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#292 Jesus: Build on Strength

January 20, 2021

In the last issue we looked how Jesus modeled the third action in The Serving Leader ModelTM*, Blaze the Trail. He helped His team succeed by defining success and removing obstacles from them. Jesus was also a master team builder. As He sent out the disciples, He deliberately maximized the strengths of each of them and models the next action, Build on Strength.  

1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:1-4, 17-20).

With only a quick glance at this story, it seems like Jesus was simply accomplishing a task through others. But let’s look more closely at how He was building His team by focusing on individual strengths.

Serving leaders recognize the value of working as a team.

Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, not alone. Jesus could have sent them to 72 individual locations but He chose to build on strengths by creating 36 teams. He recognized that bringing two people together to accomplish the mission was not a waste of time and energy but a multiplication of strengths. The unique gifts and abilities of each person would be complemented by their partner. One of them might be able to quickly strike up a conversation with a stranger while the other was able to more clearly articulate their mission. One might be strong in relating to people and the other might be strong in logistics. Jesus deliberately chose teams that would maximize the strengths of those He called.  

Serving leaders value individual strengths that are complemented by working in synergy with others. Serving leaders recognize that they will never personally have all strengths, but they can build a team that is well balanced with different strengths. They recognize that teamwork will make the dream work.

Serving leaders align strengths with the responsibilities of the team.

As Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, He was very clear that they were responsible for His mission. They were to teach and heal. They were preparing the way for Jesus. He instructed them not to be distracted even with good things like greeting people along the way! He recognized that sending them out as teams with different strengths would more fully accomplish their great purpose. One might be distracted by greeting another person on the road but their teammate could bring their focus back to their mission. 

Serving leaders learn to know the strengths of their team. Then, they deliberately and methodically work to align their team with individual strengths so that the mission will be accomplished.

Serving leaders encourage continued growth and development of their team.

When the disciples returned after a successful mission they were filled with joy. Jesus was grateful for their accomplishments, but immediately begins to help them gain a better perspective. He lifts their eyes from current successes to their higher purpose. Jesus is investing in their continued growth. His focus is on preparing this group to take over after He left. He gave them one assignment to prepare them for greater responsibilities. Like Jesus, serving leaders think of the future and continue to invest in the growth and development of their team. Serving leaders are not threatened by the advancement of others, they encourage it! They recognize that there is no success without a successor. They equip their teams to build on the strengths of each person so that future achievements will be greater than present victories.

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read the entire passage of Jesus sending out the 72 disciples in Luke 10:1-24.  Reflect on what He was doing as a leader and how it demonstrates building on strength.      
  • What additional examples from the life of Jesus can you think of that show His ability to build on strengths?
  • In my leadership, do I tend to give individual assignments or team assignments? When I form teams, do I evaluate the strengths needed for the task and then assign people on that basis?
  • Have I recognized my own strengths and weaknesses and deliberately brought others around me to complement my areas of weakness? If not, why not and what steps can I take this week to change? If so, how has that impacted my leadership and how has it impacted those I lead?
  • Am I developing my team only to accomplish tasks or am I equipping them for success after my leadership is completed? How does the example of Jesus challenge my thinking about future success?  

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Jesus upended the pyramid as He sent His disciples.  

Copyright, Center for Serving Leadership 2020. 

*The Serving Leader ModelTM, was developed by Dr. John Stahl-Wert, author of “The Serving Leader.” See www.CenterForServingLeadership.com for more information.       

Jesus: Blaze the Trail

Issue #291, December 23, 2020

In the last issue we looked at the second action of the The Serving Leader ModelTM*, Raise the Bar, and examined how Jesus clarified values to His disciples. Jesus also clearly Blazed the Trail as He modeled for His disciples how their success would be measured.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” 17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:-11, 16-24).

Jesus clarified what success would look like on His team. He taught them to be successful and removed obstacles that would hinder their ultimate success. He Blazed the Trail for His followers and shows serving leaders how to do the same. 

Serving leaders clarify success with communication.

Jesus sent His team out with clear communication about the way success would be measured. Their mission was to proclaim the message He had given them. But their success would be tied to the great purpose or vision which He had shared with them, that workers would be raised up for the “harvest field.” He now tied their success to the accomplishment of that great purpose. He is clear that some would welcome their message and others would reject it. Their success was not tied to the responses. When they came back from their work and attributed success to the miracles accomplished, Jesus reminds them that their success is only tied to their names being written in heaven.

