In Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I wrote, “You will not only extend your leadership by having other servant-hearted shepherds around you, but you will also have a guard against the aloneness that led to such ugly warts on the biography of otherwise powerful leaders such as David, Elijah, and Peter.”
I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. If you would like to check out the other clips I have already shared from this podcast, please check them out here. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.
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King Solomon nailed it pretty succinctly with this verse: Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1)
As a Christian leader, I always have mixed emotions when I hear of another prominent Christian leader who has stumbled. Part of me is angry because I know that all Christian leaders will get painted with the same brush. Another part of me is incredibly sad to hear of a brother or sister who has squandered the trust that was placed in them. Finally, part of me becomes quite self-reflective, because I don’t want to repeat their mistakes.
Tom Peters said, “There are no minor lapses of integrity.” King Solomon would agree. And so do I.
Godly leadership can be such a beautiful thing, but just a couple of dead flies can putrefy the whole thing!
Here are four things that I have seen in the lives of those leaders who haven’t finished well. These are the things all of us need to watch carefully in our own lives.
(1) They compromised in “the little things.” None of them started off by saying, “I’m going to completely ruin my reputation as a godly leader.” But they allowed themselves to indulge in things that were just “little things” in their minds. Perhaps they thought, “It won’t hurt if I indulge in this one little thing.” The apostle Paul warns us, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
(2) Pride crept in. They thought they were better than others. Peter said it this way: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). I addressed this topic in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter like this—
Did you catch that? God stands back from the proud person who will not admit his error nor ask for help, let alone ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, God lavishes His grace on the humble one who admits both his error and his need for help. Admission of an inappropriate action or reaction brings God’s help!
Friends, the mark of a maturing shepherd is not one who never misspeaks or never makes a mistake. No, the mark of a maturing shepherd is the one who is closing the gap between his mess up and his confession.
Pride will keep us from confessing the “little sins” and keep us from God’s help. But humility quickly admits the smallest of slip-ups and therefore receives God’s grace and help.
(3) They lowered their standards. If anything, leaders should raise their standards as they become more successful. Think of it this way: when I was young and immature, I didn’t give much thought to my diet or my exercise routine. As I became older (and hopefully more mature), I became much more tuned-in to these things. Physically, the older I get, the more I need to pay attention to my health. The same thing is true in our leadership: maturity should lead to higher standards and higher levels of scrutiny.
(4) They stopped listening to others. The combination of little compromises, pride, and lowered standards doesn’t easily invite accountability nor transparency. The track record is pretty consistent among those who have fallen short: they stopped listening to people who tried to correct them.
I want to finish well. I don’t want a leadership stumble in my life to rob God of glory, nor to cause others to stumble in their Christian walk. I am committed to living my life in a way that will allow Jesus to say to me at the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I pray that all Christian leaders will join me in this.
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.
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At the instigation of his wife, Abraham adopted means that were not justifiable in order that he might obtain the promised heir [see Genesis 16]. He used means that may not be so vicious to him as they would be in men of modern times, but that were suggested by an unbelieving policy and were fraught with evil. He takes Hager to wife. He could not leave it to God to give him the promised seed. He could not leave it with God to fulfill His promise in His own time and justifies himself in turning aside from the narrow path of faith to accomplish, by doubtful methods, the end that God Himself had promised and undertaken to accomplish! How shorn of splendor is Abraham seen when we read, ‘And Abraham heeded the voice of Sarah’ (Genesis 16:2). That business of Hagar is to the patriarch’s deep discredit and reflects no honor at all upon either him or his faith.
Look at the consequences of his unbelieving! Misery soon followed. Hager despises her mistress. Sarah throws all the blame on her husband. The poor bondwoman is so harshly dealt with that she flees from the household. … One marvels that such a man as Abraham allowed one who had been brought into such a relationship with him to be heedlessly chased from his house while in a condition requiring care and kindness!
We admire the truthfulness of the Holy Spirit that He has been pleased to record the faults of the saints without extenuating them. Biographies of good men in Scripture are written with unflinching integrity—their evil recorded as well as their good. These faults are not written that we may say, ‘Abraham did so-and-so; therefore we may do it.’ No, brothers and sisters, the lives of these good men are warnings to us as well as examples, and we are to judge them as we should judge ourselves—by the laws of right and wrong.
From Consecration To God
In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I also talk about the faults that we see in God’s leaders. In looking at David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Elijah’s slide into depression, and Peter’s denial of Jesus, I see something similar: They were alone.
David stayed in Jerusalem while his army went to fight, Elijah left his servant behind and went into the wilderness alone, and Peter was separated from his fellow disciples. Just like with Abraham, all of these other men were brought back into close fellowship with God. But all of these men now have a “wart” on their biography.
