Aug 2014

Designers of Leader Development and Users of Design

Probably everybody who is reading these words has the ability to sit in a car and be driven somewhere by someone else. Everybody can benefit from the car. Whether or not we understand how the car works or even how to drive, everyone can benefit. But how many people can drive the car? Quite a few, but it’s not everybody. Then, how many people can change the oil in the car and do basic maintenance work? This is a significantly smaller group. How many people can fix the engine when it breaks down? Even fewer.

Now, think about when the car was built. How many people have the knowledge and skills to work on the production line and produce the car? Very few. Then, how many people have the ability to precisely engineer the various parts of the car? Not many. Finally, how many people can invent something like a car in the first place? Hardly anyone.

In another analogy, very few people can write a truly great book, but multitudes can read it and benefit from it.

Leader development is like this. While everyone can do simple design, God has given the church a few people who can create complex design. We need to identify those who can design strong four-dynamic leader development processes that are appropriate for the church in a certain context – those who understand the church and the people, those who know the culture, the language, and the particular needs. There are only a few people with this specific calling to create the design that others can use.

Most people will be able to implement complex design – as long as it’s articulated clearly – and everyone can create and implement simple design. In this way, we can build a unified leader development culture and practice across the life of the church. The core 5C/4D model provides a unifying language and framework for this, so that everyone understands what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we’re doing it. Everyone can fully cooperate and the body will be built up.

In the church God has called some to do this and some to do that (1 Cor. 12). When we all function within our callings, the body is built up.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The church in every culture and context needs designers of leader development. It’s not realistic that curriculum developed in one place will work everywhere for everyone. There are simply too many variables, such as culture, education level, background, socio-economic factors, current specific needs, etc. Moreover, things constantly change, so design that worked well in the past may not work today.

Instead of trying to create a single curriculum for everyone to use, we should nurture leaders’ capacity to design their own leader development. Some will emerge as specialist designers for complex design, while everyone will be able to do simple design.

Reconnecting Leader Development with Life

This is not to imply that every designer must create everything from nothing. In every situation, we already have great resources in all four dynamics from which we can draw. We already have some great content that needs to be “reframed” or reconfigured in a holistic way so it’s not just content and lectures. Everyone already has spiritual, relational and experiential opportunities – we just need to interact with them in an intentional, well-designed way.

Every church and ministry already has vast ministry opportunities, working with children, young people, families and old people. Every church is already doing a lot in pastoral work, evangelism, even church planting and missions work. There are challenges and opportunities on every hand! All of these ministries are not just tasks that need to be done – they are opportunities in which we can build people.

Every church and ministry already has relational opportunities. There are men and women of God with deep experience in God who we can be intentionally connecting with others as examples and role models and in mentoring and coaching roles. There are intercessors who can be mobilized in leader development work. There are endless spiritual opportunities with which to interface.

This is a shift of thinking. Traditionally, we have taken the training work and we’ve pulled it out of its context of life and made it stand by itself. This has not worked. We must reconnect leader development with life.

Everyone can do it. Everyone must do it!

Jul 2014

Simple Design and Complex Design

By God’s grace, for the second time in a row, LeaderSource SGA was recently selected as one of the recipients of the Leadership 500 Excellence Awards for 2014 “for outstanding achievements in leadership development and programs.” In addition we were selected as a “Top 10 finalist” in the Non-Profit Organizations Category . The complete list is here (we’re on page 12). We thank God for this honor.

In our last Letter, we began to look at how to design transformational leader development. Let’s continue now…

Simple Design and Complex Design

An intuitive grasp of the principles of gravity and aerodynamics is sufficient to catch a ball that is thrown to you. But it’s not sufficient to design an airplane, even though the same principles are at work! To design an airplane you need a considerably greater (and conscious) mastery of the principles.

In the same way, there is both simple and complex leader development design. Just as you can catch a ball without knowing anything about “lift” and “acceleration,” so you can intuitively harness the power of 4D design (incorporating spiritual, relational, experiential and instructional dynamics) without being able to design a full-time, multi-year curriculum for training.

Anyone can do “simple” design.

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Jun 2014

Designing Transformational Leader Development

In this Letter, we will begin a new series, looking at how to design transformational leader development.

Transformational leader development requires more than classroom instruction. Life transformation takes place through a combination of the “Four Dynamics of Transformation”:

  • Spiritual Dynamics – including prayer, worship, reflection, meditation in the Word;
  • Relational Dynamics – including encouragement, accountability, examples, mentors, coaches;
  • Experiential Dynamics – including learning by doing, challenging assignments, and pressure;
  • Instructional Dynamics – the teaching of the Word of God in an engaging and interactive way.

Traditional training, however, almost exclusively uses the Instructional Dynamic.

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May 2014

The Power of Pressure in Leader Development

In our last Letter we looked at the power of pressure in leader development.