Serving leaders find a way to communicate clearly what success will look like on their team. It may be sales targets, transformed lives, new attendees or customers. Whatever the measurement, serving leaders communicate clearly what success looks like and what it is not! And they always tie success to their great purpose.

Serving leaders coach for success by teaching.

Jesus didn’t simply clarify what success would look like, He provided practical teaching for His team that helped them be successful. He instructed them about the message they were to share and gave them specific instructions. He wanted them to succeed and coached them.

Serving leaders provide the training and coaching that is needed for their team to reach success. They serve others by teaching which sets their team up for success.

Serving leaders compound success by removing obstacles. 

Jesus knew there would be problems on the road to success. So, He removed the obstacle of rejection by telling the disciples to expect it! He removed the obstacle of pride when they returned full of joy with what they had done. He reminded them that their success was not measured in the outcomes but in their relationship to Him.

Serving leaders anticipate problems on their team and remove them. They find ways to help deal with unexpected obstacles so their team can succeed.  

Serving leaders recognize that their success comes when those they lead succeed. So they focus on clarifying how success is measured and train and coach for success. And they remove obstacles along the way. They blaze the trail!

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read the entire passage of Jesus sending out the 72 disciples in Luke 10:1-24.  Reflect on what He was doing as a leader and how it demonstrates Blazing the Trail by clarifying success, teaching for success and removing obstacles to success.      
  • Does my team understand clearly what success looks like? Have I communicated clearly how success is defined by our great purpose? Does my team know what standards do not measure success?
  • What have I done to coach my team for success? Are there specific areas on which I need to plan more training for them? When will I do this?
  • What obstacles to success does my team face? What have I done to remove these obstacles? Are there systems or regulations that are wasting time and energy on my team? What can I do to remove these?

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Jesus built on strength as He sent His disciples.

Copyright, Center for Serving Leadership 2020. 

*The Serving Leader ModelTM, was developed by Dr. John Stalh-Wert, author of “The Serving Leader.” See www.CenterForServingLeadership.com for more information.       

Jesus: Raise the Bar

Issue #290, December 9, 2020

In the last issue we looked at the first action of the The Serving Leader ModelTM*,Run to Great Purpose, which determines our vision or why we lead.  In addition, effective leaders raise the bar for those who follow by identifying the values that guide their work. They call everyone to behave in ways that align with those values. Jesus did the same with His disciples when He sent them out.

Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:3-24).

Here Jesus models the second action, Raise the Bar, by identifying the values He wanted to instill in His disciples. Serving leaders learn from His example how values shape their leadership. 

Values shape the methods of our work.

Jesus gave detailed instructions about how the disciples were to go. “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road….Do not move around from house to house.” He called them to keep things simple, to focus clearly on the task, and to remain consistent. As He provided these instructions, He was sharing with them the values that were important to Him. If He would have used a bulletin board to post the values of His team it might have said, “We value simplicity, focus, and consistency.”

The vision or great purpose determines why we lead while values define how we lead. Serving leaders identify and define the core values for their teams. They may include the team as a part of this process, but they don’t delegate the responsibility to clarify what values are most critical.

Values shape the message of our work.

Jesus was clear about the message He wanted His disciples to carry to the villages they would visit. He called them to proclaim the message, “The kingdom of God has come near you.” This was the message that would help accomplish the great purpose. Jesus wanted His followers to share a message that reflected their values. This alignment allowed the disciples to authentically carry the message they were tasked to convey.

Serving leaders work hard to make sure that the message they value is communicated clearly and frequently throughout the organization. They check often to make sure that the message, values and great purpose are closely aligned.  

Values shape the models for our work. Jesus provides illustrations of two types of persons who would receive His disciples–one welcomed them, and one rejected them. Why did Jesus provide these models? He wanted to reinforce His values in the stories He told and the models He provided. He wanted His disciples to understand how their values would be lived out in the real world and what it could cost them to be faithful to their values.

Serving leaders carefully choose their models. They share stories and recognize behaviors on their team that reflect their values. Where they find gaps, they correct and coach to bring alignment with the values. They raise the bar by clarifying and implementing values.   

For further reflection and discussion:

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll look at how Jesus blazed the trail as He sent His disciples.  

Copyright, Center for Serving Leadership 2020. 

