Lead From the Middle

“What brings a fresh future into being is citizens who are willing to self-organize. An alternative future needs the investment of citizens – leaders not in top positions – who are willing to pay the economic and emotional price that creating something really new requires.” by Peter Block in Community – The Structure of Belonging

We are under the misinformation that leadership comes out of position. It may or may not. Position does not make or determine leadership. In fact, John Maxwell identifies position as the lowest rung of leadership (note Five Levels of Leadership). 

What we have not realized is that leadership, the personal investment in change, where we step up to become part of the solution, can happen at all levels.

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Covering in the Lord

What is ‘covering’ in the Lord, how does it work, what are the misconceptions about it, how might we walk in greater covering?

These are questions that many have attempted to answer and I am going to do the same today. To begin with I share a bit of my own journey, for it is here in my experience that my theology of covering has been thoroughly threshed.

Nearly five years ago I had a church leadership team tell me this, “You cannot have God’s blessing, you cannot have his favour, you need to come under our oversight or you will lose all influence, all ministry, and you will not have the covering of God.”
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Alongside the Faithful

For many years now the pattern has been that God brings us at CCIM alongside those He is bringing into new levels of influence and spiritual authority within the body of Christ.

As leaders move forward and beyond themselves in ministry it is imperative that hearts and spirits are both cleansed of past residue and strain and simultaneously filled with the grace and peace of our Lord.

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I was privileged to attend The Justice Conference  via a satellite site this last weekend.

“Justice is rooted in the character of God and flows from the heart of God.” Ken Wytsma

Chocked-full with those leading the way in various dimensions and expressions of justice I came away chocked-full myself with new wisdoms and continued clarity to my own thinking and life and ministry.

In the past I’ve worked through refusing injustice in my own life personally. Since then I’ve journeyed others through the labyrinth of advocating justice within their own lives. Today as I work alongside indigenous pastors I’m joining conversations of justice at the rural indigenous church level.

“Justice is not just about solutions per se, but for us as peace workers it is an invitation to the table.” Sami Awad 

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Seven Signs of a Good Leader

1. Good leaders make way for others. Good leaders do not have to have the last word and they don’t even need to have full self expression in the context of conversations. Good leaders do not bully their perspectives forward and they are always aware of the softer spoken individuals in a room ensuring that these ones have a chance to speak.

2. Good leaders understand that leadership is about opening up safe spaces for others and this is best accomplished by keeping their own mouths shut far more than they are naturally inclined. This requires a commitment to deep listening for the purpose of understanding and not necessarily responding; good leaders have this.

3. Good leaders do not ignore the elephant in the room. Where there is discrepancy within relationships they speak of these with candour but without condemnation. But they do speak. To leave an elephant in the room is to deal in dishonesty. Good leaders don’t do this. For while it may be a short term plan to avoid tough conversation a good leader has an eye to long term working relationships and solutions and knows that the unspoken is a threat to any true authenticity.

4. Good leaders know that leading is more about character and less about what one knows. One can be brilliant in one’s field but without character that takes others into account the brilliance goes to waste. Without wisdom to apply knowledge pride and arrogance take hold and people are hurt left and right. Leaders may be ‘right’ but good leaders have put aside their need to be right.

5. Good leaders are able to learn from those they do not agree with. Good leaders know they are not the only expert in the room and they actively look to understand things that seem foreign to them but familiar to others. Having settled their own insecurities some years earlier good leaders can receive from all people and in this they lead the way to richness of diversity, richness of thought, and richness of communion around common problems and solutions.

6. Good leaders allow those around them, those they’ve known a long time even, to excel and surpass even their own skill and influence. Weak leaders have unspoken rules and barriers around who can become better than them, good leaders don’t have this. Good leaders celebrate the achievements of others. Good leaders make space for their protege to surpass them and good leaders learn to receive from these ones they once taught.

7. Good leaders leave their ego’s at the door. Solid in who they are, no longer striving to make up for or to cover over inadequacies and insecurities, good leaders are gracious and make way for others. Good leaders know that there is no contest and that we all win when one of us wins. Good leaders stand in compassion and understanding and out of this everyone around them becomes a better person.

Refusing to Fix

I work with indigenous leaders around the world. Many of them are in third world countries, some of the poorest in the world. Many of these leaders are working amongst the most difficult of circumstances trying to live the love of God to their own people.

Due to difficulties, both the chronic and the unexpected, I am often approached for tangible assistance with the needs facing these pastors and evangelists and early on as we were nailing down the scope of our work at Capturing Courage we were tempted, and tried on a few occasions, to fundraise to meet various needs around the world.

