, "It's too bad Walt Disney didn't live to see this." Vance replied, "He DID see it--that's why it's here."

What kind of vision do you have?

Myopic vision. Leaders with myopic vision are so terribly nearsighted that they live only for today. Their vision of the future is fuzzy. They can barely see beyond their noses.

Peripheral vision. Leaders with peripheral vision are blindsided by side issues. These visionaries are hampered in moving forward because they catch the threatening images of lurking problems in the corners of their eyes. They are fearful of shadowy difficulties and people lurking on the sidelines who will defeat their efforts. These folks are easily distracted.

Tunnel vision. Leaders with tunnel vision see only what's dead ahead of them and assume that their slender view of reality reflects the whole world. They don't see other persons or other issues.

Panoramic vision. Leaders with panoramic vision see the big picture. They see beyond today. They see what is ahead of them. They see what is to their sides. They have a basic understanding of the key ingredients of a healthy organization and know the steps that it will take to get them there.

Vision is perhaps the greatest need of leadership today. As someone said regarding the church but it pertains to any organization, "Our preachers aren't dreaming. That's why the church is such a nightmare."

How's your vision? Without it your organization will be like an unbridled horse. With it the organization will be focused, moving toward the fulfillment of the dream.

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