*The Serving Leader ModelTM, was developed by Dr. John Stalh-Wert, author of “The Serving Leader.” See www.CenterForServingLeadership.com for more information.       

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Effective leaders raise the bar for those who follow by identifying the values that guide their work. They call everyone to behave in ways that align with those values.

The vision or great purpose determines why we lead while values define how we lead. Serving leaders identify and define the core values for their teams.

Serving leaders don’t delegate the responsibility to clarify what values are most critical.

Serving leaders work hard to make sure that the message they value is communicated clearly and frequently throughout the organization. They check often to make sure that the message, values and great purpose are closely aligned.  

Serving leaders carefully choose their models. They share stories and recognize behaviors on their team that reflect their values.

Where serving leaders find gaps between values and practice, they correct and coach to bring alignment with the values. They raise the bar by clarifying and implementing values.   

Jesus: Run to Great Purpose

Issue #289, November 25, 2020

Jesus taught and demonstrated leadership that was radically different in His time and which continues to challenge and shape millions of leaders 2000 years later. The leadership of Jesus is our model for serving leadership. In this series we will examine how Jesus demonstrated five deliberate actions as He sent out 72 of His disciples in Luke 10:1-24.  Serving leaders learn from Him and practice the same five actions which form the foundation of The Serving Leader ModelTM* The first action Jesus demonstrates is Run to Great Purpose.  

 1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. (Luke 10:1-24).

Jesus wanted to send out these seventy-two workers and had a clear plan. But before He sent them out, He clarified the vision or what we call the great purpose. Serving leaders learn the power of great purpose from His example.

The great purpose clarifies direction. 

Jesus instructed these disciples to go to the towns and places that He would soon visit. His words provided direction to them. They not only knew where they were to go; they also knew  where they should not go! A great purpose clarifies direction.

Some leaders ask people to do tasks but do not link those tasks to a great purpose. Serving leaders share the great purpose to help keep followers focused on the direction they are going. They evaluate all activities by how they move the organization towards the great purpose.

The great purpose confirms meaning.

Jesus requested these disciples to go ahead of Him to these towns. But their visit was preparation for the “harvest” that would come. Jesus carefully communicated with them that what they were doing was a part of something much larger and more significant. He provided meaning to their work. Many leaders assume that followers need only a paycheck or a title to keep working. But Jesus reminds all serving leaders that people want to know that their work has meaning and purpose beyond themselves. Serving leaders help people  to see how their actions lead to achieving the great purpose.

The great purpose creates commitment.

Jesus not only opened  their eyes to the ultimate meaning of the work He was asking them to do but He also called them to think beyond the task for that day. He invited them to pray for more workers! A great purpose inspires commitment from others. As they accept the vision as their own, they begin to own the purpose and call others to join in what they are doing. They join the leader as co-owners of the vision. At this point they are fully committed to the great purpose and are more than willing to do all that is needed to accomplish the task.

Serving leaders lead well as they follow Jesus’ example. They clarify the great purpose of their organization and keep this vision high at all times for the people they serve. They tie every action and effort to the great purpose and in doing so add meaning and purpose to everyone. They work hard to make sure every person in the organization, from the highest to the lowest, understand that they are a part of a team that is making a difference. That’s a team we all want to be on and that’s how Jesus led His team!

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Read the entire passage of Jesus sending out the 72 disciples in Luke 10:1-24.  Reflect on what He was doing as a leader and how it demonstrates this action, Run to Great Purpose.
  • In the organization I am a part of, what is our great purpose? Does it clarify the direction we are moving? Does it help everyone to find meaning and purpose in their roles? Does it inspire commitment from everyone in the organization? If not, what do I need to do to clarify our great purpose and when will I do it?
  • Do I regularly communicate with those I lead about how their work contributes to the great purpose?
  • Do I publicly acknowledge the contribution of those whose role may seem small or unrelated to the vision? 

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

In the next issue, we’ll examine how Jesus raised the bar as He sent His disciples.  

Copyright, Center for Serving Leadership 2020. 

 *The Serving Leader ModelTM, was developed by Dr. John Stalh-Wert, author of “The Serving Leader.” See www.CenterForServingLeadership.com for more information.       