All of these efforts met with dismal failure. We couldn’t even raise $1 to help with a toilet door! And we began to realize that our work is not one of tangible help with the problems at hand, rather we truly are only called to grow leaders in terms of spiritual transformation, emotional wholeness, and in strong leadership skills.

In this and as I continue to work with leaders, those given assignments bigger than themselves, I have really settled this year on the fact that I would be doing them a disservice if my help removed from them their difficulties.

My eyes are wider and my view is broader and I understand like never before that for leaders to be leaders they must be well versed in difficulty. They must in fact be grown in capacity to head into trouble and to creatively look for solutions that are right at hand but often just out of sight.

This inner capacity within each one of us is only grown and strengthened in the face of difficult things. Difficult things grow us up. Our stamina is increased when we learn the love of God in what is the worst.

The ability to carry on, to remain abiding in God no matter what, is a skill all its own and one that must be acquired by leaders if they are going to go successfully forward to which they are called.

For it is not difficulty that undoes us. It is the nagging questions about the presence of God in the midst of these difficulties, these are what really undo us and it is only in difficulty that these questions about God can be fully answered.

Tree roots must go deep in order to withstand storms and it is drought that sends them deep.

What the many who approach me for help don’t know is that I’ve weathered my own many difficulties. I’ve walked a path of strain and faithfulness woven together for many, many years. And while I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face for a lot of that time I now look back and see that those years were the investments years paving the way for the rest of my life’s journey.

The spiritual authority, the leading that I am called to was birthed and nurtured and grown through those most difficult years. And now, as I visit and mentor and pray for leaders be it online or in person or over the phone across oceans I encourage leaders to embrace the difficulties that they are facing.

Are they hard? You bet. Are they crushing? Yes. Are they pushing them to their edge? Yup.

But this place where we end and our Lord begins is the richest place to be. Standing in the tension between faith and all that doesn’t seem to be working is in fact the call of all leaders. For leading is not about telling others what to do. It’s not about organizing building projects or arranging pastors conferences.

Rather, those who truly lead us, showing us the way, do so on the basis of how they themselves have met God. Where has God become real for you? This is where you lead from. And here in the shadow of your own journey others are nurtured and grown and empowered to go forth with strength of their own.

Every capacity a leader grows and allows within is a capacity that all around can catch hold of and make their own.

We need to be capacity building people. And capacity is built in the difficulties. Period.

What satan intends for evil the Lord makes good. What has been robbed from our lives will be replaced many times over. The losses we have experienced are the seed-beds of fruitfulness for others.

Imagine a portion of your heart, the part that all the stress and harm and difficulties go. Imagine that as life goes on and the difficulties surmount that this portion of your heart is stretched out of all proportion. Imagine your heart being stretched by difficulty as hard circumstance after hard circumstance is poured in.

Now, imagine that this portion of the heart can contain just one of two things. It can contain the grumbling, the bitterness, the rushing to fix things, the impatience, the complaining, the disillusionment, the harm, the hatreds, the unforgiveness, the doubts about God, and more.

Or this stretched out part of your heart can be inhabited by the living God. Entering the Lord into our grumbling, into our bitterness, into our rushing to fix things… you get the picture, turns our cauldrons into reservoirs.

And once we have been pruned and threshed with all chaff burnt away we are then in possession of strength and stamina, belief and wisdoms that cannot be taken away. Ever. The solid knowing of our Lord Jesus Christ is a possession that will not rust or decay. And this is how leaders are made.

I don’t rush to fix anyone’s problems any more. I wouldn’t do them the disservice.

Three Days Grace

Reading a Rick Joyner book years back I learned that pride blinds us for three days time. It was an interesting thing to read and about the only thing I remember from that book.

Since then I’ve had grand opportunity (i.e.: my own pride) to test this out, and I’ve found it to be completely accurate.

Blinded, literally, by our pride.

So I’ve learned to give some space and time for my thinking and responses. When I’ve been kicked in the gut by another (as I experienced yesterday) there is always an element of my pride that has been hit.

Yes, the other party was in violation to an agreement made, but the part of me that feels the violation is simply my pride. And when pride gets kicked up, like sand in a dust storm, we just can’t see so well for a few days.

Our discernment is foggy, wisdom is compromised, accuracy is at 50% or less. It is therefore imperative during this time to sit back and allow the dust to settle before addressing everything that went wrong.

Give it three days, regardless of the trouble three days space will allow new light to shine on the situation. Three days allows emotions to settle, disappointments to be reckoned, betrayal to be grieved. It’s a good investment.