“God designed us to be in relationship with others. His statement to Adam in some of the earliest words of the Bible—‘It is not good for you to be alone’—are words for us still today. As I mentioned earlier [in my book], you will not find the word ‘saints’ in the singular in the New Testament. Instead, you will find such phrases as ‘one another,’ ‘each other,’ and ‘all together’ prominently displayed throughout the New Testament church. Let me say it again: God designed us to be in relationship with others. If you want to go far in your shepherding, you cannot try to go alone.” —from the chapter in Shepherd Leadership called‘Going Farther’
Let’s be forewarned by these examples. Stay close to God, but also stay close to godly friends that will help you in the hard times. Don’t let a wart blemish your record.
David was the gold standard for every king of Israel who followed him. Numerous times throughout the history of Israel, we will see a note that a certain king either followed God like David, or turned from God unlike David. Yet there exists a wart on David’s portrait: an adultrous affair with the wife of a man in his inner circle, and then subsequent lies and a murder to cover up the affair. “The thing David had done displeased the Lord” (see 2 Samuel 11).
But I’d like to turn your attention to when this affair occurred: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war … David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1). He was without his usual comrades. The men who knew David best, who could probably sense if something was amiss, weren’t around to warn him. When David tried to find out the identity of the bathing beauty on the roof next door to his palace, an unnamed attendant tried to remind him, “Isn’t that Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah?” but David dismissed him.
Elijah was arguably the most forceful and fearless prophet in Israel’s history. Not only did he stand up to the evil kings of Israel, but he spoke out against the kings of surrounding nations, too. In answer to Elijah’s prayer, God brought a drought on the land, and again in answer to Elijah’s prayer, God sent rain. Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of the god Baal and the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah to a duel to the death, which ended up in a decisive victory for Yahweh. Yet, shortly after this massive victory, Elijah was depressed to the point that he wanted to die.
What led to Elijah’s depression? Something very similar to David’s slide into adultery: He was alone. Elijah ran away from Queen Jezebel’s death threat, left his servant behind, and proceeded all by himself into the desert. It was when he was without a comrade that he prayed to God, “I’ve had enough. Take my life” (see 2 Kings 17–19).
And what about Peter? He boldly claimed his loyalty to Jesus, even to the point of wielding a sword at the guards who came to arrest his Master. But when Peter was alone, after the other disciples fled, he denied three times that he knew Jesus (Matthew 26:33, 51, 69–75).
God designed us to be in relationship with others. His statement to Adam in some of the earliest words of the Bible—“It is not good for you to be alone”—are words for us still today.
If you want to go far, don’t try to go alone. If you want an accountability partner that can keep warts away from your leadership legacy, don’t go alone. If you want to extend your leadership influence, don’t go alone. If you want to honor God’s investment in you, don’t go alone. Get those friends around you who love you enough to speak the truth!
Not one word in Scripture is wasted: not one word is redundant or replaceable. When Jesus taught us to pray to a Heavenly Father, He taught us to say, “OUR Father.” That means we are all His children, with His Holy Spirit helping us to grasp this—The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that WE are God’s children. Now if WE are children, then WE are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ… (Romans 8:16-17).
Did you know that the word saints never appears in the singular in Scripture? No one person is singled out for his or her saintliness. Because we are saintS, praying together to OUR Father, this means accountability. For some people, accountability is a bad word. It seems to them to feel like someone is looking over their shoulder or checking up on them. But Christians should never feel this way! I like how Ken Blanchard defines this: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.”
What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another.
In the context of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, being mutually accountable means:
Power in our prayers—give US today our daily bread. Jesus talks about the power in agreement, and the apostle Paul emphasizes how the Holy Spirit helps believers harmonize in prayer with each other and with God’s will (Matthew 18:19-20; Romans 8:27).
Strengthening of our character—forgive US our debts, as WE also have forgiven our debtors. Jack Hayford points out that, “The believer’s best defense against self-deception is through mutual accountability to one another.” In order for our character to be strengthened, we have to allow others to speak into our lives—even the lovingly painful words (Proverbs 27:17, 6).
Protection from falling to temptation—lead US not into temptation, but deliver US from the evil one. Samson became entangled with a prostitute when he was all by himself; Elijah became depressed when he sent his servant away; David fell into sin when he was alone; Peter denied Christ when all of the other disciples had run away. That’s why the writer of Hebrews counsels us to stick close to our Christian family members (Hebrews 10:21-25).
In an earlier post, I noted that how we view God is going to determine what we pray and what we expect after we pray. Coming together and praying together will help us see God better. Just as the angels around the throne are always crying out to each other “Holy! Holy! Holy!”, when we come together we can show our fellow saints what we’ve learned about our holy Father’s love and power. This is both an encouragement to others and allows others to be an encouragement to us too. Then together we can pray more boldly and expect great things in response to our prayer.
Being mutually accountable to the saints in prayer…
… hallows God as our Father
… glorifies Jesus as our Brother
… honors the Spirit as our Helper
God never intended that you would have to walk through life alone. He wants us to share the journey with fellow saints—His family made up of our brothers and sisters. This praying family truly honors God’s name!