The ABC’s of Beginning Well: Connect with the people

Issue #288, November 11, 2020

Joshua provides a model to all serving leaders about how to begin well in a new role or position. As we have seen in the previous two issues, he began by acknowledging the realities of his situation, then he believed in God’s promises. But leadership is all about relationships and Joshua also models well how to connect with the people.

10  So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11  “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’ ” 12  But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13  “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you after he said, ‘The LORD your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14  Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15  until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the LORD your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.” 16  Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17  Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18  Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!”   (Joshua 1:11-18).

By the end of these verses, there was a strong relational bond between Joshua as a leader and those who followed. He was ready to lead and they were ready to follow!

All serving leaders can learn three things from the way Joshua connected with the people.

Connect with the influencers of the people. Joshua first addressed the “officers” of the people. These were the primary influencers in the nation and Joshua connected with them directly. He acknowledged their role and did not attempt to do their work. He gave them a message to deliver, knowing that the people under them would receive the message well from them. Serving leaders recognize that while they may not be able to connect personally with everyone in a large organization, they can connect well with those who influence others. As they establish strong relationships with these influencers, they increase their ability to serve the entire group well.

Connect with the interests of the people. “the land the LORD your God is giving you.”  Joshua already knew what the people were interested in, he understood their hearts. They were passionate about entering the land God had promised to them.

Serving leaders learn to know the hearts, passions, and interests of those they lead. They serve them well by pointing out how the next steps take them closer to their goals. They recognize that leadership is not only about helping the leader reach his or her goals, but helping those they serve accomplish the desires of their heart.

Connect with the individuality of the people.  Joshua had special instructions for two of the tribes who were in a unique situation (see verses 12-16). He did not attempt to treat everyone exactly the same way. Serving leaders connect with people by learning their uniqueness. They seek to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each person on their team and they shape their leadership to best serve the individuality of those they lead. Serving leaders serve everyone well but do not serve everyone the same. 

Serving leaders, especially as they begin new roles, make an effort to connect with the people they serve. They learn from Joshua that beginning well always includes strong relationships.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

In the next issue, we’ll begin to look at how Jesus modeled the five actions of serving leaders. 

Copyright, Center for Serving Leadership, 2020. 

The ABC’s of Beginning Well: Believe in God’s Promises

Issue #287, October 28, 2020

As we saw in the last issue, Joshua began well in his new role by acknowledging the realities of his situation. As he began he heard God give him several promises. 

5  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6  Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7  “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-9).

At the beginning of his leadership journey Joshua heard and believed these promises which would become foundational to his leadership practice. God gave three promises that all serving leaders rely on, not only to begin their journey, but also to continue well.

God promises His presence.

I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God promised Joshua that whatever would happen to him as a leader, God would be with him. Leaders make difficult decisions and carry the burdens of knowing their decisions impact all those under their leadership. Sometimes there are choices which need to be made which will not be accepted by those they lead. The weight of these responsibilities can cause a leader to feel lonely. But God promised Joshua that in every situation, he would not be alone, he would have God’s presence with him. Serving leaders acknowledge that they need to draw on a source of wisdom and understanding especially as they step into new levels of responsibility or face unexpected challenges.  Serving leaders rely on God’s presence to give them wisdom for the challenges of leadership. His presence gives serving leaders an awesome advantage!

God promises His power.

Three times in these verses God tells Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.”  Joshua would need strength and power for his new role. He was to lead people into a new land and there would be battles ahead. Leadership requires strength. Joshua was expected to do his part, but it would not be enough. As he began this role, he needed to be aware that he would not succeed because of his own credentials or previous experience. He needed the additional power God promised. So God reminded him the land he would conquer was promised by God and would provide His power to help Joshua accomplish the task. The mission was His! Serving leaders receive training and learn from books and other excellent resources. They work hard and do all they can. But they also gratefully believe that God has promised them the power they need to do what He has called them to do.

God promises His plan.

God expected Joshua to lead well, but He also assured Joshua that He had a plan. He first gives Joshua personal instructions, to carefully obey God’s law so he would “be prosperous and successful.” God would later add more details to this plan but as Joshua began, obedience was the foundation. Serving leaders do not simply develop their own plans; they seek to follow God’s plans. They believe that God’s plan is far greater and more significant than what they can conceive on their own.

Joshua began well by believing the promises God gave him. Serving leaders do the same.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

(If you are not in a new role currently, consider how these question apply to the place where you now serve.)

