I'm convinced that discouragement is one of Satan's favorite weapons against those in leadership. Christian leaders are called to lead God's people to a place of promise and destiny, but it's impossible to do that if the leaders become disillusioned, disappointed or distracted along the way.
Effective leaders are able to maintain their vision, hold on to their hope and continually fan into flame their passion for God and compassion for hurting people. It's not enough to do these things sporadically—we must do them consistently.
Back to the Basics
Rarely have I seen a Christian leader fall because of failing to grasp some deep theological truth. The reason they stumbled along the way wasn't because they didn't understand Hebrew or Greek. Nor did they get off track because they misinterpreted the book of Revelation or some other prophetic passages in God's Word.
In virtually every case, the leaders who got into trouble did so because they neglected fundamental truths and basic spiritual disciplines. Let me explain with an illustration from one of the most successful football coaches of all time.
In 1959, Vince Lombardi became a head coach in the NFL for the first time. He had the challenge of leading the Green Bay Packers, a team that had only won two games the previous season. He had his work cut out for him, but Lombardi wasn't going to let last year's record shape his expectations. After all, this was a new season.
When the discouraged group of players gathered for their first preseason meeting, Coach Lombardi entered the locker room and stood silently for several seconds. Holding out a football in front of these men, he spoke one of the most famous quotes in football history:
"Gentlemen, this is a football."
In just five words, the new coach communicated his philosophy for the team's success: start with the basics and make sure to execute the fundamentals. You see, the Packers had been losing, not because they lacked talent, but because they'd forgotten the basics of football.
This simple story is a powerful message. We can read countless leadership books and attend all the latest seminars on how to build a successful organization. But in the final analysis, our success or failure will be determined by how well we execute the basics of the Christian life.
Vince Lombardi brought the Packers a new philosophy that led to incredible success in the following years, including Super Bowl victories. A seemingly hopeless team was given a new beginning.
What a great lesson! No matter how poorly things may have gone in past years, God can turn things around for you amazingly fast. However, the key to your turnaround is the same as it was for the Packers—you have to get back to the basics.
Beyond the Superficial
The "basics" do not mean a spiritual life that is superficial or shallow. Too many Christians—even those in leadership—have spiritual lifestyles akin to the old Brylcreem commercials, the hair-styling gel: "A little dab will do you!" This is certainly not the philosophy we want to have when it comes to spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting and Bible study.
We can't expect to have powerful ministries if we have a "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer life. Rather than settling for token, superficial prayers, Christian leaders today must learn to wrestle with God and be passionate about their desperate need for His blessing on their life (see Genesis 32:24-32).
In the same way, we'll never consistently live in victory just by having a few favorite Bible verses we can quote. We must take time, on a consistent basis, to saturate ourselves with God's presence and His Word. His Word must be written on our heart, and we must be committed to applying it to every area of our life (see Psalm 40:6-8; Ezra 7:10).
As Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee used to say, it's not enough to carry a big leather Bible if we haven't ingested its teachings and put them into practice. He said we must "put the Word of God into shoe leather," walking it out in every aspect of our life. That's the only way to consistently stand in victory and turn the world upside down for Christ.
The first-century Christians were a great example of how powerful the basics can be. They were known as "uneducated and untrained men," yet they rocked the world! How did this happen? Because "they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).
The Day of Pentecost had brought these early disciples a new beginning. In a moment's time, they received power from on high—reversing all the failure and frustration that had gone on before. Instead of denying, doubting or betraying their Lord, they now were bold witnesses (Acts 1:8, 2:1-4). No matter how discouraged you may be at the moment, this same kind of turnaround can happen to you!
(Excerpt from Leadership Awakening: Foundational Principles for Lasting Success)
Dr. J. Doug Stringer is Founder and President of Somebody Cares America/International, a global network of chapters and relationships transforming their communities with the tangible expression of Christ. He invests significant time training and equipping the next generation of Christian leaders both in the US and abroad. Doug has also authored numerous books, including Leadership Awakening: Foundational Principles for Lasting Success which can be purchased at SomebodyCares.org. or wherever Christian books are sold. Listen also to Doug Stringer's A Word in Season with Doug Stringer and Friends podcast on the Charisma Podcast Network.
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