Dr. Tim Elmore has given parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who works with students some excellent insights in his book Marching Off The Map. Here are a few more quotes from Dr. Elmore.
“The Latin root word for ‘educate’ is ‘ducere’ which means to ‘push out.’ … We should not put students in a passive mode as we teach. We must be inspirers of learning. We must help pull ambition out of them, not push information into them.”
“According to Dr. Michael Leahy, ‘Today’s typical high school student endures the same anxiety levels as a psychiatric patient did in the early 1950s.’ In any given year, about one in five will experience an anxiety attack. Why? Their world is overwhelming, cluttered with information coming at them at the rate of a thousand messages a day.”
“Thousands of Baby Boomers retire each day in America. They will leave leadership positions needing to be filled. Even if everyone in Generation X were a brilliant leader, there would not be enough of them to fill the vacancies left by the Boomers. The young adults among the Millennial Generation will be needed for leadership, ready or not.”
“Although our young adults are rich in potential—we don’t really expect them to perform responsible acts until a full decade later that we expected a century ago. I believe it’s detrimental both for our kids and our society. In many states, we give them the rights to adulthood at 18 or 21, like smoking, drinking or voting. We don’t, however, expect the responsibilities that accompanied those rights. It’s unhealthy. The rights and responsibilities should always go together.”
“Remember that children (in general) cannot comprehend an addictive behavior. Adults must lead them into healthy moderation, where they both understand and enjoy technology, but utilize it as a ‘servant.’
“Remember that children will choose ice cream over lima beans—and screens over the healthy alternatives for play. While there are some exceptions, adults must be the ones to lead them in their emotional development, and introduce behaviors and habits that produce maturity.
“Remember that children are drawn to entertainment, whether or not they learn something from it. … Adults must leverage what they’re magnetically drawn to and make it beneficial.”
“Wise leaders utilize vision that can see both backward and forward. They look back and learn from the past. They glean from past mistakes in order to avoid repeating them. Additionally, they seek what was helpful and timeless so they can carry those elements forward. They swing backward so they can swing forward well.”
“A culture that offers the young information and autonomy without requiring equal parts accountability and responsibility produces ‘unready’ adults.”
“Students are incentivized if they know why a topic is relevant before they learn. Students bond with an experience more than a lecture. Students comprehend information when it’s connected to a narrative. Students remember data when an image is utilized in their learning.”
“Effective teachers don’t say as much as possible. They actually say as little as needed—allowing students to get on with their learning.”
You can also check out my review of Marching Off The Map by clicking here. The first set of quotes (and an infographic) I shared from the book are here, and a set of quotes that Dr. Elmore shared in his book are here.
Josh McDowell has a book that is perfect for this generation of youth. #Truth is a 365-day devotional that brings biblical truth to bear on the issues today’s students face every day. You can check out my full book review of #Truth by clicking here. Below are a handful of quotes that caught my attention.
“All healthy relationships require a willingness to be known and have things pointed out so that all offenses can be addressed.”
“If a person is unwilling to forgive others, it’s a clear sign he or she hasn’t really experienced God’s mercy and grace. When people refuse to forgive those who wronged them, God knows that any confession of their own sins is less than genuine and sincere. How could anyone who truly experiences God’s amazing grace of forgiveness not also give mercy and grace to others?”
“Jesus died and rose again so that you could be set free from sin and death and enjoy the benefits of spiritual freedom. That freedom is not a license to live however you want to live, but to live as God meant you to live.”
“Don’t believe the lie that you are alone and no one cares. Since Christ sees you as a member of His body, accept this as your new reality and realize that you are always wanted and very much needed.”
“Jesus too had a totally different view of this world than those around Him. … Because you have accepted Jesus as the Truth and follow Him, you too see the world differently. You see the world through a spiritual lens that makes you sort of like an alien.”
“Jesus’ Kingdom message is a whole new way to see God, yourself, life, and relationships. It is a view of the world defined by Jesus and His Word. … Loving God and making Him the first priority in your life develops a Kingdom mindset that brings everything into perspective—love God and those around you as you love yourself [Matthew 22:37-39].”
“This life is short in comparison to eternity, and God wants your thoughts to include Him and make His Kingdom a priority in your life. … Letting heaven fill your thoughts is about keeping Jesus first in your life.”
“Only those who have been made alive to God and have His Spirit can listen and understand the spiritual insights of Scripture.”
“When you read from the Bible you are reading God’s words as if He were writing them for you. … Scripture is a supernatural book that has come from God Himself.”
“Jesus felt misunderstood. He spent years telling His followers who He was and why He came to earth. ‘But they didn’t understand any of this…and they failed to grasp what He was talking about’ (Luke 18:34). Because Jesus faced misunderstanding He is able to identify with your hurt and give you the help you need when you need it.”