  • In my current leadership situation, how clearly do I sense God’s presence? What difference does it make in the way I lead? Are there things I need to do to increase my awareness of His presence in my daily activities?
  • In what way do I need power right now in my leadership? Do I tend to rely only on my own power or do I regularly acknowledge my need for God’s power in my leadership?
  • God commanded Joshua, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” In what way do I practice this in my own leadership? Are there changes I need to make to follow Joshua’s example?
  • Does my leadership focus primarily on my plans or discovering and implementing God’s plans? In what way is God inviting me to learn more about His plans for my leadership?         

In the next issue, we’ll examine how serving leaders begin well by connecting with people.

Copyright, Center for Serving Leadership, 2020. 

The ABC’s of Beginning Well: Acknowledge Realities

Issue #286, October 14, 2020

In the last series we learned from Moses how serving leaders transition well. Now, let’s examine the other side of that process, the beginning of a new role for Joshua, his successor. All leaders will experience times when they step into a new position of leadership responsibility or transition to a new organization or group. What does it look like to begin well? In this series we will examine at the ABC’s of beginning well from the life of Joshua: Acknowledge realities, Believe in God’s promises and Connect with people.

Leaders often begin roles with unrealistic expectations. They may expect it to be the best role ever or they may have doubts about their competence for the task. In either case serving leaders need to acknowledge the realities as Joshua did.

1  After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses (Joshua 1:1-3).

From Joshua serving leaders learn to acknowledge three realities as they begin new roles.

Acknowledge the past.

Joshua was reporting for duty in his new role.  The first thing that God speaks to him acknowledges the past, “Moses my servant is dead.” Ponder that for a moment. With five simple words God acknowledges the great leader that preceded Joshua. Moses walked through the Red Sea and met with God on Mount Sinai! It was a tough job for Joshua to follow in his footsteps. God did not want Joshua or serving leaders to ignore the past as they begin a new role.

Serving leaders acknowledge their own past. They bring their personal history into the new role. They acknowledge what they learned in the past from their mistakes and victories.

Serving leaders also acknowledge the past which belongs to the organization they are joining. They are eager to bring their own gifts and calling to the new role and to bring change, but before they seek to change the future, they acknowledge the past! If they have a predecessor, they seek to learn about what that person did and why they led in that way. They speak respectfully of those who came before them no matter what their performance.  Serving leaders acknowledge and learn from the past but they don’t dwell on it.

Acknowledge the present.

God moves quickly from the past to the present. “Now then, you….” Moses was gone and would not return. Joshua is now the leader of the people. God wants him to acknowledge this reality. Joshua needed to learn to see himself in a new way for the new role. He was no longer the assistant to the leader; he was now in charge! Serving leaders accept the mental change that needs to happen in a new role but not with pride or confidence in themselves. They acknowledge with humility and gratitude their new position of service.  

Acknowledge the task.

Then God reminds Joshua of the work ahead, “Now then…. get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land…” God had work for Joshua to do and it was a huge task, leading a nation of people into hostile territory.  God has a task for all serving leaders who begin new assignments or carry on at old ones. Serving leaders have roles because there is work that needs to be done to accomplish God’s purposes for a particular place and time. Serving leaders acknowledge that God has given them a place to serve to accomplish His task. They recognize that leadership is not about them but the great purpose of God. They begin well by acknowledging the realities of the past, the present and the task at hand.  

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

(If you are not in a new role currently, consider how these questions apply to the place where you now serve.)

  • What history do I need to acknowledge to serve well in my present role? How do I speak about those who came before me? Is my tendency to focus on the past too much or too little?
  • Do I accept myself and the role in which I now serve? Is it easier for me to see myself less than or greater than I should see myself? What does this say about the condition of my heart? Take a moment to allow God to speak to you about the condition of your heart. Ask Him to bring to your mind ways that He wants you to bring yourself to your current role. 
  • What is the task to which I am called? Is it clear to me how God intends for me to use my position of influence to advance His purpose in the group I serve? If not, what do I need to do to clarify this call? 

In the next issue, we will look at how leaders begin well by believing in God’s promises.   

Copyright, Center for Serving Leadership, 2020. 

The ABC’s of Transition: Cherish the Relationships

We have looked at how Moses acknowledged the realities in his transition and how he blessed Joshua, his successor. In this final issue, we will look at how he cherished the relationships. The story tells us the profound impact of his death on the people. “The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over” (Deuteronomy 34:8).