There are several cautions we must observe as we introduce pressure into the lives of emerging leaders:

  • It is not true that “the more we make them suffer, the more they will grow.” God allows suffering in our lives, but He does so wisely. We should not just callously or arbitrarily throw people into the fire, thinking this will automatically improve them. We should be intentional and careful about exposing emerging leaders to various forms of pressure. A boxer said to his manager, “I want to fight the champ.” The manager said, “No, you’re not ready for the champ.” “But I want to fight him. I’m ready. Why can’t I fight him?” “Because,” said the manager, “you’ve only so many fights in you, and it’s my job to pick the right ones.” In the same way, we need to protect our emerging leaders by carefully designing what they experience.
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Apr 2014

True Leadership is Forged in the Fire

Many biblical leaders such as Joseph, Moses, David and Paul were built in the fire of suffering.

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Tim. 3:10-12)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Cor. 1:8-11; see also 4:7-12; 11:21-29; )

These are the ways of God: healthy leaders are built – and lead – in the fires of suffering.

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Mar 2014

Jesus Showed Us the Path of Suffering

Leaders are built through fire. Godly leaders know that sufferings can build spiritual maturity, brokenness and genuine faith in God; thus, they do not shy away from the cross in their lives.

Accordingly, Jesus showed the way of suffering to the leaders He was building. He personally demonstrated sufferings to them:

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Feb 2014

Leaders Are Built Through Fire

Leaders are built through fire – like steel is made hard in the fire, like gold is purified in the furnace, like carbon is formed under pressure into diamonds.

Pressure reveals the impurities in one’s life so they can be dealt with. It is far better to put the emerging leader under pressure before he is given significant responsibility and authority than to wait until the time when failure under pressure will destroy both the leader and those with him. Therefore, the leader development process can intentionally put the participants under a certain amount of pressure to squeeze heart contaminations to the surface so they can be revealed, confronted and removed.

Significantly, the formation of diamonds from carbon requires three things: (1) extreme pressures, 100 miles or more deep under the earth’s surface, (2) high temperatures, 2000 °F or more, and (3) time, diamonds are formed very slowly.

Of course, this is not only true for leaders; this is how God deals with all of us. He has always used suffering as a vital part of the Christian life.-

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Jan 2014

Jesus is the Source of Everything

Everything is in Jesus. Do not seek anything outside of Jesus. He died on the cross to restore you to Himself.

Jesus did not die just so that you may live a righteous, ethical life; He died to restore you to Himself, and in union with Him your heart will be captivated by the beauty and invigorated by the power of Divinely-imparted holiness. He did not die that you might be bound with a life of religious busyness and duty; He died to bring you to Himself that you may know the delightful privilege of living every moment in His gracious fellowship and zealous service.

So let Him be your desire; purely to behold and to know Him your longing. Be captivated with Him; and not just so you will receive anything from Him or can do anything for Him. But seek communion with Him simply because He is precious. Worship Him merely because He is God and you are man. Let Him become your song just because He is worthy. Long for Him for His own sake. Hunger for Him for no motive other than Him. Thirst for Him because only He can ever satisfy.

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Dec 2013

It’s All in Him!

Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Our personal experiential knowledge of Him and our faith in Him are inseparable. Faith that is purely academic, consisting in nothing more than mental assent with Scriptural principles that may in themselves be sound, is not authentic faith and in times of trial and testing it will eventually fail. A true faith will triumph and abide forever, and it is only present in the hearts of those who know Him, to whom faith is not a requirement nor duty but a privilege.

Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

Before we can expect to see the growth of Christian character, fruit and leadership in our lives, we must first encounter God. We must first come to know Jesus inwardly and personally. Anything else is false, external religion and a worthless substitute for Christian reality. Anything else will never satisfy: either us or God. Anything else is of no value.

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Nov 2013

We Need Real Christians; We Need Real Leaders!

We do new Christians the gravest of injustices when we teach them how to “play the part” of a Christian without giving them the inward reality of experience of Jesus Christ. We teach them how to act “holy”, how to live “righteously”, and how to talk “faith”, and then require it all of them. But unless we have in truth actually led them to Jesus Christ who will be the only true inward Source of all these fruits, we have only succeeded in teaching them how to imitate the Christian life, and have not at all helped them to become real Christians. We have taught them how to display the outward forms of godliness all the while neglecting the inward power thereof. We have done little more than to bring them into religious captivity.

This produces several classes of Christians. On the one hand are those who play along with the game, mouthing all the right things and learning how to climb the religious ladder of church acceptance and respectability – “professional Christians”. They become expert at making the right moves, and all their spiritual exercise is stereotyped and based on approved convention rather than simply being the outgushing of a genuine fellowship with God. They profess spirituality, but possess very little. Others will see and hear their Christian lives but no-one will feel them. As one brother said, “You can’t get warm by a painted fire!” Their hearts are empty, and their lives barren, while outwardly they smile and play the part. Unfortunately, these self-motivated souls are often the ones who end up as leaders in the world of organized religion.

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