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Monday, January 5, 2009

Leading Hard After Jesus: A Simple Prelude to Friday.

I bet one of the best compliments any leader can be given is that he or she exemplifies the name leader; the person's photo should sit next to the dictionary definition. These people exude leading as naturally as breathing and it is readily noticeable.

To my delight I have been close to such people in my lifetime. They never failed to inspire and challenge me. I know what such leading looks like.

This Friday I have the opportunity at imagine/northampton's next CONVERSATIONS to talk a little about our third Core Value--EMPOWER: Growing a Culture that Catalyzes Leadership. As a prelude, let me set the stage for Friday a bit from what I have experienced being in the company of great leaders.

The first characteristic I noticed about Jesus following leaders is they lived a seemingly ingrained passion for following hard after him. They viewed leading as following Jesus with everything. No holding back, or weasling the easy way. These folks had their hearts bared to him and aligned their all with his heart and redemptive purpose on the planet: Thy Kingdom come whatever it takes:

Sacrifice was part of the deal. . . . they went ahead and got fitted for a cross anyway.

The task wouldn't be easy . . . . didn't sign up for "easy."

Everyone wouldn't get it or even care . . . . why should it be different for me than it was for Jesus?

They could fail in the end . . . . no matter. The only option is to go.

It needs to be said that these leaders were real people with sin, and blindspots. They had clay feet but lion hearts even when wrapped in a humble, gentle demeanor. For them to lead was to be where Jesus was on any day and to do what furthered his interests in the world. Their best energy was for his glory.

So they read, studied, listened and watched. They dreamed, envisioned, shaped, strategized and preached. They dialogued, invited others to follow, inspired them and gave them what they needed to follow hard also. They led people near Jesus and catalyzed passion for him and what he cares for. They showed the way by living a singular life through multiple relationships and pursuits.

The second characteristic that stuck me was their hope and resilience in the face of dissonance and obstruction. I saw a number of them take some serious hits for Jesus. They got knocked down hard. Some lost more than they envisioned they would when they started. They all bore scars and wounds which humanized them in their leading.

Yet to a person, no one gave up. They had to take time to heal and recover so they could get their bearings, but once they did they were back at it -- most the wiser for the struggle, and not daunted in their mission to lead and follow.

They seemed to have an uncommon ability to fight through discouragement, betrayal, persecution and hardship. It was as if a fire burned deep in them which would not be extinguished regardless the apparent impossibility of the journey ahead. Some fierce internal compass kept them heading due north and into the wind.

Hope rested on them naturally, it felt to me. They repeatedly looked at the bright side, counted their blessings, redoubled their efforts, and realized that as long as Jesus held his hand out to them they would take it and a better day was coming. They just believed the troubles they were experiencing were not the end of the story even if no good end seemed in sight. Jesus was here and he knew the way.

Hope always eventually silenced despair in these men and women.

The third characteristic I noticed in each of them was their herculean capacity for work. They seemed to have a vast aquifer of boundless energy for Kingdom enterprises. It looked as if their lifeblood was to bring the Kingdom into view 24/7. While I could see fatigue on their faces occasionally, I never saw it in their hearts.

The wisest of them derailed burn out because of imbalanced, stubborn overwork. Like Jesus they had an instinct for time alone with God to listen , reflect and enjoy. They took time to laugh and cry and chill. Their work was hard, but to do it well required balance.

These leaders also seemed to have an uncanny ability to set sights on something and stay focused through myriad distractions and roadblocks. They were not easily turned aside by glittering mirages or lesser destinations. Each had the ability to work hard and work smart. A single Priority drove and pulled them

To keep it simple, I have to close. However, I must say I know the current leaders of imagine/northampton want to model such leadership for the people God will send in our midst. In turn, we will work to develop a leadership culture that empowers new and seasoned leaders to follow hard after Jesus in their leading toward the vision. Catalyzing such leaders will be central to our mission, including people who do not know Jesus yet.

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