The death of Moses was a monumental event for the nation of Israel. Moses led them out of Egypt and for forty years in the desert. He was the only leader they had known and now he was gone! Their mourning demonstrated the depth of relationships that Moses had with the people.

In the thirty days of mourning they must have recalled the many stories of his leadership. They remembered how he confronted Pharaoh, parted the Red Sea, brought them the Ten Commandments, covered his shining face after being in God’s presence, constructed the tabernacle, and ordained Aaron. They told stories of the time he brought water from the rock, watched the earth swallow Dathan and Abiram, put up the bronze snake to save them from the plague and appointed 70 elders.

Moses’ transition reminds us all that leadership is ultimately about relationships. His leadership was not about how many people he led or how many years he led them. His influence was not measured in the distance he took them from Egypt to the border of the Promised Land. His leadership was measured by relationships. In transition, servant leaders learn to cherish all the relationships involved.

Cherish the relationships of those you have led. Moses loved the people he led. The entire book of Deuteronomy is his farewell address to the people for whom he was willing to give up his place in heaven (see Exodus 32:31,32). As he came to the end of his leadership journey, he took one chapter (Deuteronomy 33) to bless each of the tribes. Moses’ transition reveals the grieving of the loss of relationships that was required.

Servant leaders learn that a part of cherishing relationships is to release them. A transition in leadership requires a change of relationships and a releasing of those you have loved. A servant leader may be able to maintain friendships with people after they move on, but they acknowledge that they will no longer be their pastor, boss, manager or director. Servant leaders cherish these relationships but do not expect them to continue in the same way.

Cherish the relationship with those who will lead. We have already looked at the way Moses blessed Joshua, his successor as he laid hands on him in the presence of everyone. Earlier, Joshua was by his side as he sang his final song to the nation (Deuteronomy 32:44).

Moses honored this relationship and demonstrates to all servant leaders how to cherish the relationship with our successor. There can be some tension or awkwardness in the relationship with the one who follows you. But servant leaders honor their successor by refusing to listen to the questions or complaints of those they previously led. They graciously point others in the direction of the new leader.

Cherish the relationships of the future. Moses’ transition was a final departure from this world. He entered into a new realm of eternal relationships. But for most of us, our transition will lead us from leadership in one group or location to another. The time of mourning will one day be over as it was for Moses.

While servant leaders grieve the loss of relationships in a transition, they anticipate with joy the relationships of the future. Their heart to serve will lead them to new relationships. And as they pour their life and love into those new relationships, with time these relationships will become as rich and full as those they are leaving behind.

Servant leaders transition well. Whether they are going through a transition or preparing for one they learn from Moses to acknowledge the realities, bless their successor and cherish relationships.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In the transitions I have observed, how have I seen leaders doing well at cherishing relationships? How have I seen relationships handled poorly?   
  • In previous transitions in my leadership, how well have I done at cherishing relationships? What was the result?
  • In my current role, what do I need to do today to cherish the relationships God has entrusted to me?

The ABC’s of Transition: Bless the Successor

In the last issue we looked at how Moses accepted the realities of his transition. Now, let’s turn our attention to Joshua, his successor.

9Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses. 10Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:9-12).

Moses blessed Joshua in several ways and shows all servant leaders how to bless their successor when they transition.

Prepare them well. Joshua was “filled with the spirit of wisdom.” This came after years of investment and preparation by Moses in his life. Moses shared responsibilities with Joshua. He provided opportunities for Joshua to encounter God and mingle with other national leaders. Joshua was able to gain experience in battle, make mistakes, and much more. When it was time for transition, Moses had already prepared Joshua well.

Servant leaders don’t wait for transition to invest in the lives of other leaders, it’s a part of their heart to see others succeed. They bless their successor by preparing them well. In situations where the leader does not have the privilege of choosing their successor, they do their best to hand over in a way that allows their successor to succeed. And they do all they can to prepare the people to receive the new leader.

Commission them well. Moses “laid hands on him.” This symbolic act was a significant part of Moses’ transition process. By laying his hands on Joshua, Moses publicly acknowledged that he was no longer the leader. His hands blessed Joshua to succeed him as he transferred his leadership authority. The outcome was beautiful, “the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses.”

When servant leaders transition well, God’s work continues without interruption. Servant leaders don’t quietly exit their roles. They openly bless the new leader and seek to transfer to him or her the trust and influence they have worked hard to develop. Publicly and privately they do all they can to ensure the success of their successor.

Leave them well. The final gift that Moses gave to Joshua was to disappear from the scene! He didn’t stay around to evaluate Joshua’s effectiveness or to point out mistakes. He left! Servant leaders transition well by leaving when their time finishes. Servant leaders don’t need to die to leave well! But they let their ego die and make sure they get out of the way of the new leader. They make it clear that they will no longer serve in their former role. When possible and appropriate, they provide physical distance of space and time to allow the new leader to pick up responsibilities without their interference.

Obviously, there may be times when a transition involves a gradual transfer of power and the transitioning leader continues to provide some form of mentoring or coaching to the new leader. This can be a healthy transition. But there will always be a time when staying longer does more harm than good! Servant leaders are willing to leave and let others pick up their role.

Servant leaders long for the success of the group they lead. So, they prepare successors long before their transition. And when it is time to transition, they bless them with good preparation and public commissioning. Then they get out of the way!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In transitions I have observed how have I seen leaders doing well at blessing their successor? How have I seen a lack of blessing for successors? What were the long-term results? 
  • In previous transitions in my leadership how well have I done at blessing my successor?
  • In my current role, what do I need to do today to best prepare for another person to succeed me?

In the next issue, we’ll examine the “C” in the ABC’s of transitioning well:

Acknowledge the Realities

Bless the Successor

Cherish the Relationships.

The ABC’s of Transition: Acknowledge the Realities

Every leader will sooner or later come to a time of a change of leadership. This transition may happen by choice, circumstances, God’s call, or simply the passing of time. So, all leaders are either coming from a transition, working on a current transition, or laying the foundation for a future transition!

As I write, I’m facing a significant transition in my own leadership. So perhaps I’m writing this for my own benefit, but I invite you to discover with me how servant leaders transition. We’ll examine the final transition of Moses’ life where he models the ABC’s of transition: Acknowledge the Realities, Bless the Successor, and Cherish the Relationships.

1Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, …. 4Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” 5And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.  The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over” (Deuteronomy 34:1, 4-8).

One moment Moses was a great leader of an entire nation. The next moment he transitioned to his eternal reward. The first thing servant leaders can learn from his transition is to acknowledge three realities.

Acknowledge the reality of what has been done. Moses had led the nation through some very difficult times. I’m sure as he climbed slowly up the mountain he reflected on the parting of the Red Sea, the 10 Commandments, the water from the rock, and other highlights of his 40 years of leadership. Much had been done.

Servant leaders acknowledge with gratitude to God all that has been accomplished. And when they have led well, much has been done. They are not proud of themselves but are able to celebrate the reality of what God has done!

Acknowledge the reality of what remains undone. God provided Moses with a glimpse of the land promised to his people. I can feel Moses’ pain as he heard God’s words, “You will not cross over into it.” For years Moses had kept the vision alive but now he was leaving, and much was undone.

When servant leaders face transition, they acknowledge that there are things which remain undone. Whether that is because of their own mistakes (as it was with Moses) or simply because the time has come to transition, they accept the reality that much remains undone. They understand that God’s vision is always greater than their own leadership and some aspects will not be achieved before they transition.

Acknowledge the reality of what will be done. As Moses scanned the land of Israel, he could see what would happen after he was gone. Another leader would do what he had not!

This painful reality is not easy for any leader to accept. Some leaders don’t acknowledge the reality that they are growing old! Or that they have done all they can do for the organization. Or that others are needed to step in with new gifts to breathe new life into the vision. But servant leaders learn from Moses to acknowledge this reality when it is time for transition.

Servant leaders in transition celebrate what has been done while acknowledging that God will use another leader to accomplish what remains undone. They acknowledge these realities as they follow God’s direction in transition. They cry out to God to guard their hearts against pride, jealously, or a sense of failure. They are willing to keep serving in the place to which God will lead them.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In transitions I have observed, how have I seen leaders doing well at acknowledging the realities? How have I seen them not acknowledge realities?     
  • In previous transitions in my leadership, how well have I acknowledged what has been done, what remains to be done and what will be done?
  • In my current role, what do I need to do today to best prepare to transition well?

In the next issue, we’ll look at the “B” in the ABC’s of transitioning well:

Acknowledge the Realities

Bless the Successor

Cherish